‘With friends like you – who needs an enemy?!’ It’s the kind of thing we say to someone, often lightheartedly but occasionally with some meaning. However I guess most of us at some point have discovered we have someone who has, for whatever reason, become our enemy! Maybe there is someone in your world right now who is opposing you and making life very difficult…
We all make enemies at times. It’s unpleasant. It can affect your life, health and relationships in all kinds of ways. No one likes having an enemy – so how do we deal with them and are there actually any benefits?
‘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.’ (Ephesians 6:12)
It’s really really tough when people turn against us and become our enemies. I’ve faced some really disappointing and personally devastating situations down the years including even best friends who disagreed with us and then chose to turn against us. We almost left the ministry. David sums it up well:
‘If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were rising against me, I could hide. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship at the house of God, as we walked about among the worshippers.’ (Psalm 55:12-14)
For those of you who are leaders in any sphere of life I can tell you now, what you already probably know – you will have enemies. It goes with the territory! In fact I would suggest that if you’ve never experienced opposition from other people then you probably haven’t attempted anything worthy of such a response.
Mercy & Grace
Can I encourage you from my own experience to recognise that you need to show mercy and grace – you may have to dig deep to find some and more than likely ask God for a shed load more!
El Cid is a legend! He’s the man who united Spain and became a great hero. For centuries the Christians had fought the Moors. They hated and killed each other. In battle, El Cid captured five Moors but refused to kill them because he realized that killing had never done any good. He believed that showing mercy to his enemies would change their hearts and then both groups could live in peace.
One of the Moors he captured said, ‘Anyone can kill, but only a true king can show mercy to his enemies.’ Because of El Cid’s single act of kindness, his enemies offered themselves to him as friends and allies from that point on. Someone has to take the initiative.
We mustn’t judge and certainly shouldn’t seek revenge. Sometimes enemies can arise because we have judged others (the principle of reaping & sowing). Once I’ve asked forgiveness and stopped judging – I have, on occasions, seen judgements stop from others!
This is massively important – if you don’t forgive them you are creating a foothold which the enemy will use in your own life and it will not be pleasant. We need to forgive and keep forgiving and keep ourselves in a right place before God and man.
Put Yourself In Their Shoes
Have you given them any reason to become your enemy? Is there any truth in anything they are attacking you about? Do you need to go and apologise for anything? Is there anything you would have done differently or anything you can learn from this situation? Is there anything you can learn or do differently in the future…
The first response should always, always be to pray! Maybe not like this (though you may feel like it!):
“Let death take my enemies by surprise; let them go down alive to the grave.” (Psalm 55:15)
“O God, break the teeth in their mouths.” (Psalm 58:6)
Pray for your situation and pray for your enemies and bless them. I’ve faced enemies over the years and looking back, God has reminded me that I’ve made mistakes and read things wrong. In fact I’m far from perfect and so I need to give a bit of slack to those who have stood against me as a pastor – recognising that we all mess up at times. So pray for them and pray blessing over them!
Jesus often withdrew to the lonely places and prayed and I’m sure that sometimes He spoke to Father about His enemies. I’m sure He was praying what He taught us to ‘pray and not curse them!’ So don’t forget to pray for your enemies!
Public Enemy No 1!
There was a time in David’s life where he was public enemy number one! In David’s absence the Amalekites had raided the Negev and Ziklag. They had attacked Ziklag and burned it, and had taken captive the women and everyone else in the camp. David was so unpopular:
‘David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the Lord his God.’ (1 Samuel 30:6)
Other versions state that David ‘encouraged himself in the Lord.’ When you’re in a battle and facing enemies it is crucial that you spend time alone with God and allow Him to comfort, strengthen and encourage. He alone can give you the energy and the desire not to quit! Trust me – He has carried me through many many challenges, obstacles and difficult people!
Don’t forget the words of Jesus to Simon Peter,
‘Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.’ (Luke 22:31-32)
Never forget – Jesus is praying you through!
Remember your position in Christ. You are accepted, you belong and you are significant to God! Remember what God has brought you through before (this suggests He is not about to let you down now!) Remember that the ‘Great I Am’ is in your corner.
