I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows—was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell. I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
- 2 Corinthians 12:1-10
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”
- Ephesians 6:10-18
“Need strength in your weakness? Then act in the opposite spirit. Acting in the opposite spirit is one of the most powerful weapons we can wield during spiritual warfare. It displaces strongholds that are warring in the spiritual realm over our lives. When you sense something isn’t right, but you can’t put your finger on what is wrong, it is likely related to the war going on in the spirit realm. Scripture says, ‘For our struggle is not against ﬂesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms’ (Eph. 6:12). We do not fight as the world fights: people against people. Instead, as followers of Christ, we fight principalities and powers in the spiritual realm. We fight as daughters and sons of God against the powers of darkness. We fight spiritual battles we cannot see with the naked eye, though we can sense them in our spirit.
“You cannot fight a spiritual battle with physical weapons. And you cannot fight spiritual attacks with the world’s ways or the ways of your flesh either. The way to disarm spiritual attack is through prayer, petition to God, and the full armor of God (Eph. 6:10—18).
“For example, if you have ever been yelled at, you know that yelling back does not make anything better. In fact, it makes things worse. Moving in the opposite spirit through kindness disarms hostility and catches the offender off guard. Moving in the opposite spirit wins the battle against the Enemy. I want to add that even if your kindness doesn’t change the offender, you will change for the better, so it’s still a win. You will store up spiritual credits for yourself in heavenly realms that you can draw from over your lifetime.
“To summarize, you have two choices when a spiritual attack occurs in your life. You can react in the natural and exacerbate the situation, or you can choose to respond in the opposite spirit to how your flesh feels and watch God move and fight the battle on your behalf. He’ll exchange your weakness for strength. …
“If you are feeling vulnerable and weak right now, ask God to give you strength. What situation or relationship is causing this feeling of weakness for you? As you lean in to the power of His Spirit for strength, what does moving in the opposite spirit look like for you today?”
- Alex Seeley, The Opposite Life
Alex Seeley started with a story in this chapter, before the quote above. She and her husband had moved to Nashville, TN from Australia and they started a church. The church, The Belonging Co., was growing, so they decided to create an album. The recording went out and people started writing them to tell them how they had accepted Jesus through the music.
But then close friends challenged them that they were getting too full of themselves. Alex went home and started yelling at the mirror everything that she had been thinking. “How dare you” type stuff. Then her husband prayed for forgiveness. Alex then cried. She had responded as the world responds, but her husband had taken the opposite spirit approach, begging for forgiveness within in case there was any pride in their decisions and forgiveness for others as the others mistook their motives in recording the music.
In reading the first Scripture, I was thinking of a totally different vein. My wife and I both have health issues. At the time of writing this, the cardiologist is sending a prescription to try to reduce my blood pressure. I still need to call the doctor to arrange for other issues mostly involving my left arm, possible surgery but also nerve damage. My wife is still in kidney dialysis (literally as I am writing this). She also is having follow up scans and such for the ulcer issues and other issues that seem, for the most part, to be more scare than anything serious. Not that end stage renal failure is a walk in the park, but if she has any sign of cancer, she might be removed from the kidney transplant list, even if it is an easily treatable situation. By the time this gets published, we will not have the final answers.
With all that going on in our lives, we rely on God’s strength in our weakness. Other people might choose to curse God, but we know that God is our redeemer. There is that old saying that a dog never bites the hand that feeds him. We will not do so either. In doing that, your faith grows.
But in reading this chapter of Alex Seeley’s book, I am convicted of so many past sins, in that I have done as my Dad taught me. I have shouted back. I have told my sons “Because I said so!” far too often and too loudly. I wrote recently about a major who spent thirty minutes “cussing me out” but he smiled the whole time and he never raised his voice and he never used foul language. I wanted to emulate him, but my upbringing was far more “in your face.” Old habits are hard to break. They are even harder to break when the rebellion is from people that you love dearly, that you would lay down your life for, but the rebellion outshouts the loudest shout that you can muster – when silence or a soft voice might be more effective. As Alex Seeley says, with an opposite spirit, a spirit opposite of the ways of this world. Why? We are preparing to go to the next world.
We must learn the hard things of life. When I was in a work environment, my boss would shout at me and tell me to do something that was ridiculous. Ridiculous in that I knew it would not work or there were at least a hundred better ways of doing it. But I would listen until the inane tirade was over. I might simply comply, wasting a lot of time doing it his way. Or I might enquire if I could make a simple suggestion. If he nodded or said something to the affirmative, I would ask if I had liberty to do his little thing a slightly different way – never saying a “more efficient or effective way.” Giving the boss any hint that his plan was simply “stupid” would escalate the tirade, even when delivered in a calm voice.
I could be calm and compliant in a servant role. I could even be a calm leader in a work setting. In the Army, I had sergeants that would yell and cuss and kick people in the backside, literally or figuratively, to get the job done. In most other cases, I simply made assignments and went into teacher / mentor role if they did not do it the right way.
But with family, I made my worst mistakes with family when I cared more for them than the others.
Strange how that works that way.
So, while Alex Seeley focused much on those that are weak can be made strong with God’s strength, there needs to be the counterpoint. How can we discern when our strength is worldly strength, and we need to depend upon God for His strength instead of boldly going forward on our strength until we have either messed things up or gotten in too deep for our strength to get us out?
Lord, guide me. Help me to rely on Your strength when I need it. Help me to discern that this is a spiritual battle that worldly strength or even intellect cannot resolve. Thank You, Lord, for giving me the strength when I need it. Amen
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.