Spiritual Warfare and Deliverance Book 4:- Spiritual Warfare: Winning the Daily Battle with Satan, By Dr. Ray C. Stedman
Chapter 6: Resisting the Devil
In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith,
with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Ephesians 6:16
A MAN NAMED THOMAS became a monk, joined a monastery, and took a vow of silence. The only exception to the vow was that, once every ten years, monks were allowed to make one statement then the silence must resume for another decade. After his first ten years in the monastery, Thomas was called into the study of his superior, who said, "Brother Thomas, do you have anything to say?"
"The food is bad," the monk replied. Then he went back to his duties.
A decade passed. Again, Thomas was summoned to the study of his superior. "Brother Thomas," said the superior, . "do you have anything to say?"
"The bed is hard," the monk replied. Then he returned to his chores.
Another decade passed. Again, Thomas was called in before his superior. "Brother Thomas," said the superior, "do you have anything to say?"
"I quit," the monk replied.
The superior frowned. "I'm not surprised. You've done nothing but complain ever since you got here!"
Friend in Christ, there is nothing that more clearly indicates that we have succumbed to the schemes of the devil than to complain about our lot in life. Again and again, the Word of God shows that the mark of a Christian who has learned how to be a Christian is that he rejoices in everything and gives thanks in all things.
Understand, this does not mean that God expects us to enjoy every circumstance in our lives! Nor does it mean that we should merely pretend to rejoice in everything. There is nothing as ghastly as the forced smile people put on and the superficial attitude they assume in the midst of difficulties because they think this is what a Christian ought to do. The truth of Scripture is that it is genuinely possible to rejoice even through tears and pain and there is nothing that more surely indicates that we have failed to understand what it means to be a Christian than a whining, complaining, self-pitying attitude toward what happens to us in life.
Do not be surprised at the devil's attack. Of course he attacks! That is his character. That is his nature. Do not complain that you are being treated unfairly. That is the nature of life--struggle, warfare, and satanic attack.
Furthermore, God allows the devil to attack. This is the clear revelation of Scripture. God permits these attacks because, for one thing, we need them. We never would develop or grow properly if we were not attacked in this manner--and this is what ultimately accomplishes God's will for our lives.
The whole outworking of God's eternal plan could never be brought to pass were it not that God permits the devil to operate within his limited sphere of activity. Let us never forget that. God allows these things to happen, and all the writers of Scripture agree on this. Peter says, "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you" (1 Peter 4:12). And the Lord Jesus Himself said, "In this world you will have trouble." But He goes on to add, "But take heart! I have overcome the world!" (John 16:33).
But this is exactly the opposite of the way we frequently feel. When attacked, we tend to think that something most unusual is happening to us. No one has ever gone through what we are going through. No one has had to undergo the depression of spirit we feel. But Paul says, "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear" (1 Corinthians 10:13). So stop complaining about what happens. It is God's will for you. Let us face that fact.
And instead of a fretful, peevish, whining attitude, let us do what the Word of God says to do when these things occur: "Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes." There is no other way to handle the devil's attacks. There is no other solution to these basic human problems
Remember, however, as we saw in the previous chapter, we must put on our armor in the right order. We start with the belt of truth; then the breastplate of righteousness; then we shoe our feet with the readiness of the gospel of peace. It is a mistake to start with peace. Yet that is the error most of us instantly fall into. When troubled or upset, when attacks come, our tendency is to first try to put our hearts at peace. That is a big mistake! Don't try to conjure up some kind of feeling of peace within if you do, you will succeed only in upsetting yourself even more! So start with truth. Work your way through truth, then righteousness--and as a result, you will achieve peace. That is the proper order of the armor of God.
In practical terms, here is how it works: When attacks come, go to the truth of God--to the Word of God and to Jesus, who is Truth personified. Then focus on the righteousness of God, which you have received through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ upon the cross. As you respond to the devil's attacks with the belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness, you will realize that God's peace is already upon you, like a comfortable, protective pair of shoes, so that you are prepared and at peace for the battle.
Now let us take a closer look at this battle. If we remind ourselves of these great truths, they ought to set our hearts at rest. But we all know that even though these truths often will set our hearts at rest, there are times when they do not. We are still depressed and filled with doubts.
Perhaps there is no good reason for us to feel this way. We may wake up in a blue mood even though we were happy when we went to bed the night before. There may be a simple explanation for our depression--a chemical or hormonal imbalance in the body can often cause such problems. So can poor nutrition, physical stress, illness, and lack of sleep. But at times there is really no good reason we can find for our depression--yet we still feel depressed.
