The Art of Spiritual Warfare (Jon Fryer)
Spiritual warfare is a huge subject. It covers numerous issues – prayer, holiness, temptation, spiritual gifts and many others – all of which are deserving of careful study in their own right. This study is not going to go over these things in detail, since we’ve looked at them elsewhere. Nor is it going to explain theoretical stuff such as ‘Ten Easy Steps to Exorcism’ or something like that! Instead it looks at some fairly basic ideas about how to win a war. If we are going to seriously fight, then perhaps we need to think like soldiers. The enemy certainly will be!
As a guide I dug out a copy of ‘The Art of War’. This was written in about 500BC by a Chinese general named Sun Tzu, and he was one of the most successful soldiers to ever have commanded an army. In his book he was one of the first people (if not the first) to write down the basic strategies of how to win a war, and they still teach his book in modern military academies. A lot of it is fairly prosaic, such as ‘don’t try to charge up hill’ and ‘getting shot is a bad idea’, but some of it is rather profound.
Sun Tzu wrote that there are five essentials for victory:
- He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.
- He will win who is himself prepared and waits to take the enemy unprepared.
- He will win who knows how to handle superior forces.
- He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks.
- He will win who has military capacity.
These need some explanation, which is what the rest of his book goes on to do, but I believe that these five points of strategy will give us a solid grounding in a warfare ideal upon which we can base our further explorations into prayer and intercession.
He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight…
This can be summed up in one word: intelligence. Know your enemy. Know your self. Know the plan. Know where you are and what you are doing. Sun Tzu writes: ‘If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself you will lose in every battle."
So who is the enemy?
Read Eph 6;12. All too often we get caught up in what’s going on in our lives, with what is happening around us, with the actions of other people. These things are only symptoms. If we concentrate on these things we may well miss what is really going on in the grand scheme of things, and we will be defeated. Ultimately our enemy is the Ancient Enemy, the Old Serpent, the Father of Lies, but in warfare we meet all of his forces. In spiritual warfare we fight against not just ‘spiritual’ powers, but against injustice, deception, decay, despair and death. When we fight for simple fairness or social justice, when we stand up for truth, then we are also engaged in spiritual warfare, for in all these things also Christ must have the mastery. What we do here in the physical world echoes in eternity and is woven into the tapestry of forever – it’s just as much a part of spiritual warfare as what goes on when we pray. Spiritual warfare can not and should not be divorced from the concrete world – they are the same thing. Physical restoration must follow spiritual release else the effort is wasted – see Matt 12;43-45. Thus all of these things – drug abuse, intolerance, hatred etc. – are just as much the enemy in spiritual warfare as are demons and spirits, if not more so. Read Phil 4;8.
Read Matt 7;3-5. If you can not see your own life clearly, how can you hope to see into other lives and other situations to change them? This is not just seeing the bad however, but also learning to see the good. Often the problems seem too much for us to cope with, but read 2 Kings 6;15-17. He that is with us (Immanu) is greater than he that is with them. Other times we say ‘How can I stand up against that – I’m too crap, my life is too much of a mess…’ If you are a Christian then your life is hidden safely in Christ’s, and the Bible gives us the true picture of who we are – read Songs 6;10. You may think that your life is in such a state that you don’t stand a chance of going toe to toe with the Devil, but let me tell you that all of the filth is on the outside, and it washes off in the Blood. On the inside your spirit is still the beautiful, perfect person God created you to be, and against that perfection created by God then the Devil doesn’t stand a chance. On the inside we shine. Read Rom 8;28-39.
Know the plan.
