About the Author
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If you had lived in Judea in the first century and were acquainted with Jesus and His ministry, who among His twelve disciples would you have said was a close friend? Which disciple was Jesus’s enemy (not the Enemy, Satan, but a
His friends are usually identified as Peter, James, John, and the other faithful disciples. The enemy? That seems a no-brainer—has to be Judas, the notorious betrayer, right?
Now, I warn you: I’m going to mess with your mind, because in a moment I want you to consider a principle of the Christian life that’s often ignored. But first, back to my questions about Jesus and His relationships. Let’s look first at a familiar incident involving one of Jesus’s “buddies,” the fiery, foot-inmouth Peter. One day Jesus and the disciples were having a discussion, and Peter got high-fives for saying that Jesus was “the Christ.” But a little later, when Peter
pulled Jesus aside and started criticizing the Lord for saying that He had to go to Jerusalem to suffer and die, Jesus got in Peter’s face and said, “Get behind Me, Satan!” (Matthew 16:13–23.)
Whoa! What happened to the “nice” Jesus?
Now flash forward a few days to the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus is in agony about upcoming events. Judas shows up with a group of soldiers who intend to take Jesus prisoner. The betrayer steps forward, greets Jesus, and gives Him a kiss. Jesus (who of course knows what’s up) responds, “Friend, why have you come?”
The kiss is the secret signal to the soldiers that “this is the guy,” and they rush forward to grab Jesus. One of the disciples—yup, it’s Peter—pulls his sword and takes a whack at the head of a servant of the high priest, slashing off
the poor man’s ear. Jesus will have none of it and, after telling His “friend” he has it all wrong and needs to sheath his sword, says, “Do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions
of angels? How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?” And later Jesus also says, “All this was done that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled” (Matthew 26:50–56).
Now, I ask you, taking into consideration these two incidents involving Peter and Judas, which man ultimately did the most to advance Jesus’s mission on earth? Who did Jesus call “Satan”? Who did Jesus greet as “Friend”? Here’s the point. The message Jesus was trying to get across to Peter was something like this: “You do not have in mind the things of God. You are trying to keep Me from the cross. Right now you are an enemy.” And later, Jesus effectively
said to Judas, “You have come to sell Me out so that I will complete My destiny. You, therefore, are My friend.”
In this circumstance—which because of the Cross is the most important moment in history—Judas did for Jesus what Peter and the other disciples could not do.
You already know that God’s ways, including His view of enemies, are different from our ways. But an understanding of how God uses people coming against us and situations that are very negative can change everything. If we are to make authentic progress in life, we have to face up to the necessity of an enemy.
The Worst Day…or the Best Day?
Have you ever had a day when, by about noon, all you wanted to do was go home and crawl up in your mama’s lap?
I know, grown men are probably not supposed to say things like that, but likely my worst “run to mama day” was September 24, 2007. Without that day I don’t think I would ever have learned the life-altering message of this book.
On that fall day, there I was—a well-known pastor in the community of Greenville, South Carolina—sitting in a room with steel walls and no windows, sweat running down my sides, my head pounding like a drum as three FBI
agents fired one question after another at me.
As you may have guessed, I wasn’t in the federal building in Greenville that day to conduct any pastoral duties. No, I was under investigation for possible criminal activity. As the hours dragged on, all I could think was, How did I end
up here? Why is this happening to me?
And the irony of my predicament was that it was my purpose in life and my calling to be a pastor that had gotten me into this mess!
Let me tell some of the backstory.
In 2002, our church in South Carolina was approached by a businessman from another state. He seemed to be a consummate professional and came highly recommended. He told us of a program he’d developed that would lead
people who were down on their luck, particularly single moms, toward home ownership. This was a turnkey proposition, as this businessman had already prequalified and lined up home builders, financial institutions, and representatives
from other legitimate companies so that an individual with few resources and bad credit could go through financial training and rehabilitation and become a first-time home buyer.
I loved the idea because helping people is why I’m breathing, and it always has been a huge emphasis in our church. Any day I can show people in need how God can help them realize their dreams and get on their feet—that’s a very good day for me! In short order we got all over this idea.
But, having been in ministry for a while and knowing that talk is cheap, I insisted that we not go into this deal blind. So our team did our due diligence by conducting extensive, hands-on investigations into every aspect of the project.
We ran credit checks on the businessman and even took the whole plan to the attorney general of South Carolina for review. He gave it a thumbs-up, so we enthusiastically kicked everything into gear.
About 250 people from our church got involved—almost all of them single moms. The early results were amazing! People began making sense of their finances and changing bad habits. My best friend and ministry partner—my
wife, Hope—and I were like two kids locked in a candy store. We were thrilled and so grateful at what God was doing for single moms and their kids. We should not have been so excited. What we didn’t know was that our business partner was meeting secretly with wealthier members in our congregation, enticing them to invest in the project. Checks for thousands of dollars were flowing into our business “partner’s” bank account.
After about ten months, when the businessman had accumulated over $1 million (most of it from our church members), he stopped returning phone calls. The next thing we knew, the money had disappeared and so had he. It was no comfort at all to find out later that the FBI was on his trail for similar fraud in another state.
All hell broke loose. After a phone call informing me of the crisis, I cut short a speaking engagement in San Francisco and flew home. Many people were very angry at me because I was their pastor—the one who had encouraged them to
participate in the program. Call after call came asking me or the church to refund money. But I had never had that money, and neither I nor the church could do anything about it.
Media outlets had reporters, once my friends but now resembling enemies, pushing cameras in my face. Local talk-show hosts, who had previously applauded our community impact efforts, were now howling at us like ferocious
animals. Police were stationed in my front yard because of threats to my family from people who had once called me Pastor. I was a prisoner in my own house, my wife was depressed, and my kids had to change schools to escape ridicule from former friends. Our life had taken a major turn that we’d never anticipated. The pressure became so intense on my family and ministry, I wondered if I’d ever survive.
Every track record of success that had been laid, everything about me, my heart, and my motives was in question. In a million years I never would have dreamed I would be in this situation.
How would you feel if your life had taken this turn?
I’m certainly not minimizing any trial you may be facing now, but I do want you to understand what I endured so you can recognize the power of the truth I’m about to share! It will change your paradigm of how you see people
It was during this low point in my life that I felt I was surrounded by enemies, much like you may be feeling right now in your own battle in life. It was then I realized a truth firsthand (a principle I’ll talk about more in depth later): the ultimate enemy of our souls is Satan, and I learned through my study of Scripture during my personal tragedy the truth about how he operates through people.
The Bible is clear: because we live in a natural world with natural authority established by God as unbreakable, people can be used by God to be the windows of heaven or by Satan to be the gates of hell.
That’s how your real Enemy shows up, through people he uses as enemies. Enemies, therefore, aren’t people who cut in front of you in the lunch line, or cut you off at the traffic light. They are people who have allowed Satan the opportunity to work through them, as the gates of hell into your life, to oppose your destiny and your purpose; they set their desires against what God has in line for your life.
In a matter of days, my successful, comfortable life as the pastor of a growing, effective church crumbled. I had done nothing wrong, but people were accusing me of misdeeds, trampling on my good name, and calling me foul names. I felt surrounded by enemies.
What in the world was happening to me?
What about you? Are you facing something—or somebody—in your l...