Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:10-12 NRSV)
Back in Part 6, we discussed how fear can gradually wear us down. By maintaining a continuous level of inner turmoil, we become less effective at pretty much anything useful. Some of this mental stress comes from what we actually see and hear, but have you noticed that sometimes that thing that bothered you hours or even days or weeks ago still seems to have some hold over you?
Now some folks are better at letting things roll off their backs than others, of course. This is a process I am still learning myself. But I am not talking about merely having a good attitude here or learning to relax. I am talking about nagging thoughts and anxieties that linger to the point where a person can be sitting still in a quiet room with no apparent external stimuli and yet be teetering on the edge of a panic attack or a ragestorm.
So what’s going on there? A psychiatrist might look at a person in such a situation, diagnose a disorder of some sort, and throw a pill at it. I can personally testify that pills do help somewhat, but like any pill, they treat the symptoms rather than solving the problem. While I do appreciate being able to face my struggles with a rational sense of calm, rather than a perpetual state of frokeoutedness, the struggle remains.
So what is the real struggle?
It’s not about comfort or safety or a sense of belonging. It’s not about politics or world affairs or getting the last word in on social media.
We all have a common enemy folks. His name is Satan, which means “adversary.” He is not some made-up cartoon figure with horns and a pitchfork to scare little children. He is real; he doesn’t sleep, and his primary goal is your destruction and mine.
He begins his attack with fear, attempting to paralyze you into submission. If he finds that he can not make you afraid of something or someone, then he will use deception, trying to stir up your basest emotions with things that just aren’t true. If you won’t buy an outright lie, then he will work on you with subtle half-truths. But if you are a Truthseeker, always on your guard against such nonsense, then he will move on from deception to distraction. If he can’t win you over, he can at least keep you from doing good.
So why is the devil so effective at carrying out his schemes? Because most of us are unaware that he is even there. And that’s just how he likes it.
Here is the reality of spiritual warfare. If you are on one train of thought, and something else intrudes on that thought out of the blue, that is not the random firing of a synapse. That thought that just popped into your head didn’t just pop into your head. It was PLACED there. This doesn’t mean you can’t think for yourself. That’s what you were doing after all before your thought process was interrupted. But what will you do NEXT with this new thought? To answer that, you need to know who introduced it.
When Christians talk about receiving a message from God, it is almost never an audible voice. If it is, many times that is a sign of something else going on that is more mental than spiritual (cue the above psychiatrists). More often, you will hear people use phrases such as “prompted by” or “led by the Spirit.” Sometimes this is in direct answer to prayer; sometimes it’s seemingly out of nowhere. However it happens, you can always tell that the message is from God if it is in line with scripture, illuminates the solution to a problem and leads to a good result for all concerned.
Here’s where things get sticky. Sometimes you might have a thought that solves YOUR problem but creates one for someone else. Sometimes acting on that thought leads to a result that works in YOUR favor, at least for the short term, but has far-reaching consequences that you don’t even notice. And of course, if you don’t know Scripture, then you have no way of telling if the message you are receiving is in line with God’s will as revealed in His Word.
Even worse, if you’re not aware that this spiritual influence is even happening, you probably think that the idea was your own idea in the first place. After all, no one spoke it to you out loud. But remember, you didn’t think it up yourself if you were actively thinking of something else when this new thought “occurred to you.” Satan’s easiest targets are the people who don’t believe in him. He has the easiest time influencing people who have no idea that they’re being influenced.
However, now that you have read this, you are aware and can no longer claim ignorance.
(So what do you do now? Come back for Part 9—The Armor of God)