Spiritual Warfare and Deliverance Book 4:- Spiritual Warfare: Winning the Daily Battle with Satan, By Dr. Ray C. Stedman
Chapter 1: The Forces We Face
Ephesians 6:10-13: "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 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."
GOD IS NOT INTERESTED IN RELIGION, but He is tremendously interested in life. You cannot read the New Testament without realizing that the Lord Jesus did not hesitate to break the Sabbath regulations of His day when those regulations violated the real need of a broken human being for healing. God is not nearly so interested in stained-glass windows, organ music, congregational hymns, or pastoral prayers as He is in producing love-filled homes, generous hearts, and brave men and women who can live godly lives in the midst of a dark and evil world. His goal for our lives is that we be people of undefiled minds and undefiled hearts, living and projecting His truth and His character in a sin-ridden world.
I am deeply convinced that we can only understand life when we see it as the Bible sees it. That is why the Word of God was given to open our eyes to God's perspective on life and reality. The world we see all around us the world of entertainment and nightly news and instant information on the Internet, and political infighting and social upheaval that is a world of illusion. Though we usually call it "the real world," it is a facade that is destined to fade away. What God calls reality is something that exists beyond the flimsy walls of this world, and it is far more real and lasting than our so-called "real world." Our eyes and minds are constantly deceived by the distorted perspectives, twisted beliefs, false values, and temporary programs of this dying world.
But when we come to the Bible, we learn the truth. Here reality is laid before us, and we see the world as it really is. When we get down to the bare essentials of life and strip off all the confusing illusion, we find that life is exactly what the Bible records it to be.
We may not want to hear what the Bible has to say to us. We may think the Bible's diagnosis of our condition is too harsh, or its prescription for our healing is too difficult but if we reject its truth, we only succeed in deceiving ourselves. We would prefer to "cherry-pick" God's truth to highlight the verses we like and edit out the verses that expose our sins and failures. But it is not up to us to pass judgment on God's Word. Rather, we must submit ourselves to the judgment of God's Word, because it is inspired by God Himself. We do not have the authority to "correct" His words; rather, those words are the authority that correct our lives.
So let's stop this silly business of sitting in judgment upon the insights of the Lord Jesus Christ. In this world, we are continually confronted with the choice of whether to accept the flimsy, fallible" authority" of mere human beings or the certain, unfailing, clear Word of the Lord Jesus Christ. But as Christians, as people who bear the name of Christ, we must continually reduce every argument to this simple consideration: "Am I to accept this person's word or the Word of Christ? If this person's word agrees with what the Lord says, then fine, it is truth. But if this person's word does not agree with God's Word, then I must reject it, because there is no authority greater than that of God."
Life is struggle
In Ephesians 6, the apostle Paul sets forth his analysis of life, especially as it relates to the Christian life. And in Paul's analysis, life is struggle, life is conflict, life is warfare. Under the inspiration of God, Paul writes:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 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. (Ephesians 6:10-13)
Nowhere in this passage do you get any sense that (as an old popular song used to put it) "life is just a bowl of cherries." No, stripped to its essentials, life is nothing more or less than a long struggle, a never-ending wrestling match. We don't like this idea, of course. We feel entitled to a life that is essentially care-free and easy, with just enough work to do to keep us busy and interested. We feel we have a right to expect the kind of life described in another old popular song:
We'll build a sweet little nest,
Somewhere in the West,
And let the rest of the world go by.
We tend to think of the trials, pressures, and problems of life as an annoying and unfair intrusion into our rightful, neat, and orderly existence. But Paul says that those afflictions and problems are not intrusions into our lives they are life itself! They are the stuff of which life is made conflict, struggle, and difficult choices.
Now, there's nothing wrong with dreaming dreams and making plans for the future. There is nothing wrong with enjoying life. In fact, our romantic and idealized dreams of "the good life" are a kind of racial memory, the vestigial remains of what was once God's intention for men and women. In God's good order and time, the golden age we all long for will become a reality but it will take place in the life to come, not in the life of the here and now.
The apostle Paul tells us that life is a struggle, a life and-death conflict between two opposing forces. If we try to ignore the conflict, if we do not firmly choose the right side and take up our armor and our weapons for the battle, we will inevitably find ourselves jarred and shaken by spiritual reality. We may even become casualties of a battle we thought we could wish away. Truth has a way of intruding on our pleasant little illusions.