Read Eph 5;15-17. God is the man with the plan. He is the ultimate strategist – all things work together for good. God doesn’t play dice with the universe, He isn’t playing poker with the Devil (50/50, who knows which way it will go?), He isn’t even playing chess – let me tell you something, God is playing solitaire! There is only one winner, and there is only one strategy at work. He even wrote it down for us. Tragically we don’t read it very often. God’s master plan revealed, the Word of God, is one of our best yet most neglected weapons in spiritual warfare. It is so essential that it is called our ‘sword’… and who would be stupid enough to go to war without their sword?! Read Eph 6;17. Read 2 Cor 10;3-5. Read Heb 4;12-13. The sword is two edged because it can be used in defence, to resist the Devil just as Jesus did in the desert (‘It is written…’ He said), but it can also be used in attack to sever the chains of deception that hold other people in thrall. They shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall set them free… To take the sword metaphor further, fencing needs practice! If you get good at fighting, but then let it slip for six months then it all falls apart on you – the knowledge is still there, but the subconscious reflexes are all gone. The same is true with the Bible-sword. You may know the whole thing backwards, but if you don’t put the time in regularly then your response to a spiritual threat may be delayed. A soldier’s basic training is no good without constant practice, and a Christian tends to be naff without constant immersion in the word of God. Even if the armour of god in Ephesians 6 is enough to protect you from the enemy, the sword of the Word of God is the only method of counter attack that is mentioned, and it needs constant practice!
Know where you and what you are doing.
This requires communication with HQ e.g. prayer! The Bible may hold the ultimate strategy and theoretical tactics, the church may have a gloriously mapped out spiritual campaign, but once you are deep in the fight and getting bloody then you need instant help on tactics from the only one who can help – the Living Word, Jesus. Read Eph 6;18. This verse isn’t an afterthought to the armour of God passage, it’s a vital part of it – the built in radio which tells you what to do and where to go next, the bit that warns you of danger zones and incoming enemy fire! We all know that prayer is important and necessary, but it bears repeating just how important it actually is – without communication then the battle is lost, no matter how good your troops, or equipment, or plan. Know the enemy. Know yourself. Know the plan. Know where you are and what you are doing.
He will win who is prepared, and waits to take his enemy unprepared…
Again, this point comes down to ‘Know your enemy’. Sun Tzu Writes:
- All warfare is based on deception.
- Hence, when able to attack we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe that we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe that we are near.
- Hold out baits to entice the enemy. Feign disorder, and crush him.
- If he is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him.
- If your opponent is of choleric temper seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant.
- If he is taking his ease, give him no rest. If his forces are united, separate them.
- Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected.
This might as well have been taken straight from Satan’s own handbook – these are the tactics that he uses to harry the church to extinction. Satan is a liar and the Father of Lies, and in warfare we need to love the Truth to such an extent that we can see through his every deception to what is truly happening. This again comes through constant prayer. When we spend time with god, the One who says ‘I AM the Way, the Truth and the Life’, then we begin to move in the reality that comes from above, to move to a rhythm of life that seems on the surface to be out of sync with the real world, but in actuality is in perfect time with the really real world as God sees it. When we pray we learn the meaning of the Matrix, to see through the everyday world that has been pulled over our eyes to blind us to the truth.
He will win who is prepared.
In Matt 26;41 Jesus warns us ‘Watch and pray, so that you will not fall into temptation.’ Read Eph 6;18b. Read 1 Pet 5;8. Read 1 Cor 16;13. All of these verses warn us to be prepared for the enemy, because spiritual warfare will come looking for us whether we are ready or not. The Bible is our plan, and tells us how to defend ourselves against all of the tactics of the enemy, so that we know what to expect. You don’t have to be good at theology, you don’t have to be clever or intelligent, you just have to be faithful in study and prayer – as Milton puts it in Sonnet 13, ‘They also serve who only stand and wait’. If you are a faithful watchman on the walls, talking to the Great Captain in prayer and study then He is very good about showing you exactly what you need to get through the day, which is why it is best to read and pray first thing in the morning – spiritual reflexes are as dulled by sleep as are physical ones! The Bible is given to us ‘in order that Satan might not outwit us, for we are not unaware of his schemes’, as it says in 2 Cor 2;11.
