When people say that they feel lonely or struggle with loneliness, what are they really saying? Usually they mean that when they consider a group of people, they don’t see themselves as fitting in well or being a good match with the members of that group. They see all the other members of that particular group as relating betterl and having more in common.
It’s quite the feeling to be in a room full of people and yet feel alone. Even if they see you as fitting in with them externally, you know internally that you just do not “click” with these persons. You may dress similarly, you may worship similarly, and you may be of the same age range, educational level, and background. But even with all of those things in common, you can yet feel terribly alone.
But what does it truly mean to “fit in”?
While driving home after bible study one Tuesday night, an image flashed in my mind of one of those icing funnels that you squeeze icing into in order to write words on cakes. And the words, “trying to fit something big into something small” came to mind. In the image, there was a lot of icing that was being made to be compressed into a small shape that it did not fit very well into. And it made the icing feel uncomfortable and pressured. And that’s sometimes how you can feel when you’re trying to make yourself fit into an environment in which you don’t really belong.
In order to “fit” into a place where you do not belong, the following has to occur: you have to change your God-given shape in order to make it appear as if you were originally intended to be in the place in which you are trying to fit in. Take for instance a puzzle piece. If you have a puzzle like the one I have in my children’s classroom, it contains three puzzle pieces. Because all three pieces are very different, you cannot place them comfortably in the wrong spot. And if you attempted to do so, you would leave the correct puzzle piece to go to another spot in which it too does not belong.
When you are where you do not belong, you are in someone else’s proper place. For example, if you are in a romantic relationship in which you do not belong, you are not merely taking up space, but you are taking up someone else’s rightful place. It is best that you find where you belong.
But what does it mean to belong though? I see belong as a root word of the word “belonging”. If something is my belonging, then it belongs to me. In order to know where you belong, you need to know whose belonging you are. I would like to consider the story of Adam and Eve to drive this point home.
Adam and Eve were like a match made in heaven. They are one couple that we can all say, without a shadow of a doubt, that were put together by God. We know full well that God put these two together even considering the issue they had concerning the fruit and the serpent. We know that God intended for these two to be together because Eve was a belonging of Adam’s in that she was Adam’s rib. She was literally contrived from one of Adam’s twelve pair of ribs. She was what we could call a puzzle piece from his body puzzle. She belonged to him because she was his belonging.
But let’s go further. Oftentimes we try to link up with just any body because we THINK we would fit or because we will try our hardest to fit. But is that what Eve had to do? Did she have to make Adam her “soulmate”? No, because with Adam was where she belonged.
We will always feel out of place when we try to fit into the wrong puzzle. At my job, I have two puzzles that come to mind. I have an apple puzzle and a duck puzzle. The apple puzzle contains five apples of different sizes even thought they are all the same shape. And even though they are the same shape, they will not properly “snap” into the right missing place because they were not cut from that shape. The same goes for the duck puzzle. There are three ducks, but they are in three different positions; one has the duck wading on top of water, the other has the duck diving into the water, and the third position has the duck flying in the air. Even though all three positions are of depictions the same duck, the three pieces will not fit into another’s place. This is the case for obvious reasons, but also to go a little deeper, we have to understand that the puzzle pieces were cut from a once whole wooden picture. The picture of the three ducks and five apples were already painted onto a wooden canvas. And a die-cut was made to cut out the shapes from the wooden canvas. So it wasn’t as if the puzzle was made with HOLES; the puzzle was originally made WHOLE just as Adam was made whole. Then after some time, God put a hole in Adam in his rib cage by cutting Eve out of his rib cage.
The place where you belong is the place you were cut out of. You will always feel out of place until you find that place. Don’t just find SOME place, ANY place, or just A place and expect to fit in perfectly because the truth is that you were taken out of a particular place. Eve was not just taken out of one man and expected to link up with any man. God knows where He wants you. And He allows you to feel lonely until you find that place.
If you try to settle and just try to fit in anywhere, you will be like that icing crammed into that funnel tube. To try to fit where you do not belong will require the following from you: you will have to cut off parts of yourself in order to fit in. You cannot be all of you and expect to fit into every place you try to squeeze into. In order to fit into some churches, you will have to cut off parts of yourself. In order to fit into certain cliques, you will have to cut off parts of yourself. In order to date certain people, you will have to cut off parts of yourself. Remember that you will never have to cut off parts of yourself in order to fit where you belong. You will never have to cut off parts of yourself in order to fit where you were cut out of because where you came from will fit you perfectly being that you left a You-Shaped puzzle piece in that puzzle.
Jesus never fit in on earth because He was not originally from earth. He came from heaven. He fits perfectly in heaven because He came from heaven. Likewise, you will never fit in with that man or that woman, because they do not belong to you or vice-versa; you are trying to fit into someone else’s man or woman. You will never fit in with that set of coworkers, because that is not the job God wants you at. You will never fit in at that church because God may want you at another one. You will never fit in in that particular city because God wants you moving somewhere else.
So we see that loneliness is not just a temporary feeling like happiness or sadness. Loneliness is an indication that you have not yet found your niche. It is an indication that you are in the wrong place. And what is important to note is that you may have fit in with a particular group or place at a certain time, but as you have grown, you have outgrown that place or those persons. As you change, so will your environment. You may be big trying to squeeze into a cramped space just to be alone.
