Our small group leader asked How do you FIGHT? Meaning: How do you fight temptation when it comes? How do you fight the lies that knock at the door of your brain at 10 o'clock at night when you want to sleep?" How do you fight off the enemy when you're tempted to believe you really are a n no good, dirty rotten, mom?
I used to (like yesterday, used to) try and fight the enemy like a middle-school, cat scratching girl, in my own strength. I thought I was really tough. Satan took me down way too many times to count. I quickly, or not so quickly, learned that I can not fight the enemy in my own strength.
In Whose Name Do You Fight?
All my life, I wanted to be known as "So and So's daughter". I loved when someone would ask, "Are you Lester's girl?" or when dad would introduce me as "his oldest girl". Inevitably, people were shocked to find that Lester had a third daughter because I'm much older than my siblings, and I didn't live with them.. In my little-girl mind, to be someone's daughter, was to have an identity. So, you can imagine my joy when I learned, as a twenty-something adult, what it is to be the daughter of God, one who never leaves, never forsakes, is all powerful. HIS is the name to which we cling to and in which we fight. Our name is in the NAME above ALL NAMES.
Replacing Lies with Truth
Jesus describes satan like this: He is a murderer and there is no truth in him. He speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. There is NO TRUTH found in him. (John 8)
I once heard that the "best defense against Satan is to agree with him about the accusation he's making." Which would look something like, "Yes, I agree, I am a sinner. But Jesus died for my sins." Not a bad start, perhaps, but if the specific lie is not wrapped in a Truth, satan will continue to bring it back in full force, hitting you in the same spot, with the same fiery dart. The enemy is very good at using scripture to manipulate our feelings into a pit of despair or self-righteousness. I suppose this is a good place to add a common quote in our local church: Feelings make a better caboose than an engine."
The Pre-Battle Plan
Preparation is important to any task, mundane or mountainous. So it is in this spiritual battle of the mind, which by the way is mountainous and daily and often moment-by-moment. Some ways to prepare for this inevitable battle:
1. Know your Father. It's easier to trust (or unfortunately sometimes distrust) someone you know well. Our Father is faithful and true, kind and loving, tender and all-powerful, merciful and just. All-sufficient and All-knowing. You will not regret getting to know your Father. You will not be let down.
But How do you get to know the God of the Universe?First, Spend time reading His Word (the bible) to get to know him. Study Him, His character, who He really is. There are going to be people, christians and non-christians, who try and tell you what He's like. Know Him for yourself. Ask Him to show you WHO He is. He will. He promises that if you seek Him, you will find him. This is not a childish game of hide n' seek. This is a resting in the place and person your heart is longing to find. Know He is the one drawing you. His word says that no one comes to the Father but those who He calls. Your desire to know him is simply a response to the desire that He's already placed in your heart. Like a machete-wielding pathmaker in the depths of the Amazon Jungle, He's already prepared and made the path to Him clear and straight.
As you get to know your Father, you will want to spend more and more time with Him. Promise. This will mean saying no to "self" and saying yes to HIM often. Purpose to spend time with Him, as you would a dear friend, your spouse, your child. Clear your schedule by going for a walk, coffee, journaling, etc. with Him. Take time to listen and be real before Him. (This is not Monopoly. You cannot skip Go (knowing your Father) and collect $200. You must first know Him or you'll be spending a lot of time talking to yourself. Talking to yourself is what crazy people do. Don't do that.
2. Know your identity as God's daughter, a daughter who is found IN CHRIST. For a very long time, I've wondered about individuals: Are you a christian or a non-christian? I found this to be a fruitless and exhausting question. No need to ask that. However, I have come to understand one thing. You're either IN or your OUT. You're IN Christ or you're not". I don't get to determine that for anyone else. And based on the answer, I still love, whether someone is a Christian or not. This simple, yet profound, life-altering Truth, that my identity is found IN CHRIST ALONE (Getty song, anyone?:-) and not in being a wife, mother, or anything else, has taken care of a lot of wacky behaviors. When I realized (like all of two months ago) that I no longer have to strive to BE anything, that my purpose is to be a daughter, all that striving suddenly seemed so very useless.
3. Know you fight in the NAME of your FATHER, which means you've already won. How many times have we thought, this is a "losing battle". Well, good news, this is a winning battle. You win. Period. Exclamation mark! Jesus died on the cross, shed his blood, and trampled the enemy. He is victorious.
