There are times when I feel overwhelmed and helpless. During those times I believe I am about to be overcome by the enemy. I look at the work of putting together whatever book I’m writing or lesson I’m preparing or my lack of spiritual maturity when I’m discipling someone or just interacting with people I work with and I become discouraged and overwhelmed by the impossibility of it all. What’s wrong? Don’t I have the Holy Spirit? Aren’t I a Spirit-led believer? Aren’t I doing what God wants me to do? By-the-way, those aren’t the right questions to ask. Those are all asked with the focus on me and my abilities or the work I am doing. I have stopped treasuring the treasure and have turned my Heart’s desire onto something other than God’s glory. Oh, I may deeply desire for God to be glorified in me, but on my terms. Do you see how stupid this is? Once again I have turned my focus away from God and the all-sufficiency of His Grace and have put it on me and my abilities.
God allows us to go that way for a while and it get’s discouraging in a hurry. If we persist despair is next on the agenda. If we don’t pull out of that we end up in a deep pit of despair. I always picture that as a sticky morass of self-pity at the very bottom of a deep spiritual trough or valley. God allows us to sink to that level sometimes so we can get our focus readjusted. What is the real problem? The problem is a lack of understanding of two facts which causes us to walk around as if we are defeated when we should be walking in victory.
The first fact is we are in a spiritual battle all the time. If we are in Christ we are saved and should have no fear of losing our salvation, however, we have two enemies who deeply desire to make us think we are on the verge of doing that very thing.
“For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12 NLT)
The first enemy is Satan and his army of demons. Who is our other enemy? It is self. Well, not our redeemed self, but our “OLD MAN” character who is still hanging around wanting us to give up on this spiritual growth nonsense and get busy going after self-gratification back in Egypt. He does not value godly treasure at all.
“…throw off your old evil nature and your former way of life, which is rotten through and through, full of lust and deception” (Ephesians 4:22 NLT)
These two enemies are clever, stealthy and experts in the art of the ambush. Their only desire is to defeat us and make us fleshly and ineffective in the Kingdom.
The second fact is our part in the battle with our enemies is mostly defensive. Our Lord fights the offensive battles for us. Sadly, we try to fight our own battles, both the offensive and defensive, with inadequate weapons. Our enemies know this and come at us from ambush, deceit and circumstance with frightening looking weapons which easily defeat us. We end up in full retreat. Why? We do not understand it is God who is to fight against these enemies not us. Our part is to be armored so we can withstand the attack and remain standing.
“…Be strong with the Lord’s mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies and tricks of the Devil.” (Ephesians 6:10-11 NLT)
To keep from sinking into despair, discouragement and defeat we must understand these two facts then take action. Our two enemies are to be fought or resisted with very different weapons and tactics. Let’s look at the spiritual warfare against Satan and his demons first.
We must understand clearly we are in a battle or war that will not end until we make it to Heaven.
“This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.” (Ephesians 6:12 MSG)
I really don’t understand why Satan hates us so much, but he does. His goal is to keep as many people as possible from living lives which glorify God. How does he do that? He lies to the lost keeping them from the truth of the Gospel while targeting believers with lies about God and how much He loves and cares for us. We have eternal life in Christ. He can’t take that away from us, but he can do things which will cause some to live lives which do not glorify God. You already know who lives that way don’t you? The Soul-led do that. The Soul-led are living lives which are in total retreat much of the time. They are nearly powerless and so are walking in defeat more often than not.
The Spirit-led are powerful in the Lord, but not invulnerable. We can make mistakes which cause us to become easy targets. Have you ever watched a boxing match? One style of boxing has the boxers use one of their arms as a defensive weapon and the other one for offense. The defensive arm is always up and held out or bent with the glove out in front of the face to protect it. This keeps the opponent from being able to get a good jab or punch into the head. However, if the boxer lets his guard down by lowering that defensive arm he is vulnerable. If the opponent is quick he can get a good left or right cross into the jaw or side of the head. The boxer who lets his guard down is in trouble. He is in danger of being knocked out or knocked down. At the least he will lose points. In our spiritual battle we must keep our guard up. That requires diligence. There can be no laziness or sloppiness here. Only the diligent understand there can be no let up in our vigilant, watchful care of our Heart’s condition.
“Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet.” (Ephesians 6:13 MSG)