How was Thanksgiving? I’m sure you enjoyed your time off. How many “Thanksgivings” did you have? Between in-laws, “friendsgivings,” classroom or school celebrations, and extended families with conflicting schedules (or conflicting hearts), I know many of us regularly attend or host multiple feasts. We hosted two. I would love to hear your Thanksgiving story in the comments below.
This may sound strange (or stereotypically male?), but when I think about the holiday season, I often think of fighting. Wait, what? Weird, right? But thankfully, it’s not because of my family. Rather, it’s because the holidays teach us how to fight.
I bet you already know that the gratitude we practice at Thanksgiving is a key weapon in our arsenal against the attacks of the enemy against us. Philippians 4:4-7 draws out this connection:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Notice the passage starts with “rejoice” (twice), pauses to remind us to pray “with thanksgiving,” and then ends with the promise that the peace of God will “guard” our hearts.
Author Dan Baker writes, “It is a fact of neurology that the brain cannot be in a state of appreciation and a state of fear at the same time. The two states may alternate, but are mutually exclusive.”
Wow, don’t you love it when modern science discovers a truth revealed long ago in Scripture? The enemy wants to keep us trapped in anxiety and fear, but we fight back with rejoicing, thanksgiving, and prayer. Then the Holy Spirit ambushes the enemy’s attack with the peace of God that guards our hearts and minds…amazing!
Christmas is also about a fight (and not about real or artificial Christmas trees). Why did Jesus come to Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago? Scripture answers: “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8b).
The birth of Christ was the start of the decisive battle that would defeat the enemy on earth, and liberate us from the grasp of Satan and the bondage of sin.
However, even though the decisive battle has been won, the war against the enemy still rages on multiple fronts.
Individually, we all struggle against our own flesh that awaits complete transformation.
Collectively, we fight against the work of the enemy in the world.
Just in recent days, here are a few examples of the damage the enemy is doing in our schools:
- In a legal settlement, a Pennsylvania school district agreed to pay $200,000 to The Satanic Temple for refusing to allow an After School Satan Club to meet.
- A male student took first place in a girls’ cross country championship race in California. He defeated Josie Hill, the first female student and rightful champion, by 15 seconds, and led his girls’ team to an overall team championship.
I could fill this entire column and many more with examples like this, and with Christmas coming up, there will certainly be many more. So in light of so much enemy activity in our schools, how do we fight?
First, we have to remember that our fight is not against people (“flesh and blood”), but “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). In other words, those who are confusing kids about their gender or sexuality, those who are protesting in favor of terror groups, and even those in the Satanic Temple are not our enemies. They are objects of God’s love, and ours.
Second, while there are certainly times when God calls us to speak out at school board meetings, to run for office, or to organize protests, there are other ways to fight that don’t get as much attention but are pregnant with God’s kingdom purposes.
Throughout scripture, God calls His people to fight in unorthodox ways, like letting the worship team lead the army into battle, marching around city walls for 7 days, or reducing an army by 90% prior to battle.
Daniel evangelized an entire empire by faithfully praying alone in his room. Esther saved the Jewish race by inviting her husband to a banquet. Both Peter and Paul were miraculously busted out of prison, but God had Peter flee but Paul stay put. It seems that often God’s ways of fighting are not our ways.
These examples demonstrate the truth of C.S. Lewis’ famous statement by Aslan in Prince Caspian, that “Things never happen the same way twice.” God wants us to depend on the Holy Spirit because He may be up to something that we can’t see.
But do we really believe God will fight like this through us?
I never get tired of telling this story about a Christian Educators’ member from Pennsylvania:
Matthew is an FCA club adviser, and during a recent Christmas season, his school invited all student clubs to decorate the door/entryway of the classrooms in which they met. Matthew’s FCA club decorated his door with a nativity scene as well as a powerful presentation of the gospel. However, fearing that it was a constitutional violation, the principal directed Matthew to remove the display.
Matthew called us ready to fight, believing this to be an infringement of his religious liberty. But through discussion and prayer with a Christian Educators’ consultant, Matthew came to realize that this was actually a violation of his students’ rights, not his. We advised Matthew to comply with the principal’s request but to inform his students and their parents of their legal options. We connected them to a pro bono attorney to represent the FCA club.
The results were dramatic. Once the students and parents found their voice, assisted by this attorney, God moved powerfully. A few days later, the principal came back to Matthew and directed him to have his club restore the display! The Christmas display received far more attention than it would have otherwise, and Matthew received favor from his principal as a trusted colleague rather than an angry adversary. His humble and prayerful response won a bigger victory than he ever could have won by responding as an offended party.
As ambassadors for Christ in our public (and private!) schools, let this holiday season be a reminder that we are, in fact, called to fight. But rather than using the world’s methods to fight a culture war, know that we are fighting a kingdom war that is above and before the struggles in our culture.
So let’s remember to fight on our knees in prayer, and with humble and unoffendable hearts to step out in obedience as led by the Holy Spirit, trusting in a God that never does it the same way twice.
Free to Teach is written to inform, encourage, and inspire Christian educators serving in our public schools. It should not be construed as legal advice provided by an attorney.
David Schmus is the Executive Director of Christian Educators.
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