And ultimately, you will have outgrown earth in order to realize that it’s time for you to fit into heaven. Let your loneliness motivate you to pray that God take you to where and who you belong!
As a child, I remember watching” Alive” with my family. This movie is based on a 70’s plane crash survivor story known as “Miracle in the Andes”. Being so young, the only things that stuck out to me were the mountains, the cold temperatures, the plane crash, and the cannibalism the survivors had to do to survive for weeks without food. But there was so much more to the story.
I just finished watching the movie some days ago as a 27 year old, spirit-filled adult. And the movie was so much richer than I’m sure even the director intended. God blessed me to open my eyes to the wonderful insights and rich revelations one could glean from that movie.
The movie starts out with a man sucking on a cigarette saying that he was given a glimpse to another aspect of God. For the longest, he was introduced to the God that lets wonderful things happen to us and our loved ones. The God who protects us from harm and danger. The God who shields us from frightening experiences and events. But he said that for those 71 days they were stranded on that glacier in the Andes, he saw God in a new way. He saw the God that we must all become acquainted with in one way or the other. The God who is more concerned with our character than our comfort.
Let me give you the backdrop. This plane was coming from South Africa headed to a game in Chile with a rugby team and some other passengers. There were forty-three persons on board. The co-pilot warned the chief pilot not to fly in the storm. They were above the storm clouds at first and were just 20 minutes from landing, but the pilot did not listen. Warning comes before destruction. He went below the clouds, and the rest is history.
This rugby team was portrayed as fun-loving, playful young men who were naïve and girl-hungry like most young men today. They were running around tossing things to each other while smiling. They were totally unsuspecting of the horrors they would face in just minutes and for days. Next thing they knew, the right wing of the plane ran into a mountain and was broken off. This resulted also in the tail of the plan coming off taking passengers along with it. A few other passengers on the first half of the plane were sucked off and plunged to their death while seat-belted to their seats by the force and gravity as they were thousands of feet above ground. The passengers who were still on board just waited for the inevitable crash. Fortunately, the first half of the plane did not nose-dive, but rather it slid down a snowy slope that eventually landed on a sturdy glacier. Unfortunately, this was just the beginning of their horrors.
The injuries sustained from the crash killed some people immediately and left others in agony longing for death to alleviate their pains. Others died from hypothermia, frost-bite, gangrene, starvation, and despair. And just when they thought it could get no worse, they had to unwillingly resolve to eating the frozen flesh of their friends’ carcasses to survive. But when it rains it pours. An avalanche was unleashed and headed their way. And because the opening of their plane was facing the avalanches direction, they lost more people who suffocated in the snow. One man lost his mind and a few came close to it because of the utter despair of the situation. To make matters worse, they saw two planes fly overhead without seeing them. To make matters worse, they had to cope with the news that the search parties had been called off. Everyone had given up hope for them. All hope seemed to be lost.
Remember the God the man in the beginning of the movie said he met in the Andes? That’s the same God you and I will be forced to meet some day if we haven’t already. This God will be the God who seems to let negative circumstances snowball on you when you LEAST need it. First, the snowstorm. Then the plane crash. Then the loss of friends and family. Then the freezing temperatures. Then the first plane misses you. Then more loss of friends. Then the starvation. Then the more loss of friends. Then the second plane misses you. Then the hopelessness and despair. Then you hear the search party is called off. Then you have to eat the friends you just lost. Then the avalanche hits. Can it get any worse? Why God?
But just know that God is sovereign. You don’t think God knew they were 20 minutes from landing? You don’t think God didn’t know they didn’t have enough food on the plane? You don’t think God didn’t know they were not adequately clothed to endure the freezing temperatures? You don’t think God didn’t know that the avalanche was coming? God was sovereign over every event. He could have prevented any one of the factors of the Andes plane crash had He seen fit. But He allowed it. He allowed 29 people to do horrible deaths. And He allowed 16 people to live. Why just those 16?
Sounds like survival of the fittest to me.
Those 16 people lived to tell the story. They lived to tell people about the God they met in the Andes. They lived to tell people that it was possible to live 71 torturous days in freezing temperatures without food or hope. And who knows how much longer they could have lived out there.
I believe that the God of the Andes lets us endure similar situations for the same reasons. He puts us through difficult circumstances because we are proof of survival of the fittest. We prove to others that it is possible to go through a sucky ordeal for a long time and yet still be a survivor. You might not have had been through something as traumatic, but you’ve been through your own private hell. You’ve gone to hell and back. Why didn’t God just leave you there? Because He needed your testimony. Rather, He knew of some people who needed it.
But He also wanted you to learn something about yourself. Doubtless, NONE of these 16 men thought they could survive a plane crash, let alone freezing, let alone starving, let alone an avalanche, let alone for 71 days! God knows what you can bear. He knows just how much you can bear. Who knows? These men might could have survived for 100 days in the plane wreckage. But 71 days sufficed. As for these 16 men, I bet there is NOTHING these men think they can’t do, endure, survive, or handle. They must feel invincible with God! I’m sure they are fearless men who have gone on to accomplish much. God will let you go through hell and back just to prove to you against your own doubts that you are stronger in God than you ever gave yourself credit for.