We all know what it's like to have to shed our illusions and face the truth. The vacation ends, and we must leave Disneyland or Tahiti or Paris and return to the everyday world of making a living. Or a loved one dies, and we must face loneliness, grief, and the utterly real fact of human mortality. Or we lose our health. Or we lose our prosperity. Or we suffer some other personal loss. It happens all the time. We are continually shaken out of our dreams and daydreams, and we are forced to face the hard realities of life and eternity.
In Proceedings, the magazine of the Naval Institute, naval officer Frank Koch tells the story of an incident that happened to him at sea an incident that illustrates the principle Paul talks about:
Two battleships assigned to the training squadron had been at sea on maneuvers in heavy weather for several days. I was serving on the lead battleship and was on watch on the bridge as night fell. The visibility was poor with patchy fog, so the captain remained on the bridge keeping an eye on all activities. Shortly after dark, the lookout on the wing of the bridge reported, "Light, bearing on the starboard bow." "Is it steady or moving astern?" the captain called out. Lookout replied, "Steady, captain," which meant we were on a dangerous collision course with that ship. The captain then called to the signalman, "Signal that ship: We are on a collision course, advise you change course 20 degrees." Back came a signal, "Advisable for you to change course 20 degrees." The captain said, "Send, I'm a captain, change course 20 degrees." "I'm a petty officer second class," came the reply. "You had better change course 20 degrees." By that time, the captain was furious. He spat out, "Send, I'm a battleship. Change course 20 degrees." Back came the flashing light, "I'm a lighthouse." We changed course.
God's truth is like that lighthouse and we are like that battleship. In our human arrogance, we chart our own course and demand that the world adjust itself to our wishes. But God's truth is unchanging, unbending, unyielding. It is not God's duty to alter His truth. It is our responsibility to chart our course according to the light of His Word, which is ultimate, objective reality. If we fail to do so, we risk running our lives aground.
"When the day of evil comes. . ."
The apostle Paul says that this struggle we face varies in intensity from one day to the next. We must learn to stand, he says, "when the day of evil comes." This implies that not all days are evil. Some days will be worse than others. There are seasons in our lives when pressures are more intense, and when problems, trials, and temptations seem to gang up on us all at once. These are what we recognize as evil days. The "day of evil" may not be a literal twenty-four-hour day, of course it could be a day, a week, or even years in length. But thank God, all of life is not a relentless, excruciating trial. There are certainly times in life when we get a rest from the battle, a reduction of the pressure, a relief from overpowering circumstances and agonizing decisions.
The reason we are not always under pressure is because of the grace of God. The fact is that all of life truly would be a day of evil and much worse if not for the grace and goodness of a loving God. He continually operates to restrain the powers that war against us and to allow times of refreshment, recreation, enjoyment, and blessing. It is tragic that we so often take these times of refreshment for granted, enjoying them without a single thought for the goodness of God which makes them possible. Instead of giving thanks to God for those times of refreshment, we feel entitled to God's blessing, and we are quick to complain that God is unfair when life doesn't go according to our expectations. This is the point Paul makes in his letter to the Romans:
Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance? (Romans 2:4).
So while every day is not an evil day, we have to agree with God's Word when it tells us that, in general, life is an unrelenting struggle. The struggle varies in intensity from time to time, but it extends from the cradle to the grave.
The nature of our struggle
Paul then goes on to analyze and define for us the nature of the struggle and this is a crucial point to understand. He tells us that our conflict is not against flesh and blood. That is, spiritual warfare is not about the struggle of man against man. It is not a political struggle, a social struggle, an economic struggle, or even a religious theological-doctrinal struggle. It is not a struggle between human beings. It is a struggle within human beings.
Let me ask you a question: What is the one thing that gives you the most difficulty in life? For most of us, the answer to that question, in one form or another, comes down to one thing: People. You may struggle intensely with a family member, your spouse or child or a parent. Or you may have personality conflicts and struggles in your office, or in your church, or in your neighborhood.
In the political realm, the Republicans are always vexed by the stratagems of the Democrats, and the Democrats are always irritated by the tactics of the Republicans and both parties are annoyed with the Libertarians, Reform Party, Greens, and independents!
And let us not forget the Internal Revenue Service. Certainly if there is one group of people who know how to make our lives miserable, it is those "public servants" down at the IRS!
But the apostle Paul says that our struggle is not against flesh and blood. Our true battle is not against our political opponents or the IRS or family or co-workers or neighbors or any other human agency. The battle is not against people, but against unseen spiritual powers. In fact, the entire human race is under a vicious assault by certain principalities and powers, world rulers of darkness, wicked spirits in high places.
