Friday, May 18, 2018

Bustin' Up the Devil in a Game of Strategema

In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Peak Performance," the Enterprise's android second officer, Data, is challenged to a game of Strategema (think really fancy chess) by a renowned grand master who is visiting the Enterprise. Data, despite the fact that he has a computer for a brain, loses and loses bad. Initially, he has something of a robot pity-party because he, after analyzing his performance during the game, he cannot find any mistakes and therefore believes that something is wrong with his programming. So he shuts himself in his quarters and refuses to come out until he can figure out what is wrong with his programming. But after being encouraged by a friend that it is possible to lose without making any mistakes, Data emerges and challenges the grand master to a rematch. Reluctantly, the grand master accepts but just moments into the match, the grand master becomes flustered. As the match continues, the grand master's frustration grows until, finally, he throws down the game controls in disgust and stomps off.

When Data is questioned about the outcome of the game, Data explains that the first time he played he was trying to win and played aggressively. As a result, when the grand master set up traps for Data based on his desire to win, Data fell into them. But the second time, Data chose to play for a stalemate, playing just to stand and make certain that he didn't lose. As a result, according to Data's friends, Data "busted him up."

In a lot of ways, Data's second strategy is exactly the way we should live our lives when battling our greatest enemy, the Devil. In Ephesians 6, Paul instructs us about the spiritual war we face and he commands us, "Put on the full armor of God so that you can take you stand against the devil's schemes" (Ephesians 6:11, NIV). Then, he repeats, "Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand" (6:13, NIV).

Paul's instructions for our war with the Devil and the evil forces at work in the world say nothing about attempting to defeat the Devil. Paul is only concerned with making sure that we stand, that we don't fall. The Holman Christian Standard translates verse 13 "so that you may be able to resist in the evil day...to take your stand." James uses similar language when he says, "Resist the Devil and he will flee from you" (James 4:7, HCSB).

You see, we don't have to worry about defeating Satan and the forces of evil. That is God's job and that war is already won. All we have to worry about is standing, making certain that we don't fall. We resist temptation. We resist evil when we see it. We resist the forces of darkness when they come against us. But we must never begin to believe that we must defeat them. We must simply resist to the point that we remain standing by living lives of integrity and refusing to allow evil a foothold in our lives. The war doesn't depend on us. We just have to hold the line.

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