7 Tips to Make Sure Your Enemy doesn’t Win

Recently I was thrilled to sit by General James Mattis on a flight home from Washington DC. I debated about whether to talk to him, but decided that I didn’t want to lose the opportunity. My son is a Scout Sniper in the Marine Corps and Mattis is their hero.

I knew a few things about him.

I knew that he is a brilliant and admired General of the United States Marine Corps and the 26th Secretary of Defense. He doesn’t show up to survive, he shows up to win. I knew that people have given him nicknames like Mad Dog and Warrior Monk.

I knew about General Mattis, but I didn’t know him.

I started a conversation.

“General Mattis, how would you kill me?!” Just kidding— I didn’t say that. Mattis is well known for saying, “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.”

“General Mattis, I just wanted to thank you for your service...” and so began a conversation. He was so kind, friendly, and easy to talk to! He is famous; he will be part of American history. His picture is smattered on front page headlines and he is the subject of world news. I am just the opposite. Yet, he made me feel significant and worthy of his time. Wow!!!

Of course I don’t know him well, but instead of knowing about him, I had an encounter with Mattis and I am still not over it. It’s personal now. The nickname “Mad Dog” was given to him by reporters, not comrades. People also nicknamed him “Warrior Monk” because he has never married, but devoted his life to the study of warfare. In addition to meeting him, I have done a little research.

The whole experience made me think about the battles we all face, traits of effective leadership, and the importance of knowing our enemy and having a smart strategy so that we WIN. Mattis keeps his faith private, but who better to learn from than a decorated General, notorious for his tactics of war?

Here are some things I learned about Mattis’ leadership.

He loves his Marines. He loves my son. I could tell from the look in his eyes that he cares for the Marines in a fatherly way. He asked what company my son is with and told me that we have raised a wonderful young man. He said, “Tell him I’m proud of him and Semper Fi, (which means “always faithful”) and is a whole conversation among Marines. “ He won my heart.

The cost of leadership is high and decisions of leaders save lives and cost lives, but what a comfort to know that the man in charge understands the value of each person under their influence.

At bootcamp graduation they spoke to the parents. They refused to promise safety because Marines run toward danger, not away. Instead they assured us that every Marine would be well trained and never alone but surrounded by brothers if the call of duty should take their life. That was hard to accept, but none of us are ever really “safe,” and I wouldn’t trust anyone who tells me otherwise.

He is humble. Did I mention that he was sitting in row 21, not first class? He carried his own luggage. He was kind to everyone around us. I read an account of former Marine Nate Fick, who served in Afghanistan. Fick was checking his foxholes in the middle of the night expecting to see two Marines awake and one sleeping in each hole. “He saw three heads up in one of his foxholes, and crawled over to investigate. One belonged to Brigadier General Jim Mattis, who had decided to spend the night checking holes himself.” Mattis never slept in better accommodations than his enlisted men of lowest rank.

He cares about healthy community. He asked about why I was in Washington DC and I told him about our nonprofit that pairs youth with mentors. He seemed moved. He said in the most sincere way, “Isn’t that wonderful that you would get to work together to solve problems in your community and help people.” Those comments seemed more poignant in contrast with the backdrop of the sometimes polarized and vicious political climate he left behind in Washington DC.

Knowledge gives him power. Known for his personal library of over 7,000 books, Mattis reads voraciously and chooses to arm himself with books as his primary means of leadership development. An article from Farnam Street blog has this to say:

“Thanks to my reading, I have never been caught flat-footed by any situation, never at a loss for how any problem has been addressed (successfully or unsuccessfully) before. It doesn’t give me all the answers, but it lights what is often a dark path ahead.”— general mattis

Here Mattis describes his military and leadership strategy.

“You stay teachable most by reading books, by reading what other people went through. I can’t tell you the number of times I looked down at what was going on on the ground or I was engaged in a fight somewhere and I knew within a couple of minutes how I was going to screw up the enemy. And I knew it because I’d done so much reading.”

Speaking specifically about situations he faced in the context of his military role, he said:

“We have been fighting on this planet for 5,000 years and we should take advantage of their experience. ‘Winging it’ and filling body bags as we sort out what works reminds us of the moral dictates an the cost of incompetence in our profession.”

I believe it is love, more than power, that drives his passion for reading and leadership. Power and ego would drive him to be the best and win. Love compels him to care about each enlisted life that he can’t afford to lose to lack of preparation. Love values every Marine, their families and friends, and our nation. Love requires an intentional strategy not just to lead, but to lead well. The same strategies that have made General Mattis successful will work for us.

We all face battles.

This is where I may lose some of you. Mattis faced U.S. enemies that could be seen and their existence was never questioned. The evidence of their existence looked like chemical warfare, explosives, and body bags. Jesus taught that we also must deal with forces of evil and a real enemy. Watching the news provides evidence of evil and darkness, but we can’t see our enemy so many of us would prefer to believe that Satan and the powers of darkness don’t exist.

