An Unlikely Source of Encouragement

by | Mar 31, 2021 | Christian Living in the Trenches, Church Leadership and Ministry, Depression and Faith

Discover how an attack of spiritual warfare should encourage you!

 

A Reassuring Perspective

I am not someone who looks for a demon behind every bush, who sensationalizes every setback as a satanic attack. Often Satan gets blamed for things for which we should accept responsibility. Yet the Bible makes it clear that Satan opposes Christ and His church, which means Satan wages constant warfare against members of Christ’s church.

Here is a crucial insight that often brightens my day when I’m in the throes of Satan’s fiery darts. When you encounter Satan’s opposition to what you’re doing for Christ, it means you are a threat to him. Your service is important; otherwise, why would he try to impede it?

In Thirsting for God, Gary Thomas echoes my point: “Surprisingly enough, Christian writers from centuries past found some comfort in the difficulty of satanic opposition. John Climacus, a sixth-century monk who warned of the reality of demonic opposition, also reminded us that being shot at is evidence that we are in the fight. The Christian should not fear this difficulty, for it is a sign of progress. Instead, we should fear the lack of opposition, for its absence means the enemy has found us unworthy of opposition.”

How does spiritual warfare show in the lives of Christ’s servants?

Our enemy will try to unsettle a preacher before he enters the pulpit, often reminding the preacher that he has areas of weakness or lack of faith in his life, mocking him with, “Who are you to tell other people about Christian living!?”

He will hinder the Wycliffe missionary who labors painstakingly to translate the Gospel of Mark into a tribal language. It is common for the opposition in this scenario to come in the form of an uncooperative or backsliding assistant who knows that tribal language.

Satan distracts the businessman over lunch right before he starts sharing the plan of salvation with an associate. Perhaps it is in the form of a pretty woman sitting at a nearby table, to whom he is attracted.

Our enemy disrupts the Sunday School teacher on the way to church, where she intends to plant seeds of the gospel in the minds and hearts of children. For her, the disruption often comes in the form of an argument with her spouse right before they leave the house or a conflict between her kids in the backseat.

Satan’s modus operandi isn’t usually a frontal assault, such as severe and sudden spiritual panic attacks like those I’ve experienced when teaching in countries dominated by a false religion. Rather, when we commit to a new ministry initiative, he may ramp up temptations to sin in an area where we’ve long been vulnerable. Or a series of aggravating circumstances may converge, siphoning off time and energy from a service venture. Or weaknesses of temperament may be magnified for a time, resulting in a fragility that almost incapacitates us. Or self-recrimination escalates over past mistakes or a grown child who is away from the Lord. Satan goads us to quit, trying to convince us that we aren’t qualified to serve. When I’m in the vise-grip of a depressive episode, an inner voice taunts me: “Who are you to write to others about handling depression!? Right now, you don’t even want to live!”

As Jerry Rankin puts it, “Spiritual warfare is not so much about demon possession or territorial spirits as it is overcoming Satan’s lies and deceits in our daily lives.”

Anticipating spiritual warfare won’t ease its intensity. We’ll still need to wield every divine weapon available (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). Yet in the heat of battle, let’s draw strength from the ironic perspective that Satan’s adversarial reaction exposes the significance of our sphere of service for Christ. That viewpoint alone can instill resiliency and keep us in the fight.

So What?

Here are three ways to apply this reassuring perspective.

  1. Before you teach the Bible, preach a sermon, or share the plan of salvation with an individual, solicit a couple of people to pray for the efficacy of your teaching or witnessing. Instruct them to ask the Holy Spirit to bind Satan’s attempts to thwart the effect of God’s Word. That includes asking the Lord to open the heart of the person or learners with whom you will share. Prayerlessness on the part of a teacher or personal evangelist reveals that we think others’ response is all up to us.
  2. Memorize one or more verses that will remind you of God’s promises to empower you against the evil one. I’ve benefited from 2 Thessalonians 3:3, 1 Corinthians 10:13, 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, and 1 John 4:4. I preach these verses to myself when I am under attack or experiencing a strong temptation.
  3. Prior to engaging in the teaching or witnessing encounter, reserve a brief period of time for personal confession. Confession has two parts: agreeing with God that we’ve sinned, then agreeing that we’re forgiven due to our faith in Christ’s death for us on the cross. I ask the Lord to reveal to me hidden sins. I don’t want anything hindering my usefulness to God’s Spirit.

Keep on living and serving strong!

Please note: comments are closed after two weeks. You are welcome to contact me directly after that time if you would like to share your thoughts.

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