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When the ENEMY StrikesThe Keys to Winning Your Spiritual Battles
By Charles F. Stanley
Nelson BooksCopyright © 2007 Charles F. Stanley
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Face of Evil
I still vividly remember how I felt on December 7, 1941. It was on that fateful Sunday afternoon as a boy of nine that I first heard about the Japanese surprise attack at Pearl Harbor. I watched as our small town of Danville, Virginia, began to deal with the possibilities of a war. An unexpected enemy had struck, and our lives would never be the same.
Likewise, no one would have predicted the terrorist attacks on our nation September 11, 2001. When those airplanes were crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, our fast-paced society came to a sudden stop. The unthinkable had occurred. America had been assaulted by a foe that hated us because of who we are and what we believe.
Throughout our lives we face many different types of enemies. Some are motivated by personal reasons. A person may dislike you for any number of reasons-he may be jealous of your success or perhaps want to take from you something he desires for himself. Once in awhile you may be hated so much that someone might want to harm you in a very serious way or even end your life.
When you know your foe and are prepared for the attack, victory is achievable. But I have found that the greatest enemies are unknown and unexpected. For instance, a trusted friend who turns against you when she sees the potential for personal gain. A coworker who gossips and schemes against you in hopes of a promotion. Or a thief hiding in the night waiting to rob you. The motivation that all these enemies share in common is found in the root of evil.
Evil. It is something we know exists, but it is not a topic we like to think about or confront. Evil has a face. It is dangerous ... dark ... foreboding ... deadly. Do you know what is the ultimate source of evil? Are you aware of how evil operates? If you don't know how it works, then how can you adequately protect yourself and your loved ones against its sudden attack?
Sorting Out Good and Evil We all know that both good and evil exist in our world. We are taught from early childhood that some things are bad, and some are good. We are taught as children that we need to develop an ability to distinguish between good and evil. As we grow up, we are cautioned to be alert to circumstances around us so we might avoid evil and choose to associate with what is good.
But when I ask individuals if they have a difficult time discerning good from evil, they often reply, "Yes, I do. There's a lot of 'gray' in the world today."
Most seem to agree about certain types of evil. It's wrong for a parent to abandon a child or to abuse a child physically, sexually, or emotionally. It's wrong for suicide bombers to blow up innocent people. It's wrong for a person to kill another person in cold blood or to torture another person.
There are a host of things that are immediately and universally labeled as wrong-demonstrating racial prejudice, having blind hatred for someone, embezzling or mismanaging corporate funds, cheating on a test, lying, failing to help a person in need when you have means to help, stealing, committing adultery, exhibiting road rage, engaging in a drive-by shooting, kidnapping, raping, drinking to excess, using illegal drugs, and carrying out many other bad behaviors and holding on to wrong-thinking attitudes.
We can look at certain situations and recognize an aspect of evil embedded in them-for example, a wasting, painful disease; suffering of all kinds; world hunger; abject poverty; intense persecution of good people; or deep agony over the loss of a child. We may not be able to pinpoint the exact nature or cause of the evil, but we sense that the bad situation has an element of darkness to it. We recognize that things are not as they should be in a perfect world.
We are quick to label all of these actions, attitudes, and conditions as being marked indelibly by evil. But then comes the difficult question: "Is the person who committed this evil act or holds a wrong attitude an evil person?"
"Well, now," people say as they backpedal into justification, "the person is probably good deep down inside. He didn't really mean to do what he did-he's just a product of his upbringing, his culture, or his fanatical religion. He just got blinded temporarily by greed or lust. The person didn't know what he was doing-he was temporarily insane."
We often conclude, "People are good, but their behaviors are bad." We may even say, "We love and hold out hope for the sinner, but the sin is bad."
All of that may be true, but what do you do when evil strikes you?
What do you say and how do you respond when you are the victim of spousal abuse, the object of a terrorist's actions, or the one badly injured by a drunk driver?
What do you do when your loved one is held hostage, your child is abused by an adult you and your child trusted, you come home to find your home burglarized, or you receive the diagnosis of a terminal disease?
How do you discern good from evil when you are the one who is the victim of an evil attack?