I wish that declaring there is no enemy would make it true.

Jesus said that we have an enemy. Satan is a deceiver, an accuser, and a liar and he wants to destroy us. Peter warned us:

Be alert and sober minded. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour.

Paul instructs us:

“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.”

Many people don’t believe in Satan. It’s a scary, far fetched, or ridiculous idea to many of us to believe in such an evil, powerful, supernatural being. For others, even if we did acknowledge that evil must exist and suspect that Jesus may have been right when he told us about the devil, we don’t know how to fight this enemy.

Personally, I never gave much thought to the idea of evil until I had kids. I became a mom for the first time at 25 years old. When the nurse laid my newborn son across my chest, a fierce love swept over me that I was unprepared to feel. This tiny life was part of me and I was responsible for his protection. I remember thinking that though I have never gotten in a fight (except with my brother), I might be capable of killing someone who tried to hurt my child.

Though I have never engaged in combat, I have found that life is more difficult than I imagined it would be. Some people say it’s just the world we live in. Sometimes people just make bad choices that have terrible consequences . But, Paul warned us that sometimes there are unseen forces working against all of us us. We want healthy victorious living, thriving marriages and friendships, and happy kids, but we are forced to confront addiction, bankruptcy, cancer, infidelity, tragedy, and death, to name a few. When my life is going smoothly, I share others’ heartbreak. This should come as no surprise. Jesus told us, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome the world!”

In the words of marriage experts John and Stasi Eldredge, “We live in a great love story, set in the midst of war.” If you feel like life is hard, IT IS! The world is filled with brokenness. Plus, we have an enemy that does not want us to gain eternal life or walk in love, peace and joy. Good news: we are not unaware of his schemes!

I want to do exactly what my enemy hates.

If you decide to accept that there is evil and you have an enemy, the next step is to know your enemy and have an effective battle plan. I’d like to touch on some key strategies as described in the gospels.

#1: Know Jesus.

What does Jesus have to do with staying above our circumstances and heartbreak? Everything. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome the world.” He claims that a relationship with Him changes our quality of life and our destiny even though we will have a lot of problems.

There is a big difference between knowing about Him and knowing Him. Take the risk. Jesus is a person, not a religion. He wants a relationship with you. Jesus is the friend that loved you first. We talk to people we know; prayer is talking to God.

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Knowing Jesus and doing what He did is key to victory. We don’t have to live as victims in the fight for our lives!!! Jesus showed us tactics of war. I don’t have time to get into all the strategies, but the best place to start is in relationship with the Commander of heavenly armies, the One who has overcome evil, and the King who sits on the throne!!!

You are loved. Jesus proved it at the cross by shedding his own precious blood. I can see it in his face. Stop using troubles and heartbreak as evidence that God is not good. Jesus is making all things new and He loves us but this earth is not our home. Eternal life is when all our tears will be wiped away and we experience perfect love, healing and restoration. Not here, not now. I have spent a lifetime pondering the love of God and I can tell you this just like I could tell that Mattis loves his Marines: Jesus loves us with a love so humble and so sacrificial and so tender and so personal that we can’t even fully understand it.

We may go through horribly hard times, but we are not alone. Our world will continue to struggle with war, natural disasters, disease, hatred, and violence to name a few. Not only does He love us, by the way, but He loves our people because He created them! He died to save them. He loves our enemies, spouses, kids, friends and neighbors more than we do. He loves us more than we love ourselves. We don’t have to believe it for it to be true. Semper Fi describes Jesus. Always faithful. Like so many military heroes, He gave His life to buy our freedom.

Jesus didn’t stay on the first class throne of God looking down at us, He came back to the back of the plane to sit among us common folks. He was born to young, poor teenage parents. He carried his own cross. He felt pain. He broke religious custom as a leader to humbly wash his disciples’ feet. He goes to the lonely, orphans, sick, outcasts, lonely, brokenhearted, blind, and prisoners. He sought out the lonely demon possesed guy living in the caves. He was in the furnace with Daniel’s friends, in the lions’ den with Daniel, at the funeral weeping with Mary & Martha, in the prison with Paul. You’ll find Him in the misery of the foxholes right beside you. He doesn’t just know how to win the war, He already has.

#2: Forgive everyone.

Having a hard time forgiving? Me too. Have you ever tried considering that if you don’t forgive, you will be giving the devil victory in your life and in his plan to bring you down?

