What is Spiritual Warfare?

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If Jesus won the war against Satan’s kingdom at the cross, then why do we sometimes still feel like we’re being shot at?

Jesus has triumphed over Satan’s kingdom. The war is over, but the guerrilla warfare continues. In his teaching entitled, “The Invisible War,” author Chip Ingram discusses what happened after the treaty ending WWII had been signed:

“After the war was ended, there was a treaty signed. We were at peace. And yet on multiple islands throughout the Pacific, the battle raged. There was guerrilla warfare. The bullets were just as real. The mortars fired with the same kind of reality and impact, and people died.” {In the same way,} “Satan and his host of fallen angels engage in guerrilla warfare to discourage, deceive, divide and destroy God’s people and God’s program.”

The good news is that we as believers have been given everything we need in order to not only defend ourselves, but also to advance God’s kingdom. We have been given everything we need in order to walk in victory; but in order to do that, we need to understand that a battle exists and how to recognize when we are under spiritual attack.

What is the battle? Dr. Tony Evans Defines spiritual warfare as “The conflict in the invisible realm that affects what you’re going through in the visible realm.” This battle is both offensive and defensive. In Ephesians 6:10-18 the imagery of war used is a metaphor that highlights the many similarities between a physical, earthly war and the unseen spiritual war that believers are a part of whether we realize it or not; we see territories being fought over, the armor required by the individual soldier, spiritual rank and strategies of warfare. While the believer has been equipped with everything needed in order to walk in victory, the choice is ours as to whether or not we will choose to pick up our armor, put it on and engage in the battle.  If we want to walk whole, it will mean overcoming the enemy on a personal level.

Who is this battle between? Ephesians 1:1 tells us we as believers are participants in this war is when it says,  “I am writing to God’s holy people in Ephesus, who are faithful followers of Christ Jesus.” (Eph. 1:1) It is the believers whom Paul is charging to “Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm.” (Eph. 6:11)

Who is the believer battling against?  Ephesians 6:12 describes our enemy when it says, “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.  Our battle is against Satan’s kingdom, which includes evil spirits, each holding different levels of rank, much like we would think of military rankings. This scripture makes it clear that our battle is not with people, even though it can look that way at times.

What are we fighting for? We are fighting to hold our ground…to recover and maintain the “spoils of war” that Christ won for us at the cross. What are “the spoils?” They are everything that God says are ours in Christ Jesus. Things such as:

  • The knowledge of who God is (His attributes as revealed in Scripture)
  • The knowledge of who we are…based on who God says we are. (Our identity in Christ)
  • The promises of God
  • Our spiritual gifts
  • Our spiritual fruit
  • Our calling/purpose

Another way to describe “holding our ground” would be “to stand firm.” Author Priscilla Shirer describes it this way: “Standing firm means you maintain the position you’ve been given in Christ.” The Amplified version of Ephesians 6:13-14 puts it this way:

“Therefore, put on the complete armor of God, so that you will be able to [successfully] resist and stand your ground in the evil day [of danger], and having done everything [that the crisis demands], to stand firm [in your place, fully prepared, immovable, victorious].  So stand firm and hold your ground…”

Where does the battle take place? The battle takes place in the heavenly places, the unseen realm where angelic and demonic forces are at war. (Eph. 6:12) The Greek word for “heavenly places” is epouranios. Strong’s concordance defines this as “the sphere of spiritual activities.”  The heavenly places is where Christ is seated at God’s right hand (Eph. 1:20) and where we as believers are seated with Christ.  (Eph. 2:6) While I don’t believe that Satan still has access to all areas in the heavenly realms, he has access to the arena where spiritual warfare between angels and evil spirits occur.

The battle also takes place in the mind of the individual believer. 2 Corinthians 11:3 says, “But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent‘s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” (2 Cor. 11:3 NIV) 2 Corinthians 10:5 explains the need for believers to resist thoughts that war against the knowledge of God, making those thoughts submit to truth when it says,  “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.”

Another place that spiritual battles take place is in our emotions. One example of this is found in Ephesians 4:26-27, which says, “Don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.  ” Anger isn’t the only emotion that the enemy seeks to influence in spiritual warfare. If he can succeed in tempting us to yield to lust, greed, hatred, heaviness, despair or any number of sins that effect our emotions, he has gained a foothold in our lives.

When does the battle happen? Spiritual battles happen on what scripture calls, “the day of evil. What exactly is the day of evil referred to in Ephesians 6:13? Author and Pastor Chip Ingram explains it this way, “The day of evil means on a particular day at a particular time…there are specific opportunities and times when the enemy is going to come and try and deceive you or discourage you or to turn you away from your General and Commander, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (The Invisible War)

Each person’s “day of evil” is the result of strategy on the part of the enemy that is specifically designed with the weaknesses of the individual in mind. Verse 11 says, “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” These schemes of the enemy are not random, but carefully crafted with a particular person in mind. The enemy makes an inquiry into the weaknesses of the individual in order to devise the best strategy to use in warfare against him/her.

How do we know when we are experiencing a “day of evil?” While each situation will be unique, it can be helpful to consider again what the ground we are holding looks like; Satan tends to attack these same things:

  • The knowledge of God. Anytime we give in to temptations by the enemy to believe lies about God, we’ve suffered a serious battle wound. If we can be persuaded to entertain harsh thoughts about God, our faith has taken a hit; thoughts like, “If God really loved me, He wouldn’t have let _______happen.” or “God abandoned me when I needed Him the most.” If we recognize that we’ve given the enemy a foothold through lies about God, repentance and acknowledging the truth about God is what will restore our trust in God.
  • Another thing that the enemy often attacks on a “day of battle” is our identity. I remember one time when this type of attack happened to me at church. While I knew the scripture that promises that I am part of the body of Christ, it took me most of the morning to recognize that my identity was under attack. My mind was being pummeled with thoughts like, “No one wants you here.” You don’t belong here.”  Blah, blah, blah. The enemy was unrelenting. Intense feelings of wanting to run away from church and never return washed over me. When I did finally realize that I was experiencing a “day of evil,” I shared with a couple of friends what was happening and asked them to pray with me. The warfare was abruptly overcome through prayer.
  • The promises of God are another area where the enemy seeks to undermine our  trust in God on a day of evil. He tempts God’s people to believe that God didn’t really mean what He said when He promised___________________.
  • While Satan is the instigator of “a day of evil,” he will often engage the cooperation of people we know to accomplish his schemes. While our struggle isn’t with those people, it can sure look that way sometimes. It can look like temptation to sin, opposition to rebuilding your life,  physical abuse, being punished for doing the right thing, false accusations, having your spiritual gifts mocked, and any number of other scenarios. Basically, if you are in the midst of a crisis, it’s a good idea to consider the possibility that you are experiencing spiritual warfare, or a “day of evil.”

The good news is that God has given us everything we need to overcome Satan’s schemes. James 4:7 assures us that when we resist the devil and submit to God, the enemy will flee from us. We need not be intimidated by the enemy. 2 Samuel 22:36 says, “You have given me your shield of victory.” 

May you go from victory to victory,

Arlene

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