The Paradox of Spiritual Warfare: A Christian Counselor’s Thoughts
In my previous articles in this series, I have discussed the armor that God gives us to use in our spiritual struggle against the evil one. The Armor of God is a wonderful analogy because it is our paradoxical weaponry in the spiritual war. Rather than pitting violence against violence as occurs in the wars of this world, the Holy Spirit leads us to use an armament of peace. It is through the armament of righteousness and the Gospel that we can overcome the enemy’s plots to steal, kill, and destroy.
We Do Not Have to Fight on the Enemy’s TermsThe story of David and Goliath provides a quintessential example of this. Goliath was a frightening adversary, and David needed to use a completely different paradigm of warfare to defeat him. I don’t simply mean that he used a sling instead of a sword as slings were a common weapon of war in that day. Being courageous, David probably considered fighting spear to spear, but he did not have to do so because his true weapon was his trust in God. This trust meant that David did not have to fight on his enemy’s terms. Simply taking the field was an incredible act of faith, which is itself an act of war in the spiritual realm. This story did not impact the human story so decisively because of David’s exceptional martial combat, but rather because of his exceptional faith.
David’s enemy was not only fighting with bronze and iron, but with lies and fear. In his On Demolishing Arguments, Bill Naggy writes:
The voices of accusation and unbelief are the voice of Goliath, saying: ‘I am your problem. I am stronger than you. I am bigger than your God. You will be my slave forever.’ We are to treat these voices as David treated Goliath – not just as our enemies, but as enemies of God.
We are not to fight fire with fire, instead we fight sin-and-death with light-and-life. The war is about territory and control – but the context is spiritual and the battlefield is the mind and heart. Any attack on us is an attack on the Kingdom. Regardless of how the enemy or obstacle appears, our weapon and armor is found in God alone.
The Armor of God
This is why the Apostle Paul uses the analogy of the armor of God. He wanted to point out how truly real the spiritual war is, and how righteousness and faith are our armaments in this war. Paul tells us that each piece of God’s armor is given to us intentionally, and each virtue is a powerful resource in the spiritual war. These pieces of armor are not only defenses against attack, but are acts of life that increase the Kingdom of God in you and in those whom you influence. In this article, I discuss the only weapon a child of God needs to carry – sometimes even physically – which is the sword of the Spirit, namely, the Word of God.
The Sword of the Spirit
The sword of the Spirit is devotion. The word ‘devotion’ is usually translated as ‘reading the Bible and praying.’ It is lovely that this concept is so widely known within Christianity. Yet the Word of God is not just a book – it is a Person. Our devotions might be a moment in the day, but devotion means being led by Holy Spirit into worshipping God. It means giving Him our undivided attention and our heart as we meet with Him and learn from Him. Just as the essence of the Holy Spirit is to worship God, so the term ‘devotion’ implies an act of worship in which we give our attention to God. The greater the attention given, the greater the worship. Thus devotion means giving your keen attention to the Person of the Word of God – or to whatever else you give your attention to and therefore worship.
Keeping Your Eyes on Christ
My favorite way of expressing this is to say that devotion is keeping your eyes on Christ. If you are engaging in spiritual warfare, this is going to start and end with getting your focus on God and not allowing that attention to wander anywhere else. Your enemy wants to distract you and discourage you. But he cannot do this unless he can take your attention away from Christ. Just as a sword can be used to parry and block attacks, so worship is the veteran’s weapon of choice. Just as the sword is the best weapon to carry into battle, so worship is simply devastating to darkness. Worship refreshes and renews saints, and it assaults the darkness by ushering in the Holy Spirit, who the Scriptures compare to a fire. (Acts 2:3, Matthew 3:11)
Abiding in the Vine
The Lord told us to abide in the Vine. (John 15:4) Being faithful by spending time every day in prayer and in the Word is a tremendous achievement – God loves it. Devotions enable the warring saint to connect at a heart level by getting alone with God to hear His voice, grow in Him, and receive His guidance for the day. Without connecting at the heart level, what we do is just religious service. But when we worship the Lord with our attention, we host the Spirit of God and the day becomes an adventure, enabling Christians to become ambassadors for His Majesty the King.
Christian Counseling Can Support You in Spiritual Warfare
Christian counseling can help you to identify spiritual attack and connect with God’s grace. Actively pursuing spiritual growth and healing is a worthy investment, and a fine defense and offense in the spiritual war. If you would like to process areas where you feel the enemy has been able to keep you down, or if you would like to increase your personal understanding and your ability to identify harmful lies in your life, Christian counseling is a good place to start.
All photos from Flickr CreativeCommons: “David & Goliath,” by Antoni Llena courtesy of myBCN – Barcelona Expert, (CC BY-SA 2.0); “David and Goliath,” courtesy of DarrelBirkett, (CC BY 2.0); “Albion_Maximilian_Medieval_Sword_03,” courtesy of Soren Niedziella, (CC BY 2.0)