Well, what is happening? We are experiencing what Paul calls "the flaming arrows of the evil one." These stratagems of Satan come to us in various forms. Sometimes they are evil thoughts and imaginations that intrude suddenly upon our thinking, often at the most incongruous times. We may be reading the Bible; we may be bowed in prayer; we may be thinking about something else entirely when all of a sudden, an ugly or lewd thought flashes into our mind. What is this? It's one of the flaming arrows of the evil one! We ought to recognize it as such.
Sometimes these arrows come as doubts and even blasphemies--sudden feelings that perhaps this business of Christianity is nothing after all but a fanciful dream.
Perhaps we feel that it can all be explained psychologically or by the suggestion that Jesus Christ was a victim of self-delusion. Perhaps the world is not the way we have been taught to believe it is, and things are not the way the Bible says. You have doubtless experienced these times of doubt. All Christians have had this sudden feeling that perhaps our Christian worldview is nothing but a hopeless fantasy. Again, these fiery arrows may come in the form of surges of unreasoning anger or hate, or sudden fears and anxieties, or just vague, fleeting sensations that things are all wrong. We cannot seem to shake them off.
So where do these fiery arrows come from?
The devil's whispers
No matter what form they take, these fiery arrows of doubt, temptation, evil thoughts, and the like always arise from the same source. They are the fiery arrows of the wicked one. We are the biggest fools on earth if we do not see them in that light and deal with them as such. The devil's fiery arrows always have two characteristics: (1) These arrows seem to arise out of our own thoughts, from our own inner selves and we are shocked and horrified that we can think such thoughts.
But these flaming arrows don't come from our own minds. This attack is actually the devil whispering to us, influencing us. Though we may ignorantly blame ourselves, the devil is the enemy, and this is his scheme to undermine and discourage us. He wants us to blame ourselves and live in shame rather than victory. He wants us to doubt our faith or our position as children of the living God. He wants to plant a doubt in our minds, so that we will think, "I must have already lost my faith or I wouldn't think such things! What's wrong with me? How can I be a Christian and even have such thoughts?"
So we try to repress the thought and push it down and deny it but it is still there, lurking underneath, and we feel dishonest and hypocritical because we are not even willing to look at it and face it. This takes its toll on us in the form of mental tension and emotional stress and a sense of spiritual defeat. That is the devil's goal. That is his victory.
We often feel uncertain and confused because we are convinced that the opposite of faith is doubt. We think that if we have doubts, then we cannot have faith and if we have faith, we do not have doubts. We fail to recognize that this is merely another lie of the devil.
The next characteristic of the devil's attack is: (2) Doubts always come as an attack upon our position in Christ they attack His place in our lives as the truth, our righteousness, and our peace. These arrows are always an insinuation of doubt about those matters. They are an attack upon those areas of our faith.
This has always been the strategy of the devil. He said to Eve in the garden, "Did God really say. . . ?" There is an implication of doubt that he plants in Eve's mind. And when the devil tempted Jesus in the wilderness, he said, "If You are really the Son of God, then turn these stones into bread." IF! Here again is an insinuation that these things are not true. This is the way the devil raises doubts, creates guilt, and leads people astray. These are the attacks the flaming arrows of the evil one.
Quenching the fiery arrows
Now, what are we to do? How are we to combat these attacks successfully? The apostle Paul replies: "In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one." Notice that he does not say "the shield of belief." We have already reminded ourselves of our belief when we have put on the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, and the shoe-leather readiness of the gospel of peace. That is our belief in what Christ is to us.
But faith is more than that. This is very important to see. Faith is acting upon belief--belief in Christ who is to us the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, and the shoes of the gospel of peace. Faith is decision, action, and resolution based on the belief we have already accepted in those three realms. Let's examine each one:
1. Truth. Faith is saying, "Yes, I believe Christ is the truth. He is my righteousness, He is my peace and on that basis, I now act out my beliefs in the realm of my decisions and behavior." Faith is working out the implications of belief. Believing is generalizing. Faith is particularizing. By faith, we take the general truth and apply it to the specific situation. We say, "Because I believe this is true, these actions must follow." That is the shield of faith.
