“The more I seek him, the worse things get.”
A friend of mine sent me this message last night, although I took the liberty of summing it up a little. I was heartbroken for him … I’ve felt this way so many times before. The more I press in, the more I surrender, the worse things get too. I feel like it’s the Christian’s condition. I almost cringe thinking of what lies ahead for new Christians because I often wonder if they are under the impression that life gets easier after we surrender to God. I can honestly say it doesn’t. The battle intensifies with a two-fold purpose. Graham Cooke says it like this: “God and the devil both have one thing in common: They are both trying to kill you!” God allows circumstances that purify us, killing off the fleshly, natural man. Satan, on the other hand, declares an all-out war on Christians to kill our witness, our effectiveness, our joy and our willingness to press in to God.
I recently went to a training and wrote down a bunch of really great quotes from Congressional Medal of Honor Recipients about their experience in battle that I loved, and suddenly, I want to share them with you as I write a little about Spiritual Warfare.
Firstly, let me say that spiritual warfare is not a healthy 24/7 focus. It’s important to know that we have an enemy roaming around seeking whom he may devour. It’s important to acknowledge that the devil is prolific at what he does. We should not deny him, but we should not fixate on him either. We are full of power and authority to defeat him. But here’s the truth: “War is hell.”
Yeah, I’m sorry about that. Well, in a “sorry, not sorry” kind of way. This is a quote from Tibor Rubin, a CMO recipient with an incredible testimony of defeating the odds in so many situations meant to destroy him. Before he was a war hero, he was a Nazi death camp survivor, American soldier, and POW. If anybody understood war, it was Tibor Rubin. Many of us will never know that kind of fiery intensity, so we can just take his word for it. And it’s true of spiritual war too.
I don’t know if I can adequately describe war, having never been there, but I will try to describe the videos of war that we watched in this training. I’m going to throw out some adjectives: Terrifying. Deafening. Confining. Lonely. Dark. Horrific. Deadly.
Can it even be done, to describe the scene of battle? Surrounded by the enemy. Breathing heavily, pressed against a rock to evade detection. Sometimes captive. Starving. Thirsting. Sick. Beaten. Watching others die. Wishing you were dead.
That’s unremarkable, really. The realities of war are so much more … devastating. There really aren’t any adjectives that do war justice, and I’m feeling really inadequate. Can you hardly imagine it? Spiritual warfare includes all of these things. Satan fills us with an emotional storm and manufactures circumstances that stir up the wind until … chaos. Our lives are a mess, relationships crumbling down around us, devastation lying at our feet and our hearts and minds in torment. Then, as if things couldn’t get any worse, he takes us captive. He speaks lies we believe and we become bound. Prisoners of spiritual war. In the least, unhappy. But often times, so much worse off than that. Sometimes, we want it all to be over with … and even romanticize death as the way out of it all. And that’s another lie of the enemy. He who has come to steal, kill and destroy leads us to the edge of our proverbial cliff and tells us that jumping would end it all.
Sadly, so many people quit here. They remember life when it was easy and satisfying and in order to save their necks, they stop taking the Christian walk so seriously and settle into a rut to avoid detection. They might even live the rest of their lives in that lukewarm place, not making waves, so they can enjoy life without fighting any more. I know this is true, because sometimes, I see these ruts in life and feel very tempted to settle into one myself. Because the alternative is war. There is no third option. To be alive in Christ is to be at war.
When I am tempted to throw up my hands and retreat in chains, the Holy Spirit reminds me of 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” In the words of Salvatore Giunta, another Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient, “How could I not do this for them?”
We are entrusted with going before. There will be others behind us, and sometimes, we fight, find comfort and come out victorious so that we can show others the way. “Pass through, pass through the gates! Prepare the way for the people” (Isaiah 62:10).
Another notable detail about their collective experience in warfare was the emphasis on the mind. “It’s mind over body” (Tibor Rubin). That’s his echo of a statement made by so many men who have been in warfare. They literally pushed their bodies past their breaking points because of the demands of the battle. They couldn’t imagine not surviving. They just did what had to be done to live and many persevered by convincing themselves that losing was not an option. Dying was not an option.
Tibor Rubin tells a story of giving a fellow POW goat poop under the guise of it being medication because he knew that the only way that man was going to survive was to believe it. He was otherwise dead already. His defiance against war and death pulled him through what doctors would have described as a hopeless situation. All because of the war he waged in his mind. How powerful the mind is! No wonder this is where the battlefield is when it comes to spiritual war!
But then that means that we have home-field advantage, doesn’t it? After all, the enemy may have access, but we can make up our own minds what to allow and disallow in our thoughts. We know the terrain better and we make all the calls. We can speak things that are not as though they were. We can speak spiritual truth no matter how bleak the situation seems. We can speak scripture and claim victory in Jesus. We can expel demonic thoughts and abolish chains of the enemy because we have that authority. We have Jesus, who, “disarming the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Colossians 2:15). We can resist the enemy, and we should!
We should be dressing every day in the armor of God outlined in Ephesians 6, girding our minds with the knowledge of our salvation, our hearts guarded with the righteousness Jesus purchased for us, the belt of truth firmly reminding us of the Word of God through every temptation to believe in a contrary direction, and shoes of readiness that will engage the enemy knowing we can be victorious because we have the shield of faith to extinguish his darts and the sword of the Spirit to demolish his blows. We have this full armor because we are at war! We are equipped, and we will be victorious if we just commit to the fight! “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).