Last year I was preaching through the book of First Corinthians. It was great fun! Then in March I took a group of twenty-five on a trip to the Holy Land with a stop in Greece first. Besides visiting the ancient city of Athens, we also toured the ruins of Corinth.
This year I have been preaching through the book of Second Corinthians. This current series will end in the middle of October. In my most recent sermons we have been addressing the topic of “spiritual warfare.” Now, you may be saying, “Hold on, Roots! Spiritual warfare?” Yup. Every day.
If there was ever a man who understood the day-to-day struggles in living the Christian faith, it was Paul. He ran into every type of opposition there is. “I've worked much harder, been jailed more often, beaten up more times than I can count, and at death's door time after time. I've been flogged five times with the Jews' thirty-nine lashes, beaten by Roman rods three times, pummeled with rocks once. I've been shipwrecked three times, and immersed in the open sea for a night and a day. In hard traveling year in and year out, I've had to ford rivers, fend off robbers, struggle with friends, struggle with foes. I've been at risk in the city, at risk in the country, endangered by desert sun and sea storm, and betrayed by those I thought were my brothers. I've known drudgery and hard labor, many a long and lonely night without sleep, many a missed meal, blasted by the cold, naked to the weather. And that's not the half of it, when you throw in the daily pressures and anxieties of all the churches. When someone gets to the end of his rope, I feel the desperation in my bones. When someone is duped into sin, an angry fire burns in my gut.” (II Corinthians 11:23-29)
But it’s spiritual warfare that we are involved in. Before Jesus even began his earthly ministry he was engaged in this spiritual warfare. Immediately following his baptism by John the Baptist in Matthew 3, he was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness where he would fast for forty days and nights. Then the enemy, Satan, came to him and began to tempt him. Jesus responded by quoting Scripture. After the third attempt Satan withdrew because he was defeated each time by the power of God’s word.
Here’s an important principle for anyone claiming to walk with Christ: You must know the tactics of the enemy. And you must know how to use the weapons the Lord has made available to you. These weapons enable you to defeat the enemy. To neglect these weapons is to invite disaster.
You see, Jesus knew only too well the tactics that Satan uses. We first see it in the Garden of Eden: Lying and Deception. Jesus said, “There is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” The devil even tried the same tactics on Jesus! He does the same thing today. If he was bold and audacious enough to challenge Jesus, what’s to stop him from spewing his hateful lies at you?
Spiritual Warfare for the Christian is when we are engaged in battle against: lies, deceit, dishonesty, double-dealing, two-facedness, insincerity, and untruthfulness. Add to this: deception, trickery, cheating, shams, frauds, and con-artists. All of this is directed against the person and work of Jesus Christ. The lies and deception of the devil will always call into question a Christian’s faith in what Jesus said and did. This can be very unsettling – at least until the Christian realizes that God has provided two weapons to use in battling these attacks against the faith.
What two weapons would these be? God’s Word, and Prayer. In Ephesians 6:17-18 we read these specific instructions, “Take the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. You must pray at all times as the Holy Spirit leads you to pray.” Let me repeat again: Here are the weapons in your arsenal – God’s Word, and Prayer. How well do you know how to use them? If you are not familiar with God’s Word, the Bible, then you cannot know lies when they come at you. You are like those that Paul describes as going after “other gospels.” You are simply incapable of recognizing a lie from the truth. But when you study God’s Word you become laser-sharp in identifying lies because you know the truth from God’s Word.
By the same token, as you develop a prayer life, that is, learning to speak comfortably with God, hearing when he speaks to you, allows you to develop spiritual discernment. This is when you gain insight from the Lord that would otherwise be unavailable to you. It occurs as you develop a relationship with Jesus. He does not want you to be ignorant or blind to the enemy’s tactics. That’s why he’s placed these two weapons in your hands so that you can learn to use them well, defeating the forces of darkness, pulling down spiritual strongholds. Then you will be able to say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
How are you doing in spiritual warfare? A little rusty in the use of your weapons? It’s always the right time to take them up again!