Spiritual Warfare: The Ultimate Reality

Angels. Demons. These beings are not spoken about too much in churches today (at least not the ones I’ve been in). Pastors and teachers like to focus more on positive edification, rather than talking about spiritual warfare. Focusing on the positive is good, but knowing our enemy and his tactics will help Christians to walk out their faith victoriously. Ask a seasoned Christian who has experienced ministry and they will likely have stories to tell of a spiritual war, of demonic attacks. When I was in high school, my youth pastor specifically spoke about the topic every year. Since then, I have heard more first hand accounts from Christians who were sharing the Gospel in dark places and have picked up bits and pieces about demonic powers and bondage. There is so much I do not know, but one thing I do know for sure: it exists.

The American culture is so loud and “practical” that anything unusual easily gets explained away. Miracles and demonic oppression are mostly invisible because of this fact. It could also be because we have been blinded as a culture to the spiritual reality. There is a spiritual war going on, whether it is seen or not. God and Satan are pitted against each other. God is for mankind and has reached out for a restored relationship with us, offering us life. Satan rebelled against God and now wants to bring as many people as he can down with him to his eternal punishment. Each person is on one side or the other. There is no in between. You and I are either friends of God or enemies of God.

If we are friends of God, then Satan and all his demons hate us. Their goal is to destroy, kill, and create as much chaos as possible before their damnation. Even the people who are on their side will be ultimately destroyed because that is what Satan does.
Satan does not have total power, though. God is more powerful, as Creator, and is perfectly able to keep the chaos in check. In fact, we see in Job 1:6-12, Satan has to ask permission to sift Job.

In 1 Peter, the character of the devil is given, along with plenty of commands for us in relation it it: “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world” (1 Peter 5:8-9). Something else to note is that, “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14). He is appealing. How else would he get so many followers and lead so many astray, including Christians?

Paul explains this spiritual reality further in Ephesians by saying, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand” (Ephesians 6:10-13).

There are many examples of how this spiritual warfare plays out in every day life. Something to note is that people and what we see are not the enemy, but against the spiritual enemy. The most general form of demonic power would be blindness to this spiritual reality.  Materialism, accomplishments, and surface level are what people focus on, never stopping to ask if there is something more. Anything odd, in a good way or a bad way, is often explained away or simply ignored. Another way this is seen is how people desire to fill every minute with entertainment and productivity. It’s all distraction from the spiritual reality. There are also very specific attacks on people who are pushing back the darkness bringing many to salvation. Multiple Christian leaders have told stories of waking in the night to find a demon in their room. What woke them was a heavy weight upon their chest which was severely hindering their breathing. After commanding the demon multiple times in Jesus’s name, the weight would lift and the demon would leave. In between these two extremes would be demonic strongholds and opposition to us seeking Jesus or living the life He asks us to. These are varied and common. (And also things I don’t know much about, so I recommend you read a book about them to find out more.)

Not only did Paul explain the spiritual reality in Ephesians, but he also told us how to fight in the war. He describes a suit of armor. When these things come, we are to “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people(Ephesians 6:14-18).

Did you notice that “Be alert,” “Be sober-minded,” and “Be watchful” are the attitudes that we are to have? How can we make sure to stand firm if we don’t even know there is something pushing us? We are commanded to be aware of this war to watch for where the attacks are happening. After explaining the suit of armor example, Paul says twice to pray. The first time, he says to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests” (Eph. 6:18). The second time, he applies the whole war and armor analogy to how we should be thinking of our fellow Christians: “Be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people” (Eph. 6:18).

My youth pastor specifically said not to ascribe too much credit to Satan and demons because that could become worship. As children of God, we have a mighty King who we can look to constantly for our security, for eternity! We have been commanded to have a certain attitude and mindset and to stand, though. Understanding that the enemy does want to destroy our lives and our witness will help us to recognize an attack when it comes. When we have recognized it, we can stand firm and pray to Jesus for help and freedom.

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37. Lessons Through Lyme

In my last post on Lyme, I explained what it was like physically, mentally, and emotionally as the bacteria started wreaking havoc on my body. I purposefully left out the spiritual aspect, for multiple reasons, the main one being space. There were just too many words to be said about how Lyme has effected my relationship with God/ what I have learned through this trial so far.

