Perseverance and Resurrection: The Two Simplest Reflections of How Jesus-Followers Deal With Our Bully Named Satan

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I hate bullies.  Well...I don't hate them, per se.  I just extraordinarily despise them.  I hope that's not the same thing as hate.  

Bullies are mean.  "Bullies are buttholes," my little brother used to say.  They take some sort of sadistic joy in belittling other people, making them feel about an inch tall, and encouraging them to go spend the rest of their life in a hole somewhere.  And the emotional abuse is just for starters!

They move on to take pride in making others suffer physically. It's a badge of twisted courage.  Can they hurt others who are weak?  And can they do it long enough so that everyone around fears them?  This is how they earn "respect."

Bullies have enemies though.  Do you know who they are?  The enemy of a bully is one who refuses to be bullied.  Now, they may not be big enough or strong enough to put the bully in his place.  But there are two features about him that make him a constant threat to any bully.

1.  Perseverance.  They can take it.  They can take the emotional and physical abuse, and they keep on rockin'-n-rollin'.  They are able to withstand it.  I'm not talking about them being a doormat.  No, the enemy of a bully takes the abuse and continues on with life as if he is unafflicted.  When he goes on with life, acting unafraid, this threatens any bully who's delight is to make others cower.  When the victim doesn't cower, the bully grows afraid inwardly.  His very respect is dependent on making others afraid.

2.  Resurrection.  They get back up.  Not only do they take the abuse, but they just...keep...getting...back up.  Somehow, the perseverance enables them to arise from the ashes of abuse, time and time again.  In so doing, they are proving that the bully has no ultimate power of them.  Regardless of how many times the bully screams, "Just stay DOWN!!!" the enemy of the bully, also the victim of malicious intent, will simply not stay down.  This makes the bully grow fearful even more.  His very respect is dependent on keeping others down.

I remember enduring some significant bullying in my life as a kid.  And there's always one particular bully which stands out.  His name was Bert Mullins.  We called him Bert Mullet because he had a mullet with a duck tail.  His home life was a wreck, so I was told.  He was just plain mean, pretty much all the time.  And like most bullies, he took pride in finding the skinniest, weakest kid in school and spending extra time singling that one out.  That one was me.  He would dish out his recipe for suffering each day...but I would just keep moving forward.  I had stuff to do, friends to hang out with, and basketball to attend to.  My dad gave wise counsel when I was younger: "don't let 'em get a rise out of you!" he said.  What he meant was, "don't let 'em see that they are getting to you."  Eventually Bert, frustrated at my perseverance finally yelled at me during P.E. one day, "why don't you just f------ get it that you're a f------ idiot!"  

He would taunt me, make fun of me, put me down, single me out, and take every opportunity he could to punch me in the arm, or pop me upside the back of the head, and embarrass me in front of God and everybody.  One day, we ran into each other in the bathroom.  I caught him tucking a finger full of Kodiak snuff in his lower lip.  He saw me looking at him in the mirror, squinted his eyes at me with a murderous look, and then turned around and tried to act all cool with me.  "Just our secret, okay?" as he lifted up his hand to high-five me.  "NOW he wants to be buddies," I remember thinking to myself.  So I high-fived him.  And then I took the opportunity to get him suspended and out of my life by talking to the principal about his little habit on school grounds.

That obviously wasn't the greatest idea, to say the least.  He did get suspended.  But as with all suspensions, when they're over, you come back to school.  And he came back.  He knew there was only one kid in school who could have known about his habit.  Me.  And he let me know the first day back from suspension that he would be kicking my ass.  We both knew where that would take place: in the basement resembling something off The Silence of the Lambs, where we dressed out for P.E.  He also made it public, so that it was going around the whole school that there would be a fight before P.E. in boys' "locker room".

I dreaded it all day long.  I was miserable.  I seem to remember having diarrhea.  When the bell rang to go dress out for P.E. I think I developed stomach ulcers.  And there we were, moments later, in the basement.  My friends gathered around me, eager to see me fight, only because they were bloodthirsty spectators.  One grabbed my glasses, so they wouldn't get broken.  Not that I would be able to see out of them anyway, once he was done with me.  Then they nudged me out to meet him where he was waiting on me in the middle of the basement.

Enter Steve Belyew.  I had no earthly idea that he had been developing a grudge against Bert for a variety of reasons.  And God moved on Steve's heart to take up another grudge.  Just as Bert was cussing me out and moving in for the first punch, Steve literally jumped in front of me and made a few remarks I don't recall at the moment.  All I remember next is some tussling and noises.  I grabbed my glasses back and watched them exchange some incredibly hard blows to the face and stomach.  Watching Bert fight, I knew I would have been hospitalized.  Watching Steve fight, I was so thankful I wasn't. 

The fight ended almost as quickly as it started.  The sound of fist bone hitting face bone was interesting.  I hadn't heard it before.  I didn't sound at all like two billiard balls being struck together.  At least that's how it sounded when Chuck Norris punched those "commie bastards" in Invasion USA, or when Clint Eastwood knocked out those redneck truck drivers in Any Which Way You Can.  Regardless, Steve and Bert ended up in the principal's office.  Bert was expelled that day and never came back.  Steve took his suspension and then came back....welcomed by all, and especially me.  It was a real life chapter in one of my favorite movies to this day, My Bodyguard.

