Over the last few weeks I’ve come to realise that I know very little abut spiritual warfare. Sure, I know some of the Bible passages that refer to spiritual warfare. But I’m not sure exactly what it looks like on the ground today in all of it’s shapes and forms. My wife and I have been thinking about this topic for a number of weeks now for a number of reasons and both of us feel ill equipped in this realm. My experience is that spiritual warfare can be a topic of extremes, it’s either everywhere or it doesn’t really matter. Some might see spiritual warfare and demonic attacks behind everything that happens in the world, whilst others might see it as insignificant because Christ has won the victory. So what should the average Christian do? Well, the spiritual war is raging whether you show up or not…
I think that C. S. Lewis nailed it when he said “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.”
Those who spend their time thinking that satan lurks behind every wrong thing that happened in their life have a terrible theology of suffering. The Lord can use suffering and bad things for His own good purposes. This approach also means that Christians might be more susceptible to see something as a demonic attack, rather than something resulting from our world being sinful and broken. Not all suffering is without cause and not everything bad that happens is the result of a work of evil. Look at Job, the man suffered immensely. It was not the result of sin. It was not any fault of his own. But satan afflicted him because the Lord let him. Job never knew why he suffered. We may never know why we are involved in such an intense spiritual battle. The reality is that we don’t need to know. The spiritual battles that we face should make us run into the arms of an Almighty God who has won the victory over the demonic.
God is not a frontline sergeant who is making things up as He goes along. God is the victorious leader who has seen the enemy fall, who has dealt the final blow and who is gloriously victorious.
But like Lewis says, there is another extreme. Christians might be tempted to think that the demonic realm or that spiritual warfare does not exist. Whilst people might not articulate it like this, there are those who act like this is true. How often do you hear people speak about spiritual warfare and demonic activity?
Personally, I don’t hear it that often in my circles. I’m inclined to think that there are many Christians and churches in the ‘West’ who don’t talk or think about spiritual warfare because we like to rationalise things. We are more tempted to think that someone has severe mental health issues before we see any spiritual warfare at play. Don’t get me wrong, not all mental health issues are related to demonic activity. But I worry that we might be hiding behind a curtain of naivety with a ‘what we can’t explain we don’t ask about’ mentality.
My worry is that if we do not equip the church to seriously think about the implications of spiritual warfare then we are sending ill-equipped Christians into the world. We’re sending warriors out into battle without the relevant equipment they need to fight the war that will rage around them whether they like it or not.
We’re called in Ephesians 6 to put on the armour of God so that we can stand against the schemes of the devil. There is no ambiguity. Satan is scheming against the Lord’s people. He will attack. The question is are we really ready and equipped to stand firm in light of those attacks? Ephesians 6 is not only a passage that talks about defences, but also about weapons to go on the attack. I think that there are tow weapons that we can use; the Word of God and prayer.
The Word of God is described as a sword, a sharp tool that separates flesh and bone and truth from lies. Christians have the Word of God at hand to go on the offence to the schemes of satan that would try to distract us from God, His will and His work.
I think that prayer is also a weapon in this armour of Ephesians 6. Through prayer we come before the Lord in dependance and submission, relying on His strength and the empowering of the Holy Spirit to endure. But we also go on the attack as we pray for those who are caught up in the lies of satan and his schemes.
More on this will probably follow as I continue to study and explore the topic of spiritual warfare more in the coming weeks and months. But let me leave you with this, it’s a poem written by my father in 1996. We recited it as a family in the car every morning as we drove to school. I’ve found it to be a source of encouragement over the years and it often comes to mind at the right times.
I put on the suit of armour, each day I get dressed.
I then step in confidence, knowing I am blessed.
The belt is one of truth, to defeat the enemies’ lies.
The breastplate is righteousness protects my heart, which beneath it flies.
The shoes protect my feet, as I step out for God each day.
The shield of faith protects me from arrows, which will come my way.
The helmet of salvation is to protect my mind from Satan’s lies.
The sword of the spirit, for I must fight on until the enemy dies.
I put on this suit of armour, each day I get dressed.
I then step in faith, knowing, to Jesus my sins I have confessed.
– Alex Chalmers, 1996