The Basics of the Battle
I know this sounds crazy, but it’s true: there is an unseen war going on all around us.
There are invisible enemies everywhere that threaten you. The fact you can’t see them makes them all the more dangerous. They not only threaten you, but the people you love. These adversaries have no mercy, no compassion, no care at all for what you think or how you feel. They will not only hurt you---they will kill you. It’s vitally important you and I understand how to defend ourselves from these foes, that we find some way to protect ourselves.
And the first line of defense is a powerful weapon called Germ-X.
Germ-X. Kills 99.9% of all the enemies I’m talking about. We’re talking bacteria, viruses, horrible bugs that lurk on the carts at Wal-Mart, on the bathroom door at the doctor’s office. I heard recently of a lady who cut her finger on a piece of metal and ended up in the hospital. I don’t know if Germ-X would have saved the day or not, but I do know the antibiotics did the trick. This biological war is serious business.
Tonight we’re going to talk about another kind of invisible war which is not biological, but spiritual. The Bible tells us these enemies are not too small, but too sneaky to see. They prefer to work in the shadows, prefer to make us believe they’re not really there. They attack our minds with deceitful thoughts, attack our hearts with temptations, luring us into sin, trying to blind us to the truth. It is vitally important you and I understand how to defend ourselves from these foes, that we find some way to protect ourselves and our families.
Tonight I want to begin a series on spiritual warfare which I’ve entitled Winning the War We Cannot See. We begin tonight by looking at the Basics of the Battle revealed in Eph. 6:10-13.
In his excellent book Tempted and Tried, Russell Moore writes: There are other shepherds than just the good shepherd, and he’s not the only one who leaves behind the ninety-nine to go after the one. As surely as God rules in heaven, the Bible warns us
1 Peter 5:8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.
As surely as there are unseen angels that watch over us for good, there are demons who watch over us for evil. This war is real, and we’re called to fight as good soldiers of Jesus Christ. But if we’re going to fight and win this war, we have to understand the basics.
These verses outline 3 basics for this battle. The first is this:
1. You must rely on God’s power. (v. 10-11)
My son Joshua has a fascinating book: a pictorial history of weapons. It begins with
simple weapons like the spear and the bow and arrow, and traces the development of more lethal ways of waging war. At each stage, human beings learn to rely less on their own power and more on other powers. With the discovery of gunpowder, we learned to rely on small explosions in a barrel to shoot bullets. Much later we developed missiles that could cross continents, delivering the devastation of the nuclear bomb. For better or worse, we have harnessed outside energies to fight our battles.
It is much the same in spiritual battles—we cannot and will not win in our own strength. …be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. (v. 10) We need the power of God to fight our concealed enemies.
How do we access that power? By understanding the decisive battle of this war was won by Christ on the Cross. Speaking of this victory the Bible says in
Colossians 2:15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.
If we are going to triumph over the devil and his forces, it will not be in our own strength, but only as we allow Christ to fill us with His power.
How do we access God’s power? Put on the whole armor of God…You have to use the weapons God gives you. We’ll look a little later at the pieces of this armor, but for now I want to focus on the two most basic ways God empowers us.
We access God’s power first of all through prayer. Prayer is not just asking for our physical needs, but for spiritual strength to combat our invisible foes, to …deliver us from the evil one...
We also access this power through the Word of God. Reading, studying, meditating on the word builds our faith, which is the channel through which God’s power flows. When Jesus faces His battle in the wilderness with the devil, He uses the Word of God to counter all the attacks of Satan. Time after time He counters Satan’s lies with it is written.
Jesus won the decisive victory over Satan at the Cross, but we are called on to fight the good fight of faith in His power, through prayer and His Word. What David once wrote about physical warfare is true of spiritual warfare:
Psalm 18:39 For You have armed me with strength for the battle; You have subdued under me those who rose up against me.
Imagine a foot soldier marching out to war without his helmet, without his gun, without his backpack of supplies. All I need is my fists to fight this war! he brags, and runs out to meet his doom. He may be brave, but he is foolish. He may have strength, but it’s not nearly enough. He may try hard, but he is no match for the deadly force of his enemy.
Now imagine you, weak and puny, running out to fight the devil without the power of God. All I need is to be determined, to make up my mind, to do my best!
You run out to meet your doom. You may be brave, but also foolish, may be strong, but not strong enough. You may try hard, but you are no match for the power of your enemy.
Stand up, stand up for Jesus, stand in his strength alone;
The arm of flesh will fail you, ye dare not trust your own.
You cannot fight the devil in your own strength and win. He is far too powerful, far too cunning, far too deceitful. You must have the power of God in you, the power that defeated the devil at Calvary, the power that comes only through prayer and the Word of God.
That’s the first basic of this battle. The second is
2. You must never forget who the real enemy is. (v. 12)
Some people see demons everywhere.
True story: A church I once served in (not FWB) was always looking
for demons, especially in music, books, TV or movies. My little brother once left a Green Lantern comic book at church, and next service I asked the pastor if he had seen it. He told me had, and that he and another preacher had burned it, because it was so Satanic. How did you know it was Satanic? Because as it was burning, we saw green stuff bubbling up. Did it ever cross your mind that a Green Lantern comic might have a lot of green ink in it?
Most of us probably wouldn’t be so ignorant. But you may see demons in other places—say your boss, or your spouse, or your kids.
