Spiritual Warfare and Deliverance Book 4:- Spiritual Warfare: Winning the Daily Battle with Satan, By Dr. Ray C. Stedman
Chapter 10: The Infallible Posture
Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand...
THE GAME OF FOOTBALL is warfare with rules. Because it is a kind of controlled, organized warfare, the game of football serves in several ways as an analogy for spiritual warfare. It is a game in which the contestants must "put on the full armor," the helmet, pads, and shoes, which enable them to be well-defended against injury. It is a game in which you must have a clear mind, you must be aware of the game plan, and you must be in constant contact with your coach--and of course, the same is true of spiritual warfare. It is a game of both offense and defense, a game that requires character and stamina, a game of both team effort and individual effort, and a game that is played out in an arena, surrounded by spectators--and the same, of course, is true of spiritual warfare.
I have often been impressed, when watching a hard-fought football game, to see the defending team's response to an especially hard push by their opponent's offensive platoon. Sometimes the offense will drive the defense back against their own end zone, and you will see a gritty, down and-dirty struggle a battle sometimes characterized as "three yards and a cloud of dust." One of the most thrilling sights in football is a determined goal-line defense, where the defenders simply line up on the scrimmage line against the opposing team and refuse to budge. They make a stand. They refuse to yield their ground.
A successful goal-line stand is often the climactic turning point of a game. There is nothing that takes the starch out of a football team's offense like getting stopped cold for four consecutive downs at the opponent's one-yard line. When an offense is unable to score in that situation, the team that was on defense now goes on offense. Often there is such a shift in energy and momentum at that point that the team that once was backed against the goal line now charges relentlessly up the field to score and even win the game!
So in football, in life, and in spiritual warfare, it is crucial that we learn how to make a stand and refuse to yield our ground.
Learning to stand
Our study of spiritual warfare now brings us to the admonition of Paul which permeates and punctuates this passage in Ephesians 6, and which forms the aim and thrust of the entire passage. That admonition consists of one word which Paul repeats four different times in a few verses. It is the word stand. Notice how (as I've underscored certain phrases) the word stand marks these verses:
Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. . . . Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then. . . (Ephesians 6:11,13-14).
Everything Paul says is focused on enabling us to stand under the onslaught of the devil. Why does Paul focus so much on standing? Isn't "standing" a rather passive posture in a time of war? Why doesn't Paul say, "And after you have done everything, to fight?" Why doesn't he employ a militaristic concept that sounds more positive, forceful, and aggressive? Why doesn't he suggest that we prepare ourselves to advance, to charge? Does God really expect us merely to stand?
We must take these words seriously, for after all, these are not just words that might be used in a children's game. They are commands given in a very serious battle--a life-and-death struggle against consummate evil in the world. I am convinced that the apostle Paul uses the word stand because it is the only proper word to use. It is the only word that describes the authentic attitude we must have to insure absolute victory.
As we look at this word more carefully, we can see that it touches on three aspects of the struggle of life. The use of this word stand reveals to us the intensity of the struggle in which we are involved. We are told to stand because there are times when that is all we can do. The most we can possibly hope to achieve at times is to simply stand, unmoved. There are times in battle when a soldier can do no more than to simply protect himself and hold his ground. That is what this word implies to us.
Paul has already spoken in this passage about evil days that come. Thank God, all of life does not consist of evil days, but evil days do come. These are days when circumstances simply stagger us, when we face some combination of events--some disheartening tragedy or circumstance--that almost knocks us off our feet, and we can do nothing else but determine to stand where we are.
There are times when doubts plague us. We are exposed to intellectual attacks, and it is all we can do to simply cling to any amount of faith at all. We sometimes find ourselves overwhelmed by circumstances, fears, and worries so great that we can scarcely keep our heads because of the pressure. There are times when indifference seems to sap our spiritual strength so that we lose all our vitality. It drains our motivation, our will to act, and we seem unable to make ourselves do the simplest things to maintain and live out our faith we cannot do anything but wearily stand our ground and try to remain on our feet.