4. Know the battle doesn't really belong to you. It belongs to your Father. Unlike a defenseless spindly teenager who may be jumped after school in a back alley, you are NEVER alone. Your Father promises to never leave you and never forsake you. When your father claimed you as His own, you gave up your life, which included your strength and received Him, His power in Christ and the cross and the Holy Spirit. This battle belongs to your Father. Fight in His name. In His strength. Be still. Stand Firm. (take a look at 2 Chronicles 20)
In 1 Peter, God's Word says be watchful: your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Stay close to your Father. What is one of the key strategies predators use to hunt down and kill young prey? They first divide them from the parents or pack and then attack. Stay close to the Father and stay close to your herd (that would be the church, Christ's body.) Don't be like my 3-year-olds who think it's awesome to run ahead of me, at the grocery store, across the street, anywhere, just to prove their independence. Proof of foolishness and immaturity, yes? Proof of independence, no.
You wake up and it seems like any other ordinary day and suddenly an onslaught of negative emotions hit you. Suddenly your thoughts are negative and self-condemning. Honey, you're in a war. You have a choice. You can fight in your old strength, (you'll lose, by the way) or you fight like the daughter you are. If you choose not to follow the god of your feelings and instead follow the only True God, He promises victory.
Flesh or Spirit-How Do I Know?
You will know if you fight in the flesh if you often feel like you've just broken loose of a rabbit snare, with one of your legs still stuck in the darn thing or if you are resting in the strength of your Father. Fighting in the strength of your father, in the Spirit, is much like a trusting child, riding on the back of her father, as he wades through some very deep waters, waters that would be way over her head if she tried to do it alone.
I'm a lover, not a fighter. Do I Really Have to Fight?
As Paul often reminded us, we work hard, though it's not really us, but God's grace in us. (1 Cor.15:10) We do have a part in the battle, but all within the context of who God is and who we are in Him. When you're in the heat of battle and your Father, your commander tells you to pick up your sword and fight, FIGHT for crying out loud. FIGHT WITH THE WORD. Fortunately, your defense is the same as your offense. Remember, satan knows he can't kill you, but he'll die trying Take the lie, that fiery dart coming at you, and shield yourself with it. Then, take the same truth and replace the lie. It goes something like this.
FIGHTING the LIES with TRUTH
Fiery dart comes flying at you at warp speed: "You are a horrible mother. Really. Why did God ever give you children?"
You evaluate the thought: Is this TRUTH or a lie? It has taken me a long time to understand the difference between condemnation and conviction.
Truth will focus on Christ. Lies will focus on you and your performance.
If you choose to accept the lie, satan will be pleased to go on and on and your flesh will deceptively follow this talk about yourself.
If you choose to reject the lie, you fight the lie with TRUTH and PRAYER, remembering WHO He is and the GOSPEL:
Father, satan is trying to confuse me right now by tempting me to believe that I am to focus on self and performance. I know I am to behold Christ, not behold Ang. While I am tempted to believe this lie by following my feelings, I know if I carry this lie out to the end, from thought to action, only condemnation, discouragement, and self-pity will come.
My identity is found in Christ alone. I have died and my life is now hidden in Christ with God. (Col. 3:3)
Father, I trust you. I trust your faithfulness, your power, your goodness. And I trust that Jesus died for my sins-past, present, and future. He lived a perfect life, knowing full well I couldn't. He gave me His righteousness and paid, in full, for my sin with His blood.
Worship in the WarWorship is a weapon in war. Often times as I'm fighting and praying, there's often a song that comes to mind. I find myself singing one of Tomlin's latest these days...nothing formed against me shall stand, you hold the whole world in your hands. I'm holding on to your promises. You are faithful. You are faithful...
Father, I thank you that you have won the battle. That once, I was far off and you brought me near. Once I was in darkness and you delivered me into your light. I praise you for your are awesome and perfect, good and true. Faithful and never-leaving or forsaking. May you be glorified in our minds, in our actions. May we worship you in the battle.
Lest I read this in 10 years, or one of my daughters reads this, and think I had this all figured out, rest assured, I don't. I've not arrived. Yet, I know I have fought this battle with the flesh for far too long. I have fought out of fear. Fear that my father is not who He says He is. I've often chosen to trust self rather than God. I turn. I turn (repent) from this and ask my Father to empower me with His strength in my weakness. I pray, my daughters, that you learn at an early age to rest in Him and ride on His back across the muddy and deep waters of life, and sing all the while.