BATTLING THE LOSER
"Then some Jews from Antioch and Iconium caught up with them and turned the fickle crowd against them. They beat Paul unconscious, dragged him outside the town and left him for dead. But as the disciples gathered around him, he came to and got up. He went back into town and the next day left with Barnabas for Derbe." Acts 14:19-20 (The Message).
A close shave for Paul, but all in a day's work! It seems that this interlude did not put him off. He had a calling and a commission which he would not renege on, no matter what it cost him. Put yourself in his shoes. How much more would you have stomached from your fellow-Jews before you packed up and went home? Not Paul! There was a determination in his spirit that refused to be beaten down by the enemy.
Why was Paul able to write the letters he did, which have been the strength and support of millions of people down through the generations? He was drawing from the wealth of his own experience, hammered out in real-life situations, to build up the believers who had been won through many a hard-fought battle.
Who was the enemy? Not people, as he had come to realise, because people are deceived into believing what is not true if their minds are not fortified by the truth. These Jews who hounded him from city to city were just like their leaders back in Jerusalem who perceived that Jesus was a blasphemer and not the Son of God as He claimed to be; so they killed Him.
They refused to believe that God was kind enough to send His Son to rescue mankind from the results of their rebellion. Their religion was a self-help affair that put their God under obligation to them. It was a hard pill to swallow to change their thinking to believe that they were helpless to do anything about their plight and to put their trust in someone who had been executed for blasphemy against God and treason against Rome.
Paul knew what spiritual warfare was. He had been in the conflict from birth, on the wrong side, believing that his way was right and trying to exterminate the enemy by killing those who opposed him. He had to learn that the real enemy was not people but the one who was deceiving and using people to do his dirty work - the devil and his demons.
He changed allegiance when he was confronted by the living Jesus on the Damascus road. Just as fanatical as he was for his religion as a young Pharisee, so committed was he to the Jesus he had once persecuted. Paul had to learn that he touched Jesus every time he touched one of Jesus' people. He also learned that every time a person touched him, it was the enemy of Jesus behind that person, actively opposing the work of Jesus in him.
"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 (NIV).
Where do these forces most powerfully operate? In the minds and hearts of people, of course! Satan, the counterfeiter, knows that, to get people to act for him, he must control them through what they believe. Influence them to believe lies and they will do exactly what he wants -- sow conflict and chaos wherever they are.
Through the Word and the Holy Spirit, God is constantly offering us the knowledge of the truth. When we believe the truth that He is here, He is good and He is in charge, we have no need to fight people. All we need to do is to stand firm on the truth of who God is and what He has said. No need to "pull down strongholds" except in our own minds, to identify "spirits", or to do anything to defeat the devil. Jesus did that on the cross.
We have one instruction which takes care of the devil and his lies - "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you." James 4:7 (NIV). Paul had no need to oppose or fear the people who had attacked him. They were not the enemy. He could quite safely go back into town because he had overcome the enemy within, the hatred and revenge that would have destroyed his peace and put him at enmity with the Spirit of God in him.
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