Recently I sat down to play my nephew’s Xbox. It was a war game and I was walking around an urban setting trying not to get shot. There were other people present, and it was the kind of game where you had to kill the bad guys but not shoot the good guys, and not get shot yourself. Just as I was starting to understand how the controls worked, I took a bullet to the head. These games are graphic! (But that’s another blog). My nephew leans over and says, “you gotta kill those guys.” I thought, “Ha. Thanks for telling me.”
Before playing a game like this, it’s important to understand the things that will help you succeed and the “enemies” that are seeking to destroy you. Life is similar. A lot of your life can be put into these two categories: things that help you succeed, and things that hurt you.
For me, it seems easier to identify the things that help me be successful. However, sometimes it is very difficult to identify the things that are trying to kill me. For most of us they are camouflaged into our routines hidden behind familiarity. For example, I’ll catch myself at a stop light checking Twitter. It’s not a general “what are people saying?” check. Rather, I’ll go over to the “mentions” tab to see “what are people saying about me?” This was a nearly every day, sometimes multiple times a day, habit. And for me, it was deadly. If there was a criticism, it could impact my mood or distract me from what I needed to focus on. If there was nothing there, I’d wonder why? If there was praise, I would be tempted to find identity in it. None of this was conscious thought. It was a normal activity that otherwise seemed harmless. It was like one of those guys from the video game that wanted to kill me, but I couldn’t recognize it as an enemy.
These enemies also live outside of social media. We’ve talked before about how our enemy, Satan, is after us. The kinds of enemies I’m talking about here are the tools that he uses. They are second glances at someone who is not your spouse. They are schemes to make more money. They are Google image searches that might turn up something deadly. They are clicks into a world that could expose you to images that are hard to forget. They are thoughts of discontentment. They are conversations in your head with someone who is not even in your presence. Sooner or later you find yourself worked up about a conversation that never really happened – at least not in real life.
These enemies are so familiar, it is very difficult to kill them. We’ve lived with them for so long, they are a part of us – like brushing our teeth or eating. They are so much a part of routine that they’ve become some of who we are. It’s like when Old Yeller became rabid, his owner really struggled to put down the pet that he lived with for so long. But his friend had become a dangerous enemy, and killing him was necessary.
The first thing you have to do is identify the enemy. Once you can see it as your enemy and clearly put it in that category, you are one step closer to success. Secondly, you need to determine how to kill it. In my nephew’s game, there were different options for weapons depending on the situations (important to note, I am obviously speaking figuratively and not of killing anything actually living). This part will probably take some time and thought, and you should get help from other Christians in your life. You have to get really specific here – just trying to fight “pride” or “lust” won’t help you. For example, you might need to remove a particular social media platform that is tripping you up, or stop clicking on a certain hashtag. You might need to stop watching certain movies or shows. You might need to commit to bouncing your eyes from all those second glances. You might need to commit to auditing your thoughts and work hard to change your thoughts toward something more productive when you begin to have imaginary conversations. Or, maybe you commit to calling the person every time you start a conversation with them in your head.
After you’ve removed them from your routine, you should set out a checkpoint. Every game with a mission has some kind of checkpoint. This is a destination that you get to and evaluate how much life you have left and overall how you are doing. Go in your calendar and schedule a checkpoint 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, and 6 months out. Stop to reflect on how you’re doing at fighting the enemies that you’ve identified. Invite some other people in your life into praying with you for this and processing this with you.
Every now and then, these enemies are going to sneak up on you. Don’t get discouraged. Go back to your plan: identify them, remove them, and set opportunities in the future to evaluate how you’re doing at fighting them. Remember that Jesus ultimately defeated our enemy for us. Winning in this life starts with understanding that He has already won for us. He paid for every enemy that we succumb to, and so now we fight from a place of victory (1 Corinthians 15:57).