"That is your problem," Paul says, in effect. "That is the nature of the enemy we face powerful invisible rulers of darkness, highly placed agents of spiritual wickedness!" And it is not just Christians who are opposed by these forces. Every man, every woman, every child, everywhere is a target of the enemy. The devil has each one of us in his crosshairs. The whole race is opposed by the principalities and powers, the world rulers of this present darkness. That is Paul's explanation of the struggle of life.
Yet, even though the devil has declared war on the entire human race, it is only Christians who are capable of believing and perceiving the true nature of this conflict. The world does not understand spiritual truth, so it either distorts the true nature of our battle to the point of ridiculousness or it rejects spiritual reality as a "myth," intellectually unacceptable and inadmissible to any intelligent mind. Occultism and superstition have distorted the great revelation of spiritual warfare the dark powers, rulers, authorities, and spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms and have reduced them to a ridiculous pantheon of comic-book goblins, witches, spooks, and ghouls.
I am well aware of the disdain that many people in our society today exhibit toward any serious discussion of the devil and evil spiritual forces. They say, "Are you going to insult our intelligence by talking about a personal devil? That is such a medieval concept straight out of the superstition of the Dark Ages! Are you seriously suggesting that the devil is at the root of all the world's problems today?" I have even encountered this attitude within the Christian church.
I once spent an evening in Berlin discussing these issues with four or five intelligent churchmen men who knew the Bible intimately, from cover to cover. Though we never once opened a Bible, we spent the whole evening together discussing various passages. I never referred to a single passage of Scripture that these men were not aware of. In fact, they could quote these passages verbatim. Yet each of these churchmen rejected the idea of a personal devil. At the end of evening they admitted that, having rejected belief in the existence of the devil, they had no answers to the most puzzling issues of life, such as the obvious prevalence of evil in our world. We had to leave it there.
We have to ask ourselves, if there is no devil, then how do we explain all the evil in the world? When we look at the many attempts down through history to destroy God's chosen nation, Israel, including the Holocaust just a short half-century ago, how can we say there is no devil? How can we say that a personal, intentional force for evil is not deliberately trying to destroy God's plan for the world? And when we look at the persecution of the Christian church around the globe, God chosen agency for demonstrating His character and His love in a dark world, how can we say there is no devil?
The devil is real, he is active, he is working day and night, trying to subvert and undo and defeat God's plan in human history. The devil is our enemy. And this is war.
The desperate disease
Once we see reality as God sees it, through the lens of His Word, the Bible, we see that we must accept as fact the proposition of Paul in Ephesians 6: Behind the problems of the world, behind the evil that manifests itself in mankind, there is a hierarchy of evil spirits the devil and his angels. The world says to the Christian, "Why talk about myths from the Bible about devils and angels? You want to know what's real? Turn on CNN or pick up the Wall Street Journal or the Washington Post that's reality. That's relevant. That's meaningful."
No, that's ephemeral, that's passing away, that's the illusion of reality. Real reality, the real warfare that's going on in this world, is so invisible to the people of this world that it's never talked about on CNN, and it never makes the headlines yet it is actually these principalities and powers that drive the events behind the headlines! The wars, the genocides, the persecutions, the famines, the hatred, the racial unrest all of these things are the outward symptoms of the spiritual cancer that is consuming this world from the inside out.
And what good is it to keep giving aspirins to a feverish patient when the fever is merely a symptom of a deadly cancer? It is not enough to treat the symptoms we must attack the disease itself. That is what Paul so vividly and accurately sets before us in Ephesians 6.
This crippling disease has reached such a deadly, critical stage that even worldlings, non-Christians, are recognizing the inadequacy of their diagnosis. Listen to Carl lung, the great Swiss psychologist and medical doctor:
We stand perplexed and stupefied before the phenomena of Marxism and Bolshevism because we know nothing about man or, at any rate, have only a lopsided and distorted picture of him. If we had self-knowledge, that would not be the case. We stand face-to-face with the terrible question of evil and do not even know what is before us, let alone know what to pit against it. And even if we did know, we still cannot understand how it can happen here.
What a tremendously candid admission of human ignorance in the face of life as it really is! And listen to this bewildered cry from U Thant, when he was Secretary General of the United Nations. Speaking out on behalf of the dream of world peace before a conference of international delegates, he asked a question that is humanly unanswerable but which God has already answered in His Word:
What element is lacking so that with all our skill and all our knowledge we still find ourselves in the dark valley of discord and enmity? What is it that inhibits us from going forward together to enjoy the fruits of human endeavor and to reap the harvest of human experience? Why is it that, for all our professed ideals, our hopes, and our skills, peace on earth is still a distant objective seen only dimly through the storms and turmoils of our present difficulties?