God knows you can handle more than you think you can’t handle. So just when you think God ought to stop with the trials, God knows how much further He can go. You wanted to stop at first grade, but God knows that what He put in you can take you all the way to a doctoral degree. He’s more concerned with your character than your comfort. He’s more concerned with you knowing that other side of God than you being content with knowing the Santa Claus version of God who fits into your cookie-cutter mold. You either have gone through, are currently going through, or will go through. But you are strong. You will survive. You can endure more than you think can for LONGER than you think you can. If God puts you to it, He must have known you could do it.
After suffering for about 20 years with a “crippling” anxiety disorder, I can finally see the breaking of day. And I thank God not because I had to go through it, but because it’s over. You see, some people get mad at God for allowing bad things to happen in their lives. They get bitter, resentful, negative, pessimistic, and other related things because their life did not go as they would have planned. But God’s spirit of wisdom has allowed me to understand that some of those most unpleasant, uncomfortable, inconvenient, and embarrassing situations are the ones that process us into who God not only WANTS, but NEEDS us to be in order to do mighty exploits.
If you’re like me, you’ve wondered why some of our favorite bible persons had to go through such inconveniences and struggles. We wonder why Noah had to be embarrassed and ridiculed all those years while he preached while building the ark when God knew the people would never believe him until it was too late. We wonder why Moses had to be stuck with those hardhearted and hardheaded millions of Israelites in the wilderness. We wonder why Joseph had to be born into a family of hating brothers, sold into Egyptian slavery, lied on, and imprisoned. We wonder why Abraham and Sarah had to wait for decades to have a child together only for God to ask Abraham to sacrifice the boy’s life. We wonder why David had to go through years of being hated and hunted by the king he loved and respected. We wonder why so many people had to go through to get to where they were going. We wonder why the space between A and B contained so many struggles and trials. We thought that if you were serving God and bringing about His will and purposes that everything just ought to flow right from A to Z. After all, it doesn’t make sense that someone who has given their life to Christ has to endure weeks of chemotherapy while preaching the gospel. It doesn’t add up that a missionary has a child addicted to crack cocaine. It just doesn’t seem fair that the first lady can’t have children. It doesn’t seem reasonable that while a man is burdened with trying to supply food for a soup kitchen that he struggles with moderate depression and severe anxiety. It just seems that God ought to make life easy for those He “employs” into the ministry.
But for some reason, life just doesn’t work out that way, does it? It seems to me that God doesn’t use a man unless He proves the man. It kind of reminds me of the emotionally disturbed children I used to work with. Some of them had issues with attaching to others because they had been hurt so many times by people in the past. So when you try to love them, they put you through many tests to see if you are worth them opening up to. If you give up too soon (or give up at all for that matter), that serves to them as proof that you weren’t trustworthy in the first place. So they remain shut off to you and see who else will try to get close to them. And they test EVERYONE. They feel as if they can’t afford to be hurt anymore. They feel that they cannot afford to put trust into another untrustworthy person.
And these emotionally disturbed children are somewhat right about something. If you can’t love them through their tests, you likely don’t have what it takes to be trustworthy for the duration of the relationship. Some of the kids I worked with would curse me out, fight me, bite me, stab me, etc., but I would still pray with them, take care of them, and love on them. I realize that trust is a thing that must be earned – especially from persons who have been let down so many times past.
And who has been let down more times than God? Who has given the world a chance only to see most of the world reject His love? While we all know that God is whole and not emotionally disturbed, we know that He has been betrayed and let down by so many people since the very beginning of time. He was let down by Adam, Eve, Cain, David, Samson, Saul, Peter, Judas Iscariot – the list goes on and on. So many Israelites, priests, and kings of Judah and Israel have let God down. So it makes sense that He puts people through hard tests just to see who will persevere in order to show that they really love Him. It’s fairly easy to praise and worship God when all is well. But what about when you’ve just lost a loved one, lost your job/car/home/marriage, have your body racked with pain, experience mental instability, etc.? God does not test our love, reliability, trustworthiness, etc. based on how we feel about Him when life is peachy. But rather, He feels and KNOWS He can trust us when we come into church after finding out our husband is leaving and yet we praise Him. He knows He can trust us when all our money is gone a week before payday and yet we worship Him. The way God sees it is, “Man! If this man is praising me at His lowest point in life, I know He’ll still see fit to praise me when I bless and elevate him!”
So how do you treat God when you’re “going through”? Do you complain like the Israelites in the wilderness? Or do you praise God like Job when he lost everything? God can’t use you until He proves you. God’s time is very limited. He really can’t afford to waste any more time on lost cause Christians. In other words, God can’t waste another dime on a man or woman who marry Him for the “money” and then leave as soon as times get hard. God will only know if you truly love Him when you express your love when combated with test after test after test. The same person who is willing to go through all those tests just to get to God, is the same person who deserves to experience all of the blessings of God!
I’ll be honest, if I had life to do over, I probably would have opted out of the anxiety disorder. But I realize that God used it to prove me so now I’m just waiting on Him to use me.
It was T.D. Jakes who said the controversial statement, “I think that Jesus is the product.” When I first heard this, I was horribly offended. I said, “How DARE he reduce the Savior of the World to a mere marketable product?” But after receiving insight from God about “soul winning” the other day, I can now see that at least in SOME sense, Jakes made some sense.
