I watched the news today. By the time it was over, my heart was under attack. It doesn’t happen often while catching up on world events, but today was different. It was no particular story that troubled me (I found them all to be disheartening in some way). I think it was just the dread of all the stories combined that caused my heart to feel assaulted. Evil appears to be thriving. Each day people under its influence find a new way to display its ugliness. Terrorism, which used to be groups trying to obtain weapons of mass destruction, has morphed into radicalized individuals who create homemade bombs, use cars as bullets and induce fear by wielding a knife when they can’t find a gun. Domestic violence used to be arguments behind closed doors that got out of hand. Now, we find children being assaulted (even murdered) by their parents; and I’m not even taking the time to describe the hateful things husbands, wives, boyfriends and girlfriends are doing to each other. Banks used to be robbed and thousands of dollars were stolen. Today, hedge-fund managers take millions from people’s retirements, health savings accounts and whatever else they can siphon. We’ve always known political parties disagree with each other, but now it appears they are out to destroy each other…no matter what it takes.
I turned the news off and my heart just felt…blah. As I tried to pick myself up off the couch to go be a responsible human being, I was tempted with the thought What difference does it make? All the right living you are trying to do; really, what difference does it make? The world is collapsing and you can’t change it. That is how you know when your heart is under attack. It wants to give up. It wants to quit. It becomes self-centered, cautious and seeking self-preservation at all cost. Funny, but on the tail end of that thought I was reminded of a scene from “The Lord of Rings: The Two Towers.” King Theoden had led his people to the stronghold at Helms Deep to escape the Orc army. The Orcs attack and overrun the stronghold. King Theoden, along with his closest warriors and Aragon, have barricaded themselves in a large room. The Orcs are getting ready to push their way through. The camera flashes to the king’s face. He looks despondent, overwhelmed. And then he utters, “What can man do in the face of such evil?” That is what I felt.
Aragon hears the king’s words and recalls a promise that was made to him by the wizard, Gandolf. Gandolf told Aragon, “In 3 days, look for me in the east as the sun rises.” It was day 3. It was time for the promise to be fulfilled. Aragon, upon recalling the promise, turns to the king and says, “Ride with me. Let’s fight.” If you’ve seen the movie you know what happens next. They mount their horses and ride out of their barricaded room to find Gandolf approaching from the east with a large army. The Orcs are defeated and evil is held at bay.
As followers of Jesus Christ, we are waiting for his return. One day he will come and rescue his people from the onslaught of evil, but what do we do until that day gets here? Are we supposed to barricade ourselves in our churches, private schools and home Bible study groups? Are we suppose to huddle up and just hope the doors hold until Jesus comes? I don’t think so. I think we are to combat evil in this world, but our weapons are not the traditional, man-made kind. We don’t fight with a bigger gun, a new political movement or our Christian apparel. Evil is not defeated with hate, political parties or trendy clothing. To take on evil God’s people must use the following strategies:
When the heart is under attack, it needs strength to survive and overcome. We can’t muster up the strength needed to face evil in these days. We need supernatural strength not a false hope manufactured from human wisdom or optimism. Leaning into and trusting the promises of God can only produce the kind of power I’m talking about. I don’t have the space to cut and paste all of God’s promises that provide strength. If you want your heart to be strengthened and encouraged…if you want hope to rise up in you like the Hulk awakens inside of David Banner…then read these verses and believe them: Isaiah 41:10, Romans 8:35-39, 1 John 5:4-5. These are just the beginning. Hundreds more await our discovery, but they will not find us. We must read the Bible to find them. Once our hearts have been strengthened, we can start standing up to the evil that is out to intimidate us.
Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is doing the right thing even when you’re afraid. It would be nice if doing the right thing always ended with a reward, but that is not the case. We know that doing the right thing can open the door to more stress or trouble. And folks, that’s why we need courage. God has expectations for the way his people ought to live, and everyone else has expectations for us too. Civic leaders, bosses, our families, the coaches we play for, the people we fall in love with…they all want us to respond to life a certain way. But what if their way conflicts with what God expects from us? The Bible says it this way, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:2) God’s will is always good, but most of the time it takes courage to do it. And when we do God’s will, we are combating evil.
I’m not talking about the pop, feel good love that promotes spineless tolerance of all behavior in the name of not judging right from wrong. I’m referring to the kind of love that sees humans as creatures created in God’s image. The kind of love that believes the purpose of humanity is greater than the comfort of humanity. This love is rare and it is rooted in the character of God. After all, God is love. What does this love look like? “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful and endures through every circumstance.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). Jesus described it this way, “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!” (Matthew 5:43-44) I know it defies logic, but when we love and pray for our enemies (domestic and foreign) we are combating evil. I don’t know exactly how this plays out on the world stage, but what we are currently doing seems to have limited success. Jesus went on to say, “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:12-14) Did you see it? Our efforts to love our enemy is God’s will when we are facing evil; and it is the display of God’s love in those moments that will open doors for the Gospel to reach into all nations. Then, he will fulfill his promise. He will come and rescue his people. Just like Gandolf showed up at the right time, so will the Lord Jesus. The goal is to be found standing firm against the darkness…not barricaded in a place of safe living.
After watching the news and recognizing what was happening to my heart, I went and got my bible. Once I opened its pages, I found strength for my heart. Courage returned…I thought I will do what I know God has asked me to do. I will keep listening to Him. I will love those who don’t love me or know me. I will fight today.