This is all part of the struggle. We feel disturbed when there seems to be no growth and advance in our Christian faith. Our ministry and our witness seems ineffective. All the challenge and keenness of our spiritual life is gone. What are we to do then? Paul says we are to surround ourselves with the belt of truth, put on the whole armor of God, pray and having done all, we are to stand! Putting on the armor and praying will not necessarily change the circumstances. God will not always end the battle or remove us from the struggle--sometimes we just have to persevere and withstand the onslaught.
So we stand! We hold our ground! We refuse to yield! If we remain immovable, if we resist the onslaught and hold our ground, the devil will eventually flee from us. This is the message that is woven throughout these verses in Ephesians 6.
Cycles of trouble
Throughout the Bible, we see warning after warning that the evil days will come more frequently as we draw nearer the time of our Lord's return. The Bible has always told us that there will be evil days, but sometimes we misread certain predictions. There is a passage in 1 Timothy, for instance, that refers to the latter times. "The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons" (1 Timothy 4:1). We read that as though it were a prediction of the closing moments of the age. But "latter times" means the whole of the age from our Lord's first coming until His return. Paul is not talking about one particular time of trouble reserved for the last moment; he is talking about repetitive cycles of trouble that come again and again throughout the whole course of these latter days.
But the Word of God also suggests that these cycles become fiercer in intensity and more widespread in their impact as the age draws to its close. There is a growing awareness in our day that we live in a one-world community. We often hear talk about the "global community," the "global economy," the "global village." We are no longer separated from other peoples by great distances of thought, distance, or time. What happens on the other side of the world today affects us tomorrow. We are very much aware of this.
Evil days were once limited geographically. In the past, persecution grew intense in various places and economic pressures became severe in certain areas, while other parts of the world prospered. But now, as the present age continues, events in one small troubled region--Kuwait, Bosnia, Somalia, Haiti, Korea, Nicaragua, Israel--can have a planet-wide impact.
America today may seem to be an island of relative peace and security in a wide sea of trouble and distress--but that sea is constantly lapping at our shores, eroding our illusion of security. There is an irresistible, rising tide of trouble in the world. Regardless of any temporary time of prosperity, any technological progress, any brief respite from political or social upheaval, we must honestly admit that global conditions are not getting better in our world; they are worsening. Public and private morality is declining. Racial and social unrest is growing. Disrespect for law and justice, for standards of right and wrong, is growing. Hatred of Christians and persecution of the Christian faith are on the rise.
The solutions of many sincere people--educational solutions, scientific discoveries, economic improvements, legislative and governmental solutions--are not working. Such efforts have their place, of course, but do not solve the core problem of 1the human condition. The real problem lies beyond the reach of superficial, external fixes. It is embedded deep within the hearts and souls of human beings, who are in turn enmeshed within the cruel and repressive invisible power structure that dominates this planet the world rulers of this present darkness. Only the delivering power of Jesus Christ is adequate to deal with these spiritual forces. Even nonChristians are coming to the conclusion that there are no human solutions to the problems that confront the human race at the threshold of the new millennium. As social critic Richard Wright observes in his book, The Outsider:
I remind you of what is happening in the great cities of the earth today: Chicago, Detroit, Pittsburgh, London, Manchester, Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong and the rest. These cities are for the most part vast pools of human misery, networks of raw human nerves exposed without benefit of illusion or hope to the new godless world wrought by industrial man. The people in these cities are lost. Some of them are so lost that they no longer even know it, and they are the real lost ones. They haunt the movies for distraction. They gamble. They depress their sensibilities with alcohol, or they seek strong sensations to dull their sense of a meaningless existence.
That is the world we now face, and because of it there are many who falter in their faith. All too often we read in the newspapers of outstanding Christian leaders who have suffered moral collapse and have been laid on the shelf, their ministry and their testimony brought to an end. This is happening everywhere.
To reveal the false
Why does God permit such a monstrous rise of evil in the world? It is no mystery. He tells us in His Word: He permits it in order to separate the phony from the true. In Hebrews 12:26-29, we are told that everything that can be shaken will be shaken. God is allowing these testings to reveal the genuine and to remove what can be shaken in order that what cannot be shaken might remain for all to see:
At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, "Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens." The words "once more" indicate the removing of what can be shaken--that is, created things--so that what cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our "God is a consuming fire."
