Last year, I was in a small group with several other people in our worship ministry at church, and we decided to go through a study on the Holy Spirit. As we unpacked the concepts that the Bible presents about the unseen world around us, we began to see spiritual warfare going on in our everyday lives. We found ourselves compelled to talk about it more often knowing we could identify with each other’s struggles.
Why don’t we talk about spiritual warfare, even among our fellow believers? Maybe we’re scared to acknowledge the things about God that we don’t understand. Maybe we don’t want to sound like mystics talking about things like The Force. Or maybe we’d simply rather not run the risk of people seeing us as religious nuts.
In his amazing book Onward: Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gospel, Dr. Russell Moore talks about our fear of discussing spiritual warfare:
This sort of talk provokes squeamishness, even in the most conservative and orthodox Christians among us. The first reason is because such talk of the demonic is viewed as strange, indeed insane, in our cultural context. The Scriptures, we know, present a picture of the universe as a war zone, with the present age a satanic empire being invaded by the rival kingdom of Jesus. Talk of such realities rise and fall in the history of the church, oscillating between preoccupation and embarrassment. The church around the world— especially in what sociologist Philip Jenkins calls the Global South— grasps the kind of demon-haunted universe presented in the Scriptures. But many North American and Western European Christians wince at the “spiritual warfare” novels of the previous generation, with invisible angels and demons duking it out over small-town America. We cringe at the latest television faith healer describing the demons that were persecuting him right around the time he was caught with the cocaine and the prostitutes.
Indeed, the Bible does mention the idea of spiritual warfare in several places:
For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12).
We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).
You have given me your shield of victory. Your right hand supports me; your help has made me great (Psalm 18:35).
And that’s just a sampling of what the Bible has to say about the battles going on all around us.
As believers in Jesus, we should talk about spiritual warfare more often. It is, after all, a real part of our daily existence. Our struggles with temptation and sin aren’t about the items or people that tempt us; rather, they are about our ability to rely on the Spirit to help us resist them or to rely on the flesh to give in to them.
Our preoccupation with earthly matters takes place when we give in to Satan’s distractions to keep our eyes off the eternal. After all, Christians are called to “set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth” (Colossians 3:1-2).
Or, as Moore puts it:
The ways of the devil are not what witch-hunters suppose, some preternatural and recognizably dark power. The devil’s power is to leave us where we are, under the sentence of accusation, hiding behind whatever we can find— ideology, philosophy, religion, morality, pleasure, success, or whatever— to keep us from paying attention to where we are going.
Our prayers go to a God who is real even though we don’t see Him. After all, our faith is based totally on the fact that we can’t physically see the God we believe in, love, and serve – and that the hope we have it true (Hebrews 11:1). The Holy Spirit, whom we can’t see but often take for granted, serves as our counselor and conscience and convicts us when we sin.
Christians often say that this world isn’t our home, and it’s true. We’re just travelers here with an eternal destination that awaits. Here on this earth, we are ambassadors of that heavenly destination, and we shouldn’t be able to help but know that the invisible war of the spiritual world rages around us. Spiritual warfare isn’t just a concept for weirdo zealots or mystics; it’s as real as the things we can touch and see, and we should recognize that reality. We shouldn’t be afraid to talk about it, either.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock / Igor Zh