Have you ever been under demonic attack or wrestled with Satan? If the answer is no, you probably aren’t intending to lie but you are deceived. As Chip Ingram said in his spiritual classic The Invisible War, “Our sophisticated worldview can actually hinder us in the situations we confront. We start thinking that the problem is a spouse, a child, a boss, a policy, illness, or a circumstance.” We learn from Paul in Ephesians chapter 6:10-21 that every Christian is in a wrestling match and the problem is not “flesh and blood” but demonic powers. That was good, you should say it again.
Pastors, we need to be reminded that our ministry is a big deal to Satan and a lot is at stake. He is tuned into your sermons, schedule, fears, failure, and future, and his interest is to “steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10). This doesn’t necessarily happen all at once or in some dramatic spiritual showdown. It can happen in small increments. As Paul David Tripp pointed out in his work, Age of Opportunity, “Spiritual warfare makes us think of demon possession, horrific demonstrations of satanic control, and dramatic exorcisms. But Scripture presents spiritual warfare not as the violent, bizarre end of the Christian life, but as what the Christian life is (p. 116)!” Satan has mastered the art of throwing fiery darts that can pick us apart. These darts generally come to us in the form of lies; just as Satan lied to Adam and Eve.
In pastoral ministry and in our Christian walk in general, we can easily ignore or lose sight of the reality of Spiritual warfare because it is an invisible battle. Paul’s plea to the church at Ephesus and to us today is, “Don’t become so sophisticated that you think people are your enemy or that you can become sanctified by sheer will-power.”
So how do we regularly recognize that we are in a spiritual war?
- First, by daily acknowledging that we are in a wrestling match. In Ephesians 6:12, Paul points to an attractive sport of his day, wrestling. He informs the church at Ephesus that everything that he has previously said to them – everything from heavenly spiritual blessings to a proper view of family life – will not be achieved without a fight. While we don’t obsess over spiritual warfare, we can’t ignore it either.
- Second, by actively embracing Jesus and his Good News every day. When Paul calls us to put on the whole armor, he is calling us to put on Christ. He is reminding us that the only way to defeat Satan is to know how to apply the good news of Jesus to our heart. For pastors, the helmet of Salvation is critical. Sometimes Satan tempts us – perhaps he tempts us more than anyone else – to believe that we have to earn God’s or other people’s acceptance or approval. The helmet of salvation reminds us that we were justified by grace.
- Third, we regularly recognize that we are in a spiritual war by intentionally and intensely praying. In Ephesians Chapter 6 Paul calls the Christians in Ephesus to pray at all times and for all people, especially himself. The more in tune we are with the reality of spiritual warfare, the more intensely we will pray. Sophisticated, cute prayers won’t cut it.
- Fourth, by finding strength to fight in God and not ourselves. The Christian life is one of warfare, full of battles day after day. In our own strength, we are headed for certain disaster. Paul recognized this which is why he affirmed in Philippians that it was through Christ that he could do all things! As we continue to pursue God faithfully, we are equipped by His Spirit through His Word not only to survive but to thrive!
“For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (II Cor. 10:4-5).