I was reminded recently of the reality of spiritual warfare. The reminder came by way of personal experience.
“Spiritual warfare” is a phrase we use to refer to what the Bible reveals about life—that Satan and other evil spirits are real and active in this world, working to oppose God and His people. Ephesians 6:10-20 is one among many passages which teaches us about this battle.
What I experienced took place during my prayer and planning retreat. About twice each year I get away by myself to plan upcoming sermon series and to spend time in prayer. I have taken these retreats in various locations but my preference is a place where I will be alone and where I will have opportunity to walk in nature. As I walk in God’s creation I pray and reflect. Sometimes I memorize a portion of Scripture during the retreat. I try to get extra rest.
This most recent retreat was for three days: I arrived Wednesday morning and planned to stay through Friday afternoon. I brought food for my entire stay and study materials.
Unusual things began to happen soon after my arrival. Unusual things in and of themselves are not always evidence of spiritual warfare but in this case there were quite a few unusual things, some were very strange, and, most importantly, they were distracting me from my purposes for the retreat—connecting with the Lord and seeking Him for sermons to preach.
The furnace in the facility where I was staying stopped working properly. The house got colder and colder. With the forecast being a low of about negative 10 that night there was no telling how cold it would get indoors. I placed repeated calls to the maintenance director. He received my voicemail messages but, strangely, his cell phone was not recording my number. He could not return my calls. As the sun began to set I decided to scrap my retreat. I packed up all my things—food, study materials, bedding, clothing, etc.—and placed them by the door and was about to cart them to the car when I noticed it began to get warmer in the house. My phone rang. It was the maintenance director. He had had to call his cell phone provider to find out how to get my phone number. They walked him through how to get into the programming of his phone to retrieve my number. He called to check up on me, to walk me through some steps with the thermostat, and to comment that sometimes the furnace got “a brain freeze.” The furnace had already begun to function again on its own before he called. And once it appeared that the furnace was going to properly warm the house, I decided to stay. Obviously, I had to then unpack everything again, resituate it all, and settle back in. Needless to say, this whole process was very time consuming, distracting and frustrating.
Add to that the fact that the Keurig coffee machine I had brought along would not work. More frustration, puzzlement, distraction, and, honestly, anger. It had been working fine at home. Also, later in the retreat I got a text from Sue Ann telling me that the dryer at home had stopped working.
That first evening of my retreat I began to feel ill physically. Off and on throughout the retreat I felt as though I was getting the stomach flu … nausea, etc. The nights were the worst. Besides not feeling well—I placed a trash can beside my bed just in case—I had disturbing dreams and was plagued with fearful thoughts.
It was not the retreat I had hoped it would be.
When I shared this experience with the folks at our small group, one of them remarked, “Well, at least it was so obviously spiritual warfare you could identify it and stand against it.” For whatever reason, during the retreat I did not name what I was experiencing what it really was: spiritual warfare. If I had, perhaps I would have called upon the Lord and His Word and found the strength I needed in Him. Indeed, it was not until I returned home and tried the Keurig—it worked perfectly—that I concluded I had been experiencing spiritual warfare.
But God tells us clearly in His Word, “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12) What do we do? Here are some tactics for spiritual battle from Ephesians 6:10-20: We pray for God’s help and protection (v 18), we “claim” specific verses from the Bible (v 17; “claim” in this sense meaning to affirm, agree with, trust in, hold to), we believe the truth (vv 16 & 14—we agree with what God has said and choose to see things His way), we rest in the righteousness of Jesus (v 14), and we root ourselves in the gospel of Jesus (v 15). In other words, we say “YES” to God’s challenge to us: “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:10-11)
Hopefully next time by God’s grace I will fight. In the meantime I am so grateful that through Jesus God has rescued me from the domain of darkness (Colossians 1:13) and that He holds me securely in His hand (John 10:28-29; Romans 8:38-39).