So evil days come. Indeed, they are coming. They are upon us. When they come into your own personal experience, remember that the word of God to you is to put on the whole armor of God, to pray, and to stand. Perhaps you will realize that there is nothing else you can do, but you can win if you will stand.
I once received a prayer letter from a missionary in the jungles of New Guinea. In that letter, this faithful Christian servant caught the very spirit of our Christian faith in these words:
Man, it is great to be in the thick of the fight, to draw the old devil's heaviest guns, to have him at you with depression and discouragement, slander, disease. He doesn't waste time on a lukewarm bunch. He hits good and hard when a fellow is hitting him. You can always measure the weight of your blow by the one you get back.
When you're on your back with fever and at your last ounce of strength, when some of your converts backslide, when you learn that your most promising inquirers are only fooling, when your mail gets held up, and some don't bother to answer your letters, is that the time to put on mourning? No, sir. That's the time to pull out the stops and shout, Hallelujah!
The old fellow's getting it in the neck and hitting back. Heaven is leaning over the battlements and watching. "Will he stick with it?" And as they see Who is with us, as they see the unlimited reserves, the boundless resources, as they see the impossibility of failure, how disgusted and sad they must be when we run away.
Glory to God! We're not going to run away. We're going to stand.
Stand! That is the word of the dedicated, authentic soldier of the Lord!
A defensive battle
Now there is a second truth indicated by this word stand. It indicates to us the character of the battle the Christian faces. The act of standing implies primarily a defensive action, and the message of Paul in Ephesians 6 is that a strong defense will win the day. I know that this runs counter to the conventional wisdom that "the best defense is a good offense." But if a castle is under attack from an army, the battle is not won by those in the castle venturing forth to overwhelm the army outside. The battle is won by remaining secure within the walls and repelling all invasion. This is a picture of our Christian life. Ours is a defensive battle. We are not out to take new ground; we are to defend that which is already ours.
In the Christian battle the offensive work was accomplished some 2,000 years ago upon the cross and in the resurrection. The Lord Jesus is the only one who has the power to take the offense in this great battle with the prince of darkness and he has already done that. All that we need as soldiers of the cross is what has already been given to us. We do not have to fight for it. We do not battle to be saved, or fight to be justified, or struggle to be forgiven, or wrestle to be accepted into the family of God. All these things are given to us already. They were won by Another who, in the words of Paul in Colossians, "disarmed the powers and authorities, [and] made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross" (Colossians 2:15).
So Jesus has already won the battle, launching His offensive from a rugged wooden cross. Now it is up to us to stand the ground that He has gained on our behalf, to use the armor He has given us, to fully enjoy and experience the new life and the grand adventure that is ours. The enemy fights to keep us ignorant of the resources we have, so that we will not use those resources to the full. That is where the battle lines are.
We do not need to take new ground as Christians. In fact, we cannot do so. The full victory has already been accomplished and given to us. As Jude says, near the very end of the New Testament, "1 . . . urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints" (Jude 3). We are to hold on to that which God gives us and not let any of it be lost or taken from us. That is what "contend for the faith" means. It does not mean to attack everyone who does not agree with you. It means to hold on to what God has already given you and utilize it to the full. Paul writes with the same idea in mind to the Corinthians, "Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong" (1 Corinthians 16:13). Do not surrender an inch of ground even though others do.
"But this sounds so negative!" you might say. "1 don't want to be on the defensive! I want to take the offensive against evil! This sounds as if Christians are to dig a foxhole, jump in it, and wait for the enemy to come storming in! It almost sounds as if Christians are to cover their heads and retreat from the world as if we are trying to get through life and on to heaven without becoming contaminated by the world! I don't want to view my role in the world in such a negative way!" That, of course, is a misinterpretation of what the Bible means when it says we are "to stand." Yes, this does refer to a defensive action but the amazing thing is that this kind of defensive action becomes the greatest offense the Christian can mount.
