There may be no better evidence of our modern society’s obsession with superheroes than the current trending movies and TV shows. Marvel Studio’s “Black Panther” continues to dominate at the box office long after its opening weekend release. The same studio also leads Netflix with series like “Jessica Jones,” “Luke Cage,” and “Daredevil.” Rumors of the next “Avengers” films are constantly swirling on social media. I couldn’t even enter an Italian restaurant with my father tonight before being greeted by a TV screen playing FOX’s “Gotham.”
Indeed, we are a culture utterly infatuated with fictional characters like Superman, Batman, Iron Man, Captain America and thousands of others. Of course, what makes many of these heroes so unique is that — for all their strength and unstoppable force — they typically have that one, finite, nearly inaccessible weakness that could potentially render them completely vulnerable to defeat, pain or even death. Personally, I always thought this was sort of stupid. I mean, what’s the point of making a super-hero if he isn’t going to be completely “super” in the first place?
Eventually I came to realize that the weakness itself is, ironically, the entire point. If a hero doesn’t have a personal struggle — in addition to the forces of evil he’s already battling — then his story becomes rather bland and useless. Let’s face it: If Superman wasn’t vulnerable to Kryptonite, his tale wouldn’t be worth watching. If Iron Man wasn’t constantly worried about that darn piece of shrapnel crawling its way into his heart, he wouldn’t be nearly as fascinating of a character. Moreover, he might not even be half as motivated to act so heroically and we wouldn’t be paying $58 a ticket to cheer him on through such adversities.
The same is true of us as believers. We all have a “superpower.” If you’re a Christian, you have the Holy Spirit living inside of you. (Romans 8:9) That’s your superpower. In the spiritual world, this literally makes you an unstoppable force. No power of darkness can conquer you. Satan has no authority over you. The fight is over before it even begins. (Romans 8:31) Nothing on this planet is more powerful and more potent than the presence of the Holy Spirit at work in a true believer and follower of Jesus Christ. (1 John 5:4)
Unfortunately, even with all of this power living inside us, we have countless weaknesses. We have a sin nature. (Romans 3:23) We’re surrounded by a depraved culture. (Romans 1:26-29) We have daily physical, mental, spiritual and emotional struggles (not unlike the whimsical superheroes we so adore.) This is just the reality of the fallen world in which we live. And that’s why our Enemy is determined to rob us of the one bit of ammunition which might allow us to fight back: our belief in God. Everything hinges upon this.
Allow me to be perfectly clear: Satan would love nothing more than to unravel your faith and belief in Jesus faster than you can say “Iron Man 4.” He craves for you to exhibit unbelief. The very thought of it causes him to salivate. The Bible warns that he literally prowls around like a ravenous lion, waiting to pick you off from the herd. (1 Peter 5:8) This isn’t just true for average Christians, but for pastors, church leaders and all sorts of ministers as well. The authentic belief of a true Christ-follower is the means by which God delivers hope, truth, salvation, joy, grace and encouragement to the world. What better thing is there for Satan to attack? If he can cripple our belief and trust in God, then he can cripple our very lives and our outreach to unbelievers, thereby damaging or even hindering the spread of the Gospel. Through doubt and disillusionment, he can send us into such whirlwinds of turmoil that we will ultimately find ourselves lost, deceived and confused beyond anything we have ever known.
This is the spiritual battle in which we find ourselves as disciples of Christ. It’s real. It’s intense. The danger is grave. The stakes are high. Souls hang in the balance. Fortunately, we are not alone in the battle, as we are able to rely upon both the Holy Spirit as our Helper (John 14:26) and our fellow brothers and sisters in the faith. We can stand firm on the promises of God and cling to them in our times of uncertainty and disbelief.
So take heart! (John 16:33) He will help us overcome. He will help us be victorious.