3 Strategies for Spiritual Warfare
"for the Lord your God is he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory." Deuteronomy 20:4
Here is something I know to be true about spiritual warfare: God has equipped you, and He fights with you. Here’s something else I know - a lot of the time this doesn't feel true. When we are under attack, we often feel powerless, frustrated and discouraged. It's hard to remember this truth and to act on it, but there are some practical steps you can take the next time you find yourself on the battle field fighting for spiritual health and freedom.
The enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy. We know this, that’s a line that everyone could fill in the blanks to. That's the whole purpose of the enemy in your life, but there are a number of different ways he tries to carry it out. I want to highlight 3 of those tactics today, and offer 3 solutions given to us by Jesus to gain victory in every battle. Three main attacks of the enemy of your life are to Accuse, Excuse, and Confuse. Each one of these battles requires a different response, but recognizing you’re in a battle is the first step to victory. If you waltz into a war zone dressed for vacation, you will quickly get beat up. The enemy loves to fly under the radar as long as possible so that we are slow to raise our weapons, but the sooner you recognize that you're in a battle, the sooner you can partner with the God who equips you and fights with you.
And not all of our lives are in this battle, not every circumstance is an evil spirit. There is a season and a rhythm to life on earth. But we all encounter battles at some point, and God’s will is that you would be confident and not fearful or panicked when you do. Can you picture what it would look like to be equipped for battle? What would it require, what would have to change in order for you to feel confident walking into spiritual warfare? Let’s take a look at how Jesus handled it. In Luke 4 we read the story of Jesus in the wilderness, right after His baptism.
The first tactic of the enemy is to Accuse. He attacks Jesus' identity - if you were really the son of God. The Accuse battle often has strong "I" statements, because the enemy will pretend to speak as you. I'm not good enough. I've failed. I'm rejected. I'm a screw-up. I'm too much. It feels like growing fear, or shame. It will have you ruminating on old events, playing them over in your mind like a tape that you can't turn off. The Accuse battle is devastating because even if you're in the exact place that God has called you to be, you can't enjoy it. It's a shifty lie, because even if all is well, the enemy only has to convince you that you're not. How does Jesus respond? What is the weapon that He uses? Life does not come only from eating bread but from God. Life flows from every revelation from his mouth. Jesus used Scripture in every response, but in this one He's using a Scripture about Scripture. He's saying that the weapon we need to gain victory over accusation is God's word.
The next battle is an Excuse attack. Jesus is told if you worship me, all this power is yours. All the authority humans have handed over to me, I will give to you. The enemy is handing Jesus a really good solid reason to partner with him. It makes sense. It's logical, but it's twisted. This was not a tempting offer for Jesus because He was power hungry, it was tempting to Him because this was His exact purpose and calling, to take back the keys of the kingdom, to claim all power and authority. The enemy is really great at coming up with reasons why your sin is justified. Why you should continue that destructive habit, why it's ok to hurt someone, why you have a right to fill-in-the-blank. It feels like logic, it feels like imaginary arguments and conversations in your head about what you would say if someone walked in right now and saw what you were doing. It feels like daydreaming about fix it all solutions, magic wands that will undo the damage that pride and rebellion have caused in your life. It's destructive because it is a thinly veiled disguise for something that deep down in your heart and spirit you do not want to keep. How does Jesus respond to this Excuse offered Him? Only one is worthy. Humility is the weapon that destroys excuses. No need to justify your sin when you humble yourself before the Lord. No need for excuses when you recognize that God is the only one worthy of a high position, that He has paid for every sin and accepts you completely.
The final battle is the Confuse attack. The enemy tells Jesus that God promised to protect Him, so jump off this building! He used Scripture, and told Him to contradict it in order to prove it. Confusion attacks feel like chaos, like an absence of peace. Like something is wrong, but you can't pinpoint what. You have no clarity for decisions that need to be made, and different Scriptures seem to contradict each other. You feel double-minded, like you believe one thing but act like the opposite is true. Confuse attacks are effective because we then take ourselves out of the battle, we declare ourselves unfit for ministry and isolate until we can make sense of things again. We withdraw from community because we can't even articulate to others what we're feeling or thinking. How does Jesus respond to Confusion? How dare you provoke the Lord. He states the truth that He knows, and it's motivated by fear of the Lord. True fear of the Lord always leads us to worship, to proclaim the truth of who God is. Jesus is showing us that the weapon that destroys confusion is worship.
All 3 of these attacks use a flood of thoughts and feelings, and seem like they're coming from within you, or from people around you. Anything to keep you from remembering that your battle is not against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12). Sometimes, a combination of Accuse, Excuse and Confuse will be used against you. But you have a God who equips you, and fights with you, and you can use a combination of God's Word, Humility and Worship to win that battle.
One more thought - Jesus spent 90% of His life preparing, and only 10% actually doing ministry. If the Son of God needed time to study Scripture and prepare for battle, how much more do we need? Feast on God's Word and invest time in preparing your heart. I've never regretted the time I've spent in study, in worship, in prayer. One thing I've learned in studying the Bible is to look at the "whole sandwich". When you find a really rich, delicious passage like this one, take a look at what happens before and after. It brings context to the story and often new revelation of what God wants to communicate. What's interesting in this story, is that right before His temptation in the desert, Jesus was baptized and His Father spoke His identity over Him. My Son, my Beloved. And right after these desert battles? He walked into the temple in Jerusalem and read from Isaiah about His identity. The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. He has anointed me. He received truth from the Father about who He was before the battle, and then after the battle He proclaimed out loud the truth about His identity. What a powerful example for us - along with these 3 weapons, we see how vitally important it is to hear from the Father about our identity, and to remind ourselves, to proclaim out loud that same truth after we've been through a battle. Remember - God equips you, and He fights with you.