Prayers, Power, Passion and Inspiration

Spiritual  Warfare


God's Plan for Your Victory

It's easy to believe in angels, but most Christians aren't quite sure what to think about the "dark side" of spiritual reality. The Bible is clear, however, that our "wrestling"¯ is not with flesh and blood. Most of our conflicts in everyday life are actually spiritual in nature. The Bible also is clear that God has provided everything necessary to give us victory over the adversary he has already defeated. We are looking at the reality of spiritual warfare in your life and God's plan for your victory in the articles below.

How to Prepare Yourself for Spiritual Battle:

We live in enemy territory. Are you prepared for battle?

If you were to come to my office, you'd find five full-length filing cabinets, lined up one after another. Each of them is full of files: Bible studies, ideas, sermons, messages, research, and such. One of the most important files I have is a yellow one labeled, "Warnings - Lessons to be Learned." The file is full of fallen Christian leaders. Some of them I knew personally; some of them I didn't know. But I review the file at the end of every year, just to warn myself.

We are in a spiritual battle. That's why that kind of stuff happens. If you don't take the Christian life seriously, if you don't take ministry seriously, the Devil's going to. You may not mean business, but he does.

The most often used analogy for Christians in the Bible is of soldiers. The words that are often used to describe the Christian life are war terms - fight, conquer, strive, battle, overcome, victory. We are living in enemy territory when we live in the world. Scripture makes it very clear.

If you are in ministry, you are going to face opposition from the Devil. If you get up in the morning and you don't face the Devil head on, right at the start of the day, it means you're going in the same direction. He is opposed to everything you stand for. He hates anybody who's sold out to Jesus Christ. He will do anything he can to defeat you.

So how do we fight this spiritual battle? Here are six essential steps.

1. Acknowledge the adversary. Realize Satan is real. Peter tells us, "Be alert, be on watch. Your enemy the Devil roams around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Be firm in your faith and resist him because you know that your fellow believers in all the world are going through the same kind of suffering." (1 Peter 5:8-9)

Whenever you're being spiritually attacked, just remember: Welcome to the club. It's proof that you're a believer. It's proof that you're making an impact. The more of an impact you're making, the more the Devil is going to fight you. You never outgrow it. It just gets more intense.

2. Accept Jesus' authority. Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." (Matt. 16:19) The Bible says if you are a believer, you are given the authority of Christ in spiritual warfare. You have the right to fight back. You have the right to bind and to loose.

3. I put on the armor. The famous passage on armor is Ephesians 6:11-17: "Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the Devil's schemes. Have the belt of truth buckled around your waste and the breastplate of righteousness and have your feet fitted with the Gospel of peace. Take up the shield of faith and the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God." You'll notice six pieces of armor in the passage.

Gospel of peace
The Word of God

Every piece of this armor is mental preparation for battle. That's what the armor is all about. You need to put on truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, and the Word of God mentally before you do ministry - whether you're preaching, leading a Bible study, leading worship, or counseling a grieving member of your community. Why? You expect that you are going to be attacked, so you need your armor on first.

4. Aim the artillery. Spiritual warfare takes place primarily in our thought life. When somebody is opposing you in your ministry, they're not the real problem. The problem is the thoughts the Devil's giving them to oppose you. The problem is not that person. The problem is what they're acting on. You always act on what you think. They're getting thoughts from the wrong source. There are only two sources for thoughts. When we get thoughts from God, we call it inspiration. When we get thoughts from the Devil, we call it temptation.

We have four weapons in these battles against evil thoughts.

1. The Truth. The truth, God's Word, is our sword. It cuts through all the mustard. It gets right to the point. When you are in a conflict, the question you want to ask yourself is this: What does God say about this?

2. Humility. The more you humble yourself before God, the more power you will have in your life (James 4: 6-7). That's just the way it works. As we minister to others, we need to continually acknowledge God's hand in what we are doing. He's the one who empowers our ministry. We're simply his vessel. In humility, we find real and lasting power in ministry.

3. Faith. Without even talking to you in detail, I can tell you exactly what God is doing in your ministry. He's doing what you expect him to do. Faith is a powerful, powerful tool. (1 John 5:4) I don't know why, but when I preach and I expect people to respond, they do.

