“Villains Gonna Villain”: Cracking the “Action/Reaction” Code

Choosing a “favorite” game villain can be a bit of a challenge… while almost every gaming experience is driven by an antagonist who propels our character forward on their journey, there are a handful of these opponents who were truly unforgettable. For some, their appetite for evil was only matched by their impeccable sense of style… enter Sephiroth and his iconic look that shouted “VILLAIN” long before he made his intentions clear. For others, it is their persistence to come back time and time again despite being soundly defeated in each of their previous attempts… I have shown Bowser, Ganon, and Dr. Robotnik the end credits to their respective adventures more times than I can count, but they refuse to accept that conclusion and always find a way back. My personal “favorites” are the ones who can ALMOST convince me that I am the one who is mistaken… characters like the Illusive Man from Mass Effect or Liquid Snake/Revolver Ocelot from MGS who have a rationalization for their actions that gives their horrific crusade a strangely compelling argument. Of course, they are ALL still wrong… but some find just enough justification for their behaviors to make them the hero of their own story.

As gamers, we know that villains are a critical part of our gaming adventures, and we previously explored their value and importance in the article and video below…

The thing that makes most of these villains so incredibly memorable isn’t merely their flawed ideology… it is the way they try to convince us that they are right. For many of these villains, it is not enough to merely defeat us. As a matter of fact, this is often secondary to their greater need… to corrupt us into accepting their twisted worldview. They NEED us to agree with them… to fall victim to the exact same broken lines of logic that led to their villainous fall. Many of them even offer their hand in partnership if we will simply bend our knee to their cause… and when we know that the battle to defeat them will be incredibly intense and challenging, there can often be a small part of us that ALMOST wants to take that offer as a means of avoiding the chaos that will follow.

I will confess that if given the choice, I would avoid as many of my real-world battles as I could… while I understand that they are used by the Lord to support the development of my personal character as well as to push me in the direction of my destiny (Genesis 50:20), that doesn’t mean that they are enjoyable or appreciated in the moment. But there are layers to these “boss fights” that go far beyond our natural understanding and are part of a narrative that is being played out in a dimension far beyond our comprehension… and if we take a peek behind the curtain together, we may find that the villain of our tale has a very specific motivation for the struggle we are currently enduring. And understanding this may be more important to our story than we may realize… let’s step through the looking glass together.

Job 1:6-11 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. And the Lord said to Satan, “From where do you come?” So Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it.” Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?” So Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!”

There are very few times in the Bible where we see the veil pulled back all the way… and in the story of Job, we get a very intimate glimpse into a day in the life of satan, the ultimate villain of all of our stories. On the surface, this is the story of Job and the tragedies that he patiently endures while forces beyond his awareness engage in an epic “duel of the fates”. But in truth, this is one of the deepest glimpses we receive at the villainous motivations beyond the enemy of our souls… and if we can crack the code, we may gain the upper hand in the battles we are each currently facing. Like all of our favorite video game villains, satan gives away his entire plan during his monologue… did you catch it?

Job 1:11 But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!

Destroying Job was secondary to his primary mission… Job’s happiness and material success were of little interest to satan. He had ONE great need… for Job to turn on God. How do we know this for sure? Well, like most of my experiences with gaming villains, he REPEATS himself just to make sure we heard him right the first time. Check it out in the very next chapter…

Job 2:1-5 Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the Lord. And the Lord said to Satan, “From where do you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it.” Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil? And still he holds fast to his integrity, although you incited Me against him, to destroy him without cause.” So Satan answered the Lord and said, “Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will surely curse You to Your face!”

It is almost like we pressed repeat on the cutscene… but this is an entirely different day, Job is in an entirely different circumstance, and yet again the endgame goal for satan is not the destruction of Job, but the destruction of Job’s RELATIONSHIP with God. And when his physical attacks on Job were unsuccessful, psychological warfare was the next step as Job’s very own wife chillingly echoes the EXACT same words that satan had previously established as his endgame goal… to get Job to curse God and sever their relationship.

Job 2:7-10 So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord, and struck Job with painful boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And he took for himself a potsherd with which to scrape himself while he sat in the midst of the ashes. Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

This series of events in the life of Job reveal the true motivation behind the enemy’s attacks on our lives… while it is certainly true that he has come to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10), in the case of Job it becomes clear that these are only a means to an end. Destroying us is secondary to his “glorious purpose”… to bring us down to his level so we will respond to God the same way he did. And understanding this can help us adjust how we defend ourselves against his attacks, because if we truly grasp what he is trying to accomplish, we can deny him of his warped desires and stand victorious even in the midst of the chaos just as Job did.

