Plato urges us: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” If you are breathing, you are under a spiritual assault. The question we face is not, “Are we under attack?” but, “What is the heart of the attack?” Let me tell a recent story of mine. See if you can recognize the field of battle for the spiritual warfare.
Two friends and I host a weekly podcast on various spiritual topics. Last Thursday we planned to discuss (I kid you not), How to Recognize Spiritual Assault in Our Lives. Schedule conflicts and illness had caused the cancellation of our two previous podcasts. We didn’t want to call off a third.
To complicate matters, one of my friends was still under the weather, the other was swamped with work, and I had a longstanding 6:00 pm dinner date with great, out-of-town friends. I planned to leave the dinner at 7:30 to make our 8:00 call.
That was the situation going in; this is the story that followed:
- Late in the afternoon, my wife and I had a tense discussion. I missed much of my podcast planning time, leaving me irritated, distracted and unprepared.
- Our dinner reservation was changed from 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm, leaving me little time for conversation, and even less time for food.
- The closest parking spot was half a dozen blocks from the restaurant, and I arrived five minutes late.
- As I left the restaurant, a torrential downpour greeted me with open arms, and I splashed and waded the six blocks back to my car.
- Three different traffic jams—three!—delayed me further. I arrived home with two minutes to spare, soaking wet and freezing.
- I began the call in a frenzied, intense, and distracted state of mind.
Do you recognize the frontlines of the spiritual assault?
It’s not what we normally think
When I later reviewed that story with a friend, he exclaimed, “Whenever I speak on spiritual warfare, the same stuff happens to me: my wife and I get into a fight, my car breaks down, the PA system shorts out, and I’m an emotional wreck. We’ve got to pray against Satan’s evil orchestration of events.”
But the inconvenient incidents weren’t my problem. The battlefield of my spiritual warfare was not the events. They were just triggers.
The bullets that leave us bleeding on the battlefield are the warped beliefs that burrow deep in our hearts.
The book of Job may be the best spiritual warfare manual ever written. And in it, seven verses describe Satan’s evil orchestration of events: marauders, natural disasters, enemies, weather, and illness (Job 1:14-19 and 2:7). That’s it, seven verses out of forty-two chapters.
The rest of the book of Job reveals the distorted thinking—the warped beliefs—of Job, his wife, and his friends. The book of Job concludes with God revealing himself, and it is God’s self-disclosure—displaying how reality really works—that brings the healing Job needed.
It’s the lies that we buy that kill us
Scripture’s depiction of Satan underscores his messages, not his physical power. He’s called a liar, the father of lies, a deceiver, an accuser, and a blinder of our minds. Scripture doesn’t call Satan the demon of thunderstorms, the terrorizer of technology, or the evil spirit of illness.
He may cause some of these, but he always lies about them. He offers us false interpretations.
Satan’s objective is to distort our view of reality about God, others, and ourselves. Once we believe Satan’s lies about God (others or ourselves), he has us in the palm of his hand. It is those false beliefs that make us act in fear, rage, timidity, domination, misunderstanding, and oppression. Satan’s attack on Job was to get him to “curse God to his face” (Job 1:11).
I could have handled that call differently
The changed reservations, poor parking, and bad weather triggered inner responses: intenseness, distraction, and forcefulness. I thought: “Why does this always happen to me? At the very worst times? Now I’ve got to make this call work, even though I’m unprepared.”
What if, instead, I believed that God works out all things for the good? Even poor podcast prep.
I would have approached the call with peace not frenzy (Success doesn’t depend upon me), and delightful curiosity not distraction (What is God up to?). Everybody would have had more fun. Including me.
Instead of fearing thunderstorms, we can learn to dance in the rain as we wonder, “What great marvel is God up to now?”
PS: I have been invited to speak at my first ever retreat on Hearing God in Conversation,based on my upcoming book. The host organization is a terrific Christian Community in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
They wish to open the doors to anyone who would like to come, so please consider attending the retreat on Hearing God in Conversation, Friday evening through Saturday evening, October 2-3, 2015.
I hope to provide each attendee with an Advanced Reader Copy of my upcoming book.
You can register here.