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Ministry is a Spiritual Battle, Part 1

by Julia M. Bruce, MSPC, Mental Health Coach,
CEO, Wellspring Christian Ministries

Yes, ministry is a battlefield. It’s the spiritual battle of eternal life over eternal separation from God. We get up every day to fight the good fight. Even when your ministry is flourishing and growing, there are still constant spiritual battles to be fought. And the battlefields we find ourselves on include spiritual, sensory, emotional, physical, social, and intellectual. When we allow ourselves to become battle weary on any of these fields, we can either hoist the flag of self-care or hoist the white flag in surrender and defeat.

The dangers we face every day may not be the same as an army, navy, air force, or marine soldier faces on a battlefield, but anyone in ministry would agree that there are times they feel like their place of ministry is most certainly a battlefield. No matter your ministry position, denomination affiliation, leadership capabilities, level of education or years serving in your calling, there is a spiritual battlefield, and we are constantly at war. And just as a military solider takes a leave of absence to reconnect and rest, we too must ensure we take time to reconnect to the Vine and rest at the feet of Jesus if we are going to stay in the fight.

Put on the full armor of God

We might not always be able to see the battle, but we can sure feel it and the battle going on in the spiritual realm is indeed fierce. So much so that there may be times where we feel like our spiritual armor (Ephesians 6:10-18) has taken some real damage. We read Ephesians 6:11 and 13 that we are to put on the full armor of God so that we can stand firm against the fiery darts of the devil.

Yes, there is a battle that is constantly raging in an unseen, heavenly realm. If we are going to go to war, then there are some things we need to know in order to fight effectively for our King. Paul tells us what we need to know in Ephesians 6:10-12:

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For 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.”

To successfully fight a spiritual battle we must recognize that its a spiritual battle.

Because spiritual battles occur in the heavenly realms, we can sometimes be oblivious to the war being raged all around us. We get caught up in the pressure and troubles around us but do not acknowledge the spiritual battle taking place. We can see evil in our world, and we might even acknowledge Satan’s power in the world. However, we often don’t stop to think about the battles that constantly occur all around us, the ones we can’t see.

Paul tells us the fight is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, authorities, and powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. If we are to effectively fight a spiritual battle, then we have to be able to recognize it is a spiritual battle.

Spiritual battles are real. Satan and his demons are behind them, and they are in constant opposition to God and His people. That is your biggest clue that a spiritual battle is occurring.

To successfully fight a spiritual battle we must take our stand

Paul also says we are to take our stand against the devil’s schemes (or wiles, depending on the translation you are reading).[1] Once we become a child of God, we no longer belong on the enemy’s side, but that doesn’t mean he just leaves us alone. If anything, that’s when he attacks the most. He doesn’t need to attack people already on his side of the war. He just needs to keep them fed with lies and deception to keep them from defecting.

Satan wants to keep us from telling other people about Jesus and the power of God in our lives. He wants us to live defeated lives. He wants to destroy everything that matters to us. So he will create disunity in your marriage, cause your children to turn away from you, put enmity between you and your friends, steal your dreams, cause your mind to question the truths and promises of God’s Word, crumple your self-esteem, convince you that you are not worthy to be used by God, and rob you of your God-given calling.

We must learn to recognize that we are in a spiritual battle – and that battle is constant, but we must take our stand.

We can’t successfully fight a spiritual battle in human strength. 

Paul also says that we are to “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.”[2] When we are strong in the Lord, we can be like David who brought a sling and a stone to a sword fight (and win!). We can be like Moses and stand before Pharaoh (even if we have stage fright). We can be as unlikely of a pick as the fishermen and tax collector chosen to be the closest companions to Jesus while He was on earth. Just as they were empowered with the Holy Spirit, so are we, and it’s our turn now to be the ones to advance the Kingdom of God.

No matter the adversity they faced, they finished the fight – and finished it well. They no doubt heard “Well done!” by the Savior they labored for, even when the ministry led them to being beaten, tortured, and martyred for the sake of expanding the Kingdom of God.

When we talk about spiritual warfare, we are talking about fighting all the forces of evil – so you better be sure that you go into battle under the mighty power of God and not your own strength. It is the only way you will be able to stand strong against the wiles of the devil.

Our Steps are ordered

Have you ever faced a problem and you tell someone about it, and they say something like, “Well, that’s just life for you”? Nothing is “just life.” Psalm 37:23 tells us our steps are ordered by the Lord. There is no “chance” or “coincidence.” Everything is ordered by God.