As the world's great leaders grapple with the dilemma of modern life, all they can say is, "What is wrong? What is the unknown element behind this? We cannot understand or explain this! Something is missing from our understanding of human nature and human behavior. What is it?"
The answer: There is a spiritual war going on behind the scenes of history, and that spiritual war in the unseen world is driving events in our own visible world. There is no peace in the material world because there is a war now raging in the spiritual world.
There is nothing more meaningful, more relevant, more real that we could be involved in than the cause of God in this vast spiritual war. The biblical teaching of spiritual warfare shines a spotlight of truth on the basic problem of human existence and human history.
From Genesis to Revelation
While modern sociology, psychology, and political science stand baffled and frustrated in the face of the world's evil and darkness, the apostle Paul gives us the insight and illumination of God's Word: The world, he says, is in the grip of what he calls "rulers. . . authorities. . . powers."
These rulers and powers of this dark world are headed by the devil, whom Scripture says is a fallen angel of malevolent power and cunning intelligence. It is the devil against whom Christians are called to wrestle daily. Now, that is not just the claim of one isolated passage of the Bible. That is the teaching of the Bible from beginning to end, from Genesis to Revelation, and especially in both Genesis and Revelation.
The Lord Jesus Himself put His finger on the whole problem when He said to certain men of His day, "You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies" (John 8:44). In that stark and startling analysis, the Lord stripped the devil of his disguises and revealed his true character a liar and a murderer. What the devil does is related to what he is, just as what we do is precisely the result of what we are. Because he is a liar and a murderer, the devil's work is to deceive and to destroy. There you have the explanation for all the misery, hatred, murder, war, and other evils that have taken place in human history.
The devil has the ear of humankind. Scripture calls him "the god of this world." The world listens to him and to everything he says, but the devil does not tell the world the truth. The devil is a master of psychology, and he understands that people would much rather believe a pleasant, attractive lie than the unvarnished truth. That is why so many people rush to their destruction, ignoring all the evidence around them. They drool with desire after the attractive lies of the devil while rejecting the clear, life-giving truth of God.
Too late, people who chase the devil's lies discover that at the end of the lie is destruction and death either a living death of shame, regret, self-hate, frustration, meaninglessness, and emptiness, or a literal physical death and a literal spiritual death in eternity. Whom the devil cannot deceive, he tries to destroy, and whom he cannot destroy, he attempts to deceive. That is the working of the devil.
The call to arms
"Well," you say, "this is all very depressing. I would rather not think about it." I don't like to think about it either, but I have discovered that you cannot wish the truth away. There is only one realistic approach to this struggle, and that is to be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might. That is the way of escape, and there is no other.
God has issued to each of us a bugle call to intelligent combat. It is a call to us to be men and women of God, to fight the good fight, to stand fast in the faith, to be strong in the Lord in the midst of the battle, in the midst of this dark and evil world.
Those who ignore this call and the battle that rages around them are doomed to be casualties. We cannot remain neutral. We must choose sides. We must align ourselves with the forces of God, the forces of good. We must answer the bugle call, we must put on our armor and stand our ground or the battle will roll over us and in our defenseless, bewildered state, the forces of evil will trample us into the dust of the battlefield.
So we must learn to recognize how the dark systems of the devil work. But more than that, we must learn the processes of overcoming the systems of the devil not by flesh and blood, not by joining committees, not by political action, not by taking up clubs or assault weapons and attacking a human enemy. No, Paul says the weapons of our warfare are not flesh and blood weapons, not physical weapons, not political weapons. Rather, our weapons are mighty, through God, unto the pulling down of strongholds and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). That is the path to victory!
Do you think that is not challenging? That is the greatest challenge any ear could ever hear! Do you think that is not demanding? It demands more courage and sacrifice than any other cause in the history of the world! Do you think that is not exciting? It is the most exciting call that has ever gone out to men and women anywhere! "Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power!"
Gracious Father, thank You for a truth that startles me, prods me, and disturbs me. Thank You, Lord, for Your word of reality that speaks to me in the midst of my complacency and illusion. How easily I would drift on in futile ignorance, never raising a finger against the deterioration of life and the destruction of body and soul, were it not for this word of challenge that calls me back and makes me see life as it really is. Lord, teach me to bow in humility before Your Word and to say to the Holy Spirit, "O great Teacher of God, open these Scriptures and make them real to me today." In Christ's name, amen.