Then, Jaycee Dugard came out with her book outlining the terrible things done to her over 18 years in the backyard of a predator. He had pulled over in his car as if to ask her for directions, and proceeded to introduce her to decades of a living hell.
This week came the story about a little nine-year old boy walking home from camp, getting lost and asking someone for help. This would end up being someone who would murder him, desecrating his little body.
You can see how over the course of this one summer month, we have talked more about evil than we normally do. We have also cried more for the heartbreak of others, and asked ‘The Why Question’ more than we normally do. You can also see how this much news about the bad things that can happen to children has a chilling effect upon them.
I once heard a pastor teach that this incessant talk about the terrible things that happen in the world is nothing but a praise-fest for Satan. Think about that. Aren’t we just literally ‘recounting the works of his hands’ when we talk too much about these evil crimes? Doesn’t it open our hearts up to the spirit of anxiety and fear? Do you notice how the works of the enemy can begin to loom larger in our minds than the power of the Living God? How, if we aren’t talking about the recession, we’re talking about murder? Sometimes it seems like there is precious little to praise in a world filled with such difficulty, heartbreak, and oppression.
Last year I had an interesting experience. A beautiful high school sophomore committed suicide in a public playground near us. This really dealt a crushing blow to our little community. As we struggled in our hearts and minds (and schools) to recover from such a tragedy, a nearby middle school boy in took his own life as well, hanging himself outside his home, discovered by a classmate on his way to school. We were then thrown into an entirely new phase, and the talk began about how these things can sometimes came in threes. The sense of dread was palpable.
The two schools were really struggling, kids milling about unable to go to class, the campuses becoming large grief counseling centers. Facebook pages were filled with R.I.P. messages to their late friends, questions about life and death, why things like this happen, and when will it all just stop? As I sat every day in the early morning darkness doing my Bible study devotions, praying and weeping over these events, the Lord showed me something really important. I felt like He very clearly said, “Why are you taking this sitting down? I gave you power over darkness by my death and resurrection. Why aren’t you using it?”
This hit me like a thunderbolt! Good question, Lord! We should not be like our neighbors who have nowhere to turn and nothing beyond a human understanding. We don’t have to sit idly by and be crushed by an unseen enemy who is literally looking for someone to devour. So, why do we? I slowly began to pick up the sword of the Spirit and wield it against this demonic enemy, asking my brothers and sisters in Christ to do the same. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that the spiritual atmosphere over our area literally changed within a day. I could see it and feel it. One day!
Instead of quitting when we saw breakthrough, we were emboldened by the Spirit of Righteousness. We increased our prayers, casting down the forces of evil in the name of Jesus, walking our neighborhood (appearing just to be walking the dog) taking back the land by the power of God. The kids and I went to both suicide sites, praying against the spirit of death and suicide, and anointing the area with oil. Even my somewhat embarrassed teenager seemed deeply moved by this: That we didn’t have to accept the things that were happening. We could do something with power and authority that would change the environment.
This was no exercise in ‘positive thinking.’ This was all-out warfare in the spiritual realms – and the kids were up for it. It was so encouraging to see them happily anointing entire areas with touches of oil (playground equipment, fences, trees, sidewalks) and saying things like, “We pray the blood of Jesus over this area,” “We declare this playground for God,” or “We cancel and destroy any plans of darkness here.” We talked at every meal about God being the Creator and Redeemer, not the Destroyer.
Some of us adults walked the school campuses praying for the kids enrolled there and every family they represented. We prayed for the teachers and the administrators, and indeed, for every person who stepped foot on that property for any reason at all. We anointed buildings, doorways, even fences with oil. And as we did these things, the peace of Christ came over our community and the suicides ended. We were merely the carriers.
You realize that when we said yes to the gift of salvation – we were saying yes to so much more than simply going to heaven when we die. We said yes to more than escaping the final judgment of man and living forever with Him. When we said yes to Jesus, we said yes to a spiritual life of unimaginable proportions through the power of the Holy Spirit. This was not a little, “You’re saved from eternal death. So, good luck with your actual life.” This was more than, “Come to me and I will give you rest for your soul.” We actually said yes to participating in the spiritual battle that rages all around us, and we were issued actual BATTLE GEAR.
In Ephesians, Paul wrote about putting on the full armor of God so we can take our stand against the devil’s schemes. (Eph 6:11) We were given the sword of the spirit, the belt of truth, the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness, the feet of readiness, and the shield of faith, which also acts as a fire extinguisher. (Eph 6:16) There was another piece of equipment issued too, which is there in the text, but not in so many words. This would be our spiritual infrared night-vision goggles. Say, what?
You may have seen military warriors on TV wearing these as they go into night battle, or any time they move into a dark place. These goggles allow one to identify an enemy who believes he is invisible; and then to destroy his plans. This capacity was downloaded to every believer on the day s/he said yes by faith to Christ. No one may have trained us in the proper use of the equipment, but we got it, nonetheless.
My question becomes, Why do I continue to leave all my spiritual armor packed away in the closet like my scuba gear, dragging it out on a rare occasion when I have exhausted every other option? Why wouldn’t I think of the life I am living right here, right now, as being as much a battlefield as it is ‘beyond the wire’ in Baghdad? Whenever they go beyond the wire, they know for a fact that the enemy is looking to destroy. There’s no question about it; which is why they never go out unprepared.
We, too, are called to go out beyond the wire, out of the safety zone, and we have been amply equipped for the job.
This must be why a news-cycle like the last one bothers me so much. It is so easy for me to get so beaten down by life on this side of heaven that I can forget the massive armaments that lay at my disposal within a hearts’ reach! If I don’t put on the power of God, then my life and my thinking looks exactly like that of my atheist neighbors. I become a “practical atheist” – theologically believing – but practically, not so much. I can be completely out of gas, with nothing but platitudes; no joy and no juice. And then I wonder why the world often doesn’t want whatever it is we say we have in Christ.
We don’t have to stand for this any longer. We are equipped not only for ourselves and our own sweet families, but for others, for entire neighborhoods, for communities, for cities, for counties, for countries. For the nations. We are equipped to do battle in the heavenly realms and to change outcomes. We are told to fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen (2 Cor.4:18). How can I do that without putting on the goggles that were issued to me on the day that I believed? I cannot. Without the goggles, I see in the flesh and not in the spirit. And it gets dark, very dark.
Of course, I need training on how to better use my equipment…how to avoid booby-traps and landmines. I need to learn better ways to wield the mighty sword and to stand firm against the enemy’s plans. I need to better develop the tender heart of a loving shepherd, while building up the muscles of a powerful warrior. I need to wear those spiritual goggles every single day in order to see with the eyes of God what is happening in our world; in order to keep my eyes on Him, and not on the evil that surrounds me. (Psalm 141:8)
I need to continue to Praise God even when the enemy seems to win a point or two. I need to declare God’s great goodness and really seek out things to thank Him for – even in the worst of circumstances. Nothing irritates the enemy like praise and worship. Annoy a demon today – praise the Lord on High! Of course there are times when I am too weak to do anything, and I need to call upon Christian friends to come alongside to sit me down and hold up my arms till the battle can be won. (Ex 17:12-13)
We are definitely in dark days. Don’t go out without your armor. Don’t be without your spiritual night-vision goggles. See through God’s eyes and ask Him where to go from here. Even while our hearts may break for those affected by evil, let us overflow with thankfulness and praise, with love and the joy of the Lord. (Col. 2:7) Let us not allow the media be the arbiter of our faith, but instead, let the Author and the Finisher complete his work in us. Huah!