All scripture is from the ESV translation unless otherwise noted.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Spiritual Warfare: You Can’t Fight a Battle That You Don’t Know is Happening

Until about a year ago, my knowledge of spiritual warfare largely came from stories I had heard about the intense persecution that Christians are suffering around the world and the voodoo that goes on in Haiti. My understanding was that it largely happens in third world countries and manifests itself in ways that are very obvious that it is the work of Satan. Oh, how wrong I was.

Over the past year I’ve grown in my understanding of spiritual warfare and now know that it is incredibly real, and it’s going on all around us. I write this post to 2) make you all aware that it is real and to 2) educate you all about my experience with it that you may be able to use this knowledge to help you fight the good fight.

In essence, spiritual warfare is the act of Satan doing whatever he can to hinder those who follow Christ from bringing glory to God. It can manifest itself in outward ways like persecution, but in our society Satan attacks us inwardly much more often. He gets into our thoughts and uses those to bring us down. It may be little things like telling us, “You don’t really need to read the bible today… you went to church so that counts” or “if you go and talk to that kid sitting by himself he may think you’re really weird”. I had often experienced thoughts like these, but a couple weeks ago he attacked me in a way I had never felt before.

I was driving back from Houston after spending the weekend with my girlfriend, and after a couple hours on the road the attacks came, and they came hard. My heart began to feel so heavy and I just felt sorrow. I had no idea why. I had a great time that weekend, but Satan was using thoughts of uncertainty about my future with her to bring me down. Obviously, I didn’t know (and still don’t) what the future will hold which is okay, but Satan was telling me “no, you don’t know and that’s bad. The only way to fix this pain is to end it.” I didn’t know what to do. My heart was so heavy and the pain I was feeling was so great, that I just began to cry. I shouted to God, “Why do I feel like this? What do you want me to do? I’m so confused!”

It got a little better later that night, but the attacks came back hard the next morning. I didn’t want to do anything. I just wanted to sit around and try to sleep because if I was asleep I couldn’t feel the pain. That sounds very depressing, but it’s the truth. But nighttime came and I went to hang with friends and it just kind of went away. I felt fine… until the following morning. You picking up on the pattern here? For a week straight, I’d wake up feeling awful, but it would fade away in the late afternoon and I felt fine every night when I went to bed. I had had enough. Tuesday night (a week after the attacks started) before I went to bed, I wrote this prayer on my phone.

Attack me all you want Satan. You hold no power over me because of what Christ did on the cross. Nothing you do will stop me from bringing glory to his kingdom. I will serve God today, and every day for the rest of my life. My God will fight for me.

I wake up today not praying that Satan wouldn’t attack me, but knowing that he will because that is his nature. My prayer is that YOU, God, will fight for me and set me free from the chains the devil tries to put me in.

For the next few days I woke up and said this prayer in the morning and started reading some verses and praying over those, and have now felt freedom from these attacks for about a week and a half straight. Praise the Lord!
The week that I went through these attacks was seriously one of the hardest weeks in my life. Satan attacked me through my relationship with my girlfriend, but used that as a door to everything else in my life and brought me to a place where I couldn’t feel joy in anything.  It was rough, but as usual God used it for his glory. Through this, he taught me that I had a big problem in my life in that I often did the exact opposite of what scripture commands us to do in Proverbs 3:5 - Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In regards to my relationship, I was relying so heavily on what I could see and understand, rather than leaning on God and simply trusting him with my life. Having gone through this, I can now truly say, “God I have no idea what my future holds, but that’s okay because you do.”
There are a few things that I did that during that week that helped me in my fight that I want to share with you all that hopefully you will do if you ever face similar trials.

1)    Pray. I prayed more that week than I ever have in my life. Driving, watching TV, brushing my teeth… it didn’t matter what I was doing - I was praying while doing it. That prayer that I listed above helped so much. Even if you don't say that prayer, the main idea is that you have to let Satan know that you do not serve him – you serve God. That no matter what the Enemy tries to do or how hard it gets you will follow God.

2)    Read/recite/pray over scripture. Exodus 14:14 was the verse that I was saying over and over in my head during this week. It reads, “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” I cannot stress enough the benefit of memorizing scripture, especially in times like these.

This is a list of a couple verses that I had memorized that I recited often during this time, in addition to Exodus 14:14.

Philippians 4:6-7
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

1 Corinthians 10:13
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

1 John 1:5
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 

I love this last one because it means that if you are truly in Christ Jesus, there is no darkness in you. Light can have no fellowship with darkness.

The following verses I put in a note on my phone and spent a lot time in reflection over. When I felt attacked, I’d whip these out and just start praying over them.

Ephesians 6:10-12
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 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.

1 Peter 5:8-9
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.

2 Corinthians 10:3-4
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

James 4:7-8
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

Psalm 144:1-2
Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle; he is my steadfast love and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield and he in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me.

1 Peter 4:12-13
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

In addition to reading over these verses and reciting scripture I made sure to have some personal Jesus time every day. The restoration that reading the word brings to the soul is incredible. I had been going through the book of Numbers, one of the driest books in the bible, but even just opening up His Word and reading about the necessary sacrifices that the Israelites had to do lightened my spirit.

3)    Tell someone/multiple people. Don’t take the mindset that you can handle this on your own. God gave you brothers/sisters in Christ for a reason. I talked a couple times a day to one of my close brothers, I told my girlfriend what I was going through, and I talked to my parents about it a lot.  I was honest with all of them and they, along with a few of my other brothers and sisters, committed to fight for me daily. It helped so much. As Ecclesiastes 4:12 says, “And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” James 5:16 is another great one - Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
A few words of encouragement…

If you are following Christ, it’s not a matter of if you will be attacked, but when. Revelation 12:17 says, “Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea.”

What’s important to realize is that you are not on your own. God is with you. Exodus 14:14 guarantees that he will fight for you. Granted, that doesn’t mean just sit around and do nothing and wait for God to deliver you. 1 Timothy 6:12 says that you have to fight too. “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”

It’s also crucial that you do not think that you being attacked and suffering is due to any fault of your own. I’m not ruling that out. That may be the case, but it seems much more likely that Satan would want to attack those who are actively pursuing God. Take Job for example. Job 1:1 says, “[Job] was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.” Yet despite all this, Job underwent suffering that I couldn’t even fathom. If you were in a battle, you wouldn’t attack the guy who doesn’t know how to shoot a gun and looks completely clueless – you’d attack the one who you saw as the biggest threat. Odds are that if you’re being attacked, it’s because Satan sees you as dangerous and knows what you’re capable of.

Do not fear the enemy. Do not fear suffering. In Philippians 1 Paul says that suffering is a gift. Verse 29 reads, “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake”. James 1:2 says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds”. Rejoice that you are able to suffer for his kingdom. Consider it an honor.

Lastly, endure the suffering. Satan robbed me of my joy and I was in anguish, but I grew so much from it. No matter how bad it is, it will get better. Rest in the peace of God.

Take control of my life. Help me to trust wholly in you. Help me to lean on you in my times of suffering. I pray that you would help me to turn to you when I need strength and know that you will fight for me when the attacks inevitably come. Oh God, I will serve you forever.

Feel free to send me a message/email or comment if you have any questions.