When to Hold and When to Fold

When we witness the subtle control evil exercises through the blindness and stiff-necked resistance to God’s words in the heart of someone we love, it is easy to become frustrated and cause our well intentioned testimony to become an unproductive argument. When our prayers seem to go unanswered and we tire from the constant struggle of an interaction that bears no fruit, we wonder if we should give up or increase our effort. But the truth is that knowing when to hold and when to fold and why we should do so are important factors to consider.

As children of God we desire to be kind, empathetic, and compassionate while also being strong, firm and have no fellowship with evil. Ephesians 5:11 says, “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” Yet in Galatians 6:2 we are told, “Bear ye one another’s burdens.” On the surface these verses seem contradictory, but other parts of scripture show us that each has their place in how we bring testimony.

Our life as children of God requires us to care for our spiritual life, the spiritual life of our family and to bring others testimony of God’s plan of salvation and the sacrifice of Christ. To be effective we have to utilize God’s teaching through scripture in word and deed, and to pray specifically about each situation we encounter. But we also have to act within the parameters of God’s direction and this means that we must understand that we are dealing with the power of Satan.

When we fully understand that we battle powers and principalities we are not as easily discouraged by the unkind or ungodly words and deeds that our testimony might evoke nor of the appearance of a failed testimony. Scripture teaches us that when we bring testimony to someone under satanic control, we are not dealing with only the person to whom we speak, but also with the spirit that holds them captive. That spirit considers the child of God a danger to its existence and is aware that their words and deeds have the power to remove them from the heart it has entered. That spirit will put up a fight to thwart all testimony and direct its venom toward the person bringing that testimony. But the greater the attack, the more impact we are making on the soul. Ephesians 6:10 tells us, “….Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.”

When we acknowledge that we are not dealing with the person to whom we bring the testimony, but with the spirit that is determined to remain comfortably in their heart, we must ask God to help us discern when it is time to hold and hammer away, or time to fold and come back another day with our testimony. It is imperative for the children of God to understand that by providing constant assistance to a soul, we may be aiding, abetting and enabling that spirit to thrive, rather than helping the soul rid itself of the spirit that impels the behavior that is not pleasing to God. This is a very important point for all children of God to consider when engaging in testimony.

To be effective against these spirits we must understand the term “tough love”. The tough love approach advocates that we carefully assess the assistance or interaction we provide to determine whether or not our intervention is aiding and abetting the harmful behavior of that soul. If so, we have become what is termed an “enabler”. These terms are often used when addressing those burdened by a drug addiction but work for all behaviors that are not pleasing to God.

Neither action of holding or folding indicates that we are winning or have given up. Both actions have a time and a place in our testimony, and both actions are godly. It is not an either or situation when we hold and fold, but a combination that allows us to bring our testimony through word and deed (hold) while firmly refusing to enable (fold).

The term to “hold or fold” is used in the card game of Poker to describe the decision to increase a bet in the hope of winning, or withdraw from further betting because one feels that they cannot win. Sometimes a bluff will create a win as well. Similarly, the child of God deciding to hold or fold is making the decision to provide testimony to the person in need while being careful to walk away before providing assistance to the spirit in control. The power of the spirit in control knows and fears those who recognize him and know its needs. When the child of God “holds” by identifying and “starving” the spirit they are addressing it will fold by looking for greener pastures.

Amazingly, scripture tells us how to cause an invading spirit to leave. Mark 9:29 tells us: “This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.” In this context the word fasting means denying or starving the spirit of what it desires. Once we have developed our approach through a full understanding of what God teaches us about invading spirits, we will no longer feel guilty when denying certain forms of assistance, nor be angered when meeting with resistance. We will no longer lose heart or think of giving up.

This infuriates the spirit and lets it know that it has been recognized, rebuked and will no longer be “fed” what it desires. When we know that we face a spirit, not the soul invaded by that spirit, we can cope with angry reactions to our conversations and continue in testimony. And we are better armed to teach its victim why they are separated from God and how to be free. Once the soul acknowledges this as well, the spirit knows its days are numbered and our testimony will bear fruit.

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