The incident with Steve and Bert has stuck with me to this day.  It was an extremely profound illustration of Bert as Satan, and Steve as Jesus.  And I have found that the simplicity of the Christian life is reflected in terms of these two reflections of perseverance and resurrection, as it relates to our bullying enemy, Satan.  It is his sheer delight to make the children of God suffer.  He shamefully draws his twisted respect among the demons by modeling for them emotional, mental, spiritual, and even physical abuse.  He is called the "accuser of our brothers and sisters" (Rev. 12:10).  He is a "your great enemy, the devil.  He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour" (1 Pet. 5:8). In Matthew 4:3, he is the temper, and in 13:38-39, he is the enemy.  In John 8:44, he is a murderer. In Colossians 1:13, he is the power of darkness, and in Hebrews 2:14, the power of death.  Simply put, Satan and his demons are bullies.  And I extraordinarily despise them.  No...I hate them.

Those who persevere through the sufferings and tortures of Satan are the enemies of Satan.  Why?  Because they continue to crawl out the other side.  Somehow, they survive.  And that's a very threatening thing for someone whose eternal title is "a murderer from the beginning."  When he tries to murder me - spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and even physically - and does not succeed, there is great hatred in his heart against me...simply because I survived.  Simply put, surviving Satan's attacks makes me a victor and conqueror over him, if for no other reason than that I survived.  His plans of death for me did not succeed.  I am still alive.

This simple truth is key for living in the simple Kingdom for one simple reason: no matter what I feel like, or no matter what I think about myself, or no matter what I look like, and no matter what kind of sin I committed in the process of being tempted and tortured by this bully, I have survived.  I am not dead emotionally, though I may feel superbly numb.  I am not dead mentally, though I may feel unbelievable void of thought.  And I am not dead spiritually, though I may feel little toward God.  And I am not dead physically, because that one is the in the hands of God, and never in the hands of Satan.  Satan and his demons will continue to assault us in every way possible, and they will almost always use other people to do it.  But Jesus promised, "And all nations will hate you because you are my followers.  But everyone who endures to the end will be saved" (Matt. 10:22).

Then there's simple reflection of resurrection.  This is where Steve Belyew was a picture of Jesus, jumping in front of the enemy of our souls, taking the torture for us, and bringing victory over it for us.  Not only did Jesus promise that I will rise again with Him after I'm dead.  But included in that promise are the promises that I will continue to rise again in this life.  Time after time after time, torture after temptation after tribulation, suffering after pain after defeat... I... will... rise... again.  And again.  And again.  And again.  Can you imagine what kind of hatred must seethe in the heart of Satan for you and me when we just simply will not stay down, but continue to stand up over and over and over again?  The simple act of rising up, of standing up again, is a spit in the face of the devil.  We can NOT be killed.  We can NOT be put down once-and-for-all.  We WILL rise again, both in this life, and in the life to come.

This is crucial for living in the simple kingdom.  Why?  Because getting back up again, and again, and again is what the resurrected life is all about.  Now that you and I have been crucified with Christ, we now move on to being resurrected with Christ.  And that resurrection is not just about physical death.  It is about any kind of death.  And death is anything that wants to suck the life out of us.  Death is temptation looking to suck the joy out of our lives.  Death is tribulation looking to make us suffer.  Death is persecution trying to marginalize us.  In short, death is anything that dehumanizes us, and reduces us to nothing but blubbering, mute idiots.  Listen to Paul's amazing words about us in Romans 8:
"You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.)  And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you."
The simple kingdom is simply about persevering through the bullying of the enemy.  And it is about rising up again after each sampling of his suffering.  Even if I am defeated in my dealings with this bully, that defeat does not represent who I am.  It is not the big picture of my life.  It isn't my story.  What I DO after each go-round with this bully is what depicts, reflects, and illustrates my life.  Do I get back up again?  Or do I stay down?  If you get back up again and continue on with Jesus, you have persevered and risen again.  Both reflections, regardless of how you feel, are reflections of who you really are.  It isn't defeat that describes you.  It's how you respond to the defeat that does.  And if you persevere and rise again, then you have the very Spirit of Jesus Christ inside of you, for only HE has the supernatural power to make a person persevere and rise again after such intense bullying by our supernatural arch nemesis.

It feels good to think about it in this simple way.  This simple truth brings hope and courage.  It says that even though we screw up, fail, get our butts kicked, our heads kicked in, and even though we may feel beaten down over and over again, just simply persevering and rising up again shows the bully of the universe does not own us.  And this makes us a massive threat to him.  Why?  Because if this message got out, it would create such a grassroots groundswell among people who've felt enslaved their whole lives, that they just might rise up and revolt against him and his reign of terror.  Jesus was the first to do just that.  And His message, the gospel of the kingdom, invites us to draft behind His eternal victory of this great bully, and persevere and rise again with Him.  I'll close with Paul's words in 2 Corinthans 4.
"Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies.  We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies."

About the Author: Rob is a church-planter and entrepreneur in Statesboro, GA. He and his wife Sherri have been married for 18 years and together have three sons and a daughter. Rob believes the mission of the gospel is summed up in four simple phrases: know God, obey Jesus, make disciples, and plant churches. This is the pursuit of his life, as well as the point of his blog.

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