I learned in middle school that in opening and operating a business, people are either offering a product or a service. College, for example, offers a service of educating people for the price of tuition. Starbucks, for example, sells a product – coffee – for cash. So if Jakes is right about his statement, then Christianity/ministry would be the service provided; and Jesus would be the “product” (for lack of a better term).
In marketing classes, I learned and remembered a thing or two. One thing I learned is about target audiences and advertisements. I learned that your ads and commercials must be tailor-made to appeal to your target audience. For example, if you are selling Gerber baby food, you are likely and mostly targeting caring mothers who have infants. And your commercials will be specifically made to appeal to these mothers. And you will have a marketing team that will spend much time and money making commercials that will grab the attention of and secure the business of these parents by strongly persuading them to buy Gerber food for their baby for as long as the baby will need it. And if you advertise just right, the mother will only buy Gerber food, and she will buy it not just for the baby she has now but for all babies she births in the future. Now that’s what you call “sealing the deal”.
So how can we relate that to Christianity? Well, just think of the churches you see that are publicized on radio and television. They are usually one of many church programs you see on the channel or station. And the pastor or one of his or her spokespersons will say and do specific things to appeal to you. They may say something to the effect of:
- “Not too many churches preach and teach the unadulterated word of God anymore. They compromise to fit in with the rest of the world. Give me that old time religion; it’s good enough for me….”
- “Too many churches are legalistic and judgmental. They give you a list of Do’s and Don’ts to put you in right standing with God. But here, we love and accept everybody – just like Jesus does. Everyone is welcome….”
- “Are you tired of church as usual? Well, this isn’t your grandma’s church! This is the church home of many of this city’s youth who are looking for a fresh perspective and relationship with Jesus. It’s time out for dry, dead services. There are no little u’s (you’s) and Big I’s here….”
And before and after they air their services, they will usually petition you to visit or join their church and/or to send financial donations.
Does that not sound JUST like marketing? You can tell that they each have a target audience in mind that they are petitioning. They are trying to appeal to a specific type of Christian or unbeliever by telling them what they want to hear so that they will come visit, join, and or financially support that church. You can probably guess from my abovementioned examples the type of people the three churches are appealing to. The first church is appealing to a stricter, older crowd. The second church MAY be appealing to backsliders or “lukewarm Saints”. The third church is likely appealing to a young, hip generation. Every church appeals to a target audience.
But when it comes to Christianity on a larger scale – and more specifically – soul winning, what are the best marketing strategies? Here is what I’ve learned about drawing in unbelievers to lead them to salvation. Here’s what I learned of what does and does not work in “Evangelism Marketing”.
1. You can’t present a product or service in only ONE package and then expect it to appeal to everyone or expect for everyone to respond favorably to it.
Jude 1:22-23 – And have mercy on (1) those who doubt; save (2) others by snatching them out of the fire; to (3) others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.
From the looks of Jude 1:22-23, there appears to be different types of unbelievers or backsliders. One type are doubters. They just need assurance of the gospel’s validity, security of what Christians are saying, and strengthening of their faith. With these types, we shouldn’t bash them over their head with a bible. We shouldn’t utilize scare tactics to get them to get saved. We shouldn’t scream at them and call them damned heathens. They simply need a lot of questions answered. They have some questions that they need answered and settled. They might have just left another religion or a cult. They may really want to know why they should become Christians as opposed to Hindus, Buddhists, or Muslims. So if you apply the wrong “treatment” to their condition, you can have lost them forever.
The second type needs to be snatched quickly off of the wrong path because they are on their way to eternal fire either certainly or soon. The third possible type needs to be showered with mercy, but fearful mercy. And with this type we shouldn’t be lackadaisical about their lost condition, but we are to ABHOR, HATE, DETEST that they have been contaminated by lustful, sinful flesh.
While the gospel should not be altered to cater to everyone’s fancy, wisdom knows that everybody doesn’t like – and therefore won’t always respond to – every presentation. Not everyone responds to hellfire and brimstone messages. Does that mean that preachers should never tell the truth about the harsh and horrorshow realities of hell? Absolutely not. But I do believe that brimstone sermons – at least when overdone – will cause churches and preachers to lose (sometimes permanently) the attention of SOME people.
Some people don’t respond to scare tactics. You have to KNOW your “consumers”. Study them. See what pushes their buttons so to speak. If you come at them in a way that they will respond to, then obviously they will respond. Don’t think for a minute that every unbeliever is an unbeliever because they have not encountered one of your particularly fiery and scary hellfire sermons. Many people who WILL be saved have heard plenty of those types of sermons week after week, year in and year out, and yet they have never responded because that ad did not appeal to them.
Some people are intellectuals. Appeal to their intellect. Explain to them how Jesus is obviously the only way to go. Some people are fearful. Appeal to their fear of death and their anxiety about being uncertain of where they will reside of eternity. Some people have been poor for a long time. Appeal to them by saying that God will provide for all of their needs in one way or another. Some people are lonely, let them know that Jesus will never leave nor forsake them. Some people like to be radical, appeal to their interest in being a “Jesus Freak”. Some people feel they have no purpose in life; appeal to their desire to have a God who gives them a purposeful future. It’s all the GOSPEL – which is another word for “the good news”. It’s all true. But use one aspect over another if that’s what it takes to draw them in.
