The air is heavy and cold in a young boy's bedroom. The boy lays under his blanket with his hands tightly gripping the corners. His shallow breaths create a fog that drifts to his closet door. The boy notices the open closet and fears what could be inside. Suddenly the clothes move. The boy grabs a flashlight under his pillow and shines it at the closet. He does not see anything but knows something is near.
Like the boy in the description above, we may not see creatures with scaly wings and claws crawling out of our closets, but we can sense the presence of darkness. Sin, which is disobedience to God, has infected a realm beyond the naked eye. Spiritual beings, which the Lord created to give Him glory, have mutinied and promote their own kingdoms. In his letter to the Ephesian church, the biblical writer Paul wrote about this truth. He said, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against evil, spiritual forces in the heavens" (Ephesians 6:12). Behind much of the pain, chaos, and confusion we encounter are agents in opposition to the Lord.
In Scripture, we see the theme of spiritual warfare, which conveys that believers are in a battle against unseen agents. Our battles with evil echo the greater war between the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of God. This war reached its culmination when Jesus Christ accomplished salvation. During His ministry, Jesus rescued His people from demonic influence. In His death and resurrection, Jesus removed evil from its throne and established His supremacy. For we who trust in Christ, darkness is defeated. But the battles wage on until Jesus returns to totally cast the unseen into oblivion. For now, evil persists in its delusion, trying to tempt us away from the Lord and trying to thwart God's unstoppable plan of restoration.
Warfare against spiritual evil is threefold: we wrestle not only against Satan but also against the world and our flesh. Paul argued, "...you previously walked according to the ways of this world, according to the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit now working in the disobedient. We too all previously lived among them in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts, and we were by nature children under wrath as the others were also" (Ephesians 2:2–3). Spiritual warfare is not simply a conflict with demonic forces. Because the world is fallen, we too fight against ungodly structures, like the human trafficking and pornography industries. Because of our sinful nature, we also fight against our heart's inclination to lust, boast, and deceive. Spiritual warfare is submitting unseen evil, unjust systems, and our latent sins to the gospel's power.
We can utilize three strategies to comprehensively engage in spiritual warfare: prayer, proclaiming gospel truth, and tending to our stories.
Prayer is a mighty tool for spiritual warfare. Prayer is essentially communicating with God. When we pray, we partner with God in His restorative work. With the Spirit of Jesus interceding for us, we can intercede whenever we see the impact of darkness. We can pray for God to topple oppressive governments. We can ask that a family member be healed from addiction. We can pray that our faith in Christ would persevere and that the Holy Spirit would strengthen us.
- Proclaiming Gospel Truth
Only through the saving work of Jesus Christ can we withstand spiritual evil. The gospel is our weapon. The image of Jesus is our armor. His righteousness, peace, and faithfulness must cover us so that we can overcome darkness. When Satan lures us with false promises, or when our minds trick us with lies, we can turn our eyes to the truth of Jesus. We can remind ourselves what a treasure it is to be in right relationship with God. We can throw guilt and share out of the window. We can recall the new identity Jesus has given us. And we can look forward to eternal life with the Father.
- Tending to Our Stories
The third strategy is to analyze how the kingdom of darkness impacted our stories. Spiritual evil works in the details of life, so we must be specific when addressing problems of the flesh. Perhaps through journaling, with a discipleship mentor, or with a counselor, dissect your story to see where sin patterns have their origin and development. How could Satan and the fallen world have played a role? Ignoring and remaining silent on these narratives will only lead to further bondage to spiritual evil. From your analysis, discover what your underlying needs are and invite Jesus to satisfy them. Dwell on God's goodness and kindness, and darkness will flee.
Armor of God study
Daily Grace Podcast, "You're in a Battle: Engaging in Spiritual Warfare | EP. 127"