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Identifying the Enemy

But put on the Lord Jesus Christ,

and make no provision for the flesh

in regard to its lusts.

Romans 13:14 (NAS)

Let us be Christ’s men from head to foot,

and give no chances to the

flesh to have its fling.

J.B. Phillips Paraphrase

When Bill, Pres, and I began our counseling ministry, we would meet for lunch (and any other time available) and ask each other, now just what do you think the “flesh” is? Hours on end we researched, read, reviewed our clients’ histories, and pursued that quest. Well, here is the answer through our own revelation. Ask the Lord to give you insight into your unique version of the flesh. Yes, it’s painful, but absolutely necessary and you have to be able to identify your enemy!

There’s always a first step, the starting block. As God’s children, the Bill and Anabel team started playing the game God’s way when we finally realized our inadequacy to meet life with the tools we had created, confessing, “God, we can’t. You’re going to have to do it.”

Psalm 84:7 says, Blessed is the man who has come to know that You are his strength. That’s step #1. We bravely took that step and then, with great expectations, bolted out of the starting block to abundant life–only to find the baggage we carried weighted us down. We seemed to have sand in our gears. What was wrong?

A good question. You’re pretty sure to be defeated if you can’t even identity the enemy! That sand which can make life such a grind is what the Bible calls flesh.

The word flesh has more than one meaning in Scripture, but the one we’re interested in means: your efforts to meet the circumstances that come into your life your way–compensating for your weaknesses or capitalizing on your strengths–doing things your way. We begin methodically developing such techniques from our first breath of earth-air as we clutch desperately for the commodity that Jesus said we all need: love. We learn to manipulate, we pout, we smile, we perform, we give up, we achieve, we attain acceptance, we suffer rejection, we constantly test various techniques, and those techniques that produce love or those that protect us from the pain of not being loved become the patterns for living which make up our unique version of the flesh.

Anabel: I developed some very “successful” flesh patterns. From my earliest childhood recollection I learned how to merit love–I performed! Performance-based acceptance. Then I concluded that if you accepted me when I perform well, you’d think I was Miss Wonderful if I performed perfectly, so I added being a super perfectionist to my flesh list. My techniques worked; you loved me. But detrimental patterns of performance-based self-acceptance, constant introspection, and super-sensitivity to any criticism resulted in my being a driven, insecure person. Tack on two more patterns developed through twenty years in a very unhappy marriage–depression and suicidal tendencies–and you’ve got my MO (flesh patterns) for meeting life my way. What a mess! My motto was, If I can’t do it by myself, I’m certainly not going to ask God to do it for me! He expects me to handle these problems. Why did He give me a brain? Sigh. He finally answered my query: “So you could understand My way, Anabel.”

Bill: I was reared in an upside down marriage; Mom was our authority and Pop submitted to her. I loved my folks, but they modeled unbiblical gender roles to me. My God-given need for self-acceptance (love) includes seeing myself as the protector/leader/provider of my wife some day, which seemed unattainable. I compensated by developing macho flesh, striving to be what the world calls a “reeel” man. I developed flesh patterns of profanity, had to play football, an industrial-strength enchantment with sex, hostility toward strong females, etc. but I could never merit self-love–respect for myself!

Then I married Anabel–Miss Wonderful–competent, intelligent, proficient in many things like taking care of the yard, the checkbook, household decisions, etc. This insecure male sought out and married the only type of security he’d ever known–a strong, capable female. But, when the smoke cleared from the honeymoon and Anabel began acing her role while I seemed glued to the starting block, I began to unleash my hidden hostility on her: criticism, invective, etc., which motivated her to perform better, producing more hostility in me, ad infinitum. We were deeply committed Christians who existed for twenty years in that blissful state of marriage called hell on earth!

How many of us bolt out of the starting block and then fall flat on our face because our

flesh is just too embedded, controlling, and messy? At least we’ve identified the culprit, and that’s half the battle. But how to win? Give up trying and let Jesus live through you. He can overcome your flesh. Oh, it won’t be an overnight miracle but one little episode of victory tells us “This is possible!”

Now you have identified the enemy and you also know how to defeat that enemy. Yes, we shared this God-given revelation with our counselees and we rejoiced with them in their victory. Let us rejoice with you. Remember, Jesus Christ will do it all for you!

Lovingly, Anabel

About the Author

Anabel spent decades teaching in many contexts through Lifetime Guarantee Ministries. She has taught countless others how to have a genuine intimate faith and a sound marriage. She shared from her heart about living from the heart. Lifetime’s beloved founder and mentor passed away November 7, 2010. Her legacy and influence are timeless and priceless.