2. At the risk of sounding facetious, you may have to leave some things in the fine print until later.
Matthew 4:19 – And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.
Let’s be real talk. Becoming a Christian has its costs. And many converts are just not willing to pay it all up front. For example, if you tell someone that before they get saved they must cut out every sin – even their favorites, they may not come any time soon, if at all. But if you tell them to come as they are, they will come as they are. And after they make the commitment, maybe then would be a better time to tell them that God doesn’t love the fact that they listen to violent rap music or the fact that the women dress with her cleavage overly on display. The bible does say to count the cost before you become a disciple of Christ, so they do need to know that it will be “expensive”. But you don’t have to give them a break down list of everything they must cut out within the next week in order to secure their salvation!
For some people, if you can get them to come down the altar as a public act of their surrender to God and their belief in Jesus as their Savior, that is the most important step. It’ll be easier to convince a Christian to surrender gambling to Christ than it would be to ask an unbeliever to quit gambling. As I was told, you have to CATCH the fish before you can skin it. If they can see the hook, line, and sinker all up front, they may never bite the bait! Jesus told the disciples that He would make them fisher of men. Some men catch fish with nets; others catch fish with bait and hook. You have to bait them in first. And once they bite the bait, you have the hook already in them. Then you skin them.
3. Know your target audience and minister accordingly.
It is quite difficult to sell a man something that he doesn’t feel/think/know he needs just like it’ll be impossible to convince me to take some medicine that I don’t think I need. It’ll be challenging to get someone to commit to a time-consuming, inconvenient, gruesome workout plan when they see no need for it. And so it will be near impossible to convince a man to receive salvation when he doesn’t feel that he is lost or damned.
Proverbs 11:30 – …he who winneth souls is wise.
The bible says that whoever wins souls is wise. This is so true! If you can win a soul to the Father, you are wise because it requires wisdom to know how to persuade someone to do something, to buy what you’re offering when it comes to salvation. First, you have to know that person fairly well or at least be able to discern things about that person. And then when they trust you, they’ll trust when you offer them something that you see that they need. If my doctor knows me and if I know my doctor’s history, I’ll trust when he says I need a certain medicine or procedure done. And so when it comes to ministry, you have to know who you’re after first of all. Study the audience. Discern their needs. Pray to God about what it is that is keeping them from believing and receiving the gospel message. Pray to God to tell you what that person needs to hear to draw them in. Pray for wisdom to win their soul. This might be controversial, but I’m going to list the name of some well-known ministers, who I believe their target audience is, and how they wisely present the gospel accordingly:
- Joel Osteen – Discouraged believers/unbelievers – Encouraging, motivational bible verses and stories/prosperity gospel
- Joyce Meyer – Defeated believers – Wisdom and personal testimonies of how God helped her to get the victory and related bible story examples
- Creflo Dollar – Financially struggling believers – Bible passages from the Old and New Testament about how God will financially bless His children/prosperity gospel
- Kenneth Copeland – Sick believers – Bible verses on healing/prosperity gospel
- Paul Washer – Lukewarm Christians/unbelievers – Passionate, hellfire sermons
- Charles Stanley – Conservative Christians – Fundamental, conservative, old school messages
- John MacArthur – Educated Christians – Hermeneutical, expository, exegetical, scholarly teaching
- TD Jakes – Discouraged, traditional churched believers – Charismatic churchy with a new twist/prosperity gospel
Now whether or not we agree with all that these ministers preach and teach, we can all agree that they have seen much “success” in the “ministry business”. They have wisely presented certain aspects of Christian living in a certain way to certain people. I’m sure they all haven’t voiced their ENTIRE opinion publicly. And depending on how much they disclose, it determines how far they can go and how many people they can reach.
For example, many people do not know of Paul Washer and John MacArthur because they are very opinionated and unwavering in their strict beliefs. But those preachers who are not as fundamental get bigger platforms. They will reach more people. Now we all may not agree with how they do what they do, but I see a purpose in it. I can see that the unbeliever, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist that Paul Washer will NEVER reach, has a chance of hearing Washer SOME DAY perhaps after that unbeliever stumbles across Joel Osteen while flipping through the channels. You may not like someone’s style or approach of getting the word out about God and Jesus, but at least He is being preached. And I do believe that some men can open the door/sow the seed, and then another man can seal the deal by drawing them in/reaping the soul. Maybe one man can pass out the “coupon”, but another man can sell the product.
Philippians 1:15-17 – Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel. What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.
Rejoice when Jesus is being preached and proclaimed and accepted as people’s Lord and Savior regardless of who closed the deal! That is one less soul that will spend an unspeakable, unbearable eternity in the lake of fire.
Many people have amazing inventions and services that many people would do well to patronize. BUT the problem is that they have the arduous task of convincing others to purchase their product or services. Our product/brand/service is THE BEST without a doubt. The hard part is PROMOTION. If everyone knew how great is our God, how sweet our Savior, how beautiful our afterlife, and how precious our faith, they’d all get saved. But they don’t know how great our product is. And they don’t know how badly they need it. Persuade them of their need. Glorify Jesus so that Christianity looks attractive. Pray for wisdom when evangelizing for souls. The product is so good, it can sell itself once they see what it can do for their life. So be the one who wisely introduces it to them! Seal the deal!
