Fighting Back with Thanksgiving

by Mike McKinniss

Anthony_van_Dyck,_An_Apostle_with_Folded_HandsTaking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke them. Luke 9:16

In some of my circles there is a fair amount of talk about spiritual warfare. We cast out this evil spirit. We unearth that bitter root. We declare victory in this struggle. And we claim promises in that battle. If you don’t keep your head, things can get a little out of hand, looking for demons under every rock.

Don’t get me wrong—spiritual warfare is very real. If anything, today’s Western church has swallowed far too much of the Enlightenment’s Kool-Aid. We can’t have our cake and still gulp it down. That is, we can’t take the Bible seriously regarding God and the Holy Spirit, while dismissing its talk of angels and demons and the devil. Sorry.

But spiritual warfare. Yes, it is real. There really are spiritual beings out there that have a very real impact on events in our world. And we human beings, especially now that all authority in heaven and earth belongs to our King (Matt. 28:18), have a real say in what happens to those spiritual beings. (By the way, if you’re interested in a very real discussion of this subject, without the cuckoo stuff, you could do no better than two volumes by Gregory A. Boyd: God at War and Satan and the Problem of Evil.)

Occasionally I’m asked for techniques in spiritual warfare. How do we flank the enemy? How do we remain hidden until we’re ready to launch our sneak attack? How do we finally convince God to join the fight we’ve picked?

I have no idea. And if we think we have to convince the Creator to bring reconciliation to his whole creation, we’ve got the wrong idea to begin with.

But I am discovering this one handy little weapon: Gratitude.

One of the single most powerful forces in the universe is giving thanks for God’s character and what he has already done, especially when everything in us wants to fixate on the things that have yet to be won.

It is hard—very hard—to maintain some kind of positive demeanor when you are desperate for some kind of breakthrough, but have yet to see even an inch of progress. It is easy—almost natural—to tumble into despair when we’ve yet to glimpse a change in a situation we care about.

Your daughter has defiantly walked away from the Lord. You’ve been praying for months on her behalf. But all that’s come of it, as far as you can tell, is still more rebellion and a roll of her eyes whenever you bring it up. A new utterly secular family has moved in next door. You’ve been praying for months about the influence they might have on your son. But their elaborate and garish Halloween decorations remain littered about their front lawn.

Spiraling toward despondency is a real temptation that must be avoided, for it is the one sure way to lose that battle.

Concentrating, instead, on the things you know and have already seen props you up to maintain the effort. You must maintain your gratitude, always, that Christ has died for your daughter, whether she sees it or not. You must find godly things about your neighbors (trust me there’s something) and thank God that they exhibit that aspect of his nature, whether, again, they know it or not.

I can’t say I know how it works, exactly, but real gratitude cuts through even the thickest armor and, just as important, keeps us standing squarely on two feet.