Recently, I was talking to a group of people about spiritual warfare. A common response was similar to “I know it exists, but I don’t think about it. I need to.” Spiritual warfare doesn’t seem real or isn’t on our radar of everyday living. It’s harder to be aware of spiritual warfare because it’s not visible. It also seems irrelevant, like a problem in a remote part of the world, somewhere far away, where we can’t be impacted.
For me, spiritual warfare seems more relevant when fighting temptations to sin, but I deceive myself to think that spiritual warfare occurs only in the midst of trials or is mostly about trying to sin less when it’s moments I choose to go against God’s way.
Sometimes, going to church seems like spiritual warfare. I have to fight tiredness or distractions or both! The battle is so strong in the morning, but after church service ends, I reap the benefits of obeying God as I hear words of encouragement or conviction from the pastor’s message, sing songs that resonate with my struggles, or learn of God’s work in other people’s lives. I can remember several Sunday mornings thanking God for helping me to choose Him by going to church or spending time with people who were not doing well. Spiritual warfare is often a battle between choosing to please myself or glorify God.
Choosing God Over My Desires
The Bible doesn’t tell us exactly how spiritual warfare happens in our lives, but it warns us that it exists and to stand firm in the Lord (1 Peter 5:8-9). Before we were Christians, spiritual warfare wasn’t a concern. We were in darkness, following our desires and not caring about God’s will. As Christians, we wrestle with our flesh, the schemes of the devil, and this world’s opposition to God (Ephesians 6:12).
Here’s the challenge. Spiritual warfare can occur in the seemingly harmless decisions of life. “I’m too busy to read the Bible.” “God knows everything, so why pray?” “No one knows about my struggle. I’ll keep it to myself.” “God doesn’t care about me. I won’t pursue him.” These are deceiving thoughts that weaken our faith in God.
The Devil Made Me Do It?
It can be tempting to blame the devil when we regret decisions—“The devil made me do it.” Well, can the devil make us sin? No! The devil can’t possess Christians or force Christians to disobey God (1 John 4:4). The devil, however, is always at work to tempt us to sin and knows our weaknesses. He doesn’t wait until we’re ready to resist temptations. It’s when we’re least prepared or apathetic to pleasing God that he does everything possible to discourage us as Christians.
What are your weaknesses? When are you more tempted to sin? Is it at certain times of the day, with the same people, or particular places? Those are vulnerable moments to guard against. Avoid them or make changes if possible. If we can’t avoid them, ask God for wisdom and help in honoring Him.
Stand Firm in the Lord
Be encouraged that we don’t have to live defeated by the same old sin that seems resistant and stubborn. God can help us overcome temptations when we seek Him and other Christians for support and encouragement. God has not left us to finish spiritual warfare on our own.
Meditate on Ephesians 6:10-11: “Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by his vast strength. Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the schemes of the devil.” God promises to strengthen us for spiritual warfare, but we also have to put on His armor, such as Scripture meditation and prayer. For some of us, we’re believing in people’s words more than God’s truth about us, circumstances, and life’s purposes. Our lack of prayer reveals self-sufficiency—“I can handle it. I’ll fix it.”
Don’t Overthink or Overlook Spiritual Warfare
We don’t want to overthink or overlook spiritual warfare. If we think too much about spiritual warfare, we might be forgetting the promises of Ephesians 6:10-11 and living in fear or discouragement. If we think too little about spiritual warfare, we might be taking Ephesians 6:11 for granted by not being on guard against the schemes of the devil.
One way to examine how we’re doing spiritually is by asking ourselves if there’s any areas of our lives that are separate from our “Christian life.” Are there beliefs we hold that are not compared to God’s truth? How are we doing with putting on the full armor of God? Do we make time for confession of sin, church involvement, and fellowshipping with other Christians?
Often, when I’m sinning with my attitude, words, or behavior, I know I have been guilty with allowing worldly distractions, even if they are harmless in of themselves. Over time, those compromises affect the purity of my thoughts, words, and behavior. Then, I remember a verse like Ephesians 6:10 and confess ways I have chosen other desires above God. What a beautiful reminder that “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5). I can experience the joy that is found in knowing God and depending on Him for strength.
Satan was defeated when Christ Jesus paid for our sins on the cross and resurrected on the third day. Satan still exists but has no authority over God’s children. We praise God for this truth and rest in God’s power and authority over all things.