“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” – Ephesians 6:12
Raise your hand if you have ever entered a competition – athletic, singing contest, dance contest, – writing contest 😉 – beauty pageant, competing for an academic scholarship or a job … ?
(Now, raise your hand if you did not win…)
This excerpt from my book Vision was inspired by the despair I observed at a Christian artists’ conference the morning after the first “cuts” in the competitions were posted – despair that should be non-existent in a believer in Jesus Christ:
The meeting room was darkened by the forms of countless demons, summoned to an emergency council. As the last of the spirits fluttered in and lit upon the remaining rafters, their leader stood and motioned them to be silent. There was an immediate hush, as every demon wondered what great threat to their kingdom would bring Lucifer himself to such a relatively harmless place as the United States. Surely Apathy, Ignorance, Arrogance, and Ease had done a sufficient job of keeping the American Church from being much of a force for the kingdom of heaven.
But today the Devil himself seemed disturbed enough to summon a myriad of demonic warriors.
“As you all know,” he began, “one of the most powerful forces both we and the Enemy have is music. You know how Lust, Addiction, and Suicide have made use of it in capturing and destroying a large part of this generation.” Lust, Addiction, and Suicide grinned at each other smugly.
“Unfortunately for us, there are also those in the Enemy’s camp that are rediscovering its effectiveness and are using it in ways that are snatching young humans away from us – some of the very ones we thought we had the tightest grip on!” His scaly talon clenched tightly, and as he began to pace, demons sheepishly backed out of his way.
“That didn’t seem that disastrous at first,” he continued, “but the few musicians that are really sold out to the Enemy are more and more realizing the power and opportunities they have at their fingertips, and how much more their side could have, if they were to multiply themselves, and they’re planning to do JUST THAT.”
A murmur of dismay broke out among the demons.
“A week-long seminar is being planned for this summer, one that will involve singers, songwriters, instrumentalists, producers, publishers, technicians – you name it. Some of them are even people who used to be OUR tools and are now instruments in the hands of the Enemy. As if that weren’t enough, now they plan on teaching and training others to be His instruments as well! Some of these creatures are people who don’t even know the extent of their own talents yet! The Enemy is about to blow the lid off our whole Department of Blindness and Ignorance! Once these humans start realizing their potential and using it, it could mean the beginning of the downfall of our whole kingdom!” Some of the spirits looked at one another with questioning eyes.
“THINK, FOOLS!” he screamed. “There are still areas of this planet where preachers and missionaries aren’t allowed to enter. But musicians are! And music draws people like a magnet, you know that from your own work. So we need a counterattack.
“Where are they meeting?” asked Destruction. “I’ll send a tornado and flatten the place the day before it’s scheduled to start.”
“AMATEUR!” shrieked Lucifer. “Do you think you could stop them by knocking down a few buildings?”
“Destroy the people themselves,” advised Death, a dark form that stood motionless in the shadows, “or at least the ones who are the leaders. A well-timed bus crash right before the seminar could wipe out quite a piece of their army.”
Lucifer sneered at him. “Yes, and I suppose your crucifying the Enemy put an end to HIS battle plan? Don’t be an idiot. We must avoid the obvious. Whatever we do, it must be subtle. Some of these people are real warriors of the Enemy, and if they were to recognize any of us, they could disarm us by using that detestable Name, and it would be the end of the mission for all of us. No, our plan must be carried out under cover – under the very Name of the Enemy Himself, if possible. You know that all our most successful plans have been carried out in the very Name of … (The multitude shuddered at the thought of the unspoken Name.)
“I don’t know about wiping out their whole plan,” began Conformity, an intimidating demon with a scornful expression, “but we could really hem them into one place by narrowing their vision and destroying their sense of uniqueness. Just take their eyes off the Enemy – that’s always the first step – and onto each other, especially the ones who are ‘successful’ by the world’s standards. Insecurity can help by getting them to deny who they really are and trying to imitate their idols. Blindness can get them to disregard their own unique qualities and try to compete with someone else who isn’t like them at all.”
Insecurity laughed. “No problem! Musicians are so insecure anyway, I could pull this off on my lunch break.”
“Why stop there?” hissed Cruelty from the shadows. “These ideas are rather vague. Why don’t we provide a more concrete way of destroying their self-worth, rather than relying on bad feelings that could be brushed away with a prayer? Get them to judge one another in a very limited setting, and have them put that judgment in writing. It will drive some of them to the brink of suicide.” His mouth watered at the thought of so much misery.
Confusion jumped in. “I’ll instruct my imps to put it into the mind of every artist to question his or her gifts on the basis of those pieces of paper!”
“Meanwhile,” Fear interjected, “all the anxiety we can produce in such a situation can cause a lack of sleep and health…”
“Sounds convenient to me,” muttered Sickness. “It is such fun to watch the creatures suffer.”
Suddenly an older demon spoke up.
“Careful!” he cautioned them. “I’ve known these plans to backfire in my time. When humans are hurt and humiliated, they often draw closer to the Enemy in their humility. They can also empathize and comfort one another. There’s a danger of maturity and closeness and … love resulting …
“Never fear!” Pride assured them. “I’ll see to it that none of them admit their hurt to one another. My imps will scatter and persuade every last one of them to put on a mask of super-spirituality …”
“While all the time envying the ‘successful’!” hissed Worldliness.
“And feeling inadequate!” squealed Inferiority.
“And finally giving up on doing anything at all with their gifts!” Despair shrieked triumphantly. The four began dancing with glee.
“HOLD ON!” bellowed Lucifer. He wanted to think this through. It seemed too easy. “What about the few who come out on top? What if the winners … “
“We’ll take care of them, Sir!” chimed in a rowdy chorus of demons that included Arrogance, Lust, Greed, Conceit, and Self-centeredness.
The Devil gazed at the room full of spirits, poised in readiness for his orders.
“Then do what you have to do,” he ordered, his fiery eyes narrowing. “Poison this plan in its very inception, and we’ll maintain control over the music world. After all, it was given to ME, and I have no intention of letting it go.”
And so it came to pass that as a group of godly leaders gathered to plan a week that would change the world, an unseen, uninvited band of spirits joined them. Several of the demons surrounded a member of the group whose mind had been distracted during the prayer. As they dug invisible talons into his brain, he gasped, not with pain, but with a sudden inspiration he thought was from God.
“I’ve got a great idea!” he cried. “Let’s hold competitions!”
The spirits smiled at one another with evil satisfaction.
Folks, there is only one contest that matters. We (believers) are the Body of Christ – a team, an army. We struggle against our enemy, the devil – not one another! We work together, we fight together. And guess what? I’ve read the last chapter – we win!
Prayer: Lord, thank You for the gifts You’ve given to each of us. Help us to use them for Your purposes and not judge our success by the opinions of others, in Jesus’ name. Amen.