What do you do when you recognize that you don't always act in a positive, godly, or wise way toward other people? What happens when the mirror of stark reality is held up before your face and you are forced to admit, "I'm the one who is inflicting pain; I'm the one who is lashing out with an evil intent or a wrong attitude"?
How do you deal with issues of good and evil when you see them at work, and at war, within you?
Recognizing evil, dealing with it, seeking to pursue good and avoid evil, acknowledging evil in ourselves and turning it to good-these issues are at the core of our human existence. If we truly could be objective about our lives, we would probably find that we spend the majority of any given day trying to do the things that we label as good and right, and avoiding situations, relationships, encounters, and circumstances that we label as bad or wrong.
At times, we fail miserably at both-we don't do what we know is right, and we do what we know is wrong.
How do we keep our balance? How do we effectively pursue good and turn from evil? What do we do when we suddenly seem to be the victims of evil?
These questions are at the heart of this book.
The answers are rooted in God's Word.
The Bible clearly teaches two things about evil:
1. You have a powerful enemy, and he has a name. For years some people have talked about God in general terms. He's their Higher Power, the Force, or the Man Upstairs. The truth is, good has a name, and His name is God.
Evil also has a name. His name is Satan or the devil. The devil refers to a spiritual being who is the supreme personification of evil. Lucifer is the Bible name for one of God's archangels who rebelled against God and was cast to the earth where he functions as Satan or the devil. (In this book, we'll use the terms Satan and the devil interchangeably.) He seeks to rule from the realm of the unseen-the spiritual dimension.
Satan may use what your mother-in-law says or a coworker does to come against you. He may use terrorists, criminals, and other people to cause you harm or strike fear into your heart. However, the person who verbally abuses you, the thief who robs you, the critic who maligns you, the rival who undercuts or thwarts your good efforts, or the assailant who beats you is not your real enemy. The real enemy is the devil who prompted the person to speak hatred to you, steal from you, do his utmost to destroy you or physically injure you.
Behind every evil person and every evil act lurks the real enemy of your life. He exists in the spirit realm, and he is relentless in his pursuit of you. He is 100 percent evil, and he has a plan to destroy your life.
Satan is your enemy.
2. You are in a spiritual battle. It doesn't matter whether you want to be in a spiritual battle-you are in one. The battle is between good and evil, and you are the prize. God desires to have a relationship with you, bless you, and live with you forever. Satan desires to keep you from all that God wants for you. He is the enemy of all people-followers of Jesus or not. He is your enemy!
You are a prime target of the devil. He will do his utmost to keep you from the truth that Jesus is your Savior, and through Him you can receive forgiveness and the gift of eternal life. Satan will attempt to entrap you in any way he can to keep you from God. His target is your eternal spirit.
"I'm a Christian," you may say. "I already belong to God. The devil can't have my spirit."
If you have made a commitment to Jesus as your Savior and Lord, you are absolutely correct in saying that your spirit already belongs to God and the devil can lay no claim on your eternal destiny. The satanic forces can do other things to you, however.
He can and will attempt to drag you down into such deep bondage that you will lose your joy in living. Some may call this bondage oppression, depression, or addiction. If the devil can pull you into bondage, you will have no peace, no zest for living, and perhaps even no will to continue living. You will struggle continually with desires that are not met, drives that are not satisfied, dreams that are not realized, and a destiny that is unfulfilled. The devil will do his utmost to completely destroy anything that is essential for abundant life.
The devil can and will work against you to keep you from having any positive witness for Jesus Christ in this world. He will do his utmost to steal from you the resources you might use to extend the gospel, destroy your reputation so that anything you say about the Lord is suspect, and kill your valuable relationships with other people so that you are demoralized and don't believe you can influence another person for Christ.
So how are we to deal with the devil? How can we combat our true enemy and resist his spiritual attacks?
The first rule of any battle is this: know your enemy. If you don't know your enemy, how can you fight him? How can you stand and be victorious against an enemy you can't or haven't identified?
Yes, we must know the nature of our enemy. We must understand who he is and how he works.
Excerpted from When the ENEMY Strikes by Charles F. Stanley Copyright © 2007 by Charles F. Stanley. Excerpted by permission.
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