|Been Thinking About: Spiritual Warfare|
(an article by RBC Ministries President Mart De Haan)
In one of the oldest stories of the Bible, the heart of a mere mortal
gets caught in the crossfire between a rebel leader and the King of the universe.
According to Satan, God has bought the heart of a man named Job by giving
him protection in exchange for his loyalty.
In response to the charge of bribery, God allows Satan to test Job with
a series of heart-breaking losses. In the wake of Job's suffering, three
friends and a bystander deepen his misery by accusing him of hiding a sin
that would explain his suffering. In a series of eloquent arguments and escalating
anger, Job and his friends insult and alienate one another until God speaks
out of a storm and brings their conflict to an end.
Although God didn't
give Job the answers he was looking for, his story combines with the rest
of Scripture to give us insight into the ancient art of spiritual warfare.
God builds hedges of protection: Job faithfully
interceded for his children. His prayers are an indication of his character.
Yet even Job was not able to "pray a hedge" of protection around his loved
ones. As the prologue shows, the King of heaven is the one who set the boundaries
for Job's spiritual enemy (Job 1:9-12). God is the one who, in His own wisdom
and goodness, builds fences and takes them down. If we don't make this distinction,
we might put more confidence in our prayers than in our Lord.
The devil isn't our biggest problem:
Job's story is a timeless reminder that even though we have adversaries in
high places (Job 1; Ephesians 6:12), we have the potential of being our own
worst enemy. God had Satan on a leash. The rebel couldn't do anything more
than God allowed him to do. The real ambush came from within Job and his
friends. They were all blindsided by their inclination to rely on their own
understanding rather than to trust God for what He alone could see and explain.
Don't underestimate the enemy:
God didn't ask Job to match wits or muscle with the prince of darkness. He
reserved that role for Himself. According to the New Testament, to speak
arrogantly against Satan is a mark of false teaching (2 Peter 2:10-12). Even
Michael the archangel showed humility and deference to God in his own struggle
with the devil. Instead of presuming that he had authority over Satan, Michael
did not dare challenge his enemy but said, "The Lord rebuke you!" (Jude 1:8-9).
Adopt a truth-based strategy: When our Lord met
demon-possessed people, He often used His authority to send demons running.
But when He Himself was tempted by the devil, He resisted His enemy by repeatedly
quoting the Word of God (Matthew 4:1-11) in response to each of Satan's propositions.
The second approach shows up in a classic New Testament passage that likens
our spiritual defenses to the gear of a Roman soldier (Ephesians 6:10-18).
(1) The belt of truth reminds us how important it is to tell the truth.
Personal integrity is a priority of spiritual conflict. Even when fear of
being exposed tempts us to lie, it is far better to come clean than to trip
over ourselves in the presence of our enemies. Lies are self-defeating. A
commitment to be honest with God, others, and ourselves is foundational to
fighting spiritual battles.
(2) The breastplate of righteousness
has at least two implications. First, it represents the protective gift of
blamelessness our Lord uses to protect those who trust Him. No one can successfully
condemn the person justified by Christ (Romans 8:31-34). Second, this critical
piece of body armor reminds us to do the right thing. Our enemy
loves to catch us doing anything that would jeopardize our mission and give
him an unguarded path of access into our lives.
(3) Feet covered with the preparation of the gospel of peace gives us reason to be ready for action.
We have been called to endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ (2
Timothy 2:3). Our path will not be easy. We need to be ready to run on the
difficult, rocky ground that lies between us and those who need our help
to make peace with the One who died for them.
(4) The shield of faith reminds people under attack how important it is to trust the Lord
rather than their own natural thoughts and emotions. Missions of rescue are
not for the timid. The enemy knows how to frighten us with arrows of fear
and doubt. Yet it is safer to trust Christ in the heat of battle than to
hide in bomb shelters of our own making.
(5) The helmet of salvation
is described also as "the hope of salvation" (1 Thessalonians 5:8), and among
other things it reminds us how important it is to think future.
Like Job we may not be able to understand what is behind the present circumstances
of our lives. God wants us instead to protect our minds by taking confidence
in a salvation that protects us now and waits for us in heaven.
(6) The sword of the Spirit is the Word of God. In spiritual conflict we need to remember to count on what God has said
(Deuteronomy 29:29). Our Father in heaven intentionally withholds many of
the answers our hearts cry out for. He asks us to trust Him for what He alone
(7) The alertness of a soldier
reminds us that "praying always" for one another is our spiritual guard duty
(Ephesians 6:18). Intercession for others is a way of showing that we know
our enemy can be defeated not by our strength but by the Spirit of God in
His time and in His ways.
And so we pray, Father
in heaven, we are often confused by the trouble You allow into our lives.
Help us to depend on what You alone can see in this present darkness. We
want to resist the Evil One who hates You. Please teach us to bow before
You with Your servant Job, acknowledging the overwhelming truth of Your unlimited
authority, power, and wisdom.
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