The post Archetypes, Principalities, And America, ended with a quotation of Ephesians 6: 10-18. After reviewing the Scripture afresh while writing the post, some thoughts came to mind that might be good to share.
First, the passage in full:
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. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
This passage is most often used as a defense of and explanation for the need for spiritual warfare. And, more often than not, the goal of our spiritual warfare is to move or influence other people. Yet, when taken as a whole, this Scripture shows that spiritual warfare does not have as its primary focus the changing of others. Rather, the primary purpose of spiritual warfare is “to stand”:
“Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”
“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”
“Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.”
Further, not only is our spiritual warfare to stand, but the only offensive weapon we are to use is “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God”.
This is such a different picture from what many consider spiritual warfare! There is no binding of demons mentioned here, and no emphasis on changing others to get them to do as we wish. Apart from shielding ourselves from the onslaught of the enemy and thus being able to stand firm, the only resource we have to use in our interactions with others is the word of God. Indeed, Paul does not even tell us specifically to pray for or against those who oppose us: Rather, he tells us to pray for “the Lord’s people”.
I doubt that anyone who has not been involved in true spiritual warfare will understand what Paul was getting at. When the onslaught comes, so often, the best you can do is simply stand. We want to prevail over our enemies, but so often, the only prevailing we can do is to remain standing.
The truth is, God is fighting our battles for us, so there is little need to go on the offense. Rather, we need only understand and agree with what God is already doing. This is, in fact, just how Jesus taught us to pray: “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6: 10). Our intercession thus hastens God’s work. God will judge, and he will set things right–this is absolutely inevitable. The only question is whether that will occur in glory, or in the here and now.
Several years ago, after a long absence, I had a chance to return to a place where I had lived for many years. My wife and I loved the place and its people greatly, but it was also a place of many struggles and much hardship, and in the end, everything we had was ripped from our hands, and we were forced to leave with little more than the clothes we had on our backs.
Many, many people had stood against us when we lived there, and few if anyone cried when we left. Yet, when I returned, of all the people I knew or knew of, I could only find a very small handful. It was a vivid picture of Isaiah 41: 11-13;
Behold, all who are incensed against you
shall be put to shame and confounded;
those who strive against you
shall be as nothing and shall perish.
You shall seek those who contend with you,
but you shall not find them;
those who war against you
shall be as nothing at all.
For I, the Lord your God,
hold your right hand;
it is I who say to you, “Fear not,
I am the one who helps you.”
As it turns out, one person whom I had stood against, and warned others about to no avail, had actually skipped town with the police hot on his trail. So much for that false minister of the Gospel!
God had done some house cleaning while I was away. Did he remove my family and I from that situation to spare us from all that he was going to do? Perhaps. This is still a mystery to me. However, I do know one thing: What can be shaken will be shaken, and the only thing that will remain will be that which is of God’s kingdom (Hebrews 12: 26-29).
So while we do pray for others to change, and we do bind demons as much as they can be bound, we must remember that we will not and cannot prevail by going on the offense in a worldly sense or by using our own strength. Rather, we prevail when, after the dust has cleared and everyone else has fallen, we are still standing, having never left that which God has called us to do.