This morning I reflected again on the hijinks of our spiritual enemy, the devil, and felt a prompting to share some of the insights I’ve gleaned through my years of ministry—especially from that classic passage in Ephesians 6:10-18. I should say right now that I’ve got some experience with satan’s baddies—I’m a pastor not afraid to speak the truth and live it out, for one thing—but I’ve also sat countless times with people struggling with demonic interference, even with demonized folks who had lost their ability to function normally because they’d given so much of themselves to darkness.
I’ve read nearly thirty books on spiritual warfare and guess what? None of them are nearly as good as the Bible itself. Spiritual warfare is probably the most overhyped, misinformed area of practical theology gripping the church today. The Apostle Paul regularly locked eyes with hosts of demonic nasties, and here’s what he had to say about all this:
“Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” (:10) So first of all, this isn’t about us at all. Its not an attitude, not a stance, or a technique, or a mental game, it’s about the power of God.
“Put on the full armor of God.” He says this a couple of times. So whatever this is, it’s not automatic. We have to do something to enjoy the protection Paul is talking about.
“So that you can take your stand…to stand… to stand… stand firm…” Four times he says, “stand.” Not “come out swinging.” Not, “Mount your offensive.” This isn’t about attacking. This is about taking a hit and not just surviving, but thriving. There’s a reason for that, which comes next.
“So that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” Not against the devil, against his schemes. So many people spout out ‘prayers’ addressing the devil, when in reality, it’s his schemes that nail us and trip us up so badly. He’d love it if we focused on him instead of what he’s doing. “Look at me,” he says. “Look at how black and scary I am! Ooooh! Be afraid! Be very afraid!” He doesn’t want to see that your problem is simply that you’re believing a lie and you need to reject it. He wants you to think you’ve got to lock horns with him and defeat him.
“Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Notice that the word war is not used. Interesting. A struggle, sure—the word here means wrestle—but we’ve already establish that the way we wrestle is by wrestling with his schemes, not demons personally (how do you give a spirit a good roundhouse?). And notice that the passage never says we need to “pin” or “beat” them. We overcome them by overcoming their schemes. That’s the struggle.
“Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground.” Not all days are equal. Some are days from hell, literally. Right? You’re traipsing along, minding your own beeswax, and BOOM! All of a sudden you’ve got temptation, slander, anxiety, you name it. Yup. That’s what the armor’s for: The stuff you didn’t see coming. Because you don’t normally see it coming.
Which brings up a good point: You’ve got to have your armor on ahead of time for it to make a difference. You get in the habit of donning the stuff on the good days, not the bad ones.
“And after you have done everything, to stand.” This is the part most people forget: The attacks come in waves. So the “day of evil” comes and goes, they’re still standing, and they drop their guard. Not a good idea. Remember to keep standing firm “AFTER you’ve done everything.” After the big confrontation, not just during it. After the ministry assignment, not just before it. That’s because it’s often after the storm that the enemy comes in, whispering subtle misinterpretations of what just went on that can ruin your life (or at least make the whole thing worse than it has to be).
The question is, WHAT is the armor and HOW do we put it on? That’s coming tomorrow.