Spiritual Warfare Introduction
Spiritual warfare is the struggle between spiritual principalities and our human weakness—evil vs. good!
For our spiritual well-being, there are many lessons in the Bible which Christ-followers should be mindful. Lessons abound such as how to manage money, how to pray, how to grow from babes in Christ into mature Christians, and more.
In this blog, we will be looking at one vital lesson: Combating sin before it begins! And that usually involves believers engaging in some level of SPIRITUAL WARFARE. We will learn how spiritual warfare operates in the lives of Christ-followers and how to face the battles when they come upon us. In understanding how to contend with the struggle between good and evil, knowledge of the following terms or phrases are requisites: spiritual warfare; the adversary—Satan and his demons; testing, trials, and temptation; and Jesus Christ—our mediator. This blog series will address spiritual warfare and how to overcome the temptation to sin.
Books, articles, and sermons have been written on the topic of spiritual warfare, and in many of these works authoritative figures discuss the difficulty of sharing this topic. It is difficult because Satan does not want believers to be aware of his schemes and tactics.
This article is no different. There have been multiple roadblocks in preparing this four-part blog series—time constraints, issues with unworthiness, fighting spiritual warfare myself. I prayed extensively, read God’s Word for hours, and fought the fear of misspeaking. My notes and drafts for this article have been on the shelf, off the shelf, back on the shelf. If I misspeak, I apologize. I know many different opinions abound on the topic of “spiritual warfare.” But, now I am ready to “bite the bullet” and push the “publish” button on WordPress. Happy reading.
Back in 1992, my husband and I, along with our children—ages 4, 6, and 8—were traveling in an old dilapidated school bus through the country of Belize. Our eight-hour bus trip originated in Belize City and the final destination was to be Punta Gorda—a poor seacoast city in Southern Belize. Midway through our journey, about 20 miles outside of the city of Dangriga, an extreme evil presence fell upon me. The closer we came to the city, the stronger this presence felt.
Around nine o’clock in the evening, the bus stopped for a short break. My daughter and I had to use the restroom. To get there, we had to cross a wide, pitch-black street. The men’s facilities were elsewhere so the family had to split up. The atmosphere exuded evil and wickedness. Being weighed down by an oppression I had never felt before, I feared an attack on our lives. I was terrified we would never make it back to the bus after our restroom break. While in the dark stand-alone structure, I began to whisper the name of Jesus over and over in my mind. Notice I did not call on the name of Jesus verbally; I was too petrified to draw any attention to ourselves.
After crossing the street and making our way back to the bus, my daughter and I mounted the bus steps, and the family proceeded to Punta Gorda. It was only after we traveled about 20 miles outside of the city that I felt the heavy burden leave me.
Later, I learned that traditional witchcraft was prevalent in the city. The Garifuna—an ethnic group of people living in Dangriga—were known for contacting the spirits of the dead and for their faith in shamanism, a spiritual practice that interacts with the spiritual world.
I share this story to tell you that Satan is real. He and his demons roam the earth looking for those they can devour. His presence comes in many ways, even today. We can feel his demons operating; maybe not so dramatically or even in the same way. The spiritual warfare I will be addressing is the kind where temptation dominates in Christ-followers’ lives—the kind which impacts believers’ hearts to the point of a deep agony, a piercing pain, or tormenting temptation.
The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it” (Job 2:2)
Satan approaches believers with the goal of destroying those who love Christ. But before I get too far in this article, I am going to give you a “spoiler alert” about who ultimately wins the battle. This alert will be your notice that I am giving away the plot—the ending of the story!
The winner of the battle is JESUS CHRIST! You can win the battle against Satan because victory is in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:57–58).
What is Spiritual Warfare?
Spiritual warfare is the battle between our spiritual principalities and human vulnerabilities—the fight to resist evil. When we live in our humanness, we lean towards evil by sinning and turning away from God’s plan and commandments. When we live in God’s spiritual realm, we lean towards godly thinking and living a life possessing the Christlike fruits of the spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22–23).
Once we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, we are in a struggle between the powers of good and evil; this is spiritual warfare. The temptation to sin comes in many ways. It can come upon you suddenly or it can gradually sneak up and catch you in an ambush. Satan knows where and how to personalize the struggle we may face now or in the future.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12).
Who Experiences Spiritual Warfare?
Only believers, those who have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, experience spiritual warfare.
Satan and his demons hate Jesus. He hates it when a new Christian receives salvation. He hates it when a believer is living a Christ-like life serving Jesus full-force. Solid, sold-out believers may consciously experience the gut-wrenching fight between good and evil; some call this fight fighting strongholds—strongholds being areas in our mind or in our personality that cause us distress through our mind, spirit, or soul. Satan knows our weaknesses and he will use whatever he can to destroy us. Examples of spiritual warfare can be continual thoughts (thoughts you can’t get out of your mind) ranging from dwelling on success at work, struggling not to take the next hit of cocaine, or a temptation towards a sin, which if heeded, could destroy a reputation or livelihood.
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 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 (1 Corinthians 10:3–5 NIVUK).
If we have been a Christ-follower for very long and are honestly trying to live for the Lord, we will encounter spiritual warfare—that deep pull that calls us to turn our back on what we know is right. Lukewarm believers are not as likely to encounter the deep pangs associated with Satan’s drag.
It is when we are involved in truly trying to live for the Lord that these deep struggles occur.
Satan knows there isn’t much benefit in trying to draw a person who isn’t totally committed to God’s way in this type of battle because they are already ineffective in their witness for God. But, those who are committed and love Jesus with all their heart and want to obey Him in truth and honesty will encounter the fight between good and evil on a much deeper level at one or more times in their Christian walk. Why? Because Satan does not want God’s kingdom to enlarge through salvation or discipleship. When strong believers are tested, and they succumb, Satan can thwart these believers’ faith and it can cause havoc in their lives.
So, what are Christ-followers to do when facing tests, trials, and temptations? The book of James gives us the answer:
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind . . . Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death (James 1:3–5, 12–15).
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)
Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin. (James 4:17)
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (James 4:8)
Dear heavenly Father, most days I experience some low-level discomfort fighting between good and evil—right and wrong. However, at some point in my life, I may experience fierce intense spiritual warfare from Satan and his demons. Please prepare me ahead of time, so when the time comes I have the strength to overcome my human weaknesses. Let me be wholly sold out to You and to Your Word. Give me the strength to overcome the fiery darts of Satan. Let me never give up fighting against sin. Allow Your light to be a lamp unto my feet. Let me recognize these battles are not of flesh and blood, but they are spiritual battles “against powers and principalities beyond my physical being.” Hopefully, I won’t fail You, but if I do, please convict me to return to You by repenting and turning away from my sin as quickly as possible, so I can walk in Your ways again. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
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Bible verses are taken from the NASB if not noted otherwise.
Edited by E. Johnson