The Heart of Spiritual Warfare

Plato urges us: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” If you are breathing, you are under a spiritual assault. The question we face is not, “Are we under attack?” but, “What is the heart of the attack?” Let me tell a recent story of mine. See if you can recognize the field of battle for the spiritual warfare.

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Two friends and I host a weekly podcast on various spiritual topics. Last Thursday we planned to discuss (I kid you not), How to Recognize Spiritual Assault in Our Lives. Schedule conflicts and illness had caused the cancellation of our two previous podcasts. We didn’t want to call off a third.

To complicate matters, one of my friends was still under the weather, the other was swamped with work, and I had a longstanding 6:00 pm dinner date with great, out-of-town friends. I planned to leave the dinner at 7:30 to make our 8:00 call.

That was the situation going in; this is the story that followed:

  • Late in the afternoon, my wife and I had a tense discussion. I missed much of my podcast planning time, leaving me irritated, distracted and unprepared.
  • Our dinner reservation was changed from 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm, leaving me little time for conversation, and even less time for food.
  • The closest parking spot was half a dozen blocks from the restaurant, and I arrived five minutes late.
  • As I left the restaurant, a torrential downpour greeted me with open arms, and I splashed and waded the six blocks back to my car.
  • Three different traffic jams—three!—delayed me further. I arrived home with two minutes to spare, soaking wet and freezing.
  • I began the call in a frenzied, intense, and distracted state of mind.

Do you recognize the frontlines of the spiritual assault?

It’s not what we normally think

When I later reviewed that story with a friend, he exclaimed, “Whenever I speak on spiritual warfare, the same stuff happens to me: my wife and I get into a fight, my car breaks down, the PA system shorts out, and I’m an emotional wreck. We’ve got to pray against Satan’s evil orchestration of events.”

But the inconvenient incidents weren’t my problem. The battlefield of my spiritual warfare was not the events. They were just triggers.

The bullets that leave us bleeding on the battlefield are the warped beliefs that burrow deep in our hearts.

The book of Job may be the best spiritual warfare manual ever written. And in it, seven verses describe Satan’s evil orchestration of events: marauders, natural disasters, enemies, weather, and illness (Job 1:14-19 and 2:7). That’s it, seven verses out of forty-two chapters.

The rest of the book of Job reveals the distorted thinking—the warped beliefs—of Job, his wife, and his friends. The book of Job concludes with God revealing himself, and it is God’s self-disclosure—displaying how reality really works—that brings the healing Job needed.

It’s the lies that we buy that kill us

Scripture’s depiction of Satan underscores his messages, not his physical power. He’s called a liar, the father of lies, a deceiver, an accuser, and a blinder of our minds. Scripture doesn’t call Satan the demon of thunderstorms, the terrorizer of technology, or the evil spirit of illness.

He may cause some of these, but he always lies about them. He offers us false interpretations.

Satan’s objective is to distort our view of reality about God, others, and ourselves. Once we believe Satan’s lies about God (others or ourselves), he has us in the palm of his hand. It is those false beliefs that make us act in fear, rage, timidity, domination, misunderstanding, and oppression. Satan’s attack on Job was to get him to “curse God to his face” (Job 1:11).

I could have handled that call differently

The changed reservations, poor parking, and bad weather triggered inner responses: intenseness, distraction, and forcefulness. I thought: “Why does this always happen to me? At the very worst times? Now I’ve got to make this call work, even though I’m unprepared.”

What if, instead, I believed that God works out all things for the good? Even poor podcast prep.

I would have approached the call with peace not frenzy (Success doesn’t depend upon me), and delightful curiosity not distraction (What is God up to?). Everybody would have had more fun. Including me.

Instead of fearing thunderstorms, we can learn to dance in the rain as we wonder, “What great marvel is God up to now?”


PS: I have been invited to speak at my first ever retreat on Hearing God in Conversation, HearingGodInConversation_v13_frontbased on my upcoming  book. The host organization is a terrific Christian Community in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

They wish to open the doors to anyone who would like to come, so please consider attending the retreat on Hearing God in Conversation, Friday evening through Saturday evening, October 2-3, 2015.

I hope to provide each attendee with an Advanced Reader Copy of my upcoming book.

You can register here.

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What do YOU think?

20 thoughts on “The Heart of Spiritual Warfare

  1. Sam – I think that many people struggle with the very misunderstanding of spiritual warfare that you described here. So often when similar circumstances have occurred to me, it is easy to get caught up in the “events” but miss the deeper poison that is at work. Great reminder in this blog. Thank you for writing it. Well done.

  2. On the podcast I heard recently (not sure if it was the one you describe), a phrase stood out. It was something like, “If it’s taking you out, it’s probably a lie.” That has stuck with me. Yes, it’s our reactions that do us in, and yes, God will make it work, despite all the setbacks. If your article describes the podcast I heard, none of the attack took away from the message.

  3. Hey Sam,
    It makes me wonder if some of the inconvenient circumstances are directly from God and not the enemy. From Job we know that what the enemy throws at us has first been vetted by the Lord himself. So either way we “should” know that God is working it out. My problem is usually my focus, which is on me.. me.. me.., my performance, my convenience, etc. Does God even want us at our best or just our most surrendered, available and trusting?

    Great article, I look forward to them every week.

    Wish I was in your hood so I could go to the retreat and I’ll have to start listening to your podcasts, I didn’t know about them until I read this post.

    God bless Sam,

    • Hey Russ, I wish we DID live close, and not just so we could be on the retreat together.

      I’ll be having retreats around the country on hearing God, so maybe someday something near you.

      I think God does put us through the fire; he sees what we need and like a loving father, he arranges circumstances for our good. And as you say, he allows some of Satan’s activities, but then he always brings good out of them

      What a God!

  4. Thank you so much Sam.

    Exactly what I needed to hear (well, to read ?) to confirm what the Lord has been trying to teach me the last few days.
    Yes, spiritual warfare is in our head and the enemy is THE liar.
    Oh Lord, please renew our minds and help us discern and fight, with Your help, all the lies that have shaped us.

  5. As Tevia in Fidler on the Roof said, “God looks down and says, “What kind of mischief can I play on my good friend Tevia today?” The trick is to laugh with God at devilment He allows. That gets the evil ones goat and not yours every time, and God laughs with us. Life is good.

    • Absolutely. too many of us are too afraid of Spiritual Warfare; when instead we should have a quiet confidence, a confidence that can even laugh.

      Thomas More once said: The devil…that prowde spirite…cannot endure to be mocked.

      And Luther wrote: The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture,
      is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn.


  6. As with good times, also in bad times, it is best to keep eyes higher than current situation so we dont loose sight of what really matters. That also delivers a string of line that assures us- everything is STILL in its place and nothing can shake the most important!:)