He will win who knows how to handle superior forces…
As a Christian facing supernatural evil, a fallen world, and the daily grind it is easy to say ‘We’re outnumbered! How can we possibly stand and fight, let alone win?’ This is a lie of the enemy, perhaps his greatest lie – we have already been told that He who is with us (Immanu) is greater than the enemy. In the Great Battle we must have faith, which is our shield. What is the opposite of faith? It is not doubt – in fact doubt is the very bedrock of faith; if there is no doubt, then it is not faith, it’s fact! Fear is the opposite of faith – ‘I’m too afraid to fight, I’m too afraid of what it might cost me’. Despair is the opposite of faith – ‘It’s no good, we’re already defeated, the task is impossible’. And yet, nothing is impossible with God. Read 2 Chron 32;1-9. Read 2 Kings 18;28-36. Read 2 Kings 19;14-19+35-36. Read Neh 4;6-18. We have to remember that we are not alone – we are not called to go out and battle for God, we are called to go out and be used in His battles! Read 2 Cor 12;9-10. We don’t have to be strong, because He is. Do not be afraid. Read Matt 6;25-34. Read Luke 12;32-34.
He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks…
This point can be summed up in one word: Unity. Read 1 Pet 5;8-9. The Devil prowls around like a lion looking for prey. A lion when hunting will attempt to separate one of the weaker animals of the herd from the protection of its companions, and then pull it down and eat at its leisure. Sun Tzu writes: ‘In war, the way to win is to avoid what is strong and to strike at what is weak.’ We are weak when we are on our own, it is together that we are strong enough to overcome the enemy. And that is not just talking about physically being together necessarily, but spiritually together – being in agreement, praying for each other, loving one another. If one of us is suffering then the Army of God should close ranks, not draw away as if suffering were contagious, which is our reaction all too often. The Christian armour in Ephesians six has no protection for the back – this is because we are not meant to flee in fear, and nor are we meant to stand alone – we are meant to watch each others backs like a Roman army formation.
If we see a companion falter we need to step up our prayer for them and hold the line. Read Ex 17;8-13. In the movie ‘The Patriot’, the final battle has the US troops fleeing from the English until Mel Gibson charges forward waving the Stars and Stripes yelling ‘Hold the Line!’, and his courage causes the US troops to join ranks and hold firm. For the sake of our brothers and sisters we need to firmly place our standard and say ‘Dammit, this is where we stand, and we will not move, and we will stay here and protect you until you are ready to stand with us again’. Our standard is the Cross of Christ, all the Faith, Hope and Love that we can muster, and a refusal to give up on people. If it is Christ who is our standard, our firm foundation, then even in all the tumult of battle both Christians and non-Christians alike will be able to see the rallying point, and they will be drawn to it to stand with us. In the battle we must hold firm to the truths that have been taught to us, regardless of the situation – Read Job 1;6-22. Read Job 13;15. In his trust, regardless of circumstance or comprehension, Job holds the line against Satan, and ultimately is the salvation of his four friends. Satan has come before God and staked his reputation on being able to make Job curse God. Instead, Job chooses to praise, and throws Satan’s words right back in his face. Satan basically says, like Sennacherib to Hezekiah, ‘I’ve already taken everything from you, I’ve won, you can’t win’, but Job says ‘I don’t care. I will not be moved. My trust is in God’, and that should be our example. Hold the line. Read 2 Cor 6;4-10.
He will win who has military capacity…
This means you will win a war if you have the appropriate equipment, planning and support. We have already looked at some of the tactics and equipment that we have for the fight. Read Eph 6;10-18. We all know about the armour that we have for protection by the grace of God, but there is one point that bears repeating. Sun Tzu writes: ‘You can ensure the safety of your defence only if you hold positions that can not be attacked’.
Satan is ‘the Accuser’ – he only has power when there is something to accuse. When we sin we give the enemy both opportunities to attack and leave part of our armour open and vulnerable to those attacks. The breastplate that protects our vitals in the fight is righteousness. Personal purity is essential if you want to fight in the war, else you will not only be ineffective but you will probably be a casualty as well! Read Col 3;1-17. Read Eph 4;17-5;21. Read Rom 12;1-2+9-21. This is where spiritual warfare is won. It’s not really about confrontations with demons and witches; spiritual warfare is won all alone in the dark, where no one else will ever see, or know, or care. It’s won in your mind and heart, every time that you resist the temptations of the enemy. This is what it means in James 4;7 when it says ‘Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you.’
Lift up your heads ye Gates of Brass
ye bars of iron, yield:
And let the King of Glory pass:
The Cross is in the field.
That banner, brighter than the star
that leads the train of night
Shines on the march and guides from far
His servants to the fight.
