“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” 1 Peter 5:10 ESV
As we saw in the last post, power-play in the church is a satanic scheme intended to bring division among God’s people. Paul says that we are not ignorant of Satan’s designs at work through sin, hurt and unforgiveness in the church (2 Corinthians 2:11). And, James exhorts us, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you” (James 4:7-8 ESV). We can resist the devil through the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit, dependence on the Word of God, and in the strength of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection (Ephesians 6:10-18; Revelation 12:11). But, what does resisting power-play in the church look like in practical terms?
As we attempt to resist the work of the enemy in our churches, we must first learn to be self-suspicious. We discipline ourselves by asking the hard questions, and then prayerfully answering them. Questions such as: ‘Am I bothered by this behavior because I think that this church or ministry is my kingdom-come?’ ‘Am I too easily offended by this person?’ ‘Is my evaluation of this situation rooted in my pettiness, jealousy, self-centeredness, or my desire for control?’ “Am I making a mountain out of a mole-hill?’ ‘Do I have the good of others and the glory of God in mind as I contemplate this circumstance?’ After honestly answering these questions, we stop meditating on the pettiness of power-brokers in our churches, and we intentionally meditate on our sovereign Lord and His control over all things. We remind ourselves that He is working in all circumstances to the end that He is glorified, and we are sanctified. (Romans 8:28)
Then we must resist all thoughts of taking counter-control measures. We also resist responding in kind to the people that have sinned against us. That is, we resist reacting with proud hostility and foolish carnality. We renounce manipulative behaviors and the tactics of self-pity, resentment, bitterness, outbursts of anger, gossip, or slander. We remind ourselves that both the church and vengeance belong to the Lord (Romans 12:17-21; Ephesians 5:23-30). We intentionally choose to be more gracious than we think we should be with people who have hurt us. We maintain a spirit of forgiveness, and a desire to see power-players repent of their foolishness. We choose to love our neighbors and respond to the sins of others in the fear of God. This is hard to do because each denial of the impulses of our flesh is an act of self-mortification. Self-mortification is painful. It often feels humiliating and frustrating. However, by waiting on God in prayerful humility, we will see that God is faithful. He will deliver us at the perfect time, and in such a way that we will thank God for the trial that He has brought into our lives. We will see how God uses these types of painful situations to perfect us in holiness, purify our service, and increase our love for the true church.
At the same time, we must resist apathetic indifference to power-play in the church. We do this by not joining the clique or selling our souls to ‘be in the know’. We seek our commendation from the Lord, not from man. We immediately reprove divisive slander and gossip when exposed to it. We do not turn a blind eye to disappearing sheep. And, we refuse to crumble under the shame, humiliation, manipulation and other shunning tactics of power-players. Overall, we are cautious of developing an ‘if I can’t beat them – I might as well join them’ mentality. This temptation is great. But, the Lord would not have us bow before false Gods, or yield to false teachers for even a moment (Galatians 2:5). Submitting to people that are usurping the authority of Christ is usurping the authority of Christ. There is only one head of the church. There is only one Lord, and it is to Him that each of us will give an account. We must aim to be like Paul, who said, “Am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10 ESV).
Most importantly, we resist the temptation to break covenant with our church family. If we are married women, the decision to stay or leave our church family does not ultimately fall to us. This truth, however, does not change the reality that God has given us the ability to influence our husbands and families for good or for ill. Therefore, so far as we can in the strength of Christ, we maintain a disposition of faith, love, and fidelity to our church families. We resist the urges to obsess, complain, nag, badger, pout, or use any other method in the effort of manipulating our husbands or embittering our children against the church. We also guard our hearts against the desire to break faith with our churches. We must be sober-minded and self-controlled, knowing that our “…adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8 ESV). We must resist him by believing the promise of God that “…after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you (1 Peter 5:10 ESV).
“How do good men become a part of the regime? They don’t believe in resistance.” -Josh Garrels, The Resistance
Upcoming Post in this series:
Responding Biblically to Power-Players
More from this post series:
Part 2: Resisting Power-Play in the Church