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What is Spiritual Warfare? My Thoughts on Fighting the Devil.

Today is National Day of Prayer in America, they are voting for a Prime Minister in Great Britain and I received an early morning phone call from a good friend. With plenty of sleep in my voice I answered the phone after checking the caller I.D. He had been praying for me this morning and wanted to tell me what God had told him for me. “No matter what happened, I was in a battle.” That was all, then with very little small talk, back off of the phone.

I knew that I was in a battle. I have been for months. If I were a continent, the national boundaries would have been drawn and redrawn so many times that there would be something akin to the Grand Canyon right down the middle of me. Lately the stakes have been raised and the battle has intensified. I have seen the hand of God moving in my life in a miraculous way that I could not have anticipated. I’m learning about His love for me and watching, almost as if I’m a bystander, in complete amazement as God uses my life to work His will.

I’m tempted to think that I’m just not worthy of this. If people knew me like I know me they would certainly turn away. But God DOES know me like I know me. In fact, He knows me so much better and yet He chooses to call me child and bless my life with His presence and allow me to get involved in His work.

So, back to the battle: When God goes out of his way to remind you that you are in a battle, then it is wise to note this and to ponder the point. It was so stark that it could mean anything. Numerous transactions could occur, any of which the significant fact would be that I was “in a battle.” What if something really bad happened today? Was that it? What if something really great happened that could make me forget that I was a spiritual creature with an eternal soul? Was this reminder a warning or a lesson?

If a warning, then what could I do? How could I prepare? How can a person prepare for something that they don’t know is coming? Or even if they do know it is coming they don’t know what it is? If it was a lesson, then what was the lesson about? What should I be thinking about? Well, what I did think about was battles.

What is a battle? Quite simply it is a struggle between two or more contending entities for victory. The battle I’m fighting started out as a struggle for a fortified position in my mind. This should come as no surprise to anyone because we know as Christians that we don’t struggle with flesh and blood. Ephesians chapter 6 tells us we wrestle “against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” So the fact is that Frank Peretti is more right than wrong. If all we had to do in this walk was go around and shoot the bad guys that would be easy, especially if they all wore black.

The stronghold in my mind was built brick by brick over a period of many years. It must have looked something like the Great Wall of China stretching across the real estate of my being. You just always hope that your own personal stronghold won’t make it to the seven wonders of the spiritual world list. I know it was large. I have witnessed the effects. I could enumerate a list of losses that made the quantum leap from the spiritual world to the physical. Things that we would call from our flesh’s perspective, “real.”

The enemy wasn’t interested in yielding that kind of territory. He fought hard for it. He trespassed on God’s property and like the vagrant he is, claimed squatters rights. The good news is that the Strong Son of God is more than able to defeat the wicked one and serve him an eviction notice, and with Power see the work through to completion.

This is where my horizons became a little broader. I have started to see that the battle in my mind is a part of an all out war. The Great Wall has started coming down and I can now see a new horizon far off in the distance. It is the next battle. It is the war, and it is very interesting how this glimmer of reality changes my perspective. If a person who has no plans of walking anywhere has a splinter in the bottom of their foot, their objective becomes to get the splinter out of their foot because it is hurting and they want the pain to go away. If the person needs to go tend to a sick loved one, then the primary objective becomes to get to the loved one and the secondary objective becomes to get the splinter out so that they can achieve their primary objective.

This is how I have begun to see the stronghold in my mind. As something that needs to be torn down so that I can achieve another objective. Wonder of wonders, I don’t know what the next objective is, but I’m excited about it. The stronghold is coming down, and it will be completely dismantled. Not one stone will be left on top of another. Praise God for His victory!

So, what of the battle? Three points came to mind about battles:

  1. They are no fun at all
  2. They are meant to be won, and
  3. They have an undetermined outcome.

1) Battles are no fun at all. Just ask anyone who has been in physical firefight with an opposing army. At the battle of Antietam in the American Civil War nearly 23,000 men were killed, injured or missing at the end of ONE DAY! If you can find an American soldier still alive who was on Omaha Beach during the Normandy invasion, ask him what it was like to see 2400 men killed as they scratched their way toward safety along a beach while German forces fired from the cliff above them!

These are only a couple of examples. There are many more recent ones that can attest to the horrors of the battlefield. People get shot at. People get shot. They die or in many cases survive to live the rest of their lives with gruesome reminders of the battle. Winners and losers alike suffer casualties. These are very sobering thoughts to me. The battle is not to be taken lightly and you will not walk away from it unchanged.

