1. Spiritual Warfare is real.
I Peter 4:12 says this, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as through some strange things were happening to you.”
If you are deceived into thinking that there might be a way to avoid the battle—you are seriously mistaken. When you chose to follow Jesus you became an enemy to the world and the prince of darkness targets you for attack. Jesus said it like this,
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you." John 15:18-19 NIV
Are there any “fiery ordeals among you?” There are among me! Since 2010
· I’ve fought cancer
· My teenaged daughter had a baby, then became entangled in the horrific cycle of domestic abuse and violence
· My son nearly drowned (in our backyard pool)
· My sister died (of cancer)
· My other daughter’s heart was broken!
· And those are the high points…
I recently watched our family’s favorite movie of all time, “The Princess Bride.” In that movie, Princess Buttercup and The Dread Pirate Roberts (whom we discover is really Wesley, her true love) find themselves running for their lives in the dreaded “Fire Swamp.”
The fire swamp is dreaded because there are unknown triggers that cause fire to explode at any place at any time, and to make matters worse, once you figure out how to avoid the fires, you then discover the swamp is filled with ROUS’s! (Rodents of Unusual Size)
Life can be like Wesley and Buttercup’s journey in that swamp. I would imagine that you have dealt with some fires and ROUS's in your life.
Cancer diagnosis; death of a loved one; broken relationships; prodigal children; uncertain future; the list could go on.
I’ve no idea what fiery ordeals you face, but Peter encourages us not to be surprised by them.
Spiritual warfare is real.
We live on a battlefield. As soldiers deployed, we should be ever alert and ready to persevere.
“Be sober; be vigilant, because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” I Peter 5:8
“With all prayer and supplication, in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.” Ephesians 6:18
No follower of God is immune from attack, AND those that are making the greatest kingdom impact will be greater targets.
EM Bounds wrote this, “It cannot be said too often that the life of a Christian is warfare, an intense conflict, a lifelong contest. It is a battle fought against invisible foes who are ever alert and seeking to entrap, deceive, and ruin the souls of men…”
Spiritual Warfare is real.
It is the ongoing struggle between God and Satan, not two = but opposing forces, more like a battle between a dog and a bear or a lizard and a rhino.
· God is Creator! Satan is created.
· God is head over all ruler and authority, power and dominion and every title given (Ephesians 1:20-21)
· Satan is subject to God.
Spiritual warfare has at its core the purpose of God opposed to the purposes of Satan. God’s passion is to partner with His people in dynamic intimacy and out of that partnership to make His name known among the nations. Satan’s purpose and passion is to profane the name of the LORD.
The “win” in Spiritual Warfare is to proclaim God’s name. You do this by allowing Him to demonstrate His power and His love on the platform of your life.
In fact, the single most important sentence I wrote in Spiritual Warfare for Women is this one: “Every attack from the Enemy brings with it a divine invitation from the heart of God to know (by experience) what Love does.”
The circumstances that test your faith create the platform and script. Whether you cling to God or flee from Him determines your ‘win’ on the battlefield.
2. Satan is Subtle.
I don’t know about you, but I was never taught the “who’s its” and “what’s its” of Satan. I just knew he existed, that he was very powerful—not as powerful as God but powerful nonetheless—and I knew that I didn’t want to mess with him. For the most part I knew very little, and I think Satan liked it that way.
Your enemy has a definite advantage when you know very little about him. Because he has already been defeated and seriously outnumbered with 2/3 of the heavenly hosts serving God and only a third serving him; wouldn’t it make sense to bank on the power of ignorance that feeds deception as your primary weapon?!
The biggest secret the devil likes to keep is his uncanny ability to be so subtle.
We walk around looking for something supernatural, or catastrophic or overtly evil. Of course Satan is all over that stuff too. But he directs covert operations all the time, especially when he is operating on our ground—ground that is established by Christ.
The devil is subtle in your marriage, in your home, in your church, in your ministry and in your town.
He has to be! If he exposed his operation we would be on to him! He knows how smart we are.
Here are some of the ways the devil works:
· He suggests doubt, (in God, in yourself, in the success of a God-given plan, in God’s ability to meet our needs according to His glorious riches, etc.) His first words to Eve were planting seeds of doubt, “Did God really say?!”
· He tempts us to pass judgment (against authority, against another believer’s motives, against ourselves) “You won’t die! (LIE), God knows…
· He plants seeds of fear (oh this is a big one, and fear can come in so many different flavors. We might fear health issues, being overlooked, overworked and underappreciated, planes staying airborne, disease, our children’s choices, the list could go on and on) Fear causes us to do things our faith would never allow. And fear is almost always rooted in projections and imaginations.