4. Praise. Revelation 12:11-12 says, "They overcame him [Satan] by the blood of the lamb and by the word of their testimony. Therefore rejoice, you heavens, and you who inhabit them." How did they overcome the Devil? By the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony. They were praising God. The Bible says when people praise God, "[he] inhabits the praises of his people." Sometimes after a particular worship service, I honestly feel like Mickey Mouse could preach and people would come to know Christ. The praise has cleansed the air. There's power in the praise of God.

5. Call on the Holy Spirit. You need to say, "God, fill me with your Spirit as I'm about to do this." Whether you're preparing a message, preaching, counseling someone, training your leaders - whatever you're doing - ask God to fill you with his Spirit.

6. Avoid all distractions. If you're going to be effective in ministry - in battle - you've got to focus yourself. You know what's important in life. There are so many things that want a piece of your time. The good can be the enemy of the best.

I have one person to please and only one - the Lord Jesus Christ. And if I'm pleasing him, that's what is going to count at the end of my life. Avoid the distractions. If you get distracted, the enemy is going to catch up with you.

So what's distracting you from ministry?

- by Rick Warren

Did the Devil Make Me Do It?

As eternal beings created in the image of God, we have a stake in the raging battle between good and evil.

Some friends and I sat down for coffee the other day, bantering over the growing list of "reality" shows. We recalled the wide array of titles advertised during last season's television line-up, including Wife Swap, Survivor, Big Brother, American Idol, Supernanny, Fear Factor, and Extreme Makeover, not to mention the crime shows and The Dr. Phil House. We decided that television entertainment keeps viewers in touch with their "very visible, in-your-face" existence.

Channel surfers and moviegoers, however, definitely have not lost their curiosity about the "invisible" world. Television viewers also have embraced drama series like Charmed, Touched by an Angel, and Joan of Arcadia. Many suspense thrillers like Poltergeist have reached blockbuster status in movie theatres, along with humor-filled science fiction comedies like Ghost Busters and Men in Black. And what about acclaimed mystical dramas like Ghost and The Green Mile? Countless millions of dollars have been invested in popular media to satisfy humans' curiosity about the spirit world.

Retailers begin gearing up in September, just after Labor Day, to meet customer demands for Oct. 31 Halloween celebrations. Stores are fully stocked with costumes, books, movies, and other products promoting witches, ghosts, and goblins. Then there is the controversial Left Behind series about the end of the world that has repeatedly topped best seller book lists, as well as the unrivaled, secular series about Harry Potter's magical tales. The overwhelming popularity of these two sagas, both in print and on screen, gives evidence that we are not just allured by the supernatural, but also by the age-old battle between the forces of good and evil in the unseen world.

At some basic level, we all have an interest in the world beyond. After all, we are eternal beings created in the image of our Eternal Creator, God. Theologians, laypersons, atheists, and Devil worshipers alike are intrigued with the invisible world of good and evil. A former neighbor was convinced that she actually was transported in her nightmares beyond the physical realm to witness the raging battle between good and evil. Even some of the most powerful rulers in the Bible were fearful and troubled in their sleep as a result of such unsettling mysteries (Genesis 41:1-8; Daniel 2:1-13).

As followers of Christ, we must remember that we are already on the winning side of the spiritual battle because our faith is set firmly in Jesus who conquered hell, death, and the grave by sacrificing his own life for us. Our spiritual weapons (truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, the Word of God, and prayer) have been issued, and we have been equipped and empowered to take our stand in the battle (Ephesians 6:10-18)!

However, we are not exempt from troubles and trials in this natural world just because we are a Christian and can have these strong spiritual weapons. What happens when the root cause of our turmoil is confusing to us? How do we know if our problem stems from something biological or psychological instead? We are complex creatures, comprised of body, soul (mind, will, and emotions) and spirit, and it is often difficult to interpret a crisis or disorder as strictly spiritual warfare or as being more earthbound in nature or even as being a "test" from God.

In such cases, it is advisable to use all the proven resources God has provided. Effective approaches may include medication, a medical procedure, specialized Christian counseling, prayer, and in serious cases, the biblical anointing by a pastor (James 5:13-15). Fortunately, Christian educators and reliable researchers will continue to provide literature and resources to increase our awareness about a variety of solutions.