Have you learned how to take the shield of faith when doubts come? Do you say, "Christ is the truth. He is the basic revelation of reality. He has demonstrated the truth. As a result of my belief in the truth, I cannot accept the thought that Christianity is a hoax. I have committed myself to Christ because I have been persuaded that He has demonstrated truth fully. I stand on that ground. As a result of my belief in the truth, I must reject this insinuation from the devil"
Do you reason from the premise that Christ is the truth? Is this the way you think it through? Our problem is that we have become so accustomed to believing our feelings as though they were facts, we never examine and question those feelings. We never take them and look at them and ask, "Is this true?" We simply say, "I feel this way, so it must be true." This is why so many Christians are constantly defeated they accept their feelings as facts. Instead, we must accept God's truth as fact, and regard our feelings as unreliable, because feelings come and go.
2. Righteousness. Instead of operating on the basis of our feelings, we are to operate on the premise that says, "Christ is my righteousness. I am linked with Him. I am one with Him. His life is my life and my life is His life. Because He and I are linked together, these evil thoughts cannot possibly be my thoughts. They are not my thoughts at all. They are thoughts that come because of another outside force. It is the devil trying to undermine and defeat me. I do not want these thoughts, so I reject them. They are the spawn of the devil, and I order them back to where they came from and where they belong!"
Using the shield of faith means refusing to feel . condemned, ashamed, or guilty. It means that instead of marinating in self-hate, we bask in God's love. We operate on the fact, as stated in God's Word, that nothing can ever separate us from the love of Christ. We say, "I believe in the fact of God's love, not in the lie of the devil" Doubts and satanic accusations cannot co-exist with the glowing reality of God's love in our lives. We cannot entertain both . thoughts at the same time. When we choose to focus and meditate on the love of God in our lives, the devil's lies and accusations have to flee from us.
3. Peace. We must operate on this premise: "Christ is the ground of my peace. Therefore it is His responsibility to take me through every situation. So I absolutely will not believe this fear, this sudden anxiety that grips my heart. I will not believe that it is from me. It is simply sent from the enemy to shake my confidence in Christ. It is an attempt to destroy my peace and undermine my effectiveness for God. Christ is my peace, and He is able to sustain me, even through bouts of unsettling emotions and thoughts that are sent to me as fiery arrows from the enemy."
Proof of faith's reality
The process we have just examined is what the apostle James calls "resisting the devil" In James 4:7, he writes, "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." This is the shield of faith. It is refusing to believe the lie that if you have doubts you cannot have faith. Understand, doubt is always an attack on faith and that means that the fact that you have doubts indicates that you have faith! Faith and doubt are not opposites at all Doubt is an indication of the reality of faith. Therefore reexamine the ground of your faith and reassert it. Remember that feelings are not necessarily facts at all.
James says that if you keep on resisting the devil, he will flee from you. Think of that! The devil will flee from you--you can set that nasty, crafty old serpent to flight! How? Merely by resisting the devil again and again, every time an evil thought or doubt comes back. Simply refuse to yield, refuse to give up your position. Sooner or later inevitably! the devil will surrender and run away. Your doubts will clear, your feelings will change, the attacks will cease, and you will be back again in the sunshine of faith and the experience of the love and joy of God.
That is what Paul is talking about when he says, "In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one." The shield of faith is sufficient alone. It is all you need. You do not really need the other two pieces of armor. It may sound strange to say that, but it is true. You do not need any more armor, because the shield of faith is able to quench every fiery arrow of the wicked one. If the shield of faith was all you had, it would be enough for that line of defense!
Then why are we given more? Because God never intended that we should merely be conquerors. The Bible says that we are to be more than conquerors (see Romans 8:37), we are to be super-conquerors! We are not only to win; we are to win victoriously, triumphantly, abundantly. Remember that John said, "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" (1 John 4:4). And the apostle Paul adds, "but where sin increased, grace increased all the more" (Romans 5:20). We are intended to do more than barely make it to heaven. We are designed to triumph, to be fearless, to be not only unconquered but unconquerable!
I think so often of these words of Rudyard Kipling, describing a mature person's response to the trials, pressures, and temptations of life:
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream-and not make dreams your master;
If you can think-and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn out tools;
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings-nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run-
Yours is the earth and everything that's in it,
And-which is more-you'll be a man, my son!
That is a very eloquent description of life. It is exactly what the Word of God is designed to prepare us for. That is what it means to "be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power."
Father, help me to be a person of faith, to realize that Your Word has brought to me the truth, personified in Jesus. Let me not fling away my confidence, nor cast away my reliance upon that unshakable Word, but teach me to trust in You. Empower me to show the world that this armor Jesus Himself is the only armor that can keep a person standing amid the pressures and struggles of this life.
I pray in the name of the Lord Jesus, the One who is my . belt, my breastplate, my shoes, my shield, amen.