Summary: We will struggle but how will we handle it? We need God’s strength, taking a stand with Christ alone in His power, as we battle an unseen enemy.
Understanding Spiritual Struggle: The Devil’s Scheme
Ephesians 6:10-13 (NIV)
A. VICTORY: Where is it?
Just out in this past Thursday’s USATODAY website (May 30,2002) – “Americans are increasingly pessimistic about the war against terrorism following weeks of revelations about missed clues and warnings of likely future attacks. Only four in 10 Americans believe the United States and its allies are winning the war against terrorism, according to a USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup poll. In January, when headlines focused on military successes on the battlefield in Afghanistan, two-thirds of those polled felt the nation was winning the war. The number has declined steadily since. Now, 35% say neither side is winning the war, and 15% say the terrorists are winning.” Wave after wave of reports of new terrorist threats, perhaps biological terrorism, nuclear arms at the hands of terrorist, and terrorist attack alerts/warnings I believe is wearing down on the nerves of the people.
I believe in the same way many Christians today too are sensing that they are not winning the battle against the enemy of our souls. Just like the Al Qeada terrorists, the devil’s demons appears hard to root out, and when they do strike, many Christians fall or fall far away from God’s purposes, just as we hear soldiers die or mistakes happen such as the “friendly fire” incident that caused Canadian lives. As a result, there is a sense of pessimism among many defeated Christians. Defeated perhaps by cares of this world, defeated by pressures that seem out of control, defeated by … If Jesus is victorious, as many claim, where then is that victory? Where then is the joy?
It was the same in the time of the first Christians… Mark 16:9-11 (NIV)
9When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. 10She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. 11When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it.
Here is Jesus victorious over dead, one who has driven away 7 demons from Mary Magdalene. But there was no sense of victory, they were too far gone into what appeared to be defeat, their beloved Master dead, gone, nailed on the cross now buried, and along with it their hopes, their faith, their joy.
Resurrection was a fact, Jesus rose, the war over sin is over, the sting of death is removed, the penalty of sin gone but there was no joy! Pessimism, … loomed large, they were too shell-shocked. Even the report of victory by Mary did not help, they did not believe. Is this not happening again today, I wonder? In the midst of the victory of Jesus, where is the victory? In church we sing “victory in Jesus, my Savior, forever” and I wonder, really, do we believe it?
Are we shell-shocked by events in our lifetime, 9/11, brewing war between Pakistan and India, Israelis and Palestinians, the unstable economy, quality of health-care here in BC, teens dying from drugs and high-speed crashes?
That same attitude of unbelief was there as we continue the story in Mark 16:12-14 (NIV).
12Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. 13These returned and reported it to the rest; but they did not believe them either.
14Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.
In the very same way, many Christians too have been infected with the virus of unbelief. It is epidemic, and the devil is having his way and laughing at so many impotent Christians. I believe Jesus would rebuke us for our stubborn refusal to believe Him, His word, to trust Him, to read His word, to obey His word, to etch his Word in our hearts, to study, to abide in Him, keep in step with His Spirit, to hide his word in our hearts that we may not sin against Him. It is in me too, I confess. It hit me when I awoke early this past Friday 4 something in the morning, to watch Senegal beat France 1-0 in the World Cup of soccer. My wife thought I went downstairs to pray, but I was watching a soccer game, albeit an important game in the global scene, but nonetheless a meaningless game in terms of eternity. What will it matter who won the game 3 thousand years from now, or 2 million years from now, will there be world peace if Senegal wins the world cup?
Let’s continue in Mark 16:15-20 … After the rebuke of Jesus, He reminded His disciples what’s important…