Lesson 11 Spiritual Warfare In Discipleship

“Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of darkness, against the spiritual wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). The following verse calls upon believers to put on the armor of God. It parts the veil to reveal an unseen world of deadly warfare involving invisible forces of evil working to control people and events on earth. The Bible speaks of weapons of warfare which are not of the flesh (2 Cor. 10:4). Believers are called soldiers (2 Tim. 2:3-4). We are to fight spiritually, not physically (1 Tim. 1:18; 2 Tim. 4:7). We are to use weapons of righteousness (2 Cor. 6:7) in the power of God. We must be protected against fiery darts (Eph. 6:16), or subtle intrigues.

Who are the participants in this war? They are not earthly armies but spiritual forces. The Commander of the forces of light is our warrior God whose name is the Lord of Hosts. He will one day come to earth in the Person of the Lord Jesus to take possession and vanquish evil (Rev. 19:11-14). The evil leader of the forces of darkness, the prince of darkness, is the Devil (Eph. 6:11; Luke 4:6), supported by his fallen angels (Matt. 25:41). Evil spirits are arrayed in combat against angels of God in this warfare which reaches to heavenly places at times (Rev. 12:7). The objects of this struggle are the souls of men and women. Temptation, deceit, seduction, affliction and oppression are the tools of the enemy. Strength, enablement, guidance, protection and encouragement are the ministries of the forces of light. In the background are the very prayers of the Son of God (Luke 22:32; Heb. 7:25).

Among significant weapons mentioned in Ephesians 6 are the “shield of faith” (v. 16), “the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God” (v. 17) and the need to “pray at all times in the Spirit” (v. 18). We must understand each weapon, how it works and how to use it effectively, that we might be mighty soldiers for the Lord. These three are foundational weapons, but not the only ones.

The Weapon of Faith

“Taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the fiery darts of the evil one” (Eph. 6:16) suggests the defensive side of this foundational virtue. “The just shall live by faith” we are told four times, in Habakkuk, Romans, Galatians and Hebrews. However, it is also offensive in its capabilities, for by this channel believers connect with God’s power to achieve His chosen purposes.

Some languages have no available word to translate the concept. Commonly, faith tends to take on whatever meaning that casual usage assigns. We can say, “I believe someone will come,” or that it will rain, in a kind of vague hope without any sure basis. Another might say, “I believe in God,” meaning that by intuition he thinks He exists. However, it may only signify mental agreement to certain statements without the slightest personal commitment. These ideas are inadequate to express the Biblical meaning of faith.

Faith, or believing, means Biblically “to rely upon, have confidence, to have a firm persuasion, a conviction based upon hearing” to quote W.E. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. Faith must have an object. That object is God’s Word, or the Lord Himself. It is not believing in yourself, believing in your intuition or believing in believing. Faith must have some Word from the Lord to which it is connected (John 2:22). You hear or read and believe the Word of God (Rom. 10:17). Faith is not presumption. It would have been presumption had the Lord accepted the challenge to leap from the Temple pinnacle to demonstrate God’s power to deliver (Luke 4:5-12). Faith does not presume to think that every thought which passes into our minds is a specific revelation from God. We are fallen, imperfect creatures and think imperfectly. Because of this, we need the check of God’s Word and the counsel of godly minds to temper impulsive actions.

1. How Does Faith Work? It links us with the spiritual world in a way we do not fully understand. John Wesley called it “the sixth sense,” but faith goes beyond the senses. Faith enables us to walk correctly without seeing (2 Cor. 5:7). We can do things beyond natural possibilities, such as when Peter walked on water at the invitation of the Lord Jesus (Matt. 14:25-31), but could not continue walking when he ceased to trust Christ’s Word and instead looked at the threatening waves. This illustrates how faