In the denomination I grew up in, I was taught that demons only tempted us to sin and nothing more. Resisting the devil just meant using my willpower to be good. It was only when I was called to be a pastor that I learned how the devil does so much more than just tempt, but that he very literally steals, kills and destroys, and that God commands every member of His Church to use spiritual weapons to disarm the devil’s attacks. It was amazing, like a whole new world opened up to me, but it still took me many more years to understand how that kind of fight needed to be a normal daily practice. Just knowing the facts isn’t enough. I had to develop spiritual eyes and force the devil to respect my faith.
Demonic attacks come on various levels. Of course, there are temptations to sin. But behind those temptations to do what is wrong are the devil’s subtler emotional suggestions to avoid doing what is right - to forget about God’s power and to react to problems in our own strength. It’s the subtle suggestions to avoid taking spiritual action, because we’re tired or intimidated, or just not in the mood. We think it’s just our own thoughts or desires, and the last thing we imagine is that we’re being demonically attacked, so we don’t fight back and unwittingly give him room to steal and destroy just a little more. The vast majority of Christians are already stuck right there.
Then there are the attacks that come from outside of us – accidents, terrible family news, a bad diagnosis, failures, rejection and loss of jobs or property or relationships. Fear and anger instantly strike our hearts because the pain of injustice makes us want to react. So as soon as the outward demonic attacks happen, we try to defend ourselves by blaming others, wanting revenge, blaming God, sinking into depression, wallowing in self-pity and on and on. And the devil’s right there, craftily layering on another attack, but this time from within. He’s not content to just hit us with a problem, he also manipulates our egos to rebel against God just when we need Him the most. We give him permission to prolong the problem and increase the pain, and the devil happily keeps layering on more and more attacks. He has no respect for wimpy faith.
I know men and women of God who have served Him for years, who even preach the gospel to others, who still don’t know how to recognize what the devil is doing in their personal lives. We need to develop totally new habits, and it starts with seeing those subtle layers of attacks, from the inward temptations to doubt or follow our flesh, to the outward problems that block us from moving forward in our lives. And then we have to act in a way that causes the devil to tremble with fear and bow to our authority.
Jesus would face an outward problem of a blind man, a dead child, a woman disfigured by a demon in the synagogue, by reacting immediately. If he didn’t have a boat, He’d walk on the water. If He was asked to pay a tax, He pulled a coin out of a fish’s mouth. If He needed to feed 5000 men, he took a little boy’s lunch and fed them with it. He confronted and rebuked and cast out the problem and the demons behind it with total confidence in His authority, and the demons obeyed, taking the problems with them as they left. In their hatred, they respected His authority – the same authority He has given us as well. Jesus also fought His own inward battle against the devil by many early morning prayers alone with God on mountaintops, daily aligning His thoughts and desires with the Father. We have to follow His example and react with confidence and force, and a hunger to be in God’s presence. But how many Christians really live this way? Are you living this way?
Satanic forces are at work in high levels, in governments and world leaders, but this shouldn’t scare us – we have the authority of the King of all kings to bind them up and thwart their plans.
Next post I’ll share with you how God wants to use His church to impact this world, even as evil seems to be growing stronger.
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds, casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is complete. 2 Corinthians 10:3-6, MEV