We all have them. The great peacemakers of the world had enemies: Jesus Christ, Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Jr., to name a few. Enemies thrive on our ignorance and weakness. Our sorrow and failure invigorates them. Our happiness and success infuriates them. Enemies are often family members and can disguise themselves as friends. Friends often become enemies. And enemies can become friends. Confucius said, The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names. In distinguishing and discerning these “right names,” we not only gain wisdom, we shield ourselves against an enemy’s fiery darts.
Enemies = Opposition = Potential Intellectual, Spiritual, and Emotional Growth
I’ve decided that enemies are part of the universal order of things—a form of opposition. As Nephi tells us, “There must needs be opposition in all things.” Webster’s dictionary defines “enemy” as a person who is actively opposed or hostile to someone or something. Synonyms include “opponent, adversary, rival, challenger, antagonist, and opposer.” In other words, anyone or anything can morph into an enemy. Interestingly, the proportional number of one’s enemies often corresponds to one’s success. In short, success has a byproduct: enemies.
A Psychology Today article gives us further insight:
[Our company teaches] people to look at two relationship parallel continuums: unconditional and conditional. Step #1 is to assign the [work] relationship to the proper continuum. Our operational definition of friends is “unconditional trust.” “Unconditional mistrust” is our definition of enemies. You can count on them to work against your interests regardless of your behavior. We see friends and enemies as existing along a common relationship continuum called “unconditional.” Friends and enemies are the North Stars. Reliable enemies can be more reassuring than unstable [friends]. Sometimes leaders cultivate enemies. At the institutional level, having powerful enemies give zest, self-definition, and consistency: Coke needs a Pepsi, Venezuela needs the United States. Enemies provide predictability in an unpredictable world (“Platform for Success,” 2013, para. 5).
Jesus Christ’s perfection naturally created enemies—His success and power bred the contempt of many people. His enemies proportionately increased right along with His popularity. Furthermore, His ability to discern and anticipate His enemies is consistently highlighted in New Testament writings. And through His example and with the help of the Spirit, we too, can learn and develop similar powers of discernment for our protection and empowerment from adversaries.
The Significance of an Enemy
We know that conflict, antagonism, subterfuge, and complicity are central themes in the scriptures. The Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price continually juxtapose the motives of the good guys versus the bad guys. Time and again, the scriptures teach us this vital principle: When led by the Spirit, the good guys always win. And asking God to help us fight our battles is the absolute key to winning.
Clearly then, enemies can create fertile ground for spiritual growth. Think about it: Where would David be without a Goliath? Nephi without Laman and Lemuel? Moses without Pharaoh? Esther without Haman? The list is endless. History shows us that anyone who achieved greatness had enemies who played an integral role in molding that greatness. Undoubtedly, growth is proportional to opposition.
During my lifetime, I’ve learned far more from my enemies than from my friends. Despite the tough learning curve, my enemies taught me many principles: discipline, courage, humility, boundaries, love, forgiveness, grace, transcendence over anger and sadness. In short, my enemies brought me closer to God.
Dr. Mike Murdoch of Life Giving Ministries gives an insightful analysis of enemies. I can personally testify to the truth of every one of these points:
- You will always have enemies (Matthew 6).
- Your enemy is anyone who attempts to sabotage the assignment God has for your life (Deuteronomy 13:6, 8-9, Galatians 5:7-9).
- Your enemy is any person who resents your desire for increase and the rewards it brings (1 Samuel 17:28).
- Your enemy is anyone unhappy over your progress (Ezra 4:4,5, 23-24).
- Your enemy is anyone who attempts to kill your faith (Nehemiah 4:1-6).
- Your enemy should not be feared (Matthew 10:28. We also see this theme throughout the Doctrine and Covenants).
- The perfect will of God is your deliverance from your enemy (2 Thessalonians 3:2).
- The Holy Spirit will provide answers concerning your enemy (Matthew 10:19-20).
- Your fasting can move the hand of God in destroying your enemy (Joel 2:15, 19-20).
- God will fight for you against your enemy (Deuteronomy 20:4).
- Your enemy will not be allowed by God to win (Psalm 118:6).
- Your enemy is a natural and necessary part of your life (John 15:18-21).
- You cannot defeat your enemy in your own strength (2 Corinthians 3:5-6, 10:3-6).
- God expects you to prepare your defense against your enemy (Ephesians 6:10-11).
- Your enemy provides God an opportunity to reveal his commitment to you (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
- The wisdom for conquering your enemy will be imparted in your secret place of prayer (Psalm 27:5-6).
- An uncommon enemy will require uncommon wisdom (Psalm 119:98; James 1:5).
- Your greatest weapon against your enemy is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17).
- The Holy Spirit will teach you the principles of warfare against your enemy (Psalm 114:1).
- You must enter every battle against your enemy for the purpose of bringing glory to God (1 Samuel 17:45-47).
- You should expect to win every battle against your enemy (1 Samuel 17:46).
- The Holy Spirit will reveal any snare prepared by your enemy (2 Corinthians 2:11).
- The Holy Spirit within you is more powerful than any enemy that you will ever face (1 John 4:4).
- Your enemy will attack you at the birth of any significant season in your life (Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13).
- Any enemy causes movement in your life (1 Samuel 17:55-58; 18: 1-5).
- Your enemy exposes your weaknesses and reveals your limitations (Judges 16: 18-21).
- Your enemy today could possibly become your greatest ally tomorrow (Acts 9:13, 15).
- The only true difference between a “nobody” and a “somebody” is the enemy they decided to conquer (1 Samuel 18:6-7).
- Your enemy is the difference between obscurity and significance (1 Samuel 18:6-7).
- Anything good always has an enemy (Acts 8:3).
- Your enemy is as necessary as your friend (1 Samuel 20:30-33).
- Your enemy is your opportunity to reveal your difference from others (1 Kings 18:17-40).
- When you discover your spiritual assignment, you will discover your enemy (Daniel 10:12-13).
- The enemy you fail to destroy will eventually destroy you (1 Samuel 15:1-35; 2 Samuel 1:5-10).
- You will never just “outgrow” your enemy–you must simply learn to fight (Joshua 1:1-11).
- Any uncontested enemy will flourish (2 Samuel 15:1-6; James 4:7).
- The reaction of your enemy is proof of your progress (1 Samuel 18:9-15).
- Any move you make in the right direction will be instantly be addressed by your enemy (Nehemiah 2:9-10).
- Your enemy should be confronted in the timing of the Spirit and with the right spiritual weaponry (Acts 16:16-18).
- An uncommon enemy can be defeated through uncommon endurance (Matthew 10:22).
- It is wise to avoid confrontation with your enemy when possible (Matthew 10:23; Romans 12:14-21).
- It is wise to make peace with your enemy when possible (Matthew 5:25, 39-42).
- Your enemy will attempt to involve you in unnecessary battles which promise little or no reward (2 Samuel 15:10-12).
- An enemy will ultimately reveal the greatness of God to you (Exodus 14:26-27).
I’ve learned to stop feeling anxious, angry, and guilty because someone doesn’t like me or wants to take me down a notch or two. Instead, I’ve turned that negative energy into a positive learning experience. In my next post, I’ll write about specific ways we can utilize the Spirit in helping us deal with an enemy.
Let’s fight the GOOD fight!