Ever wonder why you’re attracted to certain people and why certain people tend to be attracted to you? Also, have you ever wondered why some people are “repulsive” to you and why you also seem to be repelled by certain people? This doesn’t just have to apply to romantic partners, but it can also apply to friendships and even church membership. Have you ever stopped to think how you became drawn to or turned off to one person or group? While having one of my usual, unusual talks with God, the topic of MAGNETISM came up as an analogy to understand relationships. And this is what I discovered.
How we get into different types of relationships is kind of like how a refrigerator magnet is drawn to a refrigerator. The ONLY thing that draws them together is the Law of Magnetism. And what draws you to one individual over another individual can be considered a different kind of magnetism. I did a little research about how magnets are made. So as not to bore you with all the details, here is a very brief summary.
Magnets are made of a group of metals known as ferromagnetic metals. These are metals such as nickel, iron, cobalt, and gadolinium. Material contains several small magnetic fields known as “domains”. Most of these domains are independent of each other and so they face different directions. But when a strong magnetic field is nearby, it can be strong enough to cause all those domains to turn and face in the same direction so that they can align and make a larger, stronger magnetic field. All magnets are attracted to Iron and Nickel. There are temporary (soft) magnets and permanent (hard) magnets. Temporary magnets lose their magnetism over time as the domains revert to their original (individual) position. But permanent magnets continue to face the same direction permanently. The way to make a magnet is to have a ferromagnetic metal heated to or beyond their Curie temperature. To make it temporary, heat it (exactly) to its Curie temperature. Magnets do not only attract other things. They repel things as well. All magnets have a South and a North pole. If you try to connect the two North poles together or try to connect the two South poles together, they will repel/reject connection with one another. But if you try to connect the South pole with the other magnet’s North pole, they will connect/attract one another.
When you think of your refrigerator magnets, you know that they will always be attracted to your refrigerator. So there must be something IN magnets and something IN refrigerator doors that draw them to each other. We can relate that to people as well. It reminds me of women who keep attracting abusive men/who are constantly attracted to abusive men. Even if these women do not know that these men are abusive, they still attract them for some reason.
When I consider my exes, I find it interesting how I was drawn to all of them because none of my two exes are very similar. And so since I was attracted to each of them, even though they are all so different, it shows me that I was changing as a person. It showed me that I was not the same type of person at the time I dated each of them. That leads me to the conclusion that WHO you are drawn to at any particular time can give you insight into WHO you were at the time you began speaking to them. And it also shows you what kind of person they were when they liked you. For example, if you liked a drug addict from 2005-2007, it shows me that you were either a drug addict or codependent person at that time. And if you dated a man who knew you were cheating on him from 2007-2009, it shows me that you were dating a man with poor self-esteem for those years. We attract certain people based on what is going on in our personal lives at the time. And I believe it was Dr. Henry Cloud who said that we attract into our lives what we are ready for. And so for me at least, an accurate appraisal of who I was at the time I began dating a person shows me what some of my unresolved issues were at the time. I noticed that when I consider all of my exes since freshmen year of college, that as God healed me of childhood issues throughout the years until this day that each subsequent ex seemed to be emotionally healthier than the last ex to mirror my emotional health level! Who I was dating at the time was a reflection of me at the time!
There are some women who only attract sex addicts, controlling men, abusive men, closeted homosexuals, philanderers, lazy men, secret pedophiles etc. And while I am not accusing these women of being the reason they are mistreated in relationships, we have to admit that the common denominator in 100% of her past relationships is her. I’m not saying that something about that woman turns normal men into abusers/addicts/cheaters/etc. But I am saying that something about her draws men who are already abusers/addicts/cheaters/etc.
Some women may say, “Okay, well now that I am aware that my last 5 boyfriends have been abusive. I will dump the abuser I am with now, and I will begin to date loving men from here on out.” That sounds like a good plan, but according to what we know of magnets, that will be unlikely. Your refrigerator magnets can ONLY be attracted to the something that is common in all refrigerators. And some women have unresolved issues that keep them attracting the wrong partners. A great man can show interest in her and can ask her on a date, and that emotionally unhealthy woman will say, “He’s a nice guy, but I’m just not attracted to him. He’s too…NICE.” This woman’s unresolved issues REPEL what is good for her and ATTRACT what is wrong for her. Something about bad boys will make her swoon and something about good men will repulse her even though she knows and will admit that this should not be the case.
Magnets will ALWAYS be attracted to refrigerators. And just because a magnet has an epiphany one day that these refrigerators are not good for it, it does not mean the magnet can change itself or its attraction to refrigerators. Magnets can’t change themselves and neither can humans – without God’s help. Remember, there is something inherent in all magnets that draw them to refrigerators. There is something inherent in all women who are constantly drawn to unfaithful men. There is something inherent in all women who are constantly drawn to abusive men. There is something inherent in all women who are constantly drawn to men who have alcohol/drug addictions. And until these women find out what that unresolved issue of theirs is, they are helpless to change the problem and their attraction to problem men.