We all differ in our ability to sense the presence, power, personality, and purpose of supernatural forces of evil, but Jesus himself was the expert in the field! Not only was he tempted by the Devil and quoted Scripture to combat him (Luke 4:1-13), we know too that Jesus helped those who were suffering from demonic activity (Matthew 4:24, 8:16; Mark 3:22; Luke 4:41). Do you remember, for example, when he cast out seven demons from Mary Magdalene, one of his early followers? (Luke 8:2)

I don't find it strange at times to experience an "evil attack" against my own faith. However, I personally feel that most of the alleged opposition is not demonic. Satan is certainly not omnipresent, omnipotent, or omniscient! Rather, I acknowledge that we live in a fallen world and that I have this resistance in my old, sinful nature that causes me to go against my spiritual desire to be more Christ-like. (Romans 7:14-25)

Regardless, whether our struggle is against Satan, the world's corrupt system, or our own natural desires that are contrary to the teachings of Christ, we must wage war with our spiritual weapons!

A helpful guide for staying on the winning side of spiritual battles:

1. Be assured of your faith and be confident about who you are and to whom you belong. In other words, know and be thoroughly convinced about who it is that you believe (Romans 8:14-16; Galatians 4:6; 2 Timothy 1:12).

2. Submit to God. Repent of your sins, confess, and obey the Word of God on a daily basis (James 4:7).

3. Resist the Devil and he will flee from you. Put on the whole armor of God, realizing that no weapon that is formed against you will prosper, because your weapons of warfare are not natural, but mighty and powerful through God (James 4:7; Ephesians 6:10-18; Isaiah 54:17; 2 Corinthians 10:4).

4. And don't forget that the Devil hates it when you quote Scripture to him (Luke 4:1-13). Just say to him: It is written . [and then fill in a memorized verse you love!]

- by Katie Brazelton and Pamela Royster

Dealing Effectively with the Spirit World:

It's scary to think that Satan wants to do us harm, but God loves us, protects us, and will give us victory.

The subject of the spirit world, spiritual warfare, and demonic activity is one that concerns, and often confuses, many Christians. It's scary to think that though God loves us and protects us, evil does exist and Satan the Deceiver wants to do us harm (1 Peter 5:8). Though these are realities, there are some things you can be aware of, and do, that can help you become more protected, prepared, and courageous in dealing with the "dark side."

First, remember that God has already won. Though the Devil and his demons have power, it is limited, and the war between good and evil was won at the cross: "But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Corinthians 15:57) Though there are skirmishes in life ahead for all of us, all believers in Jesus are in the hands of a Father whose love, protection, and power eclipse any threats of the spirit world. So follow him, trust him, and love him as a child would a strong and protective parent - for that is who he is.

Also, be a person of the light. One great antidote to the darkness is the power of living in the light of love, holiness, truthfulness, and righteousness: "And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it." (John 1:5) The dark forces have much less sway in the life of a person who is surrendered, transparent, and honest. If there are habits, attitudes, or thoughts that you know are not good for you, and are hurting you, make sure you are confessing them to God and some safe people and getting help in growing out of them and renouncing them. This increases your own resistance against supernatural forces.

Live in community. The Devil attempts to divide the flock, as it is weaker then, and more vulnerable to attack. Jesus told Peter, "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat." (Luke 22:31) To sift is to divide or separate. So when the sheep stay connected to one another, as well as to the Shepherd, they are safer. Find a good church, and develop and stay in relationships with one another that are healthy and growing. That is community. This also specifically applies to those situations in which you may actually experience demonic oppression of some sort. Go to a pastor you trust and ask him who he knows who has experience and wisdom in dealing with these matters. There are people who are gifted and trained in this, and they can help.