· He convinces us to isolate ourselves (he knows that there is greater power when believers work together in harmony, so he does his best to keep us from having real relationships with one another). We get offended, we aren’t appreciated, we were overlooked, we create the “why” behind our “what” and draw away from others. We were created by a communal God and therefore we were made to thrive in community with one another—not isolated from each other.
Satan operates in the dark. He makes suggestions. He twists the truth. He takes full advantage of your weaknesses. He manipulates and maneuvers.
Satan is subtle.
(You will find a completed comparison of angels and demons in chapter 5 of Spiritual Warfare for Women. This comparison will let you know the extent and limitations of Satan’s power.)
3. God is practical.
God is supernatural, He is spiritual, He is over all, amazing, awesome, worthy of praise, high and lifted up, God is all these things and more!
But He is also practical.
One of my favorite verses is this one:
"The steps of the godly are directed by the LORD. He delights in every detail of their lives." Psalm 37:23 NLT
This is central to my faith.
God is involved in the details of our lives! He is interested in our heart’s deepest desires and He intends to be connected to the everyday-ness and the ordinary!
The only way others will understand the reality of God’s love is if they witness the reality of God’s love in your life. And the only way they are going to see what God is doing in your life is if you help them connect the dots. This mystery of God’s intimate acquaintance with us, and intent desire to be involved in our lives is hidden to them.
God intends to make Himself known in you.
God intends to make Himself known through you.
He did this throughout the Bible!
In the OT:
· Sarah needed a baby (because God promised she would have one). God delivered Isaac.
· Moses needed to survive the infanticide (because God promised Abraham a covenant relationship with his people). Pharoah’s daughter “just happened” to draw him out of the water (an entire lesson on this)
· The Israelites needed to be freed. God sent gnats, frogs, all kinds of practical plagues to defeat the greatest power on earth at the time!
· The Israelites needed to conquer the promised land, Jericho’s walls crumbled when trumpets were blown
· I’ve only just gotten started!
In the NT, Jesus performed miracles to alleviate pain and diminish suffering AND to reveal Himself to us. By the miracles themselves, we see God proving the validity of Psalm 37:23.
· A widow needed her son to be alive, Jesus revived him from his own funeral procession
· A father needed his son to be free from suffering, Jesus cast demons out of him
· A blind man wanted to see, a deaf man wanted to hear, a lame man wanted to walk…you get the idea.
God is practical! He wants to be practical in your life today! All of your heart’s cries are important to Him and in all things He can be glorified. When God meets your needs and you experience Him doing that—watch for the opportunities He will give you to share your story with others.
I write about the practicality of God in winning the war for our children in chapter 8 of Spiritual Warfare for Women. I used the acrostic SMART. Read this chapter if you want a good dose of how God is practical and how we can win our battles in extremely practical ways.
4. Victory is certain but you have to fight for it.
I John 4:4 says this, “You, dear children are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”
· On our knees (Ephesians 6:18 Pray at all times and on every occasion in the power of the Holy Spirit. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all Christians everywhere.)
· Together with one another (Ephesians 2:22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit)
· Until the day we die (John 16:33 I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.")
When David went to the river bed, he chose 5 smooth stones. I believe that these stones are imperative to winning our battles. Each one represents what we can do to win the battles in our lives:
Stone of Contentment—to be satisfied that God knows where you are; what you are dealing with; and how you’re going to make it. To use this stone of contentment is to know that if God knows all these things; you are fine.
Stone of Confidence—to be certain that there is nothing that can happen to you that can separate you from the love of God. This is the stone that girds us with the ability to release all that God’s put in us to defeat all the enemy brings against us.;
Stone of Perseverance—sometimes we have days on the battlefield when holding our ground is victory. We don’t give up, we don’t give in, we don’t quit.
If there is any quit in you, the devil will suspect it is there and he will drive you to it. If there isn’t, he will quit trying. Some battles we win because losing isn’t an option.
Stone of Faith—this is perhaps the big one. It’s the one that serves as the foundation for the others to build on. To believe that God is who He says He is and that He will do what He promises to do—and to anchor your thought processes, attitudes and behaviors on this truth is to win with this stone.
Stone of Intimacy with God—Without a personal relationship with God that is dynamic (active, alive, always growing) you will never win your battles.
I have 5 smooth stones I discuss in my book, and I want to challenge you to get yourself 5 smooth river rocks to place somewhere you will see them often. I have piles of them all over the place. Rocks I collected for various battles I was fighting. I can honestly tell you that I stand here before you today certain that each of my battles are being won to the glory of God.
· Spiritual warfare is real.
· Satan is subtle.
· God is practical.
· Victory is yours.
Let our battle cry be: I’m a child of God, I’ve got 5 smooth stones and I’m not afraid to use them!!