“If there was anything to forgive— I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.” — the apostle paul

This verse tells us that hatred and unforgiveness, not people, make us most vulnerable to our enemy. Satan has a strategy. He seduces us to extremes of believing he doesn’t exist or being afraid of him. To keep us from gaining eternal life, he tries to keep us from putting our faith in Jesus. To keep us from putting our faith in Jesus, he hopes he can cause us to avoid hearing the gospel or believing in Him. He plants seeds of distrust and doubt and distraction. He leverages hurt or any unpleasant experience that we have had with a Christian or a church to give us reason to stay away. He persuades us to hate people and hold grudges when we should forgive. Anything good or bad in our life that keeps us from believing in Jesus and loving others is his victory. The last thing Satan wants is for us to follow Jesus and to love and forgive everyone just as we are loved and forgiven by God. Don’t forgive for them, forgive for you.

#3: Read the biographies of Jesus.

Knowledge is power. Read the gospel so that you will be ready. King David wrote that “Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” When Jesus was alone and vulnerable in the wilderness, Satan came to Him with lies, condemnation, and temptation at his weakest point. Jesus countered it by speaking Scripture. In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, the spoken word of God is a double edged sword, the only offensive weapon we possess. Love requires an intentional strategy. Your battle may look differently than mine, but no one gets through life without adversity. The gospel will light your path and help you know Him better. Your enemy would hate that, by the way, because that would not only make your life on earth better, but assure that you have eternal life.

#4: Do everything in love.

Love our neighbors. Love our enemies. Love our friends, spouses, kids, strangers, fatherless. John, the best friend of Jesus, said, “God is love.” Jesus was love. Andy Stanley says this in his new book, Irresistible:

“If there is no greater demonstration of love than laying down one’s life for a friend, Jesus was love personified. If Jesus was God personified, and if the Father was anything like the Son, John’s declaration made perfect sense. John had looked love in the eye. John watched love live. He watched love mistreated. He watched love die. John had clarify the rest of us can only dream of. He did not confuse the cruelty of life with the love that is God. Life is life. But God is love. Life is harsh. Cruel. Unjust. But God . . . God is love.”

#5: Rejoice in knowing that Love wins.

In the book of Revelation, John records a vision of victory he had of the future.

“Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down — that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: ‘Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.’”

#6: Keep your Focus.

Consider words from one of Mattis’ favorite authors, Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius from the second century:

“When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: the people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly. They are like this because they can't tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own - not of the same blood and birth, but the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine. And so none of them can hurt me. No one can implicate me in ugliness. Nor can I feel angry at my relative, or hate him. We were born to work together like feet, hands and eyes, like the two rows of teeth, upper and lower. To obstruct each other is unnatural. To feel anger at someone, to turn your back on him: these are unnatural.”

Aurelius was a polytheist but he believed in evil. He was ready for injustice because he accepted it as part of life. That allowed him to stay focused and resist taking things personally. He knew people were not the enemy and took care to forgive and not nurture hatred.

If we believe the words of John, then our struggle is not against flesh and blood. We are wasting energy to hate and nurture bitterness toward others, even if they deserve it. Hate evil; love your enemy. Keep your eyes on Jesus, which means keep your eyes on Love.

The gospels tell us that our victory is already won by the blood of Jesus and testimony of the Saints (followers of Jesus). We don’t fight for victory, we fight from victory because we know the end of the story. Satan and his angels will be thrown into the lake of fire. We stand in the power of Jesus, not our own. We tell our story. We study the teachings of Jesus. We resist fear. We stand forgiven and blameless as dearly loved children of God whose sins are forgiven through Christ. We show our love for God by loving others. We love because He first loved us. We stand victorious because our Savior “disarmed the powers and authorities, making a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” Losing a battle here or there isn’t fun, but it isn’t nearly as devastating when you know you win the war.

Then again, if we don’t know, believe, and constantly remind ourselves of what the Word of God says, we become afraid and disillusioned. We doubt God’s love or existence. We question our salvation. We hold on to anger and refuse to forgive. We hide our sin in a blanket of shame. We reason that a loving God couldn’t let such bad things happen to good people. We argue about which religion is better, which church is better, which Christian is better. We give up on church all together and decide all Christians are hypocrites. We lose faith because someone hurt us or lets us down. We succumb to jealousy and competition. We think that our spouse or our coworker or our neighbor is the enemy. We medicate our pain with food, sex, alcohol, drugs, pornography, self righteousness, greed. The list of distractions is endless.

#7: Rest in Jesus.

Embrace the forgiveness, healing and freedom He died to give us. In Christ our identity is changed to dearly loved and forgiven children of God who have eternal life. Our God is for us not against us, and we can give love and forgiveness to others regardless of whether they deserve it. We acknowledge problems and brokenness of the world, but they cannot swallow our hope because our eyes are fixed on our Savior and King who has overcome them all. That is cause to rejoice, my friend.

I love you. Jesus loves you more.

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Photo taken in 2006 by Lance Corporal Busse at Camp Taqaddum’s Shock and Suu in Iraq

Photo taken in 2006 by Lance Corporal Busse at Camp Taqaddum’s Shock and Suu in Iraq

Sarah BarnesComment