Recently, I hit one of those downward spirals.
From unexpected kitchen renovations due to moldy cabinets, to major plumbing repairs throughout the house.
Add in multiple misunderstandings with the hubby, the kids acting like kids and the pressure to keep it altogether with a smile–I finally was pushed too far.
One afternoon, I walked to my neighbor’s house and crumbled into her arms. After blubbering out a few worry-filled sentences, this sage woman of God quietly repeated Jesus’ name, praying for Him to calm my soul. In less than a minute, peace traveled the course of my body and my breathing returned to normal.
I was shocked.
Never before had anyone prayed so simply, yet effectively over me.
I’ve been a Christian long enough to know that the enemy wants me entrapped by my fears.
He’s even mastered his accusations each time I fail as a parent and wife.
However, I had never considered my problems may be tied to the demonic realm. I mean, doesn’t that sound hokey, laughable even?
Spiritual warfare is described as the unseen battle in our lives by the spirits of darkness in the supernatural world. However, whenever I mention this subject, friends hesitate, nervous to talk about such things. Sea monsters, Bigfoot and the paranormal seem more plausible than caricature-like demons, chasing us with plastic pitch forks in some invisible world.
And that is exactly what the Devil would have us believe. That he is a silly fictional cartoon, and Christians are weirdos who make fools of themselves by claiming demonic phenomena exists.
The enemy first appeared on the scene in Genesis 3, as a serpent (Nachash), which in the original Hebrew means “whisperer.” He questioned (I imagine in a soft voice) if Eve really heard God correctly to not eat from a certain tree. Then he dropped his first recorded lie, claiming she, too, could be like God by partaking of the fruit.
We know the story. And the Father of lies is still at work today dispatching demons to murmur deceptions into our ear.
The exciting news is we get a glimpse of the invisible army of angels when the prophet Elisha prayed for his servant to see God protecting them. (Isn’t this just like our human flesh to want evidence that God is really there?)
The Bible says, “The Lord opened the (servant’s) eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire” (2 Kings 6:17)
Imagine that. An entire army of angels could surround us when we call upon the Lord.
But the clearest example of spiritual warfare takes place after Daniel fasted and prayed for three weeks, seeking God for answers.
The Lord sent an angel to deliver a message the first day Daniel prayed, however the angel explained: “But for twenty-one days the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia (demonic being) blocked my way. Then Michael, one of the archangels, came to help me, and I left him there with the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia” (Daniel 10:13 NLT).
It required Michael the archangel intercepting the Prince of Persia before the messenger angel finally reached Daniel.
We have no idea the spiritual battles we survive with a little help from our angelic friends.
The Beginning Battle
Since Satan and one-third of his angels were thrown out of heaven for plotting a revolt against God (Revelation 12:7-12), we have been at war.
If you love God, then Satan hates you.
Job’s trials; David’s fight against Goliath; our struggles with our eyes, thoughts, pride and rage could be tied to demonic oppressions cleverly orchestrated to distract us from fulfilling God’s plan. Even non-believers encounter temptations from the Devil. He plants doubts, judgments and addictions deep into the hearts of men in an effort to prevent them from placing their faith in Christ.
Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church shared in his series on Spiritual Warfare that the “Whole goal is to get you to covet something God forbids, breaking one of his commandments. If you don’t know the world is set up to get you to lust through your eyes … then you’ll find yourself in great trouble.” Driscoll described how we live in a “highly visual culture. About 100,000 websites right now are committed to pedophilia … That’s demonic. That’s satanic. That’s the world. That’s the active rebellion against God.”
Paul preached in Ephesians 6:12 (NLT): “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”
In Jon Courson’s New Testament Application Commentary, Courson explained, “Any time we are wrestling against flesh and blood — against family members, bosses, employees, neighbors, or friends — we’re fighting the wrong battle … The enemy is not your husband, your teenage daughter or your boss. The enemy is Satan.”
Courson said, “The Devil’s specific plan is to ‘manipulate you and rob you of your joy, power and your ability to influence others.’” Breaking apart the enemy’s stronghold is the only way to win.
After Jesus’ death, He traveled to the lower parts of the earth and revoked the demons authority (1 Peter 3:19). They can only whisper at us, until we sin. The enemy doesn’t know our thoughts, until we speak them. Satan roams around intently listening to our fears and desires.
Driscoll contended that demonic spirits have a good idea of what we are thinking “because Satan and demons have been observing humanity since Genesis.” Satan has perfected his tactics to subtly sway us towards that temptation we just can’t kick.
“Do not love seeing things that are sinful. Do not love doing things that are sinful … the whole world is filled with lust of the eye opportunities; Do you know that Satan set that up? Do you know that when you respond and feed those desires and you have internal urges — that is Satan giving you what will destroy you?” Driscoll warned.
So, how can Christians deflect these attacks?
Revelation 12:10-12 (NLT) reveals three components to combat spiritual warfare:
“ … For the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been thrown down to earth — the one who accuses them before our God day and night. And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die. Therefore, rejoice, O heavens! And you who live in the heavens, rejoice! But terror will come on the earth and the sea, for the devil has come down to you in great anger, knowing that he has little time.”
1. By the Blood of the Lamb
Courson wrote, “If I understand and rejoice in the blood of Christ, demonic powers are nakedly impotent. But the funny thing about demonic powers is that they are squatters. They won’t leave until I say, ‘I’m not going to listen to this depression you’re whispering in my ear this morning. I’m not going to buy it because of the blood of Jesus Christ.’”
Praying does not require a certain phrase, or ridiculous scene like sometimes seen on TV; it’s an understanding that when we plead in Christ’s blood, it blocks Satan’s influence over us.
2. By Their Testimony
Proclaim victory over trials by telling yourself “stop” every time negative thoughts sneak in. Share past experiences where God showed up; this increases our faith. “Don’t talk about your sickness, your weakness, your discouragement or your despondency. Don’t talk about that which perpetuates your problems,” Courson challenged.
Instead of speaking fears, pray God’s promises. To accept Christ, we confessed with our mouth that Jesus is Lord.
“The prerequisite for victory is the same as for salvation,” Courson said. We must retrain our thoughts to take them captive for Christ.
Use Scripture, the Sword of the Spirit, to battle the enemy by saying: “I’m content in whatever the situation because I can do anything through Christ who gives me strength” (based on Philippians 4:13).
The Devil is beaten back by what we say, “So we can say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear’” (Hebrews 13:6a NLT).
3. Die to Self, Rejoice
We must die to self and live for Christ.
“A recovering alcoholic realizes that they have to change the people, places and things around them to remove themselves from the temptations and influences in order to overcome their addiction. For many, they never get the victory because they never decide that this is do or die,” said Pastor Dan Plourde of Calvary Church.
If we don’t daily die to self and put on God’s armor, our old lifestyle creeps back in.
In everything, rejoice. Christ desires our praise. Satan despises it.
Before Lucifer was cast out of heaven, Ezekiel 28 teaches that he was the choir director to the heavenly hosts. Courson likens singing to God as “fingernails on a blackboard, praise and worship drive (Satan) crazy because they remind him of what he once was, but will never be again.”
There is hope for the believer if we read, pray, worship. One thing is for certain, though – we are at war.
The question is: How effective will we be?
For a deeper understanding on spiritual warfare, visit Mars Hill Church with Pastor Mark Driscol at www.marshillchurch.org/media/spiritual-warfare
Portions of my article were previously printed in The Good News South Florida, August 2011.