The fact is, the Christian who learns to stand, clad in the full armor of God, energized and empowered by prayer, his feet planted and immovable, is the only one who can truly affect the world. He is the only one who will reflect the love of Christ in the midst of unlovely situations. He is the only one who will be able to manifest peace and serenity, poise and assurance in the midst of a troubled and unhappy world.
Christians who learn to stand make the world as livable and marginally decent as it is. We Christians are the salt of the earth, Jesus said. Salt is a preservative; Christians are the preservative of society we are all that stands in the way of ultimate corruption and social decay. But if we, the salt, have lost our savor, what good are we? We are good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled under the feet of men! That is, by and large, what the world is doing with the Christian church these days treading it underfoot as worthless, useless. That is because we have not learned to stand and thus we have lost our saltiness, our ability to help preserve our society against corruption.
But when a Christian truly learns to become the kind of salt God intended him to be, when we learn to stand while the world around us is falling, people are amazed. They demand to know our secret. They long to know what enables us to stand in a falling-down world. "What do these people have?" they wonder. "They don't give way like we do; they don't go along with the rest of crowd. They resist pressure and temptation, and they stand for something larger than themselves."
That is true manhood in Christ, true womanhood in Christ. That is what God is after in our lives. That is what He wants to make us in Christ. But the purpose of the battle is not to become that kind of a person, for that is precisely the kind of person Christ makes us when we follow Him. The battle is to show it, to reveal it, to manifest what we are. So I put on the whole armor of God all that Christ is! Then pray! Then, having done all, stand your ground!
The fatal flaw
Now there is a third truth indicated by this word stand, and that is the certainty of victory. If putting on the armor of God and prayer makes it possible to stand unmoved and immovable, then there is nothing more required to win. After all, if a castle cannot be taken, the attacking army has nothing left to do but to withdraw. They are defeated.
Throughout this book, we have talked about the cleverness of Satan, his subtlety of attack, his schemes, and the impossibility of defeating him by human wisdom. Every saint in the record of Scripture, every believer throughout history, has been, at one time or another, defeated by the devil when he tried to match wits with the devil in his own strength. This is true. But it is also true that when any saint, any believer, even the newest and the weakest, stands in the strength of Christ, puts on the whole armor of God, and prays, the devil is always defeated.
This is because of a fatal flaw in the devil's approach. When the believer stands on the ground of faith, the devil always over-reaches himself. Satan goes too far. That is because he commits himself to extremes, and in that lies his defeat. Sooner or later, the truth of reality must become apparent. The devil can never take the ground of truth because that, of course, would defeat his own aims. God is truth, and the devil cannot defend and support God, for he is out to attack and outwit God. All the devil can do is take the ground of untruth, extremism, distortion, and deception. Ultimately, because God is truth (and truth is always the reflection of God), truth must finally prevail. Because God never changes, this has been true throughout the entire history of the world, and it will be the continuing record on into eternity.
Abraham Lincoln expressed it well in that famous quotation: "You can fool some of the people all of the time, and you can fool all of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time." Truth comes out. God is truth. If we live with truth long enough, stand on it long enough, it will prevail and reveal itself.
This explains what we have referred to at times as the phenomenon of "fashions in evil" Anyone who has been a Christian for any length of time learns that error comes in cycles, like clothing styles. You may be out of style for awhile, but if you stay with the same style long enough, it will come back in. If you are standing on the truth of God, there will be times when it is regarded with utter scorn by the world. The truth will be laughed at and you will be mocked. But if you follow those foolish people who think they must adjust to every sweeping current of the times and try to maintain what they call "intellectual respectability" at all times, you will find that as fast as you adjust, styles change and you are out of style again.
But if you continue to stand fast on what God has declared unchangeable, you will find a strange phenomenon happening: The very truths that were attacked by the world a decade ago will become fashionable again, and hailed as the newest discovery of the brilliant intellect of men. Then you, who have believed it all along, are right back in style again. Truth never changes.
