As a cat lover, I think the proverb, “There’s more than one way to skin a cat,” is one of the worst proverbs in the world. I discovered it originated from “There’s more than one way to kill a dog than hanging.” Then it changed to “There’s more than one way to kill a cat.” Then it evolved to “There’s more than one way to skin a cat.” The dog lovers must have changed the proverb, and they won!
Anyway, this proverb indicates that there is more than one solution to a problem or more than one way to achieve a goal. It teaches us to be resourceful and open our minds to think outside the box.
That reminds me of an ancient Chinese story. There once was a farmer who lived next to a hunter. The farmer made his living by raising sheep. The hunter next door had two hunting dogs. One night, the dogs discovered a hole in the sheep barn and went inside to attack the sheep.
The farmer went to the hunter to complain, and the hunter apologized and promised to ask his two sons to lock the dogs in at night. A couple of days later, the dogs managed to leave the home and come to make a mess in the sheep barn again.
The farmer knocked on the hunter’s house, and the hunter said the dogs jumped out of the windows. He promised to ask the kids to keep the windows shut at night. However, the problem persisted, and the farmer decided to go to the judge to complain. He told the judge, “I don’t want to make this public, but it’s getting intolerable.”
The judge said, “I have two solutions. The first is to punish your neighbor for his carelessness, and he will hate you. Do you want to live next door to an enemy? Otherwise, you have a second option. You must do as I say.” The farmer asked, “What must I do?” The judge’s idea didn’t make sense to him, but he decided to give it a try.
The next day, the farmer took two lambs and knocked on the hunter’s door. The hunter looked annoyed, but the farmer said, “Sorry to bother you all these days. I want to apologize by offering you these lambs as a gift for your children.” The two boys loved it because the lambs were cute and fluffy.
Suddenly, the hunter’s family built a nice fence to secure the lambs and kept the dogs inside the house at night to prevent them from harming the lambs at night. The farmer stayed awake at night, expecting the dogs to come again. But, to his surprise, the dogs never intrude on his barn from then on.
A few days later, the hunter showed up at his door and offered him fresh kills, reciprocating the gift the farmer gave their children. They became good neighbors. The farmer thanked the judge for his wisdom. There was indeed more than one way and better ways to win the fight.
“See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Mt 10:16).
Previously, we discussed how Jesus had greatness thrust upon us. This greatness is to proclaim the good news of the kingdom to reconcile the world. However, this fallen world resists change and is hostile to the good news, so Jesus describes our mission as being sent out like sheep into the midst of wolves and advising us to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”
Most people think Jesus is teaching us to be innocent and nothing more, but we need more than innocence because we are sheep among wolves. We are fighting spiritual warfare, and our enemy is formidable. We need to learn the art of war.
Like Sun Tzu’s Art of War, Jesus teaches us how to win the war without a fight. Today, we will look at Jesus’ art of war and learn how we can make a difference in this world victoriously. Let’s begin!
[Hi, in case we haven’t met yet, I am Sam Stone, the Lightkeeper—you are the light of the world, and I am the keeper! (No pun intended). It’s my calling to help you shine your brightest so that God is glorified in you and you are satisfied in God.]
The Scripture lesson for today is from the Gospel According to Matthew 10:24–39. [Listen to the Word of the Lord!]
“A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; 25 it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!
26 “So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. 27 What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. 28 Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 And even the hairs of your head are all counted. 31 So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.
32 “Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; 33 but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.
34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
35 For I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
36 and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.
37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. (Mt 10:24–39).
[Blessed are those who delight in God’s word. Thanks be to God!]
This passage is the continuation of last week’s passage, so to continue on the same train of thought, we will look at how the previous lesson ended. Jesus sends us out to harvest, but we will encounter resistance and animosity. We will encounter spiritual warfare. So, the teaching turns from a happy tone of harvesting to the art of war. The first principle of the art of war is,
1. Fight Creatively
Jesus said, “See, I am sending your out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Mat 10:16).
Some other versions of the Bible translate it as “be shrewd as serpents.” Jesus doesn’t want us to be like sitting meatloaves among the wolves. He is saying that even as sheep, we can win against the wolves if we deploy wisdom like serpents. It’s like David and Goliath.
David took down Goliath from a distance because he could not win if he fought close up. The goal is to take him down, not to prove who’s stronger. There’s more than one way to skin Goliath!
Talking about fighting, do you know cats are the best fighters of all animals? They can attack an opponent ten times bigger. Even Bruce Lee learned from cats how to fight. When they are cornered and scared, they will hiss with their mouths wide open.
