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The Nature of the Battle
Spiritual warfare is not the figment of our imagination. Angels and devils do exist, and we must fast and pray to win these battles.
By Ken Raggio
Few things in life match the intrigue of spiritual warfare.
Yes, we fight against spirits. Invisible enemies. I am talking about conflicts that you and I have that involve holy angels and evil princes. Spiritual warfare refers to the ongoing struggles we face that involves creatures from both Heaven and Hell as they war for dominion, either for the Kingdom of God or for the principalities of Satan.
Spiritual warfare is a battle for our souls. Spiritual warfare afflicts nations, groups of people, families and individuals. It is the struggle for power, either by demons attempting to ensnare and oppress men and women, or the spirits of God setting them free.
Spiritual warfare is not like ground warfare.
In spiritual warfare, you don't even get your hands dirty. It is not fought in bodies of flesh and blood. Sometimes, it seems that it would be luxurious to be able to actually stalk out just one of the demonic spirits that hounds my trail, tormenting me with every form of adversity. It would be so gratifying to get my hands around one of these devil's neck and strangle him to death.
But spiritual warfare takes place in invisible places. That fact alone keeps a lot of people from taking it seriously. If you can't see, hear or touch the enemy, most folks don't want to believe there is one. Even if they do recognize what it is, many are afraid or intimidated by spiritual discussions, and run like crazy from the whole subject rather than face it head on.
It is convenient to dismiss the whole subject of angels and demons.
It is so simple to just deny that demons exist, or that angels have any influence in our lives. We can just say that all our difficulties are either physical or mental. If that is true, then every problem can probably be resolved either by medical treatment or psychiatry.
If only these naïve concepts about good and evil were true. If only defeat was really just a state of mind, and temptation was only the figment of my imagination, and disease and depression were really altogether psychosomatic. Then we could all just sit down and talk away our problems, using the latest mind-over-matter twist.
But I declare to you, that real-time battles between me - a mortal, and invisible personalities from ancient origin do regularly take place. I know this may sound unnerving to some, and downright loony to others. But there really are more players in this game called life than the average person can see with the naked eye.
A state of denial does not make evil spirits go away.
I used to say that I wasn't interested in devils or demonology, per se, because I didn't want to stir any of them up. I ignorantly supposed that if I left the devils alone, they would respectfully leave me alone. But that is an ignorant cop-out. And there is dangerous folly in that notion. Like it or not, and believe it or not, Hell's troops are on active duty twenty-four hours a day whether you and I believe it or not.
So let's face some realities. If there really are demons, and if they really do what the Bible teaches that they do, then my most lethal adversaries are right now on the job, hovering silently in the ethereal world, actively engaged in hindering me in every conceivable way.
Just what is it they intend to do? Is it idiotic, or is it beneath intellectual dignity to ask just exactly what are the intentions and plans of these beings who never stop tracking me day and night?
The Bible literally froths with records of these supernatural occurrences, involving both heavenly hosts and fallen evil ones.
For example, the story of Jacob demonstrates spiritual warfare very clearly. Jacob sincerely wanted to be his father's principle heir, yet he was the younger son and his older brother had the legal rights. Jacob's position was weak. Esau was the natural heir to God's covenants with Abraham. If Esau had been interested enough to keep them, he would have always had divine advantage. The eternal record might just as easily have shown ESAU being renamed ISRAEL.
But Jacob unknowingly got involved in real spiritual warfare. He already knew about angels. An angel had saved his father’s life when he was just a young man. The ministering spirit had delivered Isaac from the knife of Abraham, because the job of such a spirit is to minister "to them who shall be the heirs of salvation."
Don't laugh or joke about guardian angels! They are very real.
Guardian angels are not merely the fabric of fairy tales. Esau, the eldest son, had ministering spirits assigned to him at birth because he was intended to be an heir of Abraham's covenant. He was the first perpetuation of the covenant born to Isaac. But Esau's careless disregard for the blessing of God opened the door for another kind of spirit to dominate his life. When we give place to evil spirits, our bad choices bind the guardian spirits, and our defense is compromised. The guardians will not override our bad choices.
Jacob wanted the Abrahamic covenant and was willing to fight for it. He assumed the covenant benefits could be transfered to him. So he confronted Esau. "A bowl of hot beans, Esau? For your birthright?"
Obviously, Esau did not comprehend or appreciate the great value of his birthright. Esau must have thought that the blessing applied only to physical blessings in the material realm. To him, the inheritance consisted of cattle, flocks, and other tangibles. He might have felt secure in his own ability to get wealth and that he did not need divine provisions. But he was wrong.
"Give me the beans!" Jacob must have smirked when he saw how easily Esau forfeited. Esau didn't realize he was handing over an eternal, spiritual, and divine privilege. The angels of God which certainly administer the eternal covenant were transferred to Jacob.
Classic ignorance will no doubt be revealed as the darkest curse on all mankind.
We all suffer from Esau's syndrome eventually. We think we can make a deal, have an understanding, or negotiate a truce with people, and we will walk away, scot free, with nothing lost. But earthly transactions have no power over heavenly transactions. You cannot control spiritual powers with earthly powers.
Esau's mistake was irreversible.
Jacob had not yet received the blessing from his father. His father must first lay hands on him and bless him. That would be a huge challenge to accomplish. How will Isaac ever be so fooled?
