HOW TO WIN A FIGHT THAT’S NOT FAIR
By Trevor DeVage
I’ve never been a big guy. And when I was a boy, my father, who’s always been short and scrappy himself, told me how to survive.
“Fighting’s not fair,” he advised. “Don’t go seeking a fight, but if you’re challenged by someone bigger than you, do whatever you must to win.” He told about a time when a bully confronted him after school. Dad grabbed a metal trash can, whomped the kid with it, and then ran home.
He wouldn’t have left unhurt that day if he hadn’t realized some uncomplicated truths that parallel the way Christians should think about their spiritual adversary, the devil. When it comes to Satan, it’s not a fair fight, and we need to be ready.
HE FACED AN ENEMY
My dad knew his tormentor was not a friend. The kid’s sneer and threats made clear that this meeting would not end up with a hug and a handshake. He was the enemy.
Here’s what Christians can so easily forget: We face our enemy, Satan, every day. C.S. Lewis wrote, “There is no neutral ground in the universe. Every square inch, every split second is claimed by God, and counterclaimed by Satan.”
But it’s easy to think we can stay neutral. It’s easy to compartmentalize our Christianity: church stuff here, and everything else everywhere else. It’s easy to choose neutral without admitting that neutral is defeat.
It’s easy to thank God for the good and then to blame him for the bad. “Why did God let this happen to me?” we wail when we should be saying, “Look how Satan is attacking me.”
Jesus called Satan a thief who comes to seek, kill, and destroy (see John 10). Peter called Satan our enemy, who “prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Paul said we’re in a “struggle . . . against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil” (Ephesians 6:12).
Satan is out to get you, especially if you’re making a difference for God. In fact, if you’re not experiencing some attack from the devil right now, he may already have claimed the victory in your life. He is the enemy, not an idea; a daily provoker, not some black monster with red horns and a pitchfork hidden away in Hell.
HE KNEW HOW TO FIGHT
Fighting the devil demands preparation and vigilance, but not any special talent. My dad didn’t demonstrate much boxing skill when he sent his bully to the ground. He used simple instinct. And God has given us a simple tool for winning against Satan. We call it prayer.
Now I’m thinking of prayers quite different from the quick sentences we use to open or close a meeting. I’m thinking of an urgency in prayer nothing like the rote phrases we repeat to thank God before a meal. Our prayers should summon the power of God for battle!
“Satan is opposed to the church,” Martin Luther wrote. “The best thing we can do, therefore, is to put our fists together and pray.” Now is the time for Christians to raise their fists and ask God to make a difference in their families, in their schools, in their neighborhoods, in their friendships—and in their own hearts. I keep thinking of one line from Bruce Cockburn’s song “Lovers in a Dangerous Time”:
. . . nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight—
Got to kick at the darkness ’til it bleeds daylight.
We’re asking God to overcome the darkness of disease, to illuminate and eliminate selfishness and damaging pride, to lift marriages and friendships and business dealings out of the shadows, and to brighten every life with hope. It’s a battle, for sure, and God wants to bring us to triumph. He’s longing for us kick against the darkness as we pray.
HE DIDN’T DEPEND ON HIS OWN STRENGTH
Dad knew he was too small to land a powerful punch; his muscles weren’t strong enough to take on the foe in front of him. He multiplied his own strength by grabbing a weapon. We prevail against our enemy by calling on God.
And then we watch for God to act! The greatest failure in spiritual warfare is to deny God is doing something in our midst. Likewise, if we deny the work of Satan, we give him dominion in our lives. Spiritual apathy allows the devil to win.
But our God is greater! I’ve been listening to “Graves Into Gardens” by Elevation Worship:
You turn mourning to dancing
You give beauty for ashes
You turn shame into glory
You’re the only one who can . . .
You turn graves into gardens
You turn bones into armies
You turn seas into highways
You’re the only one who can
It’s not a “fair fight,” but not only because of Satan’s dirty tricks. No, this is a battle God always wins. He’s just waiting for us to pray so he can show us how.