Every follower of Jesus Christ is involved in a spiritual war. Satan and his evil allies have an implacable hatred for God and his people. The spiritual forces of evil endlessly seek to oppose God’s plan to display his glory, and they strive to ruin God’s chosen people. It matters not to the enemy how he strikes us; any harm he causes is a reason for perverse delight. However, Satan and his army are doomed to defeat, because God has already won the war through the saving work of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The Lord has spiritually outfitted us with spiritual protection and has made available to us the greatest resource, his almighty power to face the enemy and his malicious schemes. Although the war is won, there are still many battles to fight until the Lord returns and finally ends all evil works. We face a desperate, fatally wounded dragon, which still lashes out at us before he meets his eternal doom. God has willed that we must confront the enemy to make known God’s triumph in his Son. How do we do this? What is the Lord’s counter strategy for us?
We must be actively engaged in spiritual warfare. The true Christian life is not a way of passivity or of inactivity. At various times in church history, there have been those who have taught a passive view of the Christian life. Their teaching has been presented something like this: “Don’t struggle; that is the way of the flesh; just let go and let God.” I think that they wanted to protect the importance of faith against works, but they went wrong in the process.
One thing that people want to avoid is a struggle. We want life to be easy; Christians want the Christian life to be easy. In the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, many taught the error of sinless perfection—that a Christian could achieve, in various ways, freedom from sin. It is still taught and followed today. Many teachers of perfectionism taught that it could be attained by effort of will. The tragic error is that human effort can never perfect a person. Although others saw that perfection could not be achieved by human effort, they could not let go of the concept of the possibility of perfection. So for effort they substituted a redefined idea of faith that taught, “You can’t become perfect by struggling. Instead, you must not struggle; let God make you perfect. ‘Let go and let God.’”
But faith is not passivity. It is an active reliance or dependence upon God that produces action, as the letter to the Hebrews makes very clear. Think about the following verses from that letter’s chapter about faith (11:3-4, 7-8,17, 20-23, 24-28, 29, 33-36). Faith reasons that God is able to do what we cannot, and then moves forward in obedience, actively relying on God to supply our need.
In this entire text (6:10-18), the Lord calls us to action. In this passage the Holy Spirit gives us five clear commands: “be strong… put on… put on… stand firm… take….” The Lord through the apostle demands that we carry out these orders! Everyday we have these orders; to disobey them is to sin. How many Christians are nowhere near as holy and godly as they suppose themselves to be, because they assume that doing nothing is the way to please God? Why is it that a professing Christian can have great troubles of conscience about shop lifting or telling lies, and not feel the least anxiety about direct disobedience of to the Commander of the Lord’s armies? I suggest there are many poorly taught consciences.
The Spirit teaches us that we are in a struggle or more literally, a “wrestling match”. We come into close combat with the powers of darkness, and in their view, there are no “illegal holds”. Addiction, abandonment, betrayal, sexual immorality, domestic violence, robbery, and verbal abuse scar the human heart and provide pain-filled targets for the enemy to strike with self-pity, jealousy, anger, an unforgiving attitude, despair, discontent and plain old unbelief.
Have you been scarred in the ways that I mentioned? Do the evil spirits wrestling with you seem to have you in an unbreakable hold? For example, when something causes you to remember how you were robbed or cheated, you are tempted to become angry or perhaps are filled with a near paralyzing fear that it might happen again. Is there a way out? Yes, if you want to follow the Lord, you will find his way. He promises the way out (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Grace and peace, David