“Self-control is the ability to resist taking the bait no matter how many times you are provoked.”
At least, that’s what I keep telling myself over and over again. You see, I don’t know about you, but I have several people in my life who are always trying to steal my peace. They are constantly trying to stir things up, and create a conflict or a point of tension because that’s where they are comfortable.
They run on the adrenaline that comes with drama. It’s like a drug to them. Needing the rush they get from it, they tend to create drama in every situation in life.
As odd as it may seem, these people thrive on conflict---it’s their comfort zone---the place where they feel warm and cozy and safe. Really, it’s sad because the root of the problem is that they’ve spent so much of their time playing the role of the bully or the victim that this is normal to them. Peace and harmony is unfamiliar, scary territory. So whenever things start to become too peaceful or people start to get too close, they start looking to escape by causing a conflict or creating a dramatic situation.
Once everything is chaotic again, they feel secure and in control of the situation. I guess you can say that these people feel calm when everyone else is at war.
It’s strange, I know. Still, I find myself encountering people like this all the time. If you think about it, I’d be willing to bet that you’re familiar with these types of people, too.
How do I know? Well, unfortunately, there are far too many people who struggle with issues from their past that cause them to consciously or unconsciously respond to life’s circumstances in this way. In our families, at our jobs, within our social spheres, and even within the church, there are many people who are only comfortable in chaos and conflict, drama and division. Like a magnet, they draw confusion to themselves. Like a super-powered vacuum they try to suck everyone around them into their melodrama, eliminating peace and propagating war.
If you’ve ever experienced this, you know exactly what I’m describing. In fact, right now you’re probably picturing someone in your mind that constantly seems to be trying to involve you in their latest drama or conflict, and you’re wondering, “How can I keep myself from constantly being sucked in, losing my peace, and having their drama control my life?”
Well, I believe that the answer can be found in Ephesians 6:10-17 as Paul talks about the necessity of wearing the full armor of God so that we can withstand the enemy’s evil schemes. Make no mistake about it; one of the biggest schemes that the enemy uses to disable God’s people is to keep them preoccupied with drama and conflict so that they never actually get about the business of advancing the kingdom of God.
Knowing this, Paul tells us what we must do:
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 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 of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.”
Before we go any further talking about the sandals of peace, I want us to go back and take a look at verse 12, “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 of evil in the heavenly realms.”
You see, one of the first things that we need to recognize when we’re dealing with people who are constantly trying to provoke us or steal or peace is that we aren’t fighting the people themselves, but rather we are fighting the demonic influences that are at work in these people’s lives.
Okay—please don’t check out on me without allowing me to explain. I’m not saying that these people are demon-possessed. What I’m saying is that because of situations in their past (a traumatic incidence that happened to them, generational iniquities that were passed down to them, or sinful behaviors that they chose to participate in) a door was opened for the enemy to influence their lives. Because his goal is to kill, steal and destroy, the enemy of our souls takes advantage of each open door of pain or sin in the person’s life and uses it to create a destructive behavioral pattern and gain control of a person’s life. Once he’s gained access, he uses his control to continue influencing the person toward more and more destructive behaviors with the ultimate goal of destroying their life and their soul and the lives and souls of anyone who is around them.
Because we are all born with a sinful nature, each one of us has some level of demonic influence in our lives. The good news is that because of Christ’s victory on the cross, we can choose to repent of our sins, renounce the demonic influences and the influence they have on our behaviors, and gain spiritual deliverance.
The problem is that many people aren’t aware of this spiritual benefit or they choose to reject it and they never experience the true deliverance that Christ has for them. Instead, they continue living their lives allowing the demonic influences controlling their lives to control their behavior, influence their relationships, and hold them back from becoming all that God created them to be.
This is truly sad. It’s like watching someone suffer in pain from an illness that is killing them only because they are refusing the medicine that would cure them. Still, it happens every day in the spiritual realm---people reject the idea of demons and deliverance and instead continue suffering and struggling under the control of the enemy of their souls.
The hardest part is that there is very little you can do to help someone who is in this situation if they don’t want to be helped. Trust me, I’ve tried it for years. A person will not be completely set free from the demonic influences that control them until they want to be free and start taking the steps toward deliverance and forming new behavioral patterns. Until they are ready for a life change, the only thing you can do is limit the effect that their choices have in your life.
One of the first ways that you do this is by recognizing that you are not fighting the person but you are fighting the demonic influences at work in their lives.
You might ask, “Seriously, how does that help?”
Well, it helps you gain your perspective as you’re making the choice of whether or not to take the bait of their provocation or get sucked into their melodrama.
Here’s a real life example to help you understand.
I have a person in my life that went through a great deal of abuse as a child. Their family had a lot of issues and there are lots of unaddressed generational iniquities. Add the fact that this person then made a lot of bad choices and allowed sin to control their lives for far too long, and you understand why there is so much active demonic influence in their lives.
