The Element of Surprise (Boot Camp for Creators & Dreamers 21.9)

Dr. Abraham Erskine saw great promise in “a skinny kid from Brooklyn.”

Captain America, the First Avenger continues to offer valuable truths regarding dreams, determination and spiritual warfare. The hero, Steve Rogers, has a big dream (to serve in the U.S. Army during WWII). Trouble is, Steve’s a sickly ninety-pound weakling who can’t pass the enlistment physical — until his mentor Dr. Erskine injects Steve with a super-soldier serum. Now Steve is realizing his once impossible dream — and then tragedy strikes! A Nazi saboteur gains access to the secret facility where Steve’s transformation is taking place, and shoots and kills Dr. Erskine!

The military facility chosen for Steve’s transformation into a super soldier was fortified and heavily guarded. It was supposed to be a safe and secure environment for Dr. Erskine to work … among friends and allies only. So the presence of a Nazi spy took everyone by surprise. Even the MPs were caught off guard by the actions of this saboteur, and the consequences were horrible: death, destruction, and great personal loss.

In any wartime situation, the element of surprise always gives one the advantage. It allows one to attack their enemy at its weakest and most vulnerable moment — when it’s least expected and they’re totally unprepared. For instance, the unprovoked attack on Pearl Harbor on December 6, 1941 was a total surprise, and resulted in chaos and mass destruction for the U.S. Forces stationed there.

Understanding this strategy, the time and precise location for the Invasion of Normandy on D-Day was one of the most heavily guarded secrets of WWII. As was the Manhattan Project, which resulted in the creation of the world’s first atomic bomb. Maintaining secrecy is vital to having the upper hand in military strategy. And uncovering the secrets of one’s enemy is just as important — which explains the presence of spies (often where they are least expected).

Counterintelligence is vital to the war effort. In spiritual warfare, we believers have our own Department of Counterintelligence. Thanks to God’s spiritual training manual (the Bible) for Boot Camp and Life in general, we can know exactly how Satan operates and what his evil plans are. It’s like having an army of super spies! Hence, we don’t have to ever get caught off guard. To the contrary, we have the element of surprise to our advantage.

In Captain America, The First Avenger, the enemy was able to sneak in and wreak havoc: Dr. Erskine is killed, a Nazi spy manages to swipe a vial of the doctor’s secret formula, and part of the facility is blown up. Sound familiar? Satan, too, likes to sneak in. And he also “comes to steal, kill and destroy.” (John 10:10) But since we know his tactics, since we know the enemy of our soul is relentless, Satan has lost the element of surprise!

The Apostle Peter writes, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” (1Peter 5:8 NKJV) And we particularly like the directness of the Message translation of Peter’s warning: “…Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up.”

Let’s be clear. Satan doesn’t fight fair. Like the bully he truly is, he’ll wait for the right opportunity to strike: when everything’s going just great and your guard is down; or when you’re already struggling through tough times and feeling a little spiritually weak; when you’re on a roll and you least expect it; and sadly, when your back is turned. Yes, the enemy of your soul loves to hit you where it hurts most: he’ll target the areas of your life where you’re most vulnerable — and he’ll even use those closest to you when he attacks! (See Boot Camp Session 14)

Satan loves to hit below the belt. And he loves to steal our peace, as we previously discussed. And yet, we still have the advantage. First, we have everything we need to defeat him. Second, as the Apostle Paul writes, “…We are not ignorant of his devices.” (2 Corinthians 2:11 NKJV) “The point is that we shouldn’t be outsmarted by … satan. We know what he’s up to!” (NTE) Thanks to the truth of God’s Word, we have a complete Intelligence Report on all of Satan’s tactics and activities: The who, what, when, where and why of all his foul schemes.

Steve Rogers’ first triumph on the road to realizing his hopes and dreams was bittersweet. What should have one of the happiest days in his life instead became an occasion for sorrow. With the tragic murder of his friend and mentor Dr. Abraham Erskine, Steve’s victory quickly turned to disappointment and sadness.