If you want to hinder what is drawing a magnet to something magnetic, you will first have to change the magnet. If you put liquid water on a dry sponge, the dry sponge WILL soak it up. That’s the only way things can go with wet water and dry sponges; it cannot be any other way. And magnets MUST be drawn to refrigerators. So you can know that you have a problem with attracting the wrong type of men and you can know you have a problem with being drawn to the wrong type of men, but YOU are helpless to change the situation. You can know the type of men you are supposed to be dating and marrying. You can know that you should not be repelling these good men just to accept bad men, but YOU are helpless to change the situation.
But God can change whatever is in you that is attracting the wrong person. A woman named Liberty Savard wrote a book called, “Breaking the Power”. And this book enlightened me about what Liberty calls “unhealed hurts, unresolved issues, and unmet needs”. She talked about how many of our recurrent, troublesome life issues can basically be resolved if we ask and allow God to heal our unhealed hurts, resolve our unresolved issues, and meet our unmet needs usually sprouting from childhood.
In other words, God can remove whatever we are composed of that’s keeping us attracted to and dating the wrong people and that’s keeping us single by having us to refuse/repel the right people so that we can love freely as we should in a healthy way in a marriage. In keeping with the magnet lingo, God can “heat us BEYOND our “Curie temperature” so that we will PERMANENTLY be able to love and be loved. But this will never be possible if God does not meet the unmet need, heal the unhealed hurt, and resolve the unresolved issue.
Remember that the unresolved issues that make you who you are also what ATTRACT the wrong people into your life in addition to you repelling the right people. So until God fixes that in you, you will always attract the wrong people. So while some of you may think that bumping into Mr. Right will fix all your issues, please know that UNTIL you allow God to fix some of your more serious intimacy, self-esteem issues, you will attract nothing BUT Mr. Wrong. Mr. Rights will only be attracted to Ms. Rights. And Ms. Wrongs will ONLY attract Mr. Wrongs not to mention they can only be attracted to Mr. Wrongs.
I can speak personally when I say that God will begin changing these “magnets” within you today if you surrender all and ask Him too. And don’t be discouraged if you don’t see changes right away. I’ve found God to work more behind the scenes than He does in front of the curtain. He begins working as soon as you ask Him to – if you’re not sabotaging by working against Him. While it has been a sometimes anxiety-provoking transformation that has taken a few years, this has been an amazing journey for me to be able to love freely and fearlessly. Please don’t let your unresolved issues let you miss out on something so worthwhile.
A few weeks ago, a guy friend noticed that I had a chess set, and asked me if I wanted to play. He was in it for a simple game, but of course, for me, God used it as a depiction of what goes on in the spirit realm when we come up against Satan. The similarities were astounding. Here’s some of what I learned so far. Remember that I just recently began looking into chess. I have most of the foundational knowledge, but I am fully aware that I have only scratched the surface when it comes to strategies, techniques, plays.
1.) Chess is a game of strategy and tactics. When I first began playing chess, I erroneously believed it was like checkers. There is SOME strategy involved in checkers, but not nearly as much as compared to chess. Checkers to Chess is like Uno to Poker – like Candy Land to Monopoly. There is so much thinking involved. Every move must be made after much planning, deliberation, strategy, and tactic because you must remember that you always have an opponent who has plans for your downfall. As the bible says, do not be ignorant of your enemy’s devices. In chess, making a move without forethought can cause your soon or future demise. You must have a strategy or tactic to stay in the game for long and especially if you want to end up as the victor and not the victim.
Just ONE wrong move can free up the board for the enemy to come in and take out your special or protective pieces. Just one wrong move can make your king more susceptible to attack. It is important to begin the game knowing what your pawns and special pieces can do. It is important to know your opponents limitations and to use them to your advantage. You should know that unless a pawn is attacking another piece making one diagonal move, he can only move forward. So knowing that a pawn cannot move to its immediate right or left means your rook is able to stand beside a pawn and later capture it. In addition to knowing your enemies’ weaknesses, you need to be aware of your strengths. To know that a Queen can go in any direction as many places as she has room to go, is a huge advantage because if none of her own “team” is blocking her path, she can take on whoever she wants going forwards and backwards.
This is not a game to play just for fun. You play this game to win. There isn’t much laughing in this game. But you will see two people with knitted eyebrows and serious facial expressions planning their next move. Both people have to focus on winning. It is the same in spiritual warfare throughout our lives. While you will see me laughing and smiling often, my spirit man is no laughing matter. Hell is no laughing matter. Demonic forces are nothing to play about. Just one wrong move, just one hit of that drug, just one night of unprotected sex with that one-night stand, just one shoplifting of a blouse can set me up for a lifetime downhill. In chess, your opponent is watching intently and waiting and hoping for you to make what I call O.D.M. (one dumb move). He knows that without a dumb move, he can’t do much. And he doesn’t need a series of dumb moves. Just one may be all that is needed. You’ve heard of the person who’s FIRST time drinking resulted in a drunk-driving incident that kills a mother of three. You’ve heard of the woman who married the wrong person who killed her just a few months later. You’ve heard of the pastor who just touched ONE child which resulted in the lost of his respect in the community, family, marriage, ministry, career, etc. It doesn’t take much for Satan to gain the advantage over you. It only takes one wrong turn where no U-turns are allowed.