2) Battles are meant to be won. Each army enters into a battle with the objective of winning. Their plan of action is to defeat the enemy! If you are in a battle, you have two options: Fight or surrender! Again, this is a very sobering thought. There is no neutrality when you come under spiritual attack. Dear Christian brother or sister, do you really want to ignore a satanic attack on your life? If you do not fight, you will be overrun!

Perhaps you are asking, “Won’t God fight for me?” Well, the short answer as I see it is that God has already fought for us all. Jesus defeated death and hell. (Revelation 1:18) “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5) He has victory. Will we walk in the victory? Will we exercise faith? More on faith shortly. Furthermore, we are urged to prepare for battle, which we will discuss in a moment.

You fight or you surrender! Surrender to whom? Most certainly a devil. If that sounds strong, it is. Don’t be offended by these words. Be warned; be reminded. Be made aware. I was warned, reminded today. If I’m exhorting only to myself, let me say, “Amen. Good exhorting!”

3) Battles have an undetermined outcome. Before you get your Bible out and beat me to death with it, read a little further. There’ll be time for beating later.

A point made earlier is that each army enters into a battle with the objective of winning. This is also true of the enemy of your soul. Satan does not enter into battle with you in order to lose. “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:” (1 Peter 5:8)

Let’s look at two battles from the Bible with different outcomes. In Exodus chapter 17, we see that Amalek came to fight with Israel in Rephidim. “And Moses said to Joshua, Choose us out men and go out, fight with Amalek: to morrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in mine hand. So Joshua did as Moses had said to him, and fought with Amalek: and it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed.” (Exodus 17: 9-11) Eventually Moses became tired and had to have help holding his hand up, but he kept his hand up and because of that Joshua prevailed in battle.

Had Moses stopped holding his hand up the battle would have been lost to Amalek. Point blank. A battle with an undetermined outcome, which was secured through obedience.

Another battle that could have had a different outcome was when a man brought his lunatic son to the disciples of Jesus. They could not cure him. They were defeated and the victory in this battle was left to Jesus.

So the disciples later asked Jesus why it was that they couldn’t cast out the devil. “And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief; for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.” (Matthew 17:20) So Jesus told the disciples that it was because of their unbelief, and that if they had faith as a grain of mustard seed, nothing shall be impossible. It is very interesting what Jesus says in the next verse. “Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.” (Matthew 17:21)

Is it such a stretch then to conclude that prayer and fasting builds faith? And that faith enables us to win battles? Isn’t that what Jesus is telling his disciples? If they had prayed and fasted like they had seen Him doing, they would have not been filled with unbelief and they would have defeated the enemy in the critical hour? If all of that had happened, the outcome of their battle with the devil would have been entirely different.

That wraps up my three thoughts about battles. I do have one afterthought and I think that this is where it belongs. In battle, a quagmire is the same as a defeat. If you are not advancing to victory, you are living in defeat. God means for us to be victorious in battle. He will never leave us or forsake us and will always fight with us. Without Him there is no victory. But God will not bless a defeat of His kingdom. If we want to live in God’s camp we had better become accustomed to victory! And victory comes at the high price of battle.

In Ephesians 6 we are told to put on the whole armour of God. Most of us are familiar with this passage of scripture. Let’s enumerate the pieces of armour very briefly.

  • Having your loins girt with truth
  • The breastplate of righteousness
  • Your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace
  • Above all, taking the shield of faith
  • Helmet of salvation
  • The Sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God

In this listing the Bible says, “Above all, taking the shield of faith,” As we have previously discussed, faith, which is the opposite of unbelief, seems to come by prayer and fasting. Faith also comes “by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17

It is interesting that right after listing the whole armour of God, Paul makes four prayer requests in three verses. “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 saints. Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly as I should.” (Ephesians 6:18-20 NIV) Paul exhorts us to put on the whole armour of God and then go to war! Pray!

So why do we get suited up for battle? Because we are the ones going into battle. And you had better suit up, because you are going! Battle will not be an option for a Christian. You have declared yourself allied with Christ, which puts you at direct odds with the prince of this world. We are the foot soldiers not the field commanders or generals, and the battles for souls for all eternity can be won or lost based on our actions.

The great news is that we do not go alone. The General goes with us! And His victory is certain!

D Pugh

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