The devil will ultimately be defeated if you simply stand on what God has said. It is his inevitable fate to be defeated by the very weapons he tries to use against God and his people. That is why it is so foolish to believe the lies of the devil.
The devil is much like the villains in the old melodramas. Remember how the plot always develops? The heroine appears to be doomed, and the villain has the upper hand. He twirls his mustache and rubs his hands with glee. But at the critical moment, the hero arrives and everything changes. The villain is beat by his own devices, and he slinks off the stage muttering, "Curses! Foiled again!" That is the devil's fate when he attacks any Christian who is willing to make a stand and hold his ground without yielding.
When we are tempted to yield our ground, we should look to the cross. Remember, the cross was not always the symbol of victory over sin and death. At that awful moment in time when Jesus was nailed to those rough wooden beams and raised against a dark sky, the cross looked like the supreme achievement of the devil. All the powers of darkness howled with triumph as they saw the Son of God beaten and wounded, rejected and despised, nailed to a death-gallows. Jesus Himself said, "But this is your hour, when darkness reigns" (Luke 22:53).
Yet that was the very moment when the devil was defeated!
In the cross, all that Satan had risked was destroyed, and the devil and his angels were disarmed by the power of Jesus Christ. This is what God does all through life. Yes, the devil still works his horrible mischief in the world. He still sends sickness, darkness, and suffering. It is all the work of Satan. But that is not the end of the story. God takes all the misery and horror that Satan inflicts, and He uses it in our lives to strengthen us, to bless us, to teach us, to enlarge us, and to give us a vibrant ministry in the world.
Whatever our battles and skirmishes with the devil, whatever wounds we may suffer in this good and noble fight, God gives us the ultimate victory. That is our ultimate assurance. That is the whole of the story.
The final issue
Here is a statement from a Christian man who has been an invalid all his life--one of those lonely, obscure people who live in constant pain, who does not know what it means to be able to use his physical body in any way except in pain and suffering. But he writes this:
Loneliness is not a thing of itself, not an evil sent to rob us of the joys of life. Loneliness, loss, pain, sorrow--these are disciplines, God's gifts to drive us to His very heart, to increase our capacity for Him, to sharpen our sensitivities and understanding, to temper our spiritual lives so that they may become channels of His mercy to others and so bear fruit for His kingdom. But these disciplines must be seized upon and used, not thwarted.
Trials must not be seen as excuses for living in the shadow of half-lives, but as messengers, however painful, to bring our souls into vital contact with the Living God, that our lives may be filled to overflowing with Himself in ways that may, perhaps, be impossible to those who know less of life's darkness.
That is what it means to stand. One of these days, the Bible says, the struggle will end. It will end for all of us at the end of our lives, but it may end before that in the coming of the Lord. Some day the struggle will be over; there is no doubt of that. And some day it will be written of some, as it is recorded in the book of Revelation, "They overcame [the devil] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death" (Revelation 12:11).
The great issue of life is not how much money we make or how much status we acquire or whether we achieve that corner office or how much of a name we make for ourselves. The great issue, above all, is whether it can be written of us, as we come to the end of this struggle, that we overcame by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of our testimony, for we did not love our lives unto death.
As the world grows darker, the truth of Jesus Christ burns brighter. And the brightest truth of all is this: He has already won the war in which we fight. The war was over the moment He shouted, "It is finished!" We do not have to march against the devil.
We do not have to charge against the enemy. We merely have to assume the unassailable, invincible, infallible posture. As the days grow darker and more evil, we will not be moved! We have put on the armor of God, we have planted our feet. Though the enemy is attacking, we are not afraid, for the battle has already been won.
Stand firm, my friend! Stand your ground! Ours is the victory in Christ!
Lord, I live in perilous times, but I thank You that I do not get my view of life from the newspapers, nor from the television screen, but from Your living Word the only reliable window on reality and truth. Help me to believe it and obey it. Above all, help me to stand, undefeated and invincible in Christ.
In the name of Jesus, who has already won the battle upon the cross, and who exploded from the tomb in glorious resurrection power, to Him be all the honor, all the praise, and all the victory, amen!
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