by Lim Chong Teck
Many books have been written about the techniques of warfare, the preparations and training that one should go through in facing the enemy successfully. There are many references made about the need to assess and recognize both our strengths and weaknesses of ourselves and that of the enemy. Much of these are written about physical warfare.
Whilst there may be some similarities between a physical warfare and a spiritual one, yet it is very different in nature as the spiritual warfare is the conquering of hearts and minds rather than territorial lands.
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh (for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the casting down of strongholds), casting down imaginations, and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” 2 Cor 10:3- 5
The book of 1 Peter gives us some information on how to be prepared to face our enemy the devil.
“Be sober, be watchful: your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” 1 Pet. 5:8
A lion is one of the most feared animals to mankind. The roar of a lion itself would make many tremble. It is a sound of strength, a sound of terror because of what the lion can do. It can maim, kill and devour.
In using a lion to describe the devil, Peter is warning us of the ability of the devil to inflict injury to its fullest as one without any compassion. The devil is active in his pursuit to attack his opponents. As Christians we should take note that our enemy is strong, terrifying, active and without mercy.
Though our adversary is as a roaring lion, we should take comfort that we are able to overcome him because Christ has overcome the world. (Jn 16:33) And it is through Christ we overcome the viles of the devil. (Jn 12:31-32, Jn 16: 7-11, Rev 3:21)
“I write unto you, my little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake. I write unto you, fathers, because ye know him who is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the evil one. I have written unto you, little children, because ye know the Father. I have written unto you, fathers, because ye know him who is from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the evil one.” 1 John 2:12-14
We know we have overcome the evil one because our sins are forgiven and Satan cannot accuse us anymore. We have overcome the devil because we know God and no longer live our lives in sin. We have overcome the devil because the word of God abides in us. Indeed our faith in Christ gives us victory over the world.
“For whatsoever is begotten of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that hath overcome the world, even our faith. And who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” 1 John 5:4-5
However the Bible continues to encourage us to be faithful until the point of death to inherit the crown of life (Rev 2:10) or at the point of his coming (2 Tim 4:8). We are to overcome until the end so as to ensure our names are not blotted out from the book of life (Rev 3:1-5). We need to be sober and vigilant and to resist steadfastly the devil until the end to truly overcome.
1 Peter 5: 5-9 tells us of how we should be careful not to be overtaken by the devil.
“Likewise, ye younger, be subject unto the elder. Yea, all of you gird yourselves with humility, to serve one another: for God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time; casting all your anxiety upon him, because he careth for you. Be sober, be watchful: your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour, whom withstand stedfast in your faith, knowing that the same sufferings are accomplished in your brethren who are in the world. And the God of all grace, who called you unto his eternal glory in Christ, after that ye have suffered a little while, shall himself perfect, establish, strengthen you.”
Firstly, we need to be humble. Pride comes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall (Prov. 16:18). Satan appeals to the pride of life to overtake us. He tried this on Jesus (Matt 4:1-11) and will use it on us. We need to put on humility to submit to one another as being proud makes God resisting us. We make God to become our enemy instead. The analogy in 1 Jn 4:20 tells us if we cannot love our brethren who can be seen, how can we love God whom we have not seen.
This implies that if we cannot submit to one another whom we can see, dare we say we will fully submit to God whom we can’t see. Submission to God requires us to submit to one another. Humbling ourselves to God is to submit to God and His will. It is easy for Satan to bring a person down who is dressed in a cloak of pride.
Secondly, we should cast all our cares on God because He cares for us. Our physical needs are very real and immediate. But we are not to overtaken by anxiety, doubts and fears which are all elements that make our faith sway. Our faith in God and Christ is what makes us overcome the world. Casting all our cares on Him implies we trust him.
It is true that the devil uses the lust of the world and the pride of this world to move us away from God. But we read in Mark 4:19 about the cares of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choking the word, and becoming unfruitful.
The cares of this life are pressing and if we do not handle them with full dependence on God and total faith in Him, Satan will use the needs and cares of this life to tempt us. We need to cast all our cares on God, otherwise we will be tempted to focus only on earthly needs. And the enemy will find space and advantage to choke the word of God in us.
Thirdly, it tells us to be sober and vigilant or to possess self-control and be watchful. The first condition is an internal discipline, to have control over ourselves. The threat is internal in nature. If we are not sober we will lose control and present an opportunity for our adversary to take control. Being sober or possessing self-control is an exercise that we are to have and build.
“Know ye not that they that run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? Even so run; that ye may attain. And every man that striveth in the games exerciseth self-control in all things.”
Now they do it to receive a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, as not uncertainly; so fight I, as not beating the air: but I buffet my body, and bring it into bondage: lest by any means, after that I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected.” 1 Cor. 9:24-27
“and in your knowledge self-control; and in your self-control patience; and in your patience godliness;” 2 Pet 1:6
The second condition of watchfulness is for us to stay alert of the external threats or situations we may find ourselves in. This could be an environment of temptation or trials of life that the Christians faced at that time. Jesus asked his disciples to watch and pray with him in the face of death.
“And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them sleeping, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matt 26:40-41
When we are under a great challenge that is when we may fall to temptation, for the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Being sober and vigilant will help us to better to be on guard, anticipate and repel the enemy.
Fourthly, we are to withstand/resist steadfastly. This term gives us the indication that the enemy will not attack us once or twice. There will be multiple assaults with stealth approach (2 Pet. 2:1ff, 2 Cor. 11: 3-4,11-15) or direct attack strategies (Eph 6:16, James 1:2-4, 1 Pet 1: 6-7). We are forewarned to stand against the wiles of the devil. Therefore having been warned and prepared, we are to resist until the devil flee from us or is repelled (James 4: 7). The word withstand/resist is the same word used in Eph 6:13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
We are to put on the whole armour of God, both defensive and attacking armoury. Therefore to withstand is to be understood as both defending strongly and to resist as being on the offensive. Jesus used the word of God, the sword of the Spirit to resist Satan.
Similarly we need to know and use the word of God as a weapon to resist the devil. Even after resisting the devil successfully, we are to continue to be sober and vigilant, putting on the whole armour of God as the devil may come as he find an opportune time to attack us as he did to Christ (Luke 4:13) by putting Christ to death (John 14:30, Luke 22:53).
Fifthly, rest assured that God knows what we are facing and going through and having gone through the experiences by guidance of His word, God will perfect, establish and strengthen us. Indeed the Lord has promised great rewards for those who overcome.
“He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches. He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.” Rev 2:11
“He that overcometh shall thus be arrayed in white garments; and I will in no wise blot his name out of the book of life, and I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.” Rev 3:5
“He that overcometh, I will give to him to sit down with me in my throne, as I also overcame, and sat down with my Father in his throne.” Rev 3:21