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  • Writer's pictureMyles Hester

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What if I told you that you were at war, whether you knew it or not?


What if I told you that the Enemy would love nothing more than for you to ignore the battle and not fight back at all?


What if I told you that victory was guaranteed?


Renowned Christian author C.S. Lewis published “The Screwtape Letters” in 1942, a fictional story of a demon named Wormwood who is being trained by his uncle Screwtape how to tempt Christians. Harrowing in its portrayal of spiritual warfare from a demonic perspective, Screwtape at one point reminds his nephew that “…the safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts…”


While the story of Screwtape and Wormwood is completely fictional, the above quote could not be truer. For those, like myself, who have never been in a true, physical, military conflict, it may be standard practice to imagine war as it is sometimes portrayed in movies: one massive army on one side, the enemy on the other, and then they run at each other and fight until one side annihilates the other, captures them as prisoners of war, or  forces them to retreat. Spiritual warfare is not always this clear or dramatic.


While there have been many wars in the past century (and, really, throughout human history) perhaps one of the most horrifying (if they can even be ranked) is the Vietnam War. One of the factors that notoriously made the Vietnam War especially horrid was the use of guerrilla warfare by the Viet Cong. The Viet Cong were obviously familiar with the jungles of Vietnam and used the natural brush cover, the darkness of night, the element of surprise, and other tactics to take complete advantage of their opponents, further exacerbating the devastating psychological effects of not being able to see the enemy plainly, know precisely where danger was, or if even taking another step forward was safe. Thinking of the terrors of the Vietnam war reminds me of the clandestine nature of spiritual warfare as stated so eloquently in the above quote. Satan will not put out flashing neon lights that say, “Death available here!”  anymore than the Viet Cong would have put a caution sign in front of a booby trap in the jungle or a lion would blow a trumpet before it jumped out of the brush to attack a gazelle (1 Peter 5:8).


Another layer to spiritual warfare that makes it even more difficult is that some do not even acknowledge there is a war. Ever since the garden of Eden Satan has been, as I hear one preacher put it, “painting something that will kill you as something you cannot live without” (Genesis 3:1-6).  Satan is so vile he will not only trick you into stepping on a land mine, he will make it look fun. Worse still, he will do his best to numb us to the effects of sin so that we have to partake of more and more to get the same thrill we used to. By doing this, snake-like as ever, he acts as a boa constrictor slowly and surely tightening his grip around his victim (Revelation 20:2).


Now, if the enemy is so strong and evil, what tactics can we use to fight back? What hope do we have of winning? If he is so subtle, how can I know how well I am doing?


According to Galatians 5, the Christian is called to live in the spirit rather than living according to the flesh. Making decisions based on God’s will and not our own physical will is a major part of our spiritual battle. In verses 19-21, Paul lists some works of the flesh—clearly identifiable actions the Christian is to stay away from—“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.” Also in Galatians 5, some Godly qualities are listed; indicators of victory and Christlikeness, if you will: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Again, we see the idea of doing what may be counter to our temporary, physical desires in order to please our eternal, spiritual God.


The spiritual nature of this battle is further emphasized in Ephesians 3:11-18, when Paul draws a comparison between the elements of a Christian life and how they pertain to the spiritual battle at hand.


“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance…”


Notice especially what he says at the end there: alertness and perseverance. We must realize that there is, in fact, a battle going on for our souls, and that it will take great perseverance to “stand against the schemes of the devil.” However, while we must never drop our guard, notice that the armor belongs to the Lord. It is Him that is protecting us, providing for us, encouraging us to stay in the fight. His, ultimately, is the victory.


To this end, 1 Peter 5 is not only clear about the predatory and deceptive nature of Satan, but about the active role that God takes in fighting for His people: “Resist [the Devil], firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”


At the end of the day, may we stand firm and fight on, ever mindful of 3 vital facts: the Devil the enemy, we are not fighting alone, and we are fighting for the winning army—the army of the Eternal, Glorious, “God of all Grace.”

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