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Posts tagged ‘overcoming evil’

Praying for a Breakthrough

SOURCE:  Jon Bloom/Desiring God

A breakthrough is a military concept. When one army is able to weaken its enemy’s forces to the point of collapse, a breakthrough occurs allowing that army to invade and take its enemy’s territory.

But in war a breakthrough only really matters if it occurs at a strategic location. And the evidence that a location is strategic is almost always revealed by the amount of enemy forces amassed to protect it. An enemy led by skilled generals plans to ferociously protect what it prizes highly.

This means that an invading army can expect its attempt to achieve a breakthrough to be met by a barrier of fierce enemy opposition. Increasingly intense fighting always precedes strategic breakthroughs. Strategic ground is not yielded easily.

Our Breakthroughs Are Opposed by Powerful Forces

This is as true for spiritual warfare as it is for terrestrial warfare. In the spiritual realm, as opposed to the terrestrial, the church is an invading force. Though we can easily slip into a defensive, circle-the-wagons mindset, Jesus clearly intends for us to be aggressors, not merely defenders. The Great Commission is to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). In a world that “lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19), that’s militant language. Our mission: to liberate those the devil has taken captive to do his will (2 Timothy 2:26).

But we must keep in mind that strategic ground is not yielded easily. Whether we’re battling for breakthroughs against our own stubborn sin or the unbelief of a loved one or breakthroughs in the missional advance of our local church, reaching unreached peoples, rescuing persecuted believers, orphans, sex slaves, or the unborn, we are up against “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). We don’t know exactly what that means except that these forces are very strong.

Daniel’s Example

Daniel 10:12–14 gives us a brief glimpse of what’s happening. Daniel had been praying and partially fasting for 21 days to gain greater insight into the revelations he had received (Daniel 10:3) when an angelic being finally showed up with an answer to his prayers. This messenger said that he had been trying to get to Daniel for those 21 days, but had been detained by “the prince of the kingdom of Persia.” The chief angel Michael had to come and free him.

This experience of Daniel is an example to us. It’s not a formula that can simply be boiled down to pray and fast for 21 days and Michael will come help you overcome cosmic forces. But it is an example of what is taking place outside of our sight. God does not want us to know more about the angelic realm than what he has revealed in Scripture, otherwise Scripture would have revealed more. But he clearly wants us to know that there is more going on than we see so that we will pray to him and fast until he gives us an answer.

When God Moves, Satan Responds

The consistent pattern throughout the Bible is that every significant move of God is preceded by a season of increasingly difficult, discouraging opposition. And if we take Ephesians 6, Daniel 10, and other warfare texts seriously, we can understand why: God is invading what Satan considers his territory. God’s kingdom is breaking through the lines of the domain of darkness (Colossians 1:13).

If we are not encountering opposition, it’s likely we are not attacking a strategic location. But if we are, we are on to something. Where the enemy is fortifying his forces is where we must focus our assault.

And where the enemy is fortified, there is going to be a fierce fight if we are going to achieve a breakthrough. We are going to receive volleys of flaming darts (Ephesians 6:16). We are going to be attacked on the rear. There will be spies in the camp. There will be jeering and intimidation and accusations. There will be efforts to destroy our morale and determination.

A Call for Breakthrough Determination

So this is a call for holy determination. Keep praying and don’t lose heart (Luke 18:1). Just like in any large-scale war, there are many battles. Some breakthroughs are achieved relatively quickly; others require long, persevering endurance. But either way, breakthroughs require a determination to keep up the assault.

Usually breakthroughs are not achieved by prayer alone — there are works to be done and courage to be exercised. But real spiritual breakthroughs are not achieved at all without prayer. Concentrated, specific, persistent, prevailing prayer, often engaged in by two or more (Matthew 18:19), is needed to weaken our spiritual opposition. And fasting is a wonderful help. “Fasting tests where the heart is. And when it reveals that the heart is with God and not the world, a mighty blow is struck against Satan” (A Hunger for God).

So if you’re praying for a breakthrough and not seeing it, and in fact experiencing more temptations to discouragement, frustration, weariness, doubt, and cynicism than before, do not give up. Increasingly intense fighting always precedes strategic breakthroughs. Strategic ground is not yielded easily. You’re up against more than you know. But “he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). He has overcome the world (John 16:33) and he will give you justice (Luke 18:8).

Don’t lose heart. Grow determined. There’s a breakthrough ahead.

Dealing With a Destructive Ex-Spouse

SOURCE:  Family Life Ministry/Ron Deal

One of the most menacing dynamics attacking the health of a stepfamily is a destructive parent in the other home.

