Every once in awhile, it feels like something is afoot in ministry and not in a good way.
1 Peter 5:8-9 says "Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings."
I'm not a demon behind every bush kind of person, but every once in awhile, I'll notice an uptick in bad things happening. A not a random uptick, but what is a strategic effort on the part of the devil to undermine a group of believers. It usually looks like a wave of negative: people feeling depression, sickness, anger, conflict among the congregation, marriages hitting a rough patch, burnout among volunteers, job losses or other financial burdens. Some of this is everyday living--but when it hits in waves, you know it's the enemy creating havoc, trying to devour those that are following Jesus. It has more effect to hit many people at the same time instead of one person at a time. This stretches the resources of the church and creates other problems.
We should not be ignorant church, we are fighting a war against the forces of the kingdom of darkness. Even though they've been defeated on the cross, they still have potent ways to hurt Jesus' Kingdom. I liken it to the Battle of the Bulge in WWII. Hitler's armies were defeated and couldn't win the war after that moment, but they were still able to inflict casualties and havoc. Our enemy is always looking for someone to devour. But we are able to resist.
First, church, pray for one another. Pray specifically that all demonic powers would be removed from our path so that we, as a church, will have the strength to be effective Kingdom workers. Pray that individuals experiencing sickness or suffering would be protected by the Holy Spirit. Pray for God to make our paths straight and keep us from harm. Pray God's will be done at CMF. Pray for your sisters and brothers, and pray for your leaders. And don't just pray when things go bad--pray in the good times as well so that people can remain vigilant and healthy.
Second, church, look at your own life and stand firm. The enemy wants to hit you where you are weak or blind. If there is unrepentant sin in your life, repent of it and seek accountability and help dealing with it. Unrepentant sin is like giving an invitation to the enemy to cause pain and suffering in your life and those around you. Also, open your life up to your brothers and sisters and have them reflect back to you what you can work on. You may not know in what ways you hurt others or yourself, and allowing others to speak into your life can open your eyes. Not every working of the enemy is due to our sin, but we can make it harder to attack us by removing sin in our lives.
Third, keep the faith. To follow Jesus is to become a target of the enemy of Jesus. And that enemy, the devil, is always looking for ways to discourage you, keep you from a life of transparency and accountability, and trapped in your old ways of sin. Resist him by embracing Jesus. Embrace your suffering as a sure sign that you're on the right path in following Jesus, and keep on that path. Help others keep the faith by using your resources and gifts to encourage them. To be the hands and feet of Jesus when it feels like Jesus is far away. It's the small things in life that remind us that God is bigger than the devil. Don't be ashamed or turn away from those who want to help--you were not meant to battle alone.
We won't be free from suffering in this life, but we can do something besides suffer. Set your frame of mind, not on earthly things, but on heavenly things. Give space and walk with those around you who are suffering. Don't be afraid to share your suffering with others, as we are all undergoing the same thing as believers. Prayerfully prepare yourself and be ready at any time to help others or to stand firm when you are attacked.
Two books for reference if you want to read more:
Sit, Walk, Stand by Watchman Nee
Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis