Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Spiritual Wars Part 2

8Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. 1 Peter 5:8-9
11Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes.12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground... Ephesians 6:11-13
If you read your New Testament close enough, you'll begin to notice verses like the two cited above in just about every letter found there. The Bible is full of warnings and stories of spiritual enemies coming against God's children. These attacks are constant and they come in both subtle and direct forms. The passage from 1 Peter 5:8-9 teach us that the devil is always on the look for spiritual prey. He is constantly prowling, roaring and looking about for believers who are not paying attention and that is when he drinks them down and devours them. Satan is good at distracting and blinding people to spiritual realities so that their faith becomes impotent instead of reproductive. As believers in Jesus Christ, we are at war and there are too many casualties.
War should never be entered into nonchalantly. We should enter war proactively and with determination. We would do well to remember that we not only have an enemy that is aggressively pursing us to harm us, but that we have weapons full of "...divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." (2 Cor. 10:4-5).
Fighting a war by yourself is silly. Many believers seem to think that they need to fight the enemy of their soul all alone. Many have been duped into thinking that their battle is private and personal. Nothing could be further from the truth.

25so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another 26And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. 27Now you are Christ's body, and individually members of it. 1 Corinthians 12:25-27

When one member suffers, the whole body suffers with that one individual. Why? Because we are all part of Christ's body. When we are engaged in being attacked by our common enemy we need the love, support and strength of those believers in our spiritual communities. The Christian life was never designed to be lived alone and certainly wasn't designed to engage battles alone. Here are two representative Scriptures that speak about battling spiritual wars together.

1 This letter is from James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am writing to the “twelve tribes”—Jewish believers scattered abroad. Greetings! 2 Dear brothers and sisters,a]" style="font-size: 0.75em; line-height: 0.5em; "> when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. James 1:1-4

As James discusses the reality and benefit of enduring troubles when they come your way, James is addressing the community, not individuals. When you read 'you' in the verses above, they are plural, not singular. The troubles that come your way are intended to be addressed in community so that the testing of your communal faith will produce a fully developed believer. It is not possible to be a mature believer apart from trials and troubles handled well with others by your side.

31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. 32 But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31-32

In this passage from Luke, we read it and think, wait, this passage is about Simon Peter being sifted by Satan, not the community of believers being sifted. How is this spiritual war to be engaged by twelve apostles together when Jesus is speaking to Simon? Well, each of the 'you' phrases above are plural as well. It seems that Simon was representative of the whole and they were all going to be sifted in some manner for the purpose of strengthening them so in turn, they could strengthen their brothers.

War is hell and it must be fought in community. When we fight spiritual wars with others, we build a brotherhood that is strong and fully committed to one another. Just ask any athlete who has played on a team sport or a military person who has fought with a platoon of soldiers or with a short term mission team - each of them will tell you about the value of battling together for a common good. For believers, the common good is obedience to Christ. To be on mission together, fighting our common enemy and destroying his/their strongholds as we fight together.