The Battle for Control

One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them. –from The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Lord God took the man and placed him in the garden of Eden to work it and watch over it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree of the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die.” Genesis 2:15-17(HCSB)

Two things were common in the area of western Pennsylvania where I grew up: farms and coal mines. One did not need to travel far from town to find a herd of cows leisurely grazing in a field. Little did they realize that the fences surrounding them served as signs of their impending doom. The day would arrive soon enough for the butcher to do his deadly work.

Abandoned coal mines were less abundant, but still easy to find—especially by curious teens. On one occasion, some friends and I discovered an abandoned mine on the hill behind my Uncle Johnny’s house. Carved into the side of a hill, we could have walked right into the mine shaft. Although tempted to do so, enough wisdom had somehow seeped into our teenage male brains to prevent us from going further. Old coal mines have unstable ceilings—if not for a brief moment of good judgment, writing this book would have been nothing more than unfulfilled potential!

Protective Boundaries

Thankfully, most abandoned mine shafts had fences. Those boundaries, however, served a very different purpose than the ones around the cow pastures. Rather than keeping captives, they were intended only to keep us safe. Such is the nature of the only restriction given by God in the garden of Eden. Its sole purpose was to keep the inhabitants of the garden safe from harm.

God alone is free to do whatever He wants; His only boundaries are self-imposed. Humans, on the other hand, are finite creatures. If we transgress the oxygen boundary, for example, we suffocate. If we attempt to escape gravity, we may fall to our deaths. If we go without sleep for any length of time, our bodies suffer greatly. Boundaries are necessary for our well-being. Any difficult wilderness journey will become all the more grievous if we transgress these God-given lines.

It’s All about Control

Because our Creator is amazingly wise and powerful, He doesn’t need to directly control others to accomplish His will. Fallen angels (demons), on the other hand, are limited in wisdom, power, and authority. Possessing an incessant lust for power that finds fulfillment only through the domination of others, they always seek to control all that surrounds them in order to get what they want.

Unfortunately, because Adam and Eve obeyed the voice of the serpent rather than God, they and their descendants inherited the same controlling tendencies of Satan and his demons. More problematic still, is the fact that in seeking to have our own way, humans play into Satan’s hands, serving only as naïve pawns in his destructive game.

A Lesson from Tolkien

Through his imaginative fantasy, The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien brilliantly portrayed a host of Biblical realities in creative form. Real life, the sage Tolkien understood, is but a nonstop battle for control that plays itself out in unfamiliar wilderness territory. And our options, it seems, are only two. We either wisely surrender our human wills to the will of God, or we seek control for ourselves, foolishly playing into Satan’s schemes.

To put this issue into Biblical language, we fully embrace God’s kingdom rule, or we become hapless and disposable subjects in the kingdom of darkness. Those who try to control the circumstances of their lives and the people around them will soon find themselves traversing a barren spiritual wilderness, isolated from His loving presence.

The Wisdom of Boundaries

Why do we need boundaries? Not to constrain us, but to keep us safely within the territory of God’s kingdom. No matter what area of life we consider, controlling spirits of one form or another will always arise as they seek to dominate and destroy. A primary responsibility of every Christian, then, is to live and lead in such a way as to facilitate the advance of God’s kingdom—to the exclusion of that which seeks to control.

The battle is deceptive, ferocious, and at times unpleasant. We, therefore, must be wise and vigilant to draw boundary lines to protect us, our families, and our ministries from the controlling tendencies of man and devil.

This post is drawn from Chapter Twenty-Nine of Bob’s devotional: Champions in the Wilderness—Fifty-Two Devotions to Guide and Strengthen Emerging Overcomers