There is good news in that. If God orders each and every one of my steps, then He is never caught off guard by the events of my life. If God orders my steps, then He is working several steps ahead of me to ensure that everything I need to fulfill His plans for me are ready and in place each step of the way. And, if He is ordering my steps, then He already knows about the pressures and troubles I am going through and He gently calls me to come to Him with each one so I can draw on His strength for the battle at hand.

Seeing our problems through a spiritual lens

If we realize that Satan roams the earth seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8), and look at our problems through a spiritual lens, then we can see where Satan is fighting against what God is doing through us and the good plans that God has for us. With our spiritual lenses on we can have life and have it abundantly. But if we see our problems without a spiritual lens, instead of living joyous, victorious, and abundant lives, we go around carrying the staggering weight of anger, pride, insecurity, unforgiveness, fear, doubt, failure, jealousy, and bitterness. We walk around defeated. So when pressures and troubles abound, be sure you a looking at them through a spiritual lens.

Depending on self or depending on God?

As a shepherd boy, David defeated a giant because he had faith in God and depended on God. He went in the strength of God. He knew the battle was not his and God would win the battle (1 Samuel 17:47). However, as a king, we find in 1 Chronicles 21:1-5, that David wanted to see how mighty his military forces were and took a census. Taking a census, in and of itself, is not sin. The sin came because David was depending on himself and the power of his army rather than depending on God. Rather than operating out of the faith and dependence on God that he had as a boy, David the king was leaning on himself and the power of his army. In one single word – it was the sin of “pride.”

Satan loves for us to depend on our own strength and forget the almighty strength of God. He knows he has no chance of winning any battle fought in God’s strength, but the moment we think we can win the battle on our own, he knows that win will belong to him.

We need a spiritual solution to spiritual battles. If we have any hope of defeating the Devil, we must realize who the enemy is and that we can’t fight the battle in our own strength.

We must go into battle under the mighty power of God.

To successfully fight a spiritual battle if we must understand how the enemy operates. 

Fighting any battle is easier when we know the battle plans. However, we don’t need to send spies into enemy territory to steal the enemy’s battle plans. Paul lays out Satan’s battle plans for us. Paul tells us that Satan’s method is to use “schemes.” Merriam-Webster defines a scheme as “a plan or program of action, especially a crafty or secret one; a systematic or organized configuration.” (Merriam-Webster: Scheme, 2019) In Chapter 1, we looked at the “wiles of the devil.” Some translations use the word “schemes” rather than “wiles.” Whichever word you use, the meaning is similar and Satan’s battle plans are wrapped up in his schemes and wiles.

Satan doesn’t attack us haphazardly. Each fiery dart is well calculated, planned and organized. His schemes are wrapped up in lies so craftily formed that you barely recognize them for the lies they are unless you are well-grounded in God’s Word. He plants his lies in our minds and we believe them as truth.

Examples of Satan’s lies that we fall for:[3]

  • I’m the only pastor willing to preach the hard truth of God’s Word.
  • My small group doesn’t appreciate the amount of time I invest in Bible study to be able to lead them.
  • I work hard to keep the building and grounds looking nice and no one notices until one thing is out of place – then everyone notices.
  • I’m not old enough (young enough, smart enough, etc) to do ­                                                 .
  • That church is too big (too small, too conflicted, etc) for me to pastor.
  • I can’t move to ____________________. It’s too far from home.
  • I can’t step out on faith. I have bills to pay and need to keep my job.
  • God called me to this ministry, why isn’t it easier? It isn’t supposed to be so hard.
  • I don’t have to go to church to worship God. They are all just a bunch of hypocrites there anyway.
  • I don’t need to have a daily Bible time. I go to church every Sunday and that is all I need.

When Satan finds a lie that works, he’ll reuse it over and over. It will be on constant “rewind and play mode” until you allow God to break the power the lie has over you. What is a lie that Satan has filled your mind with? Write it down and then write a Scripture verse that counteracts the lie.

Be sure to come back tomorrow as we finish unpacking how to successfully fight spiritual battles.


Footnotes:

[1] Be sure you are standing on the Solid Rock and not in sinking sand!

[2] Remember the Hefty Trash bag commercials? Fighting spiritual battles in our strength is “wimpy, wimpy, wimpy.” But empowered with the mighty power of God, we can be “hefty, hefty, hefty” against the enemy!

[3] If you think you’re too smart to fall for a lie from Satan – then that’s the lie you’re falling for (for starters)!

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