Be discerning. People often struggle with the question of whether a problem is demonic, emotional, relational, or medical, among other causes. Different issues have different origins, and in some cases, there can even be more than one cause. The best way to answer that question is to go to the most obvious possibility, if one stands out, and pursue that one. For example, if you are feeling downcast and discouraged and you are a single parent with a difficult divorce, you may simply be exhausted and fatigued with your stress and circumstances. Then you would get support, love, comfort, and strength from God and his safe people. If the problem continues, you might want to see if there is a medical issue, say a thyroid problem. You might also check out with a trained counselor if there is an underlying depression you are dealing with. If thoroughly dealing with these brings no help, it may have a supernatural origin, and you should pursue that as well. But don't lose heart. You are loved by a God who doesn't want to give you a scorpion when you need sustenance (Luke 11:12). He will give you the victory.

God bless you.

- by John Townsend

Blueprint for Your Destruction:

You are in a life-and-death struggle, but don't panic!

God has every resource you need to overcome your already-defeated adversary.

Right now in the pit of hell there is a completed blueprint with your name on it that details Satan's plan for robbing you of every good thing God has planned for you. That sobering truth is what prompted Paul to exhort the Christians at Ephesus to "put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil." (Ephesians 6:11)

The word "schemes" was originally used to describe a wild animal that would methodically stalk and then suddenly attack its victim. The predator would not treat all its prey in the same way. Different animals required a different strategy.

While Satan's blueprint for your demise is highly personalized, it usually involves one or more of these three strategies.

Strategy #1: Discourage you from worshipping God

Discouragement was Satan's primary strategy against God's servant Job. But when Satan had hit Job as hard as he possibly could, this servant of the most High God cried out, "Though he slay me, I will hope in him." (Job 13:15) I imagine at that moment the heavenly audience gasped in amazement of not only a creature who could endure such pain, but of a God who could command such devotion.

This same drama continues to be played out at this very moment. However, Job has exited the stage and it is now your turn to play your assigned part. The heavenly audience watches and wonders if Satan will be successful in breaking your allegiance to God. Will financial pressure, family conflicts, health issues, or the death of a loved one be enough to turn you away from God?

Strategy #2: Distract you from serving God

If Satan cannot persuade you to reject God, the next best thing is to distract you so that you ignore God. The adversary's goal is to create as much distance as possible between you and your Creator.

While overt disobedience is one way to create a wedge between God and us, Satan does not always have to resort to such obvious strategies. Many times he can achieve the same result simply by distracting us from our relationship with God through what a previous generation of Christians called "worldliness," a preoccupation with the delights and details of living in this world.

What is it that is distracting you from your relationship with God? Honestly. Have the "what ifs" of worry sapped your emotional strength? Has money - earning it, saving it, or spending it - become the focus of your life? Has the pursuit of pleasure become the grand obsession of your existence?

The first step in defeating the Enemy's plan is to recognize the specific strategy he is utilizing to distract you from your relationship with God.

Strategy #3: Deceive you into disobeying God

"Disobey God and your deepest desires will be fulfilled" Satan promised the first woman, just as he promises us today. What the tempter fails to disclose with his offer is that instead of satisfying our cravings, sin only increases those cravings until we are consumed and destroyed by our own desires.

I once read an account of how Eskimos kill wolves. They take a knife blade and coat it with animal blood, allowing it to dry in the frigid temperature. Then, they coat the knife with several more layers of blood until the blade is completely concealed. The knife is then placed upright in the frozen ground.

The wolf, attracted by the scent of the blood, starts licking the knife, tasting the fresh blood. He begins to lick faster and faster. So strong is his craving for the blood that he does not notice the razor sharp sting on his tongue, nor does he recognize the moment in which his insatiable hunger is now being satisfied by his own warm blood. His appetite just craves more and more blood until the dawn finds him dead in the snow.

Disobedience always leads to death - whether it is the death of our family, our reputation, our friendships, our dreams, or our relationship with God. But like the blood-coated knife blade, the destructive power of sin is often concealed inside an appealing temptation that Satan custom designs to satisfy our deepest yearning.

Never forget that you are in a life-and-death struggle with a formidable but defeatable opponent. The spiritual battle in which you are engaged is real. In fact, this invisible war is the reality behind most of the conflicts you confront every day of your life. But there is no need to panic. God has provided you with every resource you need to overcome your already-defeated adversary.

It's time to wake up.

Put on.

Stand firm.

And move forward with your divine defense.

- by Robert Jeffress

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