According to animal scientists, they hiss to pretend to be poisonous snakes to repel attackers. They are an excellent example of being wise as serpents and innocent as doves. I think cats are God’s best creation, other than humans. They are soft and supple like liquid and strong and swift like a lethal weapon. They win the hearts of people without even trying. They know the art of war.
Jesus gives us an example of how how to be wise as serpents,
“When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.” (Mat 10:23).
You might have heard that the first principle of the art of war is “Run!” Running doesn’t mean losing or being a coward. If you cannot win close up, fight from a distance, or choose a different terrain where you can win. Your job is to harvest the most fruit. Jesus is saying that there are plenty of low-hanging fruit next door.
You will never run out of low-hanging fruit until he comes. So, why waste time in one place? Be creative and fight outside of the box.
Jesus wants us to be wise in where and when to fight. It’s like Keeny Rogers’ song:
You’ve got to know when to hold ’em; Know when to fold ’em;
Know when to walk away; And know when to run.
There are plenty of options and alternatives to proclaim the good news of the kingdom. Life’s short, don’t get stuck with a battle you can’t win. If Satan cannot make you bad, he will make you busy fighting a fruitless battle. Change the position so that you can win. Jesus wants us to focus on fruit, not the fight. So be creative.
2. Fight Courageously
That might sound a little contrary to the previous principle. But courage doesn’t mean recklessness or tactlessness. Courage and creativity are not against each other. You need both to win. If you know when to hold and when to fold, when to walk away, and when to run, you need the courage to implement it. Jesus said,
“Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Mat 10:28).
You are fighting spiritual warfare. Your enemies can only harm your body but not your spirit. So, you don’t need to fear them. As long as your spirit is not harmed, you have eternity to enjoy. Your spirit is safe since you belong to Christ. No one can harm you without God’s permission. Jesus said,
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.” (Mt 10:29–31).
Doubt can cripple courage. Jesus asks you whether you doubt your value in God’s eyes. God loves the sparrows, and you are worth more than many sparrows in God’s eyes. Don’t doubt your value. Fear is inevitable, but if you don’t have doubt, you can overcome fear. Courage is proceeding despite fear. You can move forward only when you can suspend doubt.
So fight courageously. First of all, you are safe for eternity. Secondly, no one can harm you without God’s permission. Then you might ask, what if God permits others to harm me? That leads to the next principle of Jesus’ art of war.
By “consequentially,” I mean making your sacrifice produce maximum impact. If you were to die, don’t let it die in vain. Since you are worth more than many sparrows, if God gambles your life, he wants multiple returns.
Jesus knew he was to be harmed. We can say God permitted Satan to harm him. Crucifixion is the worst way to die. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus requested God to remove that bitter cup, but only if it was God’s will. We know God’s will. God gambled his life to redeem the entire humanity. The price is high, but saving the whole world is worth the exchange.
In other words, Jesus’ death was strategic, wise, and consequential. The crucifixion sent a shockwave throughout history and around the world. It ignites the fire in the frozen hearts of the people to reflect and repent. In other words, Jesus was crucified, but the world bears the pain. For over two thousand years, the cross has continued to stimulate reflection. Jesus ended this conversation by saying,
“Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” (Mt 10:39).
The key word here is “for my sake,” meaning for the sake of the kingdom. That means when you lose your life, make it count. That implies not dying recklessly and tracklessly. Fight creatively, fight courageously, and when you must lose your life, make the world pay for it with repentance. Make it consequential. Die like a serpent on the pole, healing people from the deadly poison of sin.
Remember, Jesus went to the cross not just as an innocent Lamb but also as a wise serpent—just like the serpent on the pole described in the Exodus. Only God could have come up with that strategy. It’s a great example of even if you must die as an innocent lamb, make it worth it. Fight consequentially.
History has many heroes like that. Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered, and Joan of Arc was burned at the stake, but they all fought consequentially, making maximum impact for the kingdom’s sake.
There we have it. Three core strategies on the Art of Spiritual Warfare according to Jesus:
1. Fight Creatively
2. Fight Courageously
3. Fight Consequentially
Let us apply this in our life service and ministry to proclaim the kingdom, making a maximum impact and leaving a lasting legacy.
That’s it for today. I hope you find this message illuminating as much as I enjoy receiving it from the Head Office. Until we meet again, keep your light shining brighter and broader, and harvest the fruit of profound freedom, purpose, and happiness.