The music blasts out the familiar anthem as the map on the screen bursts into flames, showing 4 men behind it riding up together. It can only mean one thing, it is time for Bonanza! This 1960’s western is about the adventures of Ben Cartwright and his sons Adam, Hoss, and Little Joe as they run and defend their ranch while helping the surrounding community. The unique thing about Bonanza is not every episode was a “shoot-em-up” western. Often they would do a comedy plot, and these episodes were always funny.
One of my favorites is titled “The Woman of Fire”. It’s a roughly adapted western version of Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew”. In this episode, the oldest son, the ultra-serious Adam tries to tame a shrewish senorita while she waits at the Ponderosa for her never-met husband-to-be.
Does this woman have issues! Mainly, she has a problem with her temper. She is filled with passion about EVERYTHING. Whenever something upsets her, she explodes and begins yelling at people and throwing things. Because of her temperament, she has frightened away every man that wants to marry her. The gentleman that is coming to the ranch to meet her is the last man her father can find who is willing to even consider her for a wife. If she blows this opportunity, she will be alone forever.
Knowing this to be the case, everyone in her family and the Cartwright family does everything they can to get her to “bank the fire” and become a pleasant and agreeable woman. Eventually, Adam gets through to her and she agrees that she will only be sweet, kind, and docile so she can get married. It appears we’re headed for a happy ending. Only when her fiancé arrives, he doesn’t want a sweet, kind, pleasant woman. He’s heard about her temperament and her reputation as a “woman of fire” and that’s exactly what he wants in a wife.
More problems! Her fiancé feels he’s been deceived and he’s nauseated by the sweet, docile woman he’s expected to marry. What will they do? The only thing they can do—Adam determines to make her explode and show her true colors so that she can live happily ever after.
Well, this wasn’t easy. Our fair senorita was a determined young lady and no matter how many times she was provoked she was determined to hold her temper so she could get married. Adam had one last chance to get her to explode during a lake-side picnic. Desperate to make her be herself, Adam decides to throw her into the river to make her show her true temperament.
Even this did not work. She came out laughing as if she’d fallen in. In a final, last ditch effort to stir the flames he knew resided inside of this woman, Adam threw her fiancé in the river. Wisely, the fiancé figured out what Adam was doing and he chose to pretend that he was passive and docile as well. He sat in the river refusing to defend himself.
Well, that did the trick! Even though she could make herself pretend to be sweet, kind and undisturbed to achieve her goal, this sassy woman had no tolerance for a man who wouldn’t defend himself. From the banks of the river she exploded yelling, “Get up! Why don’t you fight? Why don’t you fight? If this is how I have to act to get a husband who won’t even fight for himself, then I don’t want one! Get up! Why don’t you fight?” Her passion and fire were back as she decided that she was not a weak woman and she didn’t want a weak man. She wanted to fight!
I had to laugh to myself as I remembered this story when I was experiencing a particularly difficult week. My sister, Adessa and I had recently been forced to take a righteous stand against a sinful situation. Although it was difficult to do, we did it and went on with our lives. To be honest, I never expected the spiritual warfare or spiritual attacks that we would endure because of our choice. However, a few weeks after we took our stand, we went through a horrible week.
It began with an attack of mental discouragement. Both of us were being bombarded with thoughts of hopelessness, discouragement, and fear. I remember Adessa saying to me, “I wonder if this is a spiritual attack for the stand we took?” Unfortunately, that’s as far as that thought went. I didn’t pray or plead the blood of Jesus. I chose not to fight, and that was a bad choice because things only got worse.
As the week went on, we both started having very weird, haunting dreams. We knew we weren’t allowing our minds to be influenced through corrupt reading or television, so I figured it was just something we had to endure. Again, I didn’t fight. I didn’t pray or plead the blood of Jesus over my mind and thoughts. I didn’t take my thoughts captive as Jesus commands and speak truth to the lying dreams. Instead, I continued to think about the dreams throughout the day and allowed myself to become sad, depressed, and hopeless. Rather than fight, I was allowing myself to take a spiritual beating.
The final attack came from a person. Their words and actions came at us like two loaded guns filled with discouragement, anger, and more hopelessness. This time I did choose to fight. Unfortunately, I chose to fight the wrong target. Rather than recognizing that it was a spiritual battle I was fighting, I got into a verbal argument with this person.
Again, a bad choice. Absolutely nothing was resolved. Instead, I walked away exhausted and battle fatigued. As I asked God what in the world was going on, I was reminded of the title of a book I had recently been reading. It was “Fight: Are You Willing to Pick a Fight with Evil” by Kenny Luck. I immediately realized what was wrong. It was like God was saying to me “Why don’t you fight?”
Why didn’t I fight? Why did I let myself be tortured for an entire week without even attempting to fight back spiritually? Remember, in the beginning of the week, I recognized we were under spiritual attack. I even called someone else to pray for us.. but why didn’t I do something? It’s almost as if I could hear the Holy Spirit asking me as the Senorita asked her fiancé, “Why don’t you fight?”
John understood the need for God’s men to be willing to fight. Let’s look at 1 John 4 1-5
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.
4 You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the One Who is in you is greater than the One Who is in the world. 5 They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.
In this passage, John discusses something we all need to realize. Reality is that there is more to this world than the tangible things that we can see, hear, touch, smell, and taste. These things belong to the physical world. However, beyond that world is the spiritual world. In the spirit world there is a constant and ongoing battle between the forces of good and evil—God’s kingdom and Satan’s kingdom.
In John’s day and age, it was men being influenced by demonic influences to proclaim a doctrine that stated that Jesus was not Deity or God’s Son. John is teaching his readers that they can’t bury their heads in the sand and just accept everything at face value. They have to wake up and overcome. They had to fight! We need to do the same!
Unfortunately, a lot of believers don’t see the need to fight. They sorta believe in spiritual warfare, but they don’t see a need to take part in the battle. However, you can’t sorta believe in spiritual warfare. If you sorta believe in spiritual warfare, you will sorta respond, and the result is always you sorta get defeated. There is no victory for a believer who doesn’t take this seriously.
Many Christians don’t want to be in a battle. Spiritually, they are pacifists. They don’t like war and they don’t want to participate. Unfortunately, the enemy, Satan, has deceived them into thinking that they have an option. However, nothing is further from the truth.
The truth is that no human being has an option of whether or not they are involved in the spiritual war. If you are a human being with an eternal soul, than there is a battle raging for your soul and your eternal destiny. Just like a baby born in Israel doesn’t get to choose whether they want to be in a war with the surrounding countries, so you don’t get to choose whether or not you are in a war. An Israeli baby is born into a warzone. Even before he’s taken his first steps or spoken his first word, he has enemies that hate him. He doesn’t get a choice. It’s a fact of his life.
Why do we have to fight? So we become overcomers who grow spiritually strong and mature. We fight so we don’t become deceived.
These battles mature us spiritually, cause us to grow deeper in our relationship with God, and help us win other people to Christ. As 1 Peter 1:7 says, “These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
God’s goal is for His men to be able to discern the spiritual deceit and lies of the enemy all around him. When we refuse to recognize it or fight, we will be duped into compromising and we will fall away from God. John understood this and this is why he says we need to be able to discern the truth from the lies and be overcomers.
Will you step to the line and stand as an overcomer? Will you stop allowing the enemy to deceive you and trick you into following for his lies? John has laid out a challenge we all need to face. Will we be overcomers? You must decide.