Any time spiritual leaders boldly strive to make progress for redemption in the name of Jesus, there will be significant resistance.
This is commonly recognized as spiritual warfare, the opposition that fiercely attempts to keep God’s Kingdom from advancing in the world.
In fact, we can expect problems to arise commensurate with the progress we pray for, and it’s important to note that this battle isn’t won by defense alone, offense is required.
(You can see both offense and defense represented in the armor of God. See Ephesians 6:14-18.)
And Matthew 16:16-18 gives us great news!
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”Matthew 16:16-18
In writing a brief article on spiritual warfare, I’m aware that the range of theology varies widely on this subject. From distinctions on angels and demons, to the question of spiritual attack, to being filled with the Holy Spirit and what it means to put on the armor of God.
My aim is not to define distinctives or lean into a particular bias, but to address two essential elements.
- Awareness of the reality of our spiritual battle and its impact on the church.
- Engagement within that reality, to the degree and in the way the Holy Spirit guides you.
Spiritual warfare isn’t the sole or even primary focus of ministry, but to dismiss it is to miss the bigger picture in the heavenly realms and slow the progress of your church.
4 Guidelines for the Spiritual Battle Leaders Face
1) Acknowledge that spiritual warfare is real and a powerful force against the church
Spiritual warfare is an active and powerful force that is led by an adversary who never sleeps.
However, Spiritual warfare is not something to fear. Satan was defeated by Jesus’ death and resurrection, but we can’t pretend he doesn’t exist.
Equally, it’s not something to obsess over. We don’t want to elevate the enemy by giving him too much attention.
The truth is that not everything is a spiritual attack, sometimes we simply create a mess ourselves causing things like conflict, division, and unrest.
As a spiritual leader, however, to be unaware of spiritual battles diminishes the spiritual authority of your leadership.
How you think about spiritual warfare determines how you live and lead, and it definitely shapes how you pray.
2) Know the enemy and his strategy
We want to change the world through the power of Jesus and Satan wants to stop us.
See these three passages for a clear picture of the enemy.
- Ezekiel 28:17
- Isaiah 14:12-15
- Genesis 3:2-5
From the passage in Genesis, we can see that Lucifer initiated the first temptation in the garden, resulting in the fall of mankind.
The temptation in the garden was the catalyst for the battle we are in daily, that is, saying no to the enemy and yes to Jesus. An important part of winning the battle is knowing the enemy.
The enemy is:
- Shrewd and crafty (Genesis 3:1)
- The tempter (Matthew 4:3)
- A murderer, liar and father of lies (John 8:44)
- A thief who steals, kills and destroys (John 10:10)
- The one who masquerades as an angel of light (II Corinthians 11:14)
- The ruler of the Kingdom of the air (Ephesians 2:2)
- The one who prowls around like a roaring lion who seeks to devour (I Peter 5:8)
- The sinful one, who sinned from the beginning (I John 3:8)
- The Accuser (Revelation 12:10)
The enemy’s strategy is:
- To prevent humility by promoting self-sufficiency
- To prevent unity by creating division
- To prevent joy by causing discouragement
- To prevent peace (and closeness with God) with busyness.
- To prevent commitment by encouraging complacency.
For a more thorough content on these five tactics read this post.
3) Discern your level of intensity and engagement
There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.
C.S. Lewis, from the preface of The Screwtape Letters
- If we lean into spiritual warfare with excessive focus, we can experience unnecessary worries and fears, and create battles that don’t exist.
- If we lean into spiritual warfare with a casual dismissiveness, the enemy makes more progress than we do.
Our best leadership objective is to become acutely aware of Satan’s methods, but not be preoccupied with them. In short, don’t look for the battle, but don’t run from it.
Keep in mind that spiritual battle is often found in the smaller and more subtle temptations. It’s easier to say no to the obvious and major sins, but if the enemy can get us saying yes to the little temptations, or caving in to smaller pressures, we can more easily fall the bigger ones.
4) Focus your energy toward dependence and intimacy with God
Your love for God, worship, and consistent prayer life is your best investment for the spiritual battles that may come your way.
In fact, your love of God is a direct assault on the enemy, and the closer your relationship with God the more He can fight your battles with you.
The idea is to head off the battles we can, be prepared for battle if need be, but not to go looking for a fight. God goes before us. You may not embrace this approach, but I hope it serves you well as something worthy of your consideration.
When it comes to spiritual warfare, we do not fight for victory, we fight from victory. Jesus is our Victor!
Our tools and weapons for spiritual battle are numerous.
Here are a few of the most common and effective:
- Amor of God
- Spiritual gifts
You may be a little like me, I’m a practical leader. I don’t focus on spiritual warfare, but I’m deeply aware of its reality and not only pray accordingly, but stand on guard.