By the time Rebekah cleaned up the cooking utensils for the "venison," Jacob was coming out of the house. He began to tear away the goat-skins that had deceived his father. He must have laughed as he devoured the left-over goat meat. What an awesome victory he had just won over Esau! Isaac did not realize that he had just laid hands on Jacob, not Esau.
Twenty years passed. Jacob was weary of life. Laban, his father-in-law, had used him thanklessly for personal gain, but only now was Jacob waking up to that fact. "I should have more to show for my labors," Jacob must have thought. The time was ripe for God to accomplish a spiritual transformation in Jacob. Jacob was face to face with his own emptiness.
Suddenly, Jacob began to prosper from a new agreement with Laban. It was as if twenty years of fruitlessness were being redeemed. Jacob's cattle were breeding, and Laban's were growing poorer. Was God sending cattle-breeders in at night? Some invisible force was causing Jacob's herds to multiply while Laban's herds were diminishing. Surely the angels of God were at work.
Then God interrupted Jacob. He had an appointment with an angel.
Then the sober facts hit him in the chest. "I've got to face Esau. I am still in bondage to him. The fight is still unfinished. This blessing is still up in the air, and Esau could destroy me yet!"
"OH, GOD! Deliver me from the hand of Esau, for I fear him, lest he come and smite me!" (see Genesis 32:11).
That night, Jacob was left alone. "And there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day." (Genesis 32:24). It was the angel of the LORD. In the morning, Jacob was permanently crippled, but permanently blessed. His new name was "Israel" - "prince with God."
After the SPIRITUAL WAR, there was no more trouble out of Esau. Esau's guardian had been subdued, and Jacob's had prevailed. THE BIRTHRIGHT finally belonged officially to Jacob!
Jesus revealed a connection between sickness and evil spirits.
Centuries later, Jesus Christ stood face to face with a poor child who was deaf and dumb. There were no hearing aids to purchase, no lighted scopes for an examination, no physiological diagnosis or cure. It might have been nerve deafness, or an acute infection might have destroyed his eardrums, or whatever other medical explanations there might have been.
But Jesus accurately identified the source of the problem, and He addressed it. "Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him!" (Mark 9:25). And the spirit cried, and rent him sore, and came out of him.
The boy was deaf because a deaf SPIRIT had afflicted those ears. A dumb SPIRIT had bound his tongue. It was a matter of getting the monkey wrench out of the machinery.
"This kind goeth not out, but by prayer and fasting" (Matthew 17:21).
What kind? THIS kind. UNCLEAN spirits must be handled differently than problems which are not spiritual. If you have a splinter, pull it out. But if you have a devil, it must be cast out by a greater Spirit. Jesus is the greater spirit, and we have His power in the NAME of Jesus.
But Jesus indicated that fasting also has a role in the process. Here is an interesting thing about fasting.
When the voice of Satan persuaded Eve to eat the forbidden fruit, she yielded her carnal appetite to the unclean spirit, and became a victim of that spirit. Both DEMON OPPRESSION and DEMON POSSESSION are symptoms of the very same problem: a man or a woman has come under the influence of an unclean spirit. Both saints and sinners can give place to the devil. Anyone can end up under the influence of an unclean spirit if they listen to the wrong voices. And ANY such relationship is a YOKE that must be broken.
The primary point of fasting, then, is that we offer God a behavior exactly opposite to Eve's. She failed to control her carnal appetite (by eating the forbidden fruit), and she succumbed to Satan's influence. When we fast, we defy Satan for what he did to Eve in the Garden. We show disdain for tempting spirits, and empower our own guardian spirits to have dominion over our adversaries. Then, in conjunction with effectual, intercessory prayer, we wrestle with the principalities until they are defeated. Therefore, it is imperative that we regularly give ourselves to fasting and prayer.
Fasting weakens the carnal, sinful nature. Prayer strengthens the new man. That puts us in a position of power with God.
The demon's counter-attack.
Unclean spirits often rend their victims sorely when they are challenged to set them free. Satan's forces rarely take a defeat without staging a violent counter-attack. When Jesus told the devil to come out of the deaf child, the child's physical response seemed excessively harsh. He fell as one dead on the ground.
People tend to retreat from that kind of confrontation with the devil. But we must see beyond the roughness and realize that the child's rough experience DID IT NO HARM!
Our fears often cause us to blow the drama out of proportion. But we must subdue our fears and know that NO SPIRIT CAN RIGHTFULLY RESIST THE POWER OF GOD!
Jesus said, "Nothing shall by any means harm you."
Jesus charged his disciples to heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, cast out devils. He was not recklessly placing them in jeopardy by instructing them to be daring and bold. Even though it was ordained for some of them to later lay their lives down for the Gospel, He told them not to be afraid of what the devils would do to them. "I GIVE YOU POWER TO TREAD ON SERPENTS!"
You and I must face the realities of what we must do to be overcomers in this world. One of those realities is that we must resist the devil, and he will flee from us. If and when you discover that you are engaged in spiritual warfare, the solution is simple. Satan simply has no options when God's people act against him in the name of Jesus Christ. When you invoke the name of Jesus against Satan, he must be bound. Satan's powers cannot trump the power of Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ, the Captain of our salvation, faced all the powers of Hell in His day. He suffered many evils inflicted on Him. But all His injuries, His pain, His agony were only temporary effects. In the end, Jesus overcame all the world, the flesh and the devil. Nothing Satan can do against a true believer in Jesus Christ can have a permanent effect if we will countermand the works of Satan with holy resistance in the name of Jesus.
Satan is a defeated foe.
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