Who is the real enemy?
What is the big challenge we are going through in our nation? What is the context of the big challenge we face? Are we able to identify the real enemy?
What about the problem you have encountered at work or in the family? Who are the people behind it?
Over the past four decades of ministry, I have listened to stories about who people think the enemy was. In some of the stories, as an independent observer and perhaps privy to more data on a situation, I quietly listen to one story or another of the perceived enemy – the one or the ones causing the trouble.
These may be the real or imaginary enemy. We are human. We have human limitations. And so, at one time or the other we get puzzled or we get into the rut of desperately wanting to figure out the real enemy.
In fact, in our Ghanaian cultural mindset, “no one dies a natural death”. There must be an enemy who has caused our loved one to join the ancestors. And so “ye ko bi sa” – we go find who the real enemy is.
We grope in the dark seeking to find the real enemy. Some of the whispers from these searches fuel the conspiracy theories of why the death came about. Who the enemy is.
On another sphere of national life, we desire to know who or what are the real enemies contributing to our economic decline and the hardship we are going through. Here, it is extremely important to identify the elements of our national economic architecture that must be addressed in the short-term and long-term to bring relief so we can live in dignity.
But what caught my attention last Sunday was Pastor Ekow Ackah’s sermon on this theme: “Who is the real enemy?” Perhaps he was thinking of the Church member’s life at home, at work, in the Church and in the community.
First, who is the real enemy in the positive and lovely experience of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden that turned sour and a bitter exposure to pain and suffering? Adam blames Eve; and Eve blames the serpent. But it is instructive to note that God didn’t accept any of these excuses and the passing of the buck. Who is the real enemy here?
Could it be Adam and Eve’s own moral values and personal choices?
Next, come to think of King Saul who was given the opportunity to govern his people. But sadly could not significantly impact the people or leave an enduring legacy.
God rejects Saul and His verdict on him is: “And Samuel said, “Though you are little in your own eyes, are you not the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel.
Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord? Why did you pounce on the spoil and do what was evil in the sight of the Lord?” And Saul said to Samuel, “I have obeyed the voice of the Lord” (1 Samuel 15:17, 19, 20a ESV).
The Prophet Samuel confronts King Saul on his approach to carrying out the mission God had sent him on. Somehow, Saul felt he had done a good job. He was sincerely wrong in his evaluation of his performance. Samuel gives him a feedback of God’s evaluation of his performance: “What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen!
Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams. Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft, and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols. So because you have rejected the command of the Lord, he has rejected you as king” (1 Samuel 15:22 & 23 NLT).
Who is the real enemy to King Saul’s good success? To God: “Obedience is better than sacrifice”, anytime and anywhere in our life and service. And to Him “rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft”. Stubbornness is as bad as worshipping and consulting idols.
We learn here that, to receive God’s approval and experience God’s presence, power and good success, obedience and submission to Him and His Word are extremely important.
In our Christian journey in life we desire true Christian spirituality and the benefits from it. Indeed, we are “to hold on to the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ” (Ephesians 4:15 NLT). But our day-to-day experiences are not neutral.
And so we should be intentional about becoming more and more like Christ on a day-to-day basis. The Bible instructs us: “Don’t copy the behaviour 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 NLT).
When we carefully think and meditate on the Romans 12:1&2 Bible text, we may pick what a real enemy is to our “growing in every way more and more like Christ’.
What do we say of the bane of yielding to temptations now and again? What is the real enemy here to our gaining victory over this or that sin and not yielding to it? The Bible gives us some clues including the following: “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:13-15 ESV). Who is the real enemy in this Bible text?
In times of temptations and challenges, we are to keep hope alive and trust in God’s provision to pull through positively: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV).
The truth is that we encounter conflict or spiritual warfare in every area of our human endeavour. This is inevitable. And the Apostle Paul teaches on how we can manage to live a victorious Christian life through it all: “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armour so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:10-12 NLT).
Yes, spiritual conflict or spiritual warfare will come in our life and work and even when we are doing our best to serve Christ and His Kingdom: “Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm” (Ephesians 6:13 NLT).
There is that real enemy! And the Apostle Peter instructs us: “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith” (1 Peter 5:8&9a).
The Lord Jesus is our supreme example of how to resist the enemy and see him flee and turn away from us (see Matthew 4:1-11).
In our consistent obedience to Christ and in the power of Christ we overcome the real enemy.
The author is a consultant in authentic Christian Spirituality and Discipleship and former CEO of Scripture Union.