Whether we realize it or not, our enemies make us stronger. The old saying is true, “You can’t have a testimony without a test!” There is no victory without a battle. We can’t be overcomers unless there’s something to overcome. Notice how every miracle in the Bible started with a problem.
Another popular saying goes, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” If that is true, then we must be super strong by now, right? While it sounds strange, we need our enemies. Why? Because strength comes through struggle. It’s the struggle of a butterfly breaking out of a cocoon that causes its wings to develop so it can fly. It’s the struggle of a baby pushing through the birth canal that forces fluid out of its lungs so it can take its first gasping breath. It’s the struggle of birds and reptiles breaking out of an egg that prepares them for bigger challenges. If God removed all our struggles, we wouldn’t grow. Strength is built through resistance. Athletes who use weights for training in their sport build muscle and get stronger by resisting (pushing against) the weights. The same is true for us spiritually. James 4:7 instructs us to “Submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” Whenever we resist negative things, something positive is formed in us:
- If we resist sin, righteousness is formed in us.
- If we resist pride, humility is formed in us.
- If we resist lust, purity is formed in us.
- If we resist hate, love is formed in us.
- If we resist greed, generosity is formed in us.
- If we resist bitterness, forgiveness is formed in us.
- If we resist selfishness, kindness is formed in us and so on.
We need our enemies because they keep us on our toes and drive us to our knees. Otherwise, we would get complacent. The good thing about trouble is it forces us to pray and rely on God. Without any trouble, we would let down our guard, take it easy, and think we have it made in the shade. Chuck Swindoll relays a story that illustrates the vital role our enemies play in our spiritual development:
“In the northeastern United States, codfish are not only delectable, they are a big commercial business. There’s a market for eastern cod all over, especially in sections farthest removed from the northeast coastline. But the public demand brought a problem to the shippers. At first, they froze the cod, then shipped them elsewhere, but the freeze took away much of the flavor. So, they experimented with shipping them alive, in tanks of seawater, but that proved even worse. Not only was it more expensive, but the cod still lost its flavor, and in addition, it became soft and mushy. The texture was seriously affected.
“Finally, some creative soul solved the problem in a most innovative manner. The codfish were placed in the tank along with their natural enemy—the catfish. From the time the cod left the East Coast until it arrived in its westernmost destinations, those ornery catfish chased the cod all over the tank! And you guessed it, when the cod arrived at the market, they were as fresh as when they were first caught. There was no loss of flavor nor was the texture affected. If anything, it was better than before.” By chasing the cod around the tank, the catfish kept them fit instead of them just floating around getting fat and lazy.
Remember, your rivals (sin, Satan, evil, the world, self, and many more) are all making you stronger as you resist them. Eagles use the wind currents blowing against them to fly higher. Salmon use the water flowing against them to climb and jump over waterfalls. Even so, despite the struggle, our villains are helping us soar higher in God.
In Coffee County, Alabama, there is a small town called Enterprise. For years, its economy revolved around raising and selling cotton. Then, calamity struck when an enemy invaded the cotton crops, destroyed the economy, and threatened to ruin everyone. In financial desperation, the farmers were forced to switch to growing peanuts and other crops that eventually brought them greater revenue than they would have ever made growing cotton. Ultimately, what seemed to be a disaster became the basis for unprecedented prosperity.
To express their appreciation, they erected a monument in the center of town to the Boll Weevil. It was the world’s first monument built to honor an agricultural pest. The monument depicts a female figure in a flowing gown with arms stretched above her head. She raises high a trophy topped by an enlarged-scale boll weevil. The statue stands atop an ornately detailed base which supports two round streetlamps. The base stands in the center of a fountain, which is surrounded by a wrought-iron railing. The monument stands over thirteen feet tall. As a tribute to how something disastrous can be a catalyst for change, and a reminder of how the people of Enterprise adjusted in the face of adversity, the monument was dedicated on December 11, 1919, at the intersection of College and Main Street, the heart of the town’s business district. At the base of the monument appears the following inscription: “In profound appreciation of the Boll Weevil and what it has done as the herald of prosperity this monument was erected by the citizens of Enterprise, Coffee County, Alabama.”
The villain—aka, the Mexican, cotton Boll Weevil—turned out to be the best thing to ever happen to Coffee County, Alabama. All the stress and misery of ruined cotton, unpaid bills, and foreclosures were soon forgotten as farmers rejoiced with the returns of their new cash crops. The same will be true for us. After a lifetime of clashing with our villains, we will one day stand victorious and realize, they were a blessing in disguise all along.
Note: This article is an excerpt from Ben’s new book Heaven’s Heroes available at the "store" on the menu bar above.