‘You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.’ (1 John 4:4)
Run Into His Arms
At times when I have felt anxious and fearful I have found myself running into the arms of my Father God because;
‘Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken. ‘ (Psalm 62:2)
I find myself literally hiding myself in Him and reminding myself that He is my refuge, my strong tower, my Fort Knox (stronghold)
‘Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.’ (Psalm 62:5-8)
Great promises from Father God – so get yourself secure in Him again, fear not, don’t be intimidated and trust Him totally – your honour depends on Him alone.
Don’t Waste Energy!
Don’t waste energy on those people who are opposed to you! In times past I have allowed those people to dominate my thoughts, conversations, family time. Don’t let them! They simply aren’t worth it. Focus on what is positive, wholesome and true (Phil. 4). Learn to develop the ability and discipline to only dwell on what is actually true. Keep things in context and focus on the truth and the reality. The devil loves to fill our heads with fear and ‘worse case scenarios.’ Winston Churchill noted that ‘most of the things he spent his life worrying about never actually happened!’
Seek A Strategy
If you are in a really serious situation that has been ongoing for some time I would suggest that you ask God for His strategy. This could be a game changer! Remember His thoughts and ways are higher and better than ours! He sees the full picture. There have been several occasions where God has given me a strategy and let me tell you it hasn’t been the approach I would naturally have taken! But on each occasion it has won the day!
It’s important when we’re in a spiritual battle to keep going! I believe that the enemy would wish to distract us and disable us and stop us from being the people God called us to be. He is the destroyer and he loves to wreck what God is doing. Don’t let him!
I love this verse:
‘The Lord will extend your mighty sceptre from Zion, saying, “Rule in the midst of your enemies!” (Psalm 110:2)
Jesus was constantly surrounded by enemies eg. Luke 5:17-39 and He ruled and reigned in every situation. Is it time you learned to ‘rule in the midst of your enemies?’ That doesn’t mean Lord it over people – it simply reminds me that: I am called; I have been chosen by God for this. I have a job to do for Jesus and I will let no man or devil distract me or put me off!
This simply means making a choice to ‘get on with it’ in spite of enemies in whatever your context you find opposition. It means making a choice to give it your best shot, with a smile on your face. It means standing firm (Eph. 6) and absolutely refusing to be intimidated in the face of opposition and encouraging those around you to do likewise.
Can I encourage you to learn to rule in whatever context you find yourself? And rejoice that you are sharing in His sufferings (1 Peter 4:13)
Rule out of weakness!
It’s ok to admit sometimes that your enemies are too strong for you. This verse really blessed me several years ago when I was battling for my very ministry life. David recognised this:
‘He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me.’( Psalm 18:17)
I was so encouraged that this great King had enemies who at times appeared too strong for him to the point where he perhaps felt vulnerable and overwhelmed. During one particularly difficult attack I felt like God himself had given me permission to say ‘Lord – I can’t cope – these guys are too strong!’ Maybe you’re in that place right now. It’s a great place to get to because then God can step in – read the rest of the Psalm it is awesome!
Complete weakness is a great place to be – it’s a place where we have to completely rely on God’s incredible power being made perfect in weakness. His grace IS sufficient and He WILL see you through!
Enjoy The Feast!
David said this:
‘You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings.’ (Psalms 23:5)
One thing that I’ve discovered is this – even while the battles rage and people oppose us, God is still able to provide a feast for us at such times. He still blesses, still prospers, still produces great fruit in us! I have seen my cup overflow with blessings during the toughest of times. Look out for it! Expect it and enjoy it! It’s all part of ‘ruling in the midst of our enemies!’
Benefits of Enemies
Never forget that God uses every situation to equip us, mature us and make us more like Jesus. Enemies:
- Sharpen us and keep us focused on what is important
- Cause us to pray more and depend on Christ
- Force us to trust God
- Develop our character – we learn so much about ourselves & God
- Help us recognise our weaknesses or areas where we are quite as able or strong as we thought we were.
- Increase our ability to endure & persevere
- Increase our security in Christ (as a result of the battle)
- Prepare us for future battles (“If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan’ (Jer. 12:5)
Finally – I hope this has helped. I’m praying for you right now, that you won’t quit, you’ll keep going – who knows what God has in store for you just around the corner….His promise for you is this:
‘You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.’ (Isaiah 26:3)
There may be someone in your world who needs to hear this – please share it on social media. Thanks