I’m not trying to make light of demon possession, because I know it can and does happen. But more often the real problem is when we start fighting the wrong enemies, when we see people as our spiritual foes instead of the devil.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood… Paul writes. His real enemies aren’t the Jews that want to kill him, or the Romans who put him in prison. They’re opposing him, they are afflicting him, they are hating him, but they’re not the real enemy. The real enemies are his spiritual enemies.
The rest of vs. 12 describe these enemies in terms of different ranks, almost like a human army divided up into degrees of authority and power. That makes sense when you realize that neither Satan nor his demons can be in more than one place at the same time. Some see a picture of a network of demons, assigned to different locations, perhaps even assigned to different people (instead of a guardian angel, perhaps a guardian devil?).
Although this is mere speculation, the main point is clear: our real enemies are these unseen forces tempting is, feeding our doubts and hindering our faith and trust in the Lord.
You must always remember who your real enemies are.
I’m not denying there are people who dislike you, who maybe even hate you and try to hurt you. When Jesus says love your enemies, these are the folks He is talking about.
But your most dangerous enemies are not flesh and blood—they are invisible entities who want not just to break your heart or break your arm—they want to steal your soul.
When you’re tempted, they are the ones making sin look so attractive and righteousness look so silly. They cannot control your mind, but they whisper their thoughts so subtly you think the thoughts are your own. They cannot make you want anything, but they can fuel your desire to want it more. They cannot make you hate somebody, but they can lead you to think the worst of everybody.
These enemies work through temptation, deception, and yes, even your own desires. Their goal is to make you distrust God, isolate you from the people who love you, and ultimately destroy you. Our problem is we often don’t recognize who they are and what they’re doing.
When World War I broke out, the War Ministry in London sent this coded message to all the British outposts: "War declared. Arrest all enemy aliens in your district." Back came the reply: "Have arrested ten Germans, six Belgians, four Frenchmen, three Austrians, two Italians. Please advise who we are at war with!"
It’s one of the basics for battle: never forget who the real enemy is. One more:
3. You must have the courage to make a stand. (v. 13)
I’ve known some people who seem very brave when it comes to the devil. They talk about
how they order Satan around, tell him what he can and cannot do. They claim Jesus gives us authority over the devil, that the only reason he attacks us is because we let him. They tell us we need to quit playing defense and start playing offense in this spiritual war.
Most of what I read about spiritual warfare calls not for the courage to go looking for Satan, but the courage to stand against the attacks of the devil (cf. vs. 11, 13-14).
This courage understands the situation, but refuses to run. When a soldier fights with courage, he knows the victory is not won easily. He’s willing to face his fear, to get bloody, to suffer in order to make his stand. He believes in his cause, he trusts His commanding officer, and is persuaded as long as he stands firm, he will win the battle.
Sometimes we lack courage because we don’t understand our situation. We assume the battle will be won without any inconvenience, without any wounds or blood, that victory will cost us nothing. When things get hard we lose our courage, we run away, licking our wounds and cursing our cowardice.
Make no mistake: when the devil attacks, he plays for keeps. Standing your ground will cost you, it will probably wound you, it will probably get bloody. This is war, not a game, and many soldiers of the Cross have endured terrible suffering as they took their stand against the devil.
We can expect no less. If you stand you will need courage---courage that is grounded in your faith in Jesus Christ.
Remember the battle in the wilderness, when Satan attacked the Son of God with temptation? Jesus was hungry enough to eat rocks, and yet he refused to turn stones into bread. He came to win the world for God, but He refused to accept Satan’s easy offer of the world in exchange for worship.
At the Cross, Jesus could have destroyed the people Satan used to insult and wound Him. He could have called down countless angels to rescue Him and put the devil in his place. But He didn’t, because God’s will was for Him to suffer and die. Satan threw everything He had at Jesus, but our Lord stood firm all the way to death, and beyond to win the victory.
This is our example of courage. Whatever the devil throws at you, you have to be willing to stand, to keep being obedient to God, even to the point of suffering, even to the point of death. Your courage in Christ is what guarantees your victory.
Psalm 23:4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me…
What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight - it's the size of the fight in the dog.- Dwight D. Eisenhower
What counts is not necessarily how big or small you are---it is how big or small your faith is in Christ. Your courage will not fail, as long as your faith does not fail.
In 1847, the finest hospitals lost 1 out of 6 young mothers to “childbed fever.” Nobody knew what caused this terrible condition, nor how to fight it. But one man found a way to win this war.
In those days, a doctor’s typical daily routine began in the dissecting room where he performed autopsies. From there he made his way to the hospital to examine expectant mothers without ever pausing to wash his hands. Dr. Phillip Semmelweis was the first to associate such examinations with infection and death.
But no one believed him. Doctors and midwives had been delivering babies for thousands of years without washing. They simply refused to believe such nonsense. Finally he begged them.”[Gentleman]…I have proved all that I have said. But while we talk ,talk, talk…women are dying. I am not asking anything world shaking. I am asking you only to wash. For God’s sake, wash your hands.
Something so simple, so basic, was the key to winning this war against an unseen enemy.
Tonight we’ve looked at 3 basics for spiritual battle. 3 simple things that can help you win the most important war in your life: depend on God’s power, remember who your enemy is, and be strong and courageous in Christ.
Whether it’s the war with temptation or deception, the battle against doubt or discouragement, these basics will help you triumph over the forces of evil by the grace of God.