I was all set to attend the Word of Life Bible Institute, which I thought God had led me to, when the Lyme symptoms became life-altering. The idea that when God leads you someplace, maybe it’s not for the reason you think was hard to swallow as I navigated the tough decision of saying no to attending school and experienced the awkward situations involved with pulling out of the commitment.

Next, the fact that God was allowing this to happen to my body hit; He wasn’t protecting me from the bacteria that wanted to destroy my body. That’s the way I saw it, at least.

God did not correct my thinking the way I expected. Another lesson in God’s ways being higher than my ways.

What I wanted was for God to assure me right away that He was in control and was protecting me. From my perspective, that would probably have meant healing me outright. God had a different plan. Instead, I entered  what felt like “the valley of the shadow of death.” (Psalm 23:4)  During that time, John 3:16 became more real than ever before. The hope of salvation was placed in front of me. God showed me that my hope to get back to good health, to get a college degree, to get a job, and to serve Him were not where my hope should be. My strong hope should be that one day when I die I will be with Jesus. My well-being, in light of eternity, is not that big of a deal..

Being torn away from my plans humbled me so much that I was scared to make any strong statements on any type of future plans for a little while, no matter how small. (Probably a good practice to implement, though.) Along with the lesson of this life not mattering so much, came that fact that my life didn’t have a great deal of weight; God is the one that matters at any and every given time in history. I am a goal oriented person so this lesson on how nothing I accomplish matters if not done for, and by, God shook me to the core.

Something I wrote in my prayer journal during that time is, “You don’t want beautiful actions nearly as much as You want our choice of Yourself.”

I also pulled these quotes out of my journal from during those difficult days:

“I can be brought low by Him who strengthens me.” -John Piper

“But You, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the One who lifts my head.” -Psalm 3:3

At my lowest, God met me. Even when it felt like He was not protecting me, He was my shield. Like Job in the Old Testament clearly shows, God had complete control over how much would be allowed to “go wrong.” I am so thankful that I had God to turn to in that dark time and I hope to take these lessons learned with me, even after Lyme stops being such a defining part of my life.

 

14. Dreaming

At the beginning of the dream, I was told what would work to fend off attackers. The man seemed nice; he was offering me good advice!

When the expected attack came, I started throwing blows, exactly as I had been told. The strange thing was that the very moves I had been told would serve as offensive, wasn’t even defensive! My frustration and helplessness was growing more and more. Why wasn’t it working? The advice had seemed so logical, still seemed like it should work. Yet, it was not doing anything, right before my eyes.

It was easy to get distracted by the blows being thrown me, so I hadn’t looked to see who I was dealing with. As soon as I did look up, I recognized the man who had given me the advice! Well that made sense, of course he would give me faulty information, so that he could destroy me.

At that point, I stayed no longer to try to earn the pride and glory of defending myself. I took to my heals and fled the place he had chosen for battle.

Satan, the one who wants to destroy us, is the man who gave the advice. He feeds beautiful lies to us every day. They make sense. Honestly, God’s way is the way that sometimes seems insane. The ending is what must be focused upon when logic is crushed, though. God is looking out for your best interest. Always.

10. A Real Reality

Walls of rock slant steeply on either side as we fly down a road in West Virginia. The conversation centers on reality. To look at the mighty rock and know that a Spiritual being can walk straight through it. Strange to think that our world, the one we can touch and find hard, is perhaps the less real one.

What is reality though? Is it just something of our imagination to make us feel safe? We do make up our own fake realities; build it to be exactly how we want it to be. My Dad and brother were just watching a show about illusions and how much of life we actually miss because we are focusing on one thing. If we’re honest, the truest reality is not in the least bit “safe” so our tendency is to push that aside. There are happier things to focus on!

In Ephesians 6:12, Paul reminds us of reality as he tells the Ephesians to stand in the armor of God. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in heavenly places.”

The devil, and the angels who fell from heaven with him, are doing everything they are allowed to bring darkness and destruction to this world. Everyone has fallen prey to their deception. Our flesh is bent toward sin and believing lies from the day we are born.

“Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know truth, and the truth will set you free.’” (John 8:31-32) The Jews do not believe they have ever been enslaved so they asked how they could possibly become “free.” Jesus answers with, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.”

(v.34)

He doesn’t stop there though! “The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (v.35-36) That is the reason Jesus left His glory to come to earth to die. He came to bear all of our sin; to give us the option of freedom and true life.

There is always more than the life you are living.