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Expectant Prayers 

Jennifer Jo Weiss

Enemies and Toxic Relationships -(Part 5 - Final)

 I am concerned for the lack of sensitivity toward the Spirit and failure to recognize when something could lead to our demise.  This can be said for our personal lives as well as the church as a whole.  We have become Laodicean in our nature and caterers to the flesh.    Certain topics might rile us up for a season, but then we blissfully and ignorantly roll over and fall back to sleep.   We buddy up to things of this world that we should not, yet expect things not to harm us.  Again I would ask – how much sin has to be in our lives before the evil overtakes the good?   Remember the old cliché – “You are what you eat.”   Do you feed your spirit more than you cater to the flesh each day?  If not, you are fat in flesh and malnourished in spirit!  Feeding the flesh becomes a vicious cycle.  The more you appease the flesh, the MORE you will have to increase appeasing it because it has an insatiable appetite.     We must keep our spiritual lamps filled daily in order to be ready when He comes back.  We can’t wait to be full of God until He comes back or delay it until tomorrow.

THE ENEMY WORKS THROUGH CHURCHES:

Sometimes individual churches can be places that are toxic.  This is especially true in the last days we are living in.  False doctrine, ministers who are not walking with God or all involved in sin, abusive behavior (sexual, emotional, or physical), or being stunted from operating as a body… all of these and more are indicators of a toxic church.  Not everyone who says, “Lord, Lord shall enter the Kingdom!”   Just like friendships that need to be dissolved, sometimes you must leave a church in order to get out of toxic environment.   This is not an excuse to be a church hopper – seeking the perfect church that does not exist.  I am not talking about petty disagreements; I am talking about things that are drastically opposed to the Word.  For many it becomes a question of what are you willing to overlook – but again – failure to recognize the enemy is the first step toward your defeat!      Be sure to watch out for what churches cater to.  Are they catering to the flesh or is it really about God?

WHEN ENEMIES ATTACK:

When enemies fire their darts on us in vicious attacks – we must first realize that we are being attacked.  Even when you are aware and draw strength from the Lord – it’s still a trauma.  Your system goes through a bit of shock and sometimes you need several days to gain your bearings once again.  I’m not sure why spiritual warfare if so draining, but it is.   If this has happened to you, make sure you are saturating yourself in prayer, praise, and taking every thought captive.  Remember, the word says in Philippians 4:8 that we are to think of whatever is good, right, just, lovely, praiseworthy, honest, noble, and of good report!  Dwell on the good!   It also helps to put on the full armor of God every day! 

WHAT WE SHOULD DO:

One lesson the Lord has shown me over the years is that not only must we do our best to keep the peace with all men, but we also do not have to keep allowing others to have opportunities to hurt us. 

1.)  Forgive.  Forgiveness is an act of our will and is required, but that doesn’t mean we forget just as easily.  We must realize that we can’t stop people’s opinions about us.  It’s THEIR opinion.  Flesh and the pride of life are the enemies here.  Sometimes situations have very little to do with us and more to do with the other person/group and what they struggle with.  It’s not what others do to us or their opinions that matter as much as OUR response and reaction.  We are not responsible for what they do, but we are responsible for what WE do.    We must operate in forgiveness and through the love of the Lord. 

Matthew 6:14-15 says, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

2.)  Pray for them .  Luke 6:27-28 says, “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”  Again, this is about our attitude and response toward others – not necessarily a feeling or proof of restored relationship.  This means that we are to put on the attitude of Christ and display the fruits of His Spirit, loving others through Christ and not a work of ourselves.  Put off your flesh and realize that this is God’s plan; not vengeance, bitterness, anger, malice, slander.   These things are not consistent with a life rooted in Christ.  If these things rise up within you, be sure to pray for yourself also that Christ will give you the strength to overcome.

3.)  Realize that your relationship with God is the most important thing!   There is nothing worth exchanging your soul for – not a toxic relationship and not giving into anger or roots of bitterness over earthly relationships that have been broken.    In time, God will move you past what has happened and into a place of peace and unbroken fellowship with Him.    Sure, we have to deal with these issues on an emotional level – which takes time. 

4.)  Walk in discernment.   All of the things we have been discussing in this series require discernment from the Spirit.   Again, this is not a work of ourselves, but of the Spirit.  We have to be walking close to God in order to rightly discern and divide what is false and what is truth. 

 The enemy is crafty.  He’s all about how things appear.  There will be a thread of truth, but a lot of deception woven through.  You might sense that something is a little “off” with someone or a particular group or church.  Don’t dismiss that suspicion just because you see some things that have a seemingly godly exterior.  Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.    Insight from the Spirit is the only way that you will be able to tell whether something really is of God or not.

1 John 4:1 says, “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.”

5.)  Understand that Restoration is possible, but not a guarantee.

God is a God of relationship.  He desires for those who are engrafted in Him to get along.  He is also a God of restoration.  The Word clearly demonstrates that He is more than able to take the pieces of our lives and make them into something new through regeneration.   Knowing all this, however, you still must realize that relationships can be severed without your approval.  Trying to hold on to toxic relationships only end up hurting you in the end.  Part of this is due to the fact that God created us with the power to choose.   Possessing this power sometimes is our greatest demise.  We cannot make other people walk with God, do the right thing, become more spiritual or hunger after God.  We cannot change their minds, save them, or make them “better”. 

Relationships are about walking in unity or agreement.  If the other person chooses to walk away from God or is determined to keep sin in their lives – that relationship will be severed.  There is no fellowship with light and darkness.

John 15:1a says, “"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit…”   later in that same chapter, verses 5-6 say, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.”   The key is that we must remain in Him.  Earlier in the chapter we are told that a branch can’t bear fruit on its own – we must remain in Him.  The fruit a person ‘bears’ is a good barometer for their spiritual level, but also remember – things can appear like they are good fruit.  Remember the apple in Snow White?  It was full of poison!  Watch for consistency and volume.  John 15:8 says remaining in Him will cause us to bear MUCH fruit and show/prove to others that we are His disciples.

Severing toxic relationships may appear on the surface to be detrimental to unity, but the truth of the matter is, you cannot operate in unity without being unified in Christ.   It is exactly like the branch that is dead.  It saps vital life from the rest of the plant’s body if it is not cut off.  It’s not only about staying healthy as a body, but sometimes for survival so that death does not travel throughout the entire body.

CONCLUSION:  It is my prayer that we understand as children of God that there are real, tangible enemies that we need to be aware of and overcome through the strength and power of the Lord.  Having enemies does not make you a bad person; it’s just a fact of life.  Prayerfully consider what this series has taught and examine your heart.  Pray for discernment through the Spirit and be open to what God tells you to do.  I believe that everything the enemy has meant for harm, God can turn around for your good.

Remember: 

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.

 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

-          Romans 8:35-39

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