2.) Chess is a game which involves much sacrifice. A couple of weeks ago, I went to a mall to get something to eat in the food court. I was pleasantly surprised to find a chess club had decided to meet and play there in the food court. So I went up and asked them questions and they let me sit down and play as they taught me. I was stunned to see that my opponent seemed to be setting his pawns up to be taken by me. But he won because he was willing to sacrifice less important pieces in order to protect his most important piece – His King. He would send in a pawn to a place where I would immediately, without thought, capture it. And while I was focusing on getting as much as I could (capturing as many of his pieces as I could), he was just moving certain pieces of mine out of position so that he could get my king.
3.) Chess is a game where the war is best won in the center (the four squares in the very middle of the chess board). One of the top tips to winning chess is to fight for, and win, the center. Trying to control this area early brings the focus of the game where you are and gives you a chance to fight on your chosen ground. Reminds me of spiritual warfare. Satan may be appear to be setting up shop and traps around other areas of your life, but he is ultimately after your heart, mind, soul, and spirit. My dad told me last year that when Satan is attacking your finances, job, health, relationships, etc., he’s really just after your joy. He doesn’t care how he gets your heart’s joy, but he’s after that main thing. Don’t get distracted by trying to focus on other pieces in other areas of your life when Satan’s focal point is on what is inside of you. And the mind is where all spiritual wars are really fought. If he can get to your mind, he’s got you. If he can make you lose your mind or your heart or your soul, he automatically destroys every area of your life. A schizophrenic, a demonaic, a mentally retarded person will lack success in other areas of their life because their mind or soul is oppressed or not fully functioning properly. Most of their defeat began within and radiated outwards.
4.) Chess is a game where every move you make will be followed by a defensive or offensive move from your opponent. Be aware that every thing you do for God will evoke a negative response from the enemy. When you fast, expect a temptation (because you are weakest when you begin a fast and because Satan knows that fasting brings about great victory and blessings for the believer so he tries to sabotage fasts with great temptations). When you pray, expect a temporary setback (because Satan wants to fool you into thinking that prayer does not work). When you consecrate and choose to live holy, expect an attack (because Satan is mad that he just lost one sinner). In chess, you must take turns. In some other games like billiard/pool, you can take more than one turn before your opponent takes his next turn. But in chess, you must know that when you “attack” the enemy (even if it’s just defensively and not offensively), he will attack back. So plan ahead for that. Know that if you go on a 40 day fast, the enemy will be VERY angry and will retaliate. Pray without ceasing when you live for God because the enemy is planning his next attack on YOU since he knows that you are clearly his opponent. He doesn’t fight people who live for him because they’re on his team! So if you are on God’s side, you better expect an attack from Satan.
5.) Chess is also game about territory as the chess club taught me. This ties in with fighting in the center of the board as well. The people in the chess club were teaching me a game set up known as Giuoco’s Piano or mirror and that game taught me that my main focus was on the center four squares. They taught me that you have to remain mindful of protecting certain squares on the chessboard because it is the squares – and who is on or protecting those squares – that determines how close someone can get to your king. For example, you may make a wrong move because you weren’t deliberating. And while that wrong move may not have resulted in the immediate capture of that piece you just moved, it might result in you getting a piece out of the enemy’s way so that he can slide on in and get nearer the king. For example, bishops can only move diagonally. So if your king is in its diagonal path, it is wise to have a pawn or another piece in position that can get their bishop as it gets near your king. It is not wise to use that same protective pawn to capture another harmless pawn when that move will only free the board for your king to be in check. Every move that LOOKS like a good move could just be a plan for you to surrender your precious territory.
Satan will sometimes present opportunities that look like a good move only for you to find out later that that move only opened the door to demonic attack. An example is this. Let’s say a woman divorces her husband because he recently lost his job and also is no longer pleasing her in the bedroom. So Satan makes her think divorce is a good move. So then weeks later, she sees a handsome man who sweeps her off her feet and who is good in bed. So she moves him into her home. Let’s say that man then convinces the wife/mother to work a late shift from 4pm-11pm. So he is left alone to watch the children. Then he begins to molest her young daughter for the next ten years. You see, divorce SEEMED to be a good move on the front end. It got rid of an annoying and disappointing factor in her life. But it opened the door for a child molester to come and wreak havoc in her family which will scar her daughter for years to come if not her entire life. Maybe the husband was lacking in a couple of areas, but he would have kept his daughter safe for her entire childhood. Ask yourself what is wiser and more strategic. Moving and using a pawn that was protecting your King just to capture a worthless pawn right now just to lose your King one move later? Or keeping that pawn right there to protect the king? Watch what areas and territories in your life and spirit that you are letting Satan have access to.
In chess and in spiritual warfare, we must gain wisdom on what to move, where to, when, and why. The Holy Spirit will direct you. God will direct your paths if you consult with Him regarding major moves in your life. He’ll make sure to let you know which pathways you have left open for your foes that will make you vulnerable to their attack. There is so much more I have learned and am learning from chess as it relates to spiritual warfare and living a victorious Christian life, so stay tuned for any future posts about what chess can teach us about spiritual warfare!