There is a darkness all around us. Whether one senses it or not, a spirit of sorrow– of fear, of loneliness, of hopelessness– reigns in the hearts and minds of countless people all over the globe. Daily, we read articles of heartwrenching violence abroad, while locally, the day’s headlines include senseless tragedies, marring the day with disheartening, sober pensiveness.
In nations like Nigeria, Iraq, and inumerable european countries all across the East, this darkness is both strikingly felt and incomprehensibly heavy. With events such as a child suicide bombing committed by a girl as young as seven years old in Nigeria, to the kidnapping of close to 90 christian Assyrians in Syria, the incessant persecution and violence found in these nations are a cause for deep terror in the hearts and minds of people caught in the crossfire. And while the Boko Haram insurgency found in Nigeria and its surrounding nations is being fought back against by a heavy-handed AU Army, the warfare found in Nigeria– as well as across the middle east– is only a symptom, a physical manifestation, of the spiritual warfare occuring all over the planet, every moment of our lives.
The Nature of Spiritual Warfare
Undoubtedly, there are deeply religious undertones in the “Holy War” being had by radical Muslims, who claim to be committing these unconscionable crimes in the name of allah. But the war is fueled by more than merely dead religious beliefs; it is clear that there are very dark, demonic forces– as well as the undeniable force of the Holy Spirit– at work within the events happening not only in the Middle East and Europe, but all over the world. While some things aren’t caused by demonic power, the spiritual aspect of these events is very real. Spiritual events can be perceived and felt in very big ways, but are very rarely vocalized for fear of being called “insane” or a “sensationalist.” Yet, it is incredibly important to be aware of spiritual things while not giving satan and his work too much credit. Christ, in the book of Matthew, warns His disciples to be aware of both physical and spiritual threats while doing their work for His kingdom:
“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”
(Matthew 10:16, NIV)
Similarly, the apostle Paul speaks of “not letting satan outsmart [believers]” in 2 Corinthians:
“I am not overstating it when I say that the man who caused all the trouble hurt all of you more than he hurt me. Most of you opposed him, and that was punishment enough. Now, however, it is time to forgive and comfort him. Otherwise he may be overcome by discouragement. So I urge you now to reaffirm your love for him. I wrote to you as I did to test you and see if you would fully comply with my instructions. When you forgive this man, I forgive him, too. And when I forgive whatever needs to be forgiven, I do so with Christ’s authority for your benefit, so that Satan will not outsmart us. For we are familiar with his evil schemes.”
(2 Corinthians 2:5-11, NLT)
Obviously, as believers (and in a more general sense, humans), we are called to not be ignorant to the fact that 1) we have a very real enemy, and that 2) he seeks to “steal and kill and destroy” us (John 10:10a, NIV). Many times, believers (and all people) are oblivious to these facts, and in doing so, are vulnerable to vicious spiritual attacks. In being so, people are harassed, living lives full of anxiety, confusion, shame, depression, isolation, and hatred pointed at both self and others. To fight back against such an enemy, we need more than mere religion or “holy” rituals. We need to believe in– and clothe ourselves with– Christ Jesus (Acts 16:31; Galatians 3:24-27, NIV).
Victory in and through Jesus
When reading of the intense warfare, violent massacres, cold-hearted kidnappings, and forced marriages being committed in the world– as well as dealing with shame, depression, loneliness, or fear in our daily lives– it is important to realize that Christs’ will for us as human beings is never to live in shame or darkness, but to come to Him, make Him the Lord of our lives, and allow His Holy Spirit to dwell within us, saving, healing, growing, and enabling us to live set-apart lives for Him (I have discussed the Holy Spirit’s power in our lives in one earlier post). Jesus, in His great Love for all of us, died the death we deserved so that we may have “life, and have it to the full” both here on Earth and after death, eternally (John 10:10b, NIV). Contrary to the world’s popular perception of God vs. satan, satan is not equal in power with God and Jesus. Jesus has full control over satan and all evil spirits, able to command them and cast them out of people (as seen in countless gospel accounts, including this one in Mark 7). For believers, being clothed in Christ assures that we are sealed by the Holy Spirit, meaning that the enemy cannot “possess” or enter into us (Ephesians 1:13-14, NIV); it also means that we have the Holy Spirit, who helps us to put on our spiritual armor, as Paul states in Ephesians 6:10-18, NIV.
