Spiritual warfare has been discredited by people who’ve taught that there’s a demon behind every bush. The pendulum has unfortunately swung so far in the other direction that many of us go through large portions of our lives unaware of and indifferent to the concept of a spiritual battle. We’re told in scripture that our "enemy prowls about like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour" (1 Pet. 5:8). We’re exhorted to put on God's armor so that when -- not if-- the day of evil comes we can take our stand (Eph. 6:10-18).
The reality of spiritual warfare can be a frightening concept to embrace, which is one of the main reasons Christians ignore it. Coming to terms with the fact that we’re living in a spiritual realm that we can’t see and we’re not in control of is somewhat threatening. It’s much easier to operate as materialists going through life with the misconception that we're in control. Once we’re deceived, we deceive others into believing the lie. The worst part is that by ignoring the spiritual battle we don’t in any way diminish it. In fact, we become even greater casualties as we wander about on the battlefield with no armor, no weapons, no realization of where we are and what’s going on.
We had huge problems with mosquitoes during the rainy season when we were living in South Korea. My husband and I were repeatedly woken up in the middle of the night with painful bites on our arms and faces. We would get up, turn on all the lights and search for what we thought was the culprit. Most of the time we weren't able to find a single mosquito. Because we couldn't see anything, we went back to sleep. But ignoring it did not change reality. In fact, our mosquito problem got worse over time until we finally determined that unless we took action we were going to be eaten alive. The same is true with the spiritual battle that is raging. It's there, and it's not going away.
Spiritual warfare occurs in so many ways that it’s impossible for us to know exactly what is and what isn’t warfare. But, there are certain steps we can take with regard to all difficulties and hardships that keep us engaged in the battle, not fighting with human wisdom, but with spiritual weapons (2 Cor. 10:4).
Pray for wisdom. If someone or something becomes difficult to deal with in our life, it’s an opportunity to commit that situation and/or person to prayer. God wants us to pray about everything rather than wringing our hands in anxiety and even worse trying to handle it in our own strength and wisdom (Phil. 4:6). We start by asking for his wisdom to respond to the difficulty in a way that honors him and for insight to discern how we've possibly contributed to the problem (Matt. 7:5). God, in his mercy, has promised that he'll provide abundant wisdom when we ask with a trusting heart (James 1:5).
Put on the armor of God. In prayer, before going out into the day, we submit ourselves to God and his Spirit’s leading in our lives. This means spending time in his word so that we know his will and we're prepared to respond to the lies of the world, the flesh and the enemy. We embark on each day with the certainty that our sins are forgiven, we're counted righteous and that we have a purpose for living that transcends merely surviving problems and trials. Standing upon the word, we take up the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit and we're prepared to speak the truth in love as we meet opposition, all the while allowing God's word to determine what's ultimate truth (Eph. 6:10-18).
Bless and be a blessing – No matter what our hardship, we're called to be a blessing, not a curse, in the world (Gen. 12:2). If we're having relationship difficulties, our goal is to be salt and light, peace seekers who speak the truth, but who do it in love. Christ has called us to unity in the body, and has already broken down the dividing walls of hostility (Eph. 2:14). His will is for us to live at peace with others as much as it depends upon us (Rom. 12:18). And we're to pray for those we're having difficulties with, asking for God to bless them, to heal our relationship and to give us kind and upbuilding words (Eph. 4:29).
Claim the ground upon which we are standing. If we're in fellowship with Christ and not living in willful sin, then we go forth in his power, with his presence. We have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16), the wisdom of Christ, the presence of Christ, the purity of Christ and the purpose of Christ -- "Christ in us, the hope of glory" (Col. 1:27). He has also promised that he's with us "even to the very ends of the earth" (Matt. 28:20). We remember these promises and stand upon them, thanking Him for his presence and for the victory we have in him. We can rejoice in difficulties, be kind to rude people, face uncertainties. While we're out engaging in the war we remind ourselves continually that the battle is not ours but Christ’s, and he’s promised to fight it for us if we abide in him (2 Cor. 20:12, John 15).
Praise him for fulfilling every promise he’s made in Christ, even when we don’t see it. God has filled his word with promises that he's sealed in Christ's blood (2 Cor. 1:20). We’re often prone to take the promises out of context and claim them in selfish ways that he never intended. But if we read and study the word, asking the Holy Spirit to illumine our hearts and minds, he’ll show us a vast array of truths that we can confidently stand upon. For example, we know that he's called us to hope and peace, rather than anxiety (Phil. 4:6); that he desires we walk in wisdom, rather than as fools (Eph. 5:15); that we take hold of opportunities to share the gospel instead of speaking idle, careless words (Eph. 5:15-16); that we speak kind words to those who are rude, showing them grace and mercy (Luke 6:28); that we lead quiet lives and do our work diligently (1 Thes. 4:11). We can thank and praise God for helping us to fulfill these actions in the Spirit. And there are so many more promises that he desires to use in transforming our lives.
Acknowledge and make peace daily with the fact that he’s told us“in this world you will have trouble" (John 16:33).When we see trouble as an integral part of our life on earth it loses its power to frighten and discourage us. Jesus said that we were certain to face trials, and James exhorts us to rejoice when we encounter them. We’re to go forth into the day, praising and thanking God for his greatness and his great promises to us, submitting our hearts and lives to him and yet remaining aware of the difficulties we’ll encounter, knowing that he is with us through them all.
There is a spiritual battle raging in the life of every Christian. We have the choice each day to either live in the power and presence of God, standing upon his promises, or to go out into the battle denying that there’s any such thing going on. We enter the war zone, regardless. We'll be attacked by the enemy, regardless. But only those choosing to live by faith -- putting their hope in the living God and what he’s said is true -- will emerge victorious, bearing much fruit and giving him glory (John 15:8).