A holy war these servants wage
in that mysterious strife
The powers of Heaven and Hell engage
for more than death or life.
Ye armies of the Living god
Ye warriors of Christ’s host
Where hallowed footsteps never trod
Take your appointed posts.
Though few and small and weak your bands
Strong in your Captains strength
Go to the conquest of all lands
- All must be His at length.
Then fear not, faint not, halt not now
In Jesus name be strong!
To Him shall all the nations bow
And sing the Triumph-song! Uplifted are the Gates of Brass
the bars of iron yield!
Behold the King of Glory pass –
The Cross has won the field.
What was Jesus like?
The Character of God
How do we know what God is like?
The Authority of Scripture
How should we obey what the Bible teaches us?
The Wise Mans Tragedy
What can we learn from Solomon?
What can we learn from the mother of Jesus?
Cain and Abel
What can we learn from the first murderer?
Who is Aslan? Who is Jesus?
When the Fire Burns Low
How do we cope when we have grown tired of God's way?
Fix Your Eyes
How do we look for God?
Why should we look after the world God has given us?
How do we know who we are in God?
Lent - Pride, Doubt and Jealousy
What is the period of Lent all about?
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the House of God than dwell in the tents of the wicked...
How do get to have intimacy with God?
Can we feel the breath of God?
Hearing From God
How can I hear what God wants to say to me?
The Story We Find Ourselves In
The Bible tells the story of all creation - what is my part in that story?
What does Passover mean to us as Christians?
What does it mean to say that Jesus is alive?
What is the Fruit of the Holy Spirit?
Teaching for Christmas Eve...
What does it mean to have authority?
What can we do when it all seems like too much?
I Will Be With You
What does it mean to say "God is with us"?
What are angels, and what can we learn from what the Bible says about them?
A contemplative service for Pentecost
A creative/contemplative baptism service
How do we know what we should do?
A creative prayer/worship service
The Holy Spirit
Who is the Holy Spirit, and what does (s)he do?
A Relationship With Jesus
What does it mean to have a 'relationship' with the Son of God?
The Pilgrim's Progress
If we keep our eyes on the prize, what a journey it could be!
Heroes, Promises and Trust
How does our relationship with Jesus realy work?
A liturgy for masculine prayer
Living Life to the Full
How do we get the most out of life?
What is so speacial about the faith of Abraham?
The Presence of God
What does it mean to say God is present?
How Do I Know My Faith is Real?
We all wrestle with doubt, so how can we cope?
Who is Jesus?
...and what does he want from you?
To Act Justly Every Day...
What does the Lord your God require of you?
Sex and Self Image
Don't you know how beautiful you are?
Will you let Jesus be in charge?
Would you know him if he met you on the road?
The Person of the Holy Spirit
Who is the Holy Spirit, and what does (s)he do?
The Passion of the King
What does Jesus really want?
How can we really 'count it all joy'?
More Than Words
"... but words can never hurt me"?
The Armour of God
What tools does God give us to protect us from the Enemy?
The Heart of the Gospel
The Kingdom of Heaven has drawn near to you, therefore...
Do you really want to follow him?
How should I prepare to give a sermon?
The gift of healing comes from the Holy Spirit, but how does it work?
The People of God
What does it mean when we say that the Bible is the Word of God?
Jesus Part 2: The Deity of Christ
How can Jesus be God and Man at the same time?
Jesus Part 1: Who Do You Say I Am?
Who is Jesus, and why does He matter?
How do we resist?
What is holiness and how do we try to achieve it?
The Art of Spiritual Warfare
We're in a constant battle, so how do we try and prepare to fight?
Forgiveness Part Two: Forgiving Others
What is forgiveness and why do we need to forgive others?
Forgiveness Part One: Forgiven by God
Why does it seem so often that God is a million miles away?
Prayer Part Two: Receiving From God
Why does it seem so often that God is a million miles away?
Prayer Part One: The Lords Prayer
We look in detail at the Lords Prayer
It's one of the spiritual gifts, but what exactly is it, how does it happen?
Becoming a Christian
What is a Christian, how do you become one?
Basics of Christianity
Here we delve into the Nicene Creed