Fellow creators and dreamers (that’s all of us), another of Satan’s tactics is to use life’s disappointments to halt us in our tracks. Our enemy wants to discourage us to the point that we’ll give in and give up … on people, on God, on our hopes and dreams. Satan wants to derail us long before we reach our destination: the complete fulfillment of the unique plan and divine purpose God’s chosen for each and every one of us.

So, to paraphrase an Army recruiting poster, we can be all God intended us to be … or we can wind up being a train wreck. Don’t let Satan win!

Like Steve Rogers, who stood up to bullies, on both the streets of Brooklyn and the German front lines, we also must stand up to Satan, the ultimate bully. “Therefore,” the Apostle James writes, “submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:7-8 NKJV)

What’s more, if we’re going to realize our hopes and dreams, and live a victorious life, we must learn to overcome disappointment — because like wild onions growing amongst the honeysuckle, disappointments are a bittersweet fact of life! After all, we live in a fallen, imperfect world. It’s inhabited by imperfect people (that’s us) who have a knack (albeit an unintentional one) for letting us down. Then, too, there will always be a few who actually get their kicks by intentionally trying to hurt and disappoint us. Such people, whether or not they realize it, are rendering aid to the enemy; like that Nazi spy who struck down Dr. Erskine in the “Cap” movie, these “aggravating agents of antagonism” allow themselves to perpetrate evil.

It’s okay, though. We can foil the enemy and have victory over disappointments in life by putting our trust in God and our expectations on the Lord. HE is the only ONE who is PERFECT. And He will always see us through!

The Great Psalmist, King David, who suffered his fair share of disappointments, left these words of comfort and reassurance (Psalm 62:5-7 NKJV):

My soul, wait silently for God alone,

For my expectation is from Him.

He only is my rock and my salvation;

He is my defense; I shall not be moved.

In God is my salvation and my glory;

The rock of my strength,

And my refuge, is in God.

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The movie Captain America, the First Avenger continues to offer valuable truths regarding dreams, determination and spiritual warfare. The hero, Steve Rogers, has a big dream — to serve in the U.S. Army during WWII. Trouble is, Steve’s a sickly ninety-pound weakling who can’t pass the enlistment physical — until one day, when quite unexpectedly, he’s chosen by Dr. Abraham Erskine, for a great experiment. Suddenly, with Erskine’s help, Steve is on his way to realizing his seemingly impossible dream.

On the day of the great experiment, when Steve Rogers begins to see his once seemingly impossible dream start to come true — to be able to serve the cause of freedom by fighting the Nazi forces of tyranny — he also learns one of the cold hard facts of life.

As several military officers and government officials look on, Steve is placed into a chamber specially designed by the wealthy industrialist Howard Stark, enabling Dr. Abraham Erskine to inject his puny subject with a top-secret super soldier formula. Stark then turns a dial, flooding the chamber with “delta waves” — and an amazing (and for Steve, somewhat painful) transformation takes place.

In mere minutes, through rapid cellular regeneration, Steve grows from a scrawny 90-pound weakling, into the epitome of male perfection; from well below average to far above average; from a scrawny kid no one took notice of — who couldn’t buy his way into the army — to the man of the hour who’s destined to become the subject of military enlistment posters. Steve goes from runt to hunk!

Erskine’s process to transform Steve into a super soldier is a complete success, to the great relief of Special Agent Peggy Carter, who’d been tasked with helping Steve with his training. During those first weeks, and well before his transformation into a superman, Peggy had developed a romantic attachment to Steve. Like Dr. Erskine, she was willing to look beyond the surface, and saw something special in the young man.

The military and government observers are also relieved. One senator quips, “I can think of some folks in Berlin who are about to get very nervous.”

And of course, Steve is elated! The results of Erskine’s serum are far beyond his highest hopes and wildest imaginings. Finally, he can do his patriotic duty, in the war against German oppression. Finally, he has an open door to fulfill his destiny. “How do you feel?” Peggy asks. Steve responds in awe: “Taller!”