Sarah called my office with a question I have heard a thousand times. “My husband’s ex-wife is a very unhealthy person. She attacks us frequently in front of the kids and manipulates them constantly. How do we deal with this?”

Without question, one of the most menacing dynamics in a stepfamily is a destructive parent in the other home. A parent, for example, with a personality disorder or drug or porn addiction is exceedingly difficult to deal with. So, too, is someone who is just plain unreasonable, irresponsible, and selfish. The temptation, of course, is to get drawn into the emotional game-playing and try to out-fox the fox. But God’s Word suggests a better way.

In His infinite wisdom, God gives us specific instructions in the latter section of Romans 12 on how to love a difficult person. His prescription for overcoming evil is direct: overcome evil with good (verse 21). The goal, then, in spite of the hurt we experience at the hands of others, is to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice and repay evil with good.

But what about revenge? Isn’t that justified?

Aggressive with good

Romans 12:19 makes it clear that revenge is not in keeping with the mercies God has shown us (verse 1).  God is the only one who should seek vengeance. He is the only one who is pure and holy, with no ulterior motives. He always desires our higher good. If a parent in the other home chooses evil, it is God’s job to handle the situation. Not yours.

So what is your role in the meantime?  Are you supposed to sit around and passively wait for more persecution? No, the answer is to become aggressive with good.

When wicked behavior is running rampant, it feels like it is in control. However God’s Word tells us that good is more powerful than evil. God does not say that doing good to others will help us tolerate their evil. He says that we can overcome it.

Romans 12:21 tells us, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (NIV). Light overwhelms darkness. Hope triumphs over discouragement. Love casts our fear.

It is our task, in the face of evil, to offer good. Why? Because good invites repentance.

Consider Romans 12:20: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head” (NIV). The phrase “heap burning coals on his head” referred to awakening the conscience of another. With good, we can melt the heart of evil with burning shame. Constantly repaying evil with good holds a mirror up to the perpetrator reflecting only their evil; in some cases this will bring about a change of heart.

I’ll never forget receiving a call from a woman I’ll call Carrie. She had recently remarried and needed some marital counseling. But what caught me off guard was the fact that she was referred by her children’s stepmother, Patty.

“I have come to trust Patty and her recommendations,” Carrie said. “But it didn’t start out that way—when she first married my ex-husband, I thought she was the enemy and I was threatened by her. But she has proven herself time and again to be decent and pure of heart. I actually consider her a friend at this point.” Wow! There is power in stubborn goodness.

Trusting God

What if repentance does not happen in the heart of the destructive parent? Then this behavior is between that person and the Almighty. In the meantime, you may suffer, but you must trust God to do what is right and to see you through the trial.

And what do you get for your obedience? Another passage in Scripture, Proverbs 25:22, concludes that the Lord will reward those who do good to those who are evil. The evil of some parents can be overcome in this life with good, others cannot.  Either way, the Lord will notice your sacrifice and reward you.

Until then live this way (see Romans 12:14-20):

  • Bless and do not curse.
  • Do everything you can to live in harmony.
  • Do not be proud and be willing to associate with her despite her behavior.
  • Do not become conceited.
  • In public be careful to do what is right.
  • Do not take revenge.
  • “Feed” and “give her something to drink” even when undeserved.

Taking action

Couples:

1. Maintain flexible boundaries. At times you will choose to “go the extra mile” and at other times you will say, “No.”

2. Notice your part of the ongoing conflict. Any time you try to change a difficult ex-spouse—even if for understandable moral reasons—you inadvertently invite resistance.  Learn to let go of what you can’t change (if you couldn’t change them when married, what makes you think you can now?) so you don’t unknowingly keep the between-home power struggles alive.

3. Keep “business meetings” impersonal to avoid excessive conflict. Face-to-face interaction has the most potential for conflict.  Use phone, email, or fax when possible.  Keep children from being exposed to negative interaction when it’s within your power.

4. Use a script to help you manage yourself. Before making a phone call, take time to write out your thoughts including what you’ll say and not say. Stick to the business at hand and don’t get hooked into old arguments.

5. Wrestle with forgiveness. Hurt feelings from the past are the number one reason your ex—and you—overreact with one another. Do your part by striving to forgive them for the offenses of the past (and present). This will help you manage your emotions in current negotiations.

Pastors:

Relationship skills training should not overlook the menacing impact of a destructive ex-spouse. When conducting premarital counseling, help couples anticipate how a destructive parent can add stress to their home. When teaching conflict resolution skills, role-play dealing with an unreasonable parent. Support step-couples as they wrestle with these stressors and you’ll see a decline in divorce.

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