Believers seem to fall on a spectrum with regard to spiritual warfare. On one extreme are those who look for devils hiding everywhere; nothing goes wrong but these believers think that Satan had something to do with it. On the other extreme are those who think that all this talk of spiritual warfare and devils and such is a bunch of hooey. Every believer I have ever encountered is somewhere between those two.
Regardless of whether or not one side or the other is overreacting, believers are very much in the midst of spiritual combat. Peter tells us that we have an adversary (1 Peter 5:8). Paul warns us to put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:11, 13) and tells us that our weapons are not carnal, but are mighty through God (2 Corinthians 10:4). This talk of fighting an being in a battle is scattered all over the New Testament.
The art of war is of vital importance … It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin.
The believer who has accepted the reality of being in the midst of a spiritual war is well served to consider how much or little he or she knows about spiritual warfare. Sun Tzu wrote that the art of war is of vital importance … It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. What he wrote pertained merely to physical warfare. For the believer, giving some thought to spiritual warfare and how it is fought is vitally important. This is not to say that believers should become obsessed with spiritual warfare and find themselves on the extreme fringes of things, but that we should consider what has been written in The Bible about spiritual warfare and, perhaps, what we might learn about the art of war in the physical world and how that might relate to the art of spiritual war.
Sun Tzu’s assessment of the value of the art of war holds just as true in spiritual warfare. When Peter writes about our adversary, it is in terms of a lion looking for someone to devour.
The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy’s not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him; not on the chance of his not attacking, but rather on the fact that we have made our position unassailable.
Some may wonder that anyone would make such a fuss about spiritual warfare. “Really,” they might say, “What are the odds of Satan being at all interested in attacking me? I’m no Billy Graham.” While the statement is quite true that no one but Billy Graham is Billy Graham, that does not exempt any other believer from the possibility of attack. Our adversary is not interested in who were are, but in Whom we serve. He attacks not so much to destroy us as we are as to remove us from any possibility of efficacy in combating him. It is foolish of any believer to think he or she will not be attacked. The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy’s not coming. The enemy will come, of this we can be quite certain. Like all enemies in history, our enemy will attack. We cannot control what the enemy does or does not do, but we can change our own readiness to receive him. Paul’s instruction to the Ephesian believers is to stand and his instruction to Timothy is to flee temptation (Ephesians 6:14 and 1 Timothy 6:11 respectively) — different tactics for different battlefields and soldiers. The promises Jesus makes in Revelation 2 – 3 are to those who overcome (νικῶντι). The Greek word used there is derived from nike, Roman victoria where we get our word victory. In order for us to be victorious, we must be prepared to meet our enemy.
That is why it is so vitally important that believers understand the nature of spiritual warfare and how the believer takes part in that combat. More, we need to understand what makes for victory and how our General (God) can secure that and how we cooperate with Him in securing victory.