The thing is that this person is always trying to steal my peace by causing a conflict. At first, whenever they would do something hurtful or try to create conflict or drama, I fell for it every time. I was constantly riding the roller coaster of emotional pain, explosive conflict followed by the guilt of not acting like a Christian. Because I was always taking the bait, my life was being controlled by this other person’s moods, behaviors, and ultimately, their demonic influences.
Until the day that I finally woke up and realized what was happening. This person was allowing demonic influences to control their lives. If I was ever going to end this cycle, I had to see that I was really fighting the demonic influences inside of this person and start using my spiritual weapons to fight and live in peace. Rather than taking everything so personally, I had to start doing what Paul said and put on the full armor of God so that I could stand up against the enemy’s attacks that were coming at me through this person. Instead of wasting my time and energy fighting a person, I needed to fight a spiritual war to gain the victory.
In this situation, a big part of fighting the spiritual war was choosing to “walk in peace” or as Paul puts it “with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.”
Personally, I find it interesting that when Paul talks about choosing to “put on peace” he links it with the protection that covers a soldier’s foot.
In his book, “Victory in Spiritual Warfare”, Dr. Tony Evans gives us a good picture of what Paul meant when he describes the ancient soldier’s shoes of peace.
“A Roman’s soldier’s shoes were called caliga---sandals studded heavily with nails. These nails, known as hobnails, were firmly placed directly through the sole of the shoe for increased durability and stability. Similar to cleans worn on football and soccer fields today, hobnails provided traction when needed. This traction kept the soldier from slipping and sliding, much like cleats help a football or soccer player today. It gave him sure footing, making mobility in battle easier while also making it more difficult to be knocked down.
So when Paul instructs you to have your feet shod, he is talking about placing yourself in a stationary position to stand firm. This creates traction so that when Satan comes, he can’t knock you off your feet. In fact, you are able to “stand firm” because the nails coming out of your “peace shoes” have dug deep into the solid ground beneath you.” (page 78)
So, how do you stand your ground when someone tries to steal your peace, draw you into a conflict, or fill a situation with drama and confusion?
Basically, you recognize that you’re fighting a spiritual battle and choose to put on your shoes of peace that are armed with super strong cleats to help you stand firm as you say, “No, I’m not being sucked in---I’m going to stand in peace and walk in peace.
When your friend comes to you with all the latest gossip, trying to draw you into conflict, you choose to walk in peace and say, “I’m not choosing sides, I’m not getting involved, go and settle this the way the Bible says you should.”
When someone is provoking you, trying to start a fight and make you lose your peace, you can choose to strap on your shoes of peace and tell yourself, “This is not worth fighting about; I’m not going to be sucked into a battle and lose my peace.”
(In this case I’m talking about minor annoyances, personality conflicts, and things like that. I understand that there are times when you have to take a stand for right against the forces of wrong. However, one thing I’ve been learning is to take a step back and access a skirmish before losing my peace and ask, “Will this battle reap eternal consequences? If someone’s soul is in danger, a battle needs to be fought. If I’m simply annoyed or responding to a provocation, I need to refrain and choose to walk in peace.)
You see, what I’m realizing is that too often we allow our peace to be stolen simply because we do not recognize that we’re fighting a spiritual battle. Because we think we’re just dealing with difficult situations or difficult people, we don’t make the choice to put on our spiritual shoes of peace and walk in peace. Even though we have this powerful weapon of defense at our disposal, we choose not to put it on---then we wonder why we’re always defeated.
You see, as we’ve said so many times before in this series, wearing the full armor of God involves so much more than simply reciting a verse and simulating putting on the armor of God every morning. The real benefit comes as we make the conscious choice to wear these character traits and allow them to influence our behavior in each and every situation in life.
The truth is that when you actually choose to walk in peace---
-to choose peace when fear wants to attack,
-when conflict comes knocking at your door,
-when the temptation arises to blow a situation out of proportion and react in drama instead of readiness,
-when you’re provoked and you access that you’re not fighting flesh and blood, but you’re fighting a spiritual battle and respond accordingly,
-when you literally choose that you will walk in peace no matter what comes your way--- that’s when you’ll begin to experience victory.
When you start using peace as defensive weapon, you’ll find that you won’t be caught up in every wind of chaos and confusion that comes along. Instead, your shoes of peace will help you stand firm and victorious in the face of any battle, unable to be defeated or shaken.
At least that’s what I’m learning. Although I can’t say I’m always successful, I’m finding that when I do take a deep breath, access the situation, remember that I’m fighting a spiritual war and choose to “walk in peace”, I find that I actually experience more peace in my life. Several times I’ve observed that the choice to “put on peace” has saved me from painful ambushes that would have occurred if I’d responded in emotion or taken the bait and responded in anger when provoked. Seeing results like this is both challenging and inspiring me to continue taking my new “favorite pair of shoes” out of my “spiritual closet”, walk away from “the bait” and continue to dress for victory by choosing to put on peace. I hope this article encourages you to do the same.
Kenny Luck “Fight” Waterbrook Press, Colorado Springs, Co, 2008
Dr. Tony Evans “Victory in Spiritual Warfare”, Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Oregon, 2011