Unfortunately, while everyone is celebrating, and before Steve has a chance to enjoy the sweetness of the moment — of the first huge step on the path to realizing his hopes and dreams — or to mentally process how it will forever change his life for the better, tragedy strikes!

Also present at this highly classified experiment, taking place in a secret facility beneath the streets of Brooklyn, is a Nazi saboteur. Access to this well-guarded underground facility is granted only to those with the proper security clearance and knowledge of a confidential pass code. And yet, in this seemingly safe and secure environment where only friends and allies should be gathered, the enemy has infiltrated.

This evil spy shoots Dr. Erskine, detonates a bomb, and flees with a vial of the precious super serum, leaving behind him death, destruction and mass mayhem.

Steve immediately runs to the side of Dr. Erskine. As he kneels over his dying mentor, Erskine weakly points to Steve’s heart, to remind him of who he is; to remind him to Please remain a good man, even in the face of evil. Something the doctor asked Steve to promise him, as they sat in an army barracks the night before.

As his friend and mentor dies, Steve realizes that what should have been the happiest day in his life, when his dreams are just beginning to come true, has instead turned out to be one of the saddest. Erskine’s death is wrong, cruel, and illtimed. It’s a bitter disappointment that steals most of the sweetness of Steve’s first victory on the road to fulfilling his destiny.

How does all this relate to spiritual warfare and the pursuit of our dreams and creative endeavors? In a few ways, one of which we’ll discuss now. The rest we’ll address in later sessions. (Please bare with us, there’s a lot to unpack here.)

First and foremost: LIFE is often bittersweet!

Most creators and dreamers should be able to relate to Steve Rogers. Just when we’re well along our way to realizing our greatest hopes and dreams, just when we think we’ve finally got a break, found an open door, met a major goal … LIFE throws us an unexpected curve. Just when we think we’ve “arrived” — something totally wrong, seemingly cruel, and incredibly illtimed happens to steal away the sweetness of our little victory and dim the brightness of an otherwise glorious achievement.

The poet Maya Angelou writes, “You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” Indeed, it’s a sad truth, but there are plenty bumps along the road of life, plenty of brambles on the path to your destiny. We may stumble and fall, but what’s important is what we do after we get back on our feet — how we FEEL and what we THINK once we recover from a temporary disappointment or defeat.

Jesus said, “In the world you have tribulation and distress and suffering, but be courageous [be confident, be undaunted, be filled with joy]; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 AMP) In other words, regardless of what life dishes out, never lose heart in the pursuit of your goals and dreams. Stay faithful and you will get there.

By the way, one of Satan’s tactics of warfare is to try to steal your peace when “life happens.” But we have the perfect defense: God’s peace is not based on circumstances or feelings; it’s based on: who He is — “the Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6); who we are, and whose we are. As part of the family of God, we are heirs to His peace.

Interestingly, the Hebrew word for peace is Shalom. It means: complete; nothing missing, nothing lacking. The peace of God is knowing that no matter what circumstances or situation you find yourself, you have everything you need to meet the challenge. No wonder it’s a standard form of greeting: Peace be with you!

God’s concept of peace is also a part of the Aaronic blessing which Rabbis still declare over their congregants at the end of Jewish Sabbath services (Shabbat). Read it, in Numbers 6:24-26, and claim it’s truth.

Agent Peggy Carter encounters an explosive BUMP in the road, in front of the “secret” military installation where Steve underwent Dr. Erskine’s super-soldier experiment.

Have you hit a bump in the road? Is something or someone raining on your parade? If so, run to the loving arms of the Prince of Peace. Trust God even when life throws you an unexpected curve. Stay in peace (Shalom) even in the midst of negative circumstances. Life is often bittersweet, but we can choose not to allow it to sour our disposition or dim our outlook. Focus instead on God’s love, His goodness and His faithfulness. When you do, you’ll experience the complete triumph of which the prophet Isaiah writes:

“You will keep in perfect and constant peace the one whose mind is steadfast [that is, committed and focused on You—in both inclination and character], Because he trusts and takes refuge in You [with hope and confident expectation].” (Isaiah 26:3 AMP)