This is the third chapter in a series on spiritual warfare.
It’s been said that we are not earthly beings having a spiritual experience but rather we are spiritual beings having an earthly experience. Why is this important? Because most of us live as though it isn’t true. But . . .
Ain’t No Make-Believe Story
We get few views into the unseen world from the Bible but here are two that are extraordinary.
The first is a story from 2 Kings involving the prophet Elisha and his servant,
Now when the attendant of the man of God had risen early and gone out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was circling the city. And his servant said to him, "Alas, my master! What shall we do?" So he answered, "Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them." Then Elisha prayed and said, "O LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see." And the LORD opened the servant's eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. When they came down to him, Elisha prayed to the LORD and said, "Strike this people with blindness, I pray." So He struck them with blindness according to the word of Elisha. 2 Kings 6:15-18
I’m certain that you’ve had experiences like this, right? Perhaps you’ve been out cutting the grass and just happen to look up and see horses and chariots of fire?
And if I did, I would probably be so awestruck that I’d fall off the lawnmower and run over myself.
Next, we visit the prophet Daniel. In this story Daniel has been fasting and praying for three weeks. He has been praying concerning the meaning of a vision he has had. Finally, Daniel’s answer arrives in the form of a “man” who Daniel goes on for a while to describe. He is certainly no ordinary man; as in his presence, Daniel feels deathly ill and faints, falling to the ground face down.
Then behold, a hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. He said to me, “O Daniel, man of high esteem, understand the words that I am about to tell you and stand upright, for I have now been sent to you.” And when he had spoken this word to me, I stood up trembling. Then he said to me, “Do not be afraid, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart on understanding this and on humbling yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to your words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia was withstanding me for twenty-one days; then behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left there with the kings of Persia. Now I have come to give you an understanding of what will happen to your people in the latter days, for the vision pertains to the days yet future. Daniel 10:10-14 (emphasis added)
Did you catch that? Summary – “God sent me with your answer the first day you began to pray but I got into this unbelievable battle with the prince of Persia and couldn’t get the victory over him to deliver your answer so the Arch Angel Michael came to help me and get me free.”
The angel, possibly Gabriel, goes on to explain some more things concerning the vision to Daniel and then, before leaving says, “Soon I must return to fight against the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia, and after that the spirit prince of the kingdom of Greece will come. Meanwhile, I will tell you what is written in the Book of Truth. (No one helps me against these spirit princes except Michael, your spirit prince.”) Daniel 10:20b,21
Folks, this is the stuff of Spielberg movies. I can’t imagine what Daniel was experiencing and the unspeakable privilege he was given to behold this mighty warrior angel. But from this brief exchange we get a mind-blowing glimpse into the spirit realm. Apparently, there are ranks of spirit beings, both good and evil. The angel delivering the news to Daniel describes a mighty demonic spirit that is actually assigned a national territory to oversee, Persia. Many believe we get a small clue to the ranking of the demon forces from Eph 6:12, “for our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
After the account in Daniel’s story, these descriptions feel ominous, to say the least.
We also see in the Daniel story a hierarchy of the angelic kingdom. The delivery angel wasn’t strong enough to overcome the prince of Persia alone, but apparently Michael is the supreme kick-butt angel who comes to save him, and who will also be there to help him on his return, when the prince of Greece shows up. What a story – apparently, I was absent the day they talked about this one in Sunday School. There is much we haven’t been told.
All this is to simply open our eyes to the reality, yes, reality, that there is an invisible kingdom swirling around us all the time. In fact, the Bible tells us that God’s kingdom is more real than our earthly home because the earth will one day pass away but God’s kingdom is eternal. In the invisible kingdom, there are angels and demons fighting for territories and the hearts of God’s children. We must know these things as men of God. We are given instruction in God’s word as to our part to play; and if we shrink from the battle, the cost will be enormous.
Paul tells us in 2 Cor 2:11 “. . . So that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes.” In today’s language we might say that a good General never underestimates his enemy. And a good Christian man never relegates spiritual warfare to the stuff of fairy tales.
We Need to be Smart – and Connected
Remember we are not looking for a demon behind every bush nor are we looking to absolve ourselves of our own responsibility (more on that later). We need to learn what the Bible tells us about the strategies of our enemy and understand how to utilize the weapons God gives us, against him. In so doing, we begin to walk in victory. Part of our maturity process is learning to distinguish who is acting in our story. Us, the devil or the Spirit.
As we saw last week, we won’t be victorious in our struggle against the enemy or against sin in our lives with a superficial spiritual walk. Paul informs us in 2 Corinthians 11:14 that, “. . . even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” This is kind of scary because it would seem to me that it would be very difficult to tell what is going on if our enemy is that clever. But Paul assures us that we can know the enemy’s tactics and we can stand against him – but not alone. We will need to learn to fight this enemy of our soul.
1 Peter 5:8 warns us to, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
This one’s easy. You need a tribe. I need a tribe. Period. If the roaring lion can separate and isolate you from the tribe you’re toast. For a graphic depiction of this, watch “Battle of Kruger." You will be gruesomely convinced that in the company of a tribe, we will prevail. Unfortunately, statistically most men have no close friends. That certainly supports what I have found time and time again counseling men. That’s the first thing that needs to change. Reach out to your church family and/or men’s ministry and get connected.
What a Liar
Jesus in dialog with a group of Jews, revealed the true nature of Satan - “. . . He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” John 8:44 (emphasis added.)
Lies are the feature strategy of the devil. It was a lie to Eve, in the very beginning, that took down the entire human race – “hath God said?” (Gen 3:1) Virtually every attack of our enemy assails us in some form of a lie. “If only you had done this or that.” “You’ll never get this right.” “She will never be attracted to a guy like you.” “How could you be so stupid?” “If anyone really knew you, they wouldn’t like you.” “Of course you don’t have what it takes…” and on and on it goes.
Jesus reminds us, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10 (NASB)
Our choice will always be the same – the offer of the abundant life (though it may not look like it in the moment) or take the easy offer of the enemy. When the enemy wins, he will have stolen, killed or destroyed everything he can – your joy, your future, your marriage, your confidence, etc.
Remember from last week, we are being invited every day to walk with Jesus – to live out our part in God’s story that has been designed for us by our Creator. You, fulfilling your God-given purpose in this life, is what’s at stake.
The offer is essentially the same to every man though it comes in as many diverse forms as there are men. But the essential offer is always the same. The offer is to live in a smaller story; i.e., run to your medication, your addiction, your isolation. “You don’t really need anyone else; you know, you got this.” “Only weak men need church – really, it’s for women.” He is very convincing and the offer can seem so very attractive. Remember, he didn’t attract Eve with a mud pie.
Our goal, as we continue next week, will be to identify lies when they come and learn how to combat them. As Paul points out below, we can train ourselves to take these thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ, thus disarming them of the power they have had--sometimes for years.
2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NASB) For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ . . .
This is war – and it’s real. Why would Paul use this warfare language if we weren’t in a real war against a real enemy? He doesn’t tell us to scare us – he tells us to train us.
This series will conclude next week (the fourth installment of this three-part series!) with some recommendations and practical applications of how we win this war against our enemy and learn to live fully into our story!
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