Beautifully, Jesus is the only way to eternal salvation, freedom, and protection from the enemy. Without accepting Christ and entering into a personal relationship with Him, a person is completely and hopelessly helpless to satan’s schemes and attacks. In Christ Jesus, every chain of bondage to sin and shame is broken, removing condemnation and replacing it with perfect Love and forgiveness (Romans 8:1-2; Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:12-14, NIV). In Christ Jesus, we are completely protected, able to defeat the enemy because Christ defeated him forever on calvary’s cross (1 John 4:3-6; 1 Corinthians 15:56-57, NIV). In Christ Jesus, the enemy– and the power of death itself– is rendered powerless.
In Christ alone, there is victory.
“But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
(1 Corinthians 15:57, NIV)
When we are in relationship with Christ, we are called to come to Christ with everything in our lives (praise and petition alike), secure in the fact that He not only hears us, but works on our behalf for our good (Romans 8:28, NIV). The apostle John speaks these words of comfort on the believers’ prayer:
“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.”
(1 John 5:14-15, NIV)
It is important to note that God hears our prayers when they are in accordance with His will. That is why, when praying, we should reflect on the things we are praying for, asking, “Do they line up with God’s Word?” and then, in prayer, asking that in all things, God’s Will would be done in our lives, not our own (as Jesus so humbly depicted in Matthew 26:38-39, NIV).
With this in mind, please be praying for:
The men, women, and children currently held captive by Boko Haram, ISIS, and AQIM. Pray that, if it’d be God’s Will, they would be freed/escape soon. Pray that no matter God’s Will concerning their physical salvation and freedom, they would have spiritual salvation and freedom, as they all come to know Christ as their Lord & Savior. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17, NIV).
Pray that the many men, women, and children currently involved with Boko Haram (BH), ISIS and AQIM would come to know Christ, and that the Holy Spirit would move powerfully in their midst to bring terrorists to Christ. “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:44-45, NIV).
Pray that the AU army, as well as the militias combating ISIS and AQIM, would come to Christ; pray that in doing so, Christ would give them wisdom, strength, courage, and complete devotion to Him as they seek to defeat BH, ASIS and AQIM. “Now this I know: The Lord gives victory to his anointed. He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary with the victorious power of his right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God” (Psalm 20:6-7, NIV).
Lastly, please be praying that everyone involved in the physical warfare– and spiritual warfare– of Nigeria, Iraq, Turkey, Syria, and the rest of the Middle East would be clothed with their spiritual armor in Christ (Ephesians 6:10-18, NIV). Pray they’d have the belt of truth, which affirms the Truth of God’s Word to the believer and helps them discern truth from lies; the breastplate of righteousness, to protect believers from lies and to affirm that their righteousness is from Christ alone; “feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace,” so that they may boldly, lovingly, and gracefully share the gospel with loved ones and abductors alike; the shield of faith, to completely guard and protect them from “the flaming arrows of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:16, NIV); the helmet of salvation, to affirm that they are eternally spiritually saved and to protect their thoughts against the enemy’s schemes; and the sword of God’s Word, that they might know God’s Word well and use it to both defend and defeat the enemy’s lies and delusions.
Jesus Christ has already won over the enemy, sin, and death. May we, in Christ Jesus, live in this victory too.
Do you know Jesus?
Spiritual Warfare can cause either fear or complete disdain in one person’s heart. It is important to, unlike the society of today, focus on the One who can bring victory– and much, much more.
Men, all throughout time, have sought religion and philosophy to try to relate to and explain who God is. In the Old Testament, people who believed in YHWH strived to obey Him perfectly– yet, like all of us, failed miserably (Romans 3:23, NIV). One cannot explain sin away or pretend it is not there: it must be dealt with, and consequence must be had. In this way, Jesus didn’t only come to defeat satan; He came to defeat the power of sin in our lives. Apart from Christ, we are powerless to be saved from sin and death. God, in His great mercy, died for the sins and brokenness of mankind– nothing we have done (or have not done) makes us righteous or forgiven in front of God (Ephesians 2:4-9, NIV).
Christ wants to have a relationship with us; He declares us righteous and forgiven through faith in Him, so that we can enjoy abundant life today and eternal life after (Romans 5:1; John 10:10; John 17:3, NIV). While this does not mean pain and trials leave, it does mean that we can have a personal, intimate relationship with our Creator, who promises to never leave us nor forsake us, to guide us, and to enable us to live lives for His glory alone (Deuteronomy 31:6; John 10:3-4; Acts 1:8, NIV). In this way, we experience freedom, healing, and growth that satisfies in a way nothing– or no one– else can (Isaiah 58:11, NIV).
No matter who you are or what you have done, Jesus loves you. He wants to have a personal relationship with you. You may know about Him; but do you want to know Him personally? To learn how to be in a personal, glorious relationship with Jesus click here.