Paul McDonald and Tommy Nifong discussed the Free session from the Outpost with Scott Wentz. Due to audio problems, we weren't able to share the podcast, but the conversation was so good, we had to do something. Below is a condensed, edited, and revised version of our conversation.
Paul: Scott, you introduced the concept of the dragon with this quote: “The brave men did not kill dragons. The brave men rode them.” Can you get into that concept a little more for us?
Scott: Yeah, I’ll give you a little bit of the background. It started with a post I wrote about taking on the battles. I came across that quote and it really resonated with me. We encourage men to take the perspective that they are standing in victory before they fight the battles, which is quite different from the idea of having to achieve victory in the battles. What I realized through our experience is there are things we all have called dragons. These are things that we ultimately need to be released from, and can’t hold us captive anymore. These dragons need to die. But there are other dragons in our lives that are called afflictions. These things tend to reappear. As I mentioned, Satan uses the same plays over and over, and he uses these afflictions. We can achieve some level of authority over these things, but they keep coming back. We can’t kill it, and it keeps showing up. For me, one of them is insecurity. I can recognize it, almost like a smell. I know it’s not coming from the Father, so I know it must be fought. We want to be equipped to ride the dragon—through the Word, brother’s prayers, take authority in the name of Christ until it is laying on the ground in submission. It really connected with me because of my personal journey. We all have dragons we have to learn to ride, but also need to recognize the dragons we must slay, like our bondages (porn, anger as a couple examples). If we find ourselves riding dragons we were meant to kill, we haven’t really been released from prison in those areas yet. I think there’s been some, not really confusion, but I’m glad to talk about this subject at a greater length to provide more clarity.
Paul: As we were preparing for the Outpost this time, we realized our sessions had become a little bit bloated because we wanted to share all the things we had learned through our walk with God. So we got back to our core concepts, and I described it like snorkeling. But there are a few things that you want to scuba dive down into and investigate and I think this is one of them. As you were talking about the afflictions that we must ride, I was reminded of the verses in 2 Corinthians where Paul is talking about the thorn in the flesh. (HCSB, 2 Corinthians 12:7-10) “Therefore, so that I would not exalt myself, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger from Satan to torment me so I would not exalt myself. Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times to take it away from me. (He’s like, “Please, come slay this dragon.”) But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, catastrophes, persecutions, and in pressures, because of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (italics added)
Scott: That’s a great testimony to what we’re trying to say, what it’s like to ride a dragon. The Lord will give us thorns, those dragons to remind us of His power, His authority. It’s not in our own power. I love that connection.
Paul: I never made that connection until you talked about the afflictions we ask God to take away. We pray, “God, I don’t want to deal with this anymore.” But there’s a purpose in it. There’s a purpose in our pain, our bondage. It’s all to get us to turn to Christ to find our freedom, to find our strength in Him.
Scott: Right. I would also add as we mature in our faith and our walk, that those sessions of riding dragons shouldn’t be for days and days. More like, “I rode that sucker for 8 seconds.”
Paul: Like a rodeo.
Scott: Yeah, and as we continue to bring our brothers around us, being brave enough to say, “I’m under attack.” And as we become more mature in our role as a spiritual Spartan, they should begin to happen with a decreased frequency as well as duration.
Tommy: It’s something I’ve found I’ve had to put into practice with one of my brothers. He let us know he needed prayer, that he’s getting hit, he’s struggling. And I jump on it and respond with praying for his freedom. And as I was praying, God told me that he needed more than just a prayer, he needs someone to pray with him, a brother to fight with him, and walk in it with him. So I called him, and we talked on the phone and started praying against the enemy, against the dragon. To call on the authority and power of Jesus in the middle of this attack--It was eye opening and amazing how God showed up. And we know that two coming together has power. He needed me to call it out, to say, “This is a dragon, we need to ride it.” We have to know that this is a battle, and we have to fight. Together. And I could hear the change that came over him, from this downcast, defeated person to the upbeat man I know. This is so good. To take something so powerful and dangerous feeling as a dragon, and to say, “Come on guys, we can ride this thing.”
Scott: What I loved is that it gives us a good perspective of what it looks like to walk the path. A lot of men would leave the Outpost, and it would be like the clip from Zorro we used to show. “You will fight bravely, and die quickly.” I think a lot of men rush home, ready to take over the world with their new perspective, and they go out and Satan kicks their butt. And then they run, like Cipher says in the Matrix, “You see an agent (you see a dragon), you do what we do. You run.” And as we get some definition around what it means to walk the path, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to be able to take on the world with this giant broadsword. These afflictions don’t disappear overnight. We all find out that this things really real. It’s walking the path, not walking the destination. You don’t arrive, it’s a journey. Hopefully it gives men some perspective on what that journey looks like. And bravery isn’t just the ones who can stand up and say, “You know what, this thing I was held captive by, and a prisoner? I kicked that thing’s butt.” But so many people have “wound envy” or “dragon envy.” “I wish I could be that guy, he’s all jacked up.”
Paul: (Laughing) Yeah. But I think what happens is they diminish their story.
Scott: That’s exactly right. I think this gives perspective that everyone’s story matters, and everyone’s dragons look different. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a dragon. They’re all snarling and evil and fire, and it doesn’t matter what it is. I mean, when I say, “My dragon’s insecurity,” some people would be like, rolling their eyes, “Good grief. Get a real dragon. Get over yourself.”
Paul: “That’s not that manly of a dragon. What’s wrong with you?”
Scott: Yeah, what about PTSD or something. Why not drugs, or porn or something? Insecurity? What is that?
Paul: They even diminish your dragon.
Scott: Right. But for me, that’s a deep-seeded issue, that’s my thorn. It manifests itself in lots of different ways, but I’ve come to recognize it, it’s not my identity. It’s not true. And I know when that stinking dragon shows up, and I know when I need to reach out. Some days I can take authority over it on my own, but sometimes I need to call in the troops. I think for all of us, the significance of our wounds, our afflictions are our own through our story. The afflictions may be the same, but the way we got there is uniquely ours. There isn’t a scale for dragons, mine isn’t any bigger or smaller than yours.
Paul: (Laughing) Yeah, size doesn’t matter when it comes to dragons.
Scott: (Laughing) That’s exactly right. We’ve come up with a new term—Dragon Envy.
Tommy: I like it.
Scott: One last thing on this topic, and then we’ll move on. Another a catalyst for this topic came from back when this session was called, “Saved and Free.” I always thought it should be, “Saved and Free…but not Safe.” I think often men will think, “I’m saved, and I’m free, so therefore I’m safe.” And they couldn’t be more wrong. But I do think that’s part of the misconception. “Since I’m free, doesn’t that mean I’m safe?” And you can be free of the bondage, but you’re not safe from the enemy. Those dragons you do kill, the enemy will try to play them again. Through our maturing, continuing to walk the path, be brave enough to walk the path, we become the spiritual Spartan that can really do some damage.