This message is one of the “You Asked For It” series that came from a survey we posted late last year. This particular message is all about how to stand up to the enemy, meaning, “How do we fight with the dark forces that have us in their sights?”. There is a way to deal with what troubles and tempts us, especially in the battleground of the mind.
For the most part, I had a pretty normal upbringing. I had a brother, friends and a lot of cousins, who were like a tribe of friends. I was the oldest, so that meant that I got a certain respect just for that. But along the way I also found some enemies.
The one that stands out to me the most was Steve. It makes me shudder a little just to mention his name. He lived on our street next door to our cousins. He was taller than any of us, certainly meaner than any of us, and he had it in for me in particular.
He would taunt me, laugh at me, and get my cousins to take his side in whatever he was organizing. We rode the same bus to school and he would jump out of the bus and wait for me. One day he was standing there when I got off the bus and he slapped my books out of my hand to the muddy ground and just laughed.
Somehow I knew it was going to come to a head, and it did. He got in my face and challenged me to a fight in my cousin’s back yard, so I went to face him. It was like there was no choice. All my cousins stood around us. He took a swing at me and hit me somewhere. Then I followed up with the hardest punch I knew how to muster, right to the middle of his belly; which was about as high as I could reach. That was all it took. He ran off crying, as did I, and he never bullied me again. My cousins gained a new respect for me all because I stood up to Steve the bully.
You wanted us to answer the question, how do I deal with the enemy warfare that goes on in my life, particularly in my mind?
Let’s begin by answering that question with another question. Do we literally have “other than human” enemies, as in the devil and his legions of demons? If you believe that the Bible is God’s Word, the answer has to be a resounding, “Yes!”.
Here’s 1 Peter 5:8-10
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.”
Here, as in many other places, we see revealed to us that we actually have literal enemies in the form of spirits of darkness.
The Lord Jesus faced them down many times. He commanded them to leave people and they did, and the people were set free. He triumphed over them through the Cross. They just hate Him and they hate us.
The next question is, “How much power do they actually have to harm us?”.
We read in I Peter 5 that he’s like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour, so he possibly has the power to eat your lunch and you.
Here are some of the words associated with him in the New Testament. The devil can “hinder”, “tempt”, “buffet”, “get advantage over” and as we just observed “devour”.
The real answer to that question of what they can actually do is this: they’ll take whatever ground you yield to them. They’ll go just as far as you let them, or as far as God lets them.
Here’s an example. Much earlier in our church history we had a man here who was our church administrator. He was about as upstanding as you could imagine. He was also really knowledgeable in the Bible and taught the Bible in our first edition of Foundations class and then in a local church Bible school we experimented with for a time. He had a wife and three kids. Guess what happened? He left his wife for another woman, divorced his wife and abandoned his kids. Do you think the devil was at all involved in that? For sure, but this man had to have given in to the enemies’ lies and tricks multiple times and over multiple confrontations to have his life and his family devoured like that.
So what does the enemy use to get to people?
First, it’s stealth. When you look around you don’t see any dark forces. When a thought is tossed into our heads that comes from darkness we just think it’s us, or our professor, or friend, or family member or whomever. We don’t see them and they like it that way.
Secondly, he uses lies. Jesus described Satan as “the father of lies”, as in every lie believed in this world has its parentage in the devil. The problem with his lies is that he tells them in such a way as to get us to believe them like they’re truth; so that you make false conclusions, based on lies that you think are truth.
One of the more common ones has to do with fear. I was just talking with a young woman recently that was told that she didn’t have a good singing voice, and that lie stuck. She believed it, so she didn’t sing. She was afraid, I assume, that if she did sing everyone would run out of the room or that she would get further confirmations that she couldn’t sing well. The only problem is that she actually has a beautiful singing voice; she’s just beginning to believe that and sing with freedom.
He can even bring up scripture and mix it with the lie. I was really down at one point in my life. I started to think that my life wasn’t worth much of anything. The thought just kept coming back to me, that my life wasn’t worthwhile at all. Then a bit of scripture came to mind. It was a parable of Jesus in Luke 13:6-7, “He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?”.
While I was struggling with depression, which has a lot of lies associated with it itself, I started to think my life wasn’t worthwhile. Then that was the scriptural phrase that came to me – “Why cumbereth it the ground?”, as in your life needs to end. Jesus heard the devil quote scripture too.
So how do you gain consistent victory over the devil?
James 4:7 is the simple answer, “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you”.
That word “resist” is the same word that’s repeated in 1 Peter 5:9. It literally means to stand up against, but it has the implication that in your standing up you are speaking. Speaking what? Speaking the rightly divided Word of God and the truth, in general and specifically, in such a way that it’s an absolute “no” to Satan.
Let’s pull James 4:7 apart to get the basic directions.
Especially when you know you’re under attack, submit yourself to God.
That means that you actually pray and talk to him and ask Him for help. You can’t fight this devil and darkness alone. So you ask God, “how should I handle this?”. Do I need to call some prayer warriors to stand with me and pray? In most cases, the answer is yes.
But let’s go back to my cousin’s back yard and the fight with Steve. How much better would that have gone if my boxing coach and boxing team were there with me? I would probably remember all the strategies I had learned in the past so much better, and I would have been so much more confident.
Then resist. That is, stand up, plant your feet and tell that devil no. Quote scripture to him. “I am fearfully and wonderfully made!” (Psalm 139:14) “He who began a good work in me will keep finishing it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6) This implies that you read and learn the Scriptures. Why is that important? Because Scripture is truth, it counteracts lies, and so do other truthful declarations.
Such as your “Thank You List”. Nothing is working in your life, it doesn’t have any worth. That’s a lie. Or you have no other options; you don’t have a future so your only option is the abortion. That’s also a lie. In your resisting, you say things that you’re thankful for and true. I have a wife and children, and they seem to love me! I have grandchildren and they seem to love me too! I have life and breath, a house to live in, a job that actually enables me to pay bills, and a car! So go ahead and leave, devil, you’re a liar.
Does that mean that you won’t continue to have problems? The third phrase in that verse says that he, the devil, will flee. He did when Jesus confronted him too; until a more convenient time. You may be standing in the gap for a while. Like it says in 1 Peter 5, you may have to suffer a while. But the God of all grace (meaning power to live the Christian life) will “perfect, establish, strengthen and settle you”. In other words, even if the difficulty isn’t answered right then, you will grow through it because God is with you in it.
So what can you do today?