I am preparing to publish my first book. It attacks an entrenched spiritual stronghold that is a stumbling block for many people in their relationship with God. During this process God has prepared me to anticipate (and experience) some seasons of intense spiritual warfare.
Talking about spiritual warfare is risky because many people don’t want to think about, let alone focus on, this uncomfortable reality. Yet Jesus warned us often about the nature of our enemy and of the struggle. He wouldn’t be called “Our Savior” if there was no life-threatening danger from which to save us.
Even if you’re feeling skeptical right now, come along with me for the next few minutes as we learn how to walk in victory through times of trial.
Know the Battle
Before victory is possible–spiritual or otherwise–we first must recognize that we’re in a battle. We may be bit players, but we are part of the eternal, epic struggle of which Paul ominously wrote:
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Prepare for Attack
Military strategists seek to know their enemy so they can anticipate when and where he is most likely to strike. Without turning our eyes from Jesus it is good to understand the nature of our enemy.
When Jesus was baptized, launching His public ministry, He experienced an intense spiritual high as the voice of God proclaimed:
“This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
The very next sentence reads:
Then Jesus was led up into the wilderness by the Spirit to be tempted by the devil.
God’s Spirit subjected Jesus to temptation? Why would He do this if He was pleased with Jesus? Isn’t temptation the business of sinners? While only God knows, scripture reveals that every day of Jesus’ ministry He faced temptations similar to those in His desert encounter. Perhaps God was equipping, refining and strengthening Him to endure and overcome such attacks.
Likewise we can expect that any steps we take toward God will be opposed. In our weak human nature we grow battle weary quickly, but we can endure if we remember that God does not ask us to fight, rather He asks us to trust in Him:
This is what the LORD says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.’
2 Chronicles 20:15
How beautiful: All we are asked to do is be mindful of who God is, how strong, how powerful, how omnipotent. It changes our experience entirely when we view our trials as opportunities to live in minute-by-minute awareness of and dependence on our Sovereign God.
God’s nature is diametrically opposed to that of our enemy. Jesus is light (John 8:12), life and truth (John 14:6); He came that we may have abundant life (John 10:10). Our enemy is darkness, absent of truth and bent on robbing us of the life the Lord desires for us.
He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him
A War Story
I’d like to share an example of spiritual warfare from my personal experience so perhaps you’ll more readily spot it in your own life. As I began the process of writing my book in earnest God planted a seed in my heart to prepare me for opposition. Here is how I recognized it:
- First was timing — the opposition, intended to create anxiety and distraction, began as I moved from the research to writing phase for my book. Writing of course requires a clear, focused mind.
- Each of the trials was legal in nature, emanating from “rulers” and “authorities”–which was unique in my life as I am a very law-abiding person.
- Next was the persistent nature of the attacks. This was not a single incident, but four escalating situations.
- Finally, there was the victory in Christ. Each challenge evaporated as unexpectedly as it had appeared.
This situation was notable both for its oddity and intensity. It happened while I was attending a writer’s conference in Concord, N.C.
I had had dinner with a friend and colleague the first night. In the course of our conversation she had helped identify a key message that would become an anchor to my book. I was ecstatic about the God-inspired revelation as I dropped her off at her hotel and headed less than a mile down the road toward my own.
I noted a police car on my right and checked my speed instinctively. I was creeping along in heavy traffic so I had no cause for worry, yet something in my gut said otherwise. That’s when I noticed the lights flashing in my rearview mirror.
Someone had told me that it’s a good idea to pull off busy roads during traffic stops out of respect for the safety of the officer, so I eased into the lefthand turn lane, intending to pull onto the quiet side road. As I waited for the light to turn I saw the shadow of the towering police officer from the corner of my eye. I put my window down; he said I had no registration sticker and requested my license and registration.
In my nervousness I handed him an outdated registration card. As he walked back toward his vehicle I located the current one and held it out the window. He ignored my offer.
After he had confirmed that my registration was current he returned to my window, I thought to release me. Instead he started questioning me harshly about why I had pulled left rather than right in the first place. Aware only of my intention I was confused by his questions and was growing increasingly fearful of his aggressiveness.
As his line of questioning dead-ended he asked me if I had had anything to drink that evening. I answered honestly that I had had a glass of wine with dinner. He ordered me to step out and follow him to the rear of my vehicle, where–right there on that busy highway, with fellow conference attendees likely passing by–I was subjected to my first-ever roadside sobriety test.
By now I was downright terrified; it was becoming clear that this officer’s intent was to find some violation for which to arrest me. I began praying fervently for God to deliver me.
I passed the test. Undeterred he ordered me to take a breathalyzer–or be taken to jail. He said sarcastically, “If you’ve only had a glass of wine you have nothing to worry about.” After I blew into the straw he sent me back to my car to wait. After a few excruciating minutes he returned to my window a final time. Without a conciliatory word or apology he released me.
I was still shaking as I unlocked the door to my hotel room and collapsed on my knees in thanksgiving for God’s protection. As I showered the Spirit brought the earlier verse from Ephesians to mind, and in light of the trials that had preceded it, I recognized what was happening with new clarity.
While God allowed me to suffer such attacks for several months, He was faithful to His promise to provide a way out in every situation, sometimes quite miraculously. (Read With the God of 1 Percent the Odds are Ever in Your Favor.)
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
1 Corinthians 10:13
So how do we do stand against an enemy we can’t see in a battle we can’t fully comprehend? Paul follows his warning (above) with these specific instructions:
Therefore put on the full armor of God so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
- Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist,
- with the breastplate of righteousness in place,
- and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.
- In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
- Take the helmet of salvation
- and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
- And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.
With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. (Ephesians 6:13-18)
This is a rich, exhaustive directive that deserves more time than we have remaining today. In short, when I sense that the opposition I’m facing is spiritual in nature, I review this passage and focus on the areas the Lord emphasizes to me.
In this situation it was to stand firm with the belt of truth — as I knew I had done nothing wrong — and to pray in the Spirit with all kinds of prayers and requests. I can assure you I was praying all kinds of prayers during those long minutes!
Walk in Victory
When we accept the invitation to follow Jesus we are not promised freedom from pain, suffering or trial. We are promised that God will be with us through it all, and that we will be given His armor and the confidence of knowing the war already has been won for us by Christ Jesus.
The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
2 Corinthians 10:4-5
Read more about how the enemy speaks death into the lives of believers in The Voice of ED — Revealed.