Job’s victory over satan was not accomplished when his family, health, and wealth were restored… that was merely the epilogue of his story. His portion of this supernatural battle was successful when he denied satan the ability to control his REACTION to the circumstances he was in… while on the outside nothing had changed, on the inside Job refused the repeated barrage of attacks designed to get him to turn on the Lord, reconsider his belief in Him, and doubt His goodness. And as we see with the Apostle Paul in his personal battles with satan, there is a consistent method to our enemy’s attacks on us… but with that, just like every great video game villain, there is also a consistent “weak spot” for us to exploit within these blistering attacks.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Just as the case with Job, we see that Paul’s victory is not in the RESULT of his prayers, but in his RESPONSE to the battle. Paul did NOT receive relief in the form of an answer to his requests… he received a reminder that even in these challenging circumstances, this was being used for his benefit. And rather than become bitter or frustrated that he did not get what he asked for, Paul chose to change his ATTITUDE about what he was currently enduring. For all of us who are currently enduring challenging battles against an enemy that refuses to back down, I have some good news and some bad news. The bad news is that “villains are gonna villain”… we DO have a relentless enemy who will never stop trying to find ways to get us to “curse God” (1 Peter 5:8-9). He will alter his tactics, seek changes to the rules of engagement, attack from the inside and the outside, and will never EVER give up. But he has also given away his entire scheme in the process and revealed his “weak spot”… he wants to control our reactions to these circumstances, lowering us to his way of thinking and questioning God’s love and grace. And defeating him is both as difficult and simple as leaning fully on the Lord’s grace to deny satan the ability to control our response.

When confronting the villains in our video games, there is no room for sympathizing with their cause… no matter how captivating their promises may seem, the reality is they are always at least one flawed concept away from being right. If we roll into that final battle unprepared to ignore their transparent attempts to weaken our resolve, we will allow that distraction to blind us to the giant sword they are prepared to plunge through our heart during our hesitation. We have to enter that final chamber firmly committed to their defeat, no matter how compelling their arguments are. We must focus on how to defend against their attacks, how to time our responses, and when to exploit the vulnerabilities their attack pattern creates. And the same is true in the life of a believer… if we are going to weather the attacks of our enemy, we must first stand firm on what we know to be true and prepare ourselves for the inevitable combat that will follow (Ephesians 6:10-11). But this war is not a physical battle… it is a war in our MIND to control how we react and respond to the supernova level attacks of our adversary (Ephesians 6:12-13).

As we saw in the trials of Job, all of the schemes we face from our enemy to harm us and destroy our lives comes down to one simple purpose… to control our reactions to these circumstances and convince us to turn our hearts away from the Lord. Thus, the greatest tactic we possess to deny him of his goals is to do the exact opposite of his desire… to remind ourselves that there is NOTHING that can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39), and control what we say and do in reaction to these constant, unrelenting attacks on our hearts, bodies, and minds. Our enemy will never quit… this is the only battlefield he has, and he knows his time is short (Revelation 12:12). Like a video game villain at the endgame of our adventures, they are not going to hold anything back… this battle will be a fully powered, ultimate attack showcase of the most potent capabilities they possess. But the good news is we don’t have to win this battle or even fight it… Christ has already done that part for us (Colossians 2:15). All we are charged with doing is enduring to the end and keeping our faith in the midst of this onslaught (Matthew 24:13, Hebrews 3:14). Let’s deny our enemy access to the words we say, the thoughts we think, and our reactions to these undesired and unpreventable attacks on us. Instead, let’s use these circumstances to do exactly what he was trying to prevent… to press us even closer into a relationship with the Father that is not dependent on our external situation, but on a foundation of love and trust that refuses to be shaken, no matter how dedicated our adversary is to convince us we are wrong. After all, that is what villains do… they want us to believe that we are no different or better than they are. But as every video game villain I have ever faced has eventually found, they made one very large miscalculation… this is NOT their story and the script has already determined that they are destined for defeat. The only decision left to be made is to reject their false narrative and set our reactions to JOY in the midst of all of these struggles… and if we will refuse to bend the knee and hold strong to our faith, we will find that there will always be one additional “Party Member” standing victoriously in the fiery furnace with us (Daniel 3:8-25).

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