Civil war is devastating.
Millions of refugees have fled their homes to escape it. Families, many of them Christian, have been surrounded by death and destruction for years . Missile attacks come by surprise as terrorists target helpless villages. Local men, women, and children have no resources or weapons with which to fight back—
And after years of continuous assault, they are defeated, weary, and without hope. Christians in these war-torn regions are often forced to choose between corrupt dictators and violent rebel forces as new regimes are often just as wicked as the ones being overthrown.
For those of us living in Western societies, civil war is distant and seems unreal. Yet another war is being waged—the unseen spiritual battle for our souls, a cosmic conflict that’s more real than we may think.
Dr. Tony Evans describes our battle like this: “Spiritual warfare is the cosmic conflict waged in the invisible, spiritual realm but simultaneously fleshed out in the visible, physical realm…the root of the war is something you cannot see, but the effects of the war are clearly seen and felt.”
The Bible describes the battle this way:
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)
Some spiritual battles are physical. While we can’t claim that every challenge we face is an attack from Satan, some of his attacks cause seasons of illness or conflict. They did for Job who suffered great loss at Satan’s hand. Paul, too, was never relieved of his physical “thorn…in the flesh,” which he recognized as an ongoing attack by Satan (2 Corinthians 12:7).
Other spiritual battles are fought in our minds. Satan tries to tempt us (1 Corinthians 7:5), outwit us (2 Corinthians 2:11), and present us with ideas, arguments, and explanations that are contrary to what God says (10:5). If you suffer from a heavy spirit of oppression and condemnation, you may be buying into a lie that God is not who he says he is and that you are not who God says you are. If so, you may be experiencing a spiritual battle.
How Spiritual Warfare Is Different
Though spiritual warfare is as real as the civil war faced by refugees, the Christian spiritual battle is different in a few important ways.
We are not to be taken by surprise.
The families in towns under attack never know what to expect. Terrorists target groups of Christians without warning, and families are often taken by surprise.
But we should not be caught off-guard when we face spiritual battles:
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. (1 Peter 4:12-13, NIV)
Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. (1 John 3:13)
We’re not to drift through our days and months and years as though no battle is being fought. God prepares us for the battle by warning us that it’s coming.
We are not without resources.
Unlike villagers under attack, we have divine resources. Our weapons are much more powerful than any weapon used against us:
For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. (2 Corinthians 10:3-4)
Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil….Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. (Ephesians 6:11, 13)
Dr. Tony Evans has a wonderful illustration for this reality:
Not long ago I was walking in New York City when it began to rain. I had seen the weather report, so I had my umbrella ready. Several other people must have seen the report as well because they had their umbrellas too. But a good number of people didn’t have umbrellas, causing them to rush around, looking for some place to find cover. Needless to say, they became miserable as the cold rain drenched them. Being underneath an umbrella doesn’t stop the rain—it simply stops the rain from stopping you. The umbrella doesn’t still the storm. What the umbrella does is change the way in which the storm affects you. Standing firm in the armor of God doesn’t stop the spiritual warfare from raging. It stops it from defeating you.
We too can stand firm in the storm when we put on the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, gospel shoes, the shield of faith, and the helmet of salvation.
We hope in a trustworthy Commander.
We read stories of those who have fled their homes with nothing more than they could carry, only to find themselves rejected and living in squalor. No one defends them. Many have lost hope that life will ever get better.
Though we find ourselves in the midst of spiritual battles, we have a hope and a future because of Jesus Christ:
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful. (Revelation 17:14)
Our commander is trustworthy; the battle is won.
[God] disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in [Jesus Christ]. (Colossians 2:15)
Though Satan and his army fight against God’s people, in Christ, God has the ultimate victory. The battle for our souls was waged at the cross, and when Christ resurrected, the battle was won—though we won’t see its final consummation until Jesus comes again to claim his people and do away with Satan once and for all (see Revelation 20 and 21).
All the sickness, conflict, and hardship that comes our way—every weapon used against us—becomes a “light momentary affliction” when we see it in light of the “eternal glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17), all because Jesus died for us.
Victorious in Christ
Imagine watching a suspenseful movie where you already know the good guys win. Or imagine facing a conflict at work where you already know the boss has your back and is going to defend you no matter what.
Now consider how you might respond to pain, heartbreak, conflict, and struggles if you grasped how God already knows the battles ahead and has secured the outcome.
- Would you approach your daily conversations differently if you didn’t allow spiritual battles to take you by surprise? What about your battle against sin?
- Would you be intentional about prayer and guard your thought-life if you trusted that God’s weapons were powerful enough to break down destructive patterns of thinking and other sins?
Will you allow the truth of God’s sovereignty and the hope of Christ’s resurrection to give you strength that far surpasses the struggles of today?