“Out of every one hundred men, ten shouldn’t be there, eight are just targets, nine are the real fighters and we are lucky to have them, for they make the battle. Ah, but the one, one is a warrior, and he will bring the others back.” Heraclitus
If you’ve ever seen the film, “American Sniper” there is a scene early on that shows Chris Kyle as a young boy sitting at the dinner table with his parents and brother. After a fight at school, Chris’ father explains that there are three types of people in the world, the sheep, the wolves and the sheepdog….
“The sheep go through life refusing to see evil. The wolves are the evil preying on the sheep. But the sheepdogs? They protect the sheep. They fight the evil.”
Years ago I had begun to apply this concept to my own spiritual walk and think about what this would look like in that context. After all, we have a very real, cunning and resourceful enemy. Poet Charles Baudelaire once said that “the devil’s best trick is to persuade you that he doesn’t exist.” The truth of scripture shines it’s light and reminds us otherwise:
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8
If we open our eyes to the world around us, we can see the path of destruction the enemy has left in their wake. Lives destroyed by abuse, addiction, despair, neglect, hatred, violence, indifference and cruelty. While we will usually turn our anger towards those that carry out the wickedness in our physical world, I believe we often ignore the reality of what is going on in the spiritual realm that surrounds these things.
“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 in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when that day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground….” Ephesians 6:12 & 13(a)
So then, if we desire to be spiritual sheepdogs, what do we watch for? How do we defend others and fight back when we see that the wolves are on the move or already engaged in an attack?
- First, if you can recognize and discern the enemy, you’re already ahead of the game compared to the vast majority of humanity. In our western culture, the enemy tends to do his work in the shadows. I speculate that one reason for this is that if people knew that he existed, then they would also begin to consider if God also existed. If the enemy can work in silence and keep people asleep in their unbelief, their job is already done. Ask that God would bless you with this discernment.
- Be quick to forgive. Jesus himself was a perfect example of this for us. What did he say to those that crucified him? “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) Holding on to unforgiveness in our heart is a poison to our own soul and creates a foothold for the devil. You don’t need to be the individual’s best friend, trust them, or even choose to necessarily be around them but you do need to forgive them. I will often do this by simply saying something like, ‘Lord I forgive anyone who has sinned against me. I pray that they would learn their lesson here in this life but don’t hold their sin against them in light of eternity. Use it in their lives in a constructive, redeeming way in order to draw them towards Yourself and ultimately for Your glory and purpose. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.’ Let us not forget that we as followers of Christ, have also been forgiven much. We are therefore commanded by Christ to do the same by following His example and being ministers of His grace.
- Be a student of scripture. Read it daily. This achieves multifaceted goals. First of all, you will become well versed in the truth and be able to discern those things that are untrue (with doctrine and otherwise). Secondly, you will be able to share and encourage others with the “gospel of peace”. Thirdly the Word is the “sword of the spirit” and with it you can do great damage to the purpose of the enemy in both your life and the lives of others.
- Understand and apply the “defensive” spiritual weapons you have at the ready. Pursue good and Godly things, make good decisions in your own life and live out your repentance. When you do fall, be quick to turn back to Jesus. In all circumstances, no matter how dire, take up the “shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” (Eph. 6:16) I am not speaking of a blind faith or faith that ‘the universe will work things out.’ It is not faith itself that is the key but Who you put your faith in that matters. Your faith needs to be in God alone. From an eternal perspective, your salvation (helmet of salvation in Eph. 6:17) which comes only through Jesus, makes you untouchable to the enemy. “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.” (Jesus speaking in John 10:28)
- Be purposeful in praying for others. This is the essence of a sheepdog. To protect others. To be an intercessor. It has been said that ‘intercession is warfare and the key to God’s battle plan for our lives.’ If we want to establish a spiritual beachhead in enemy territory, this is where we start. This is how we can can play a role in God’s plan of taking back ground in the lives of others from the enemy…. “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.” (Paul speaking in Eph. 6:18-20) You may want to consider asking others how you can pray for them. Throw the offer up in a social media post and faithfully pray for the needs brought forth. By doing this you will also reap the benefit of being encouraged by seeing God at work in the lives of others!
Apply these tactics and principles “in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.” (2 Cor. 2:11)
“I chose to believe. I believe in the power of a calling. I believe in honor and sacrifice, in courage through the danger and strength through the struggle. I believe in Hope. I believe in the power of will, in justice, in a new day and in making a difference. I will never stop believing no matter what comes my way. Some may hate while others turn a blind eye. There will be hurdles and risks, loss of brothers and sisters and the challenge to keep going. No matter what confronts me, no matter the danger, I will keep my faith, my hope and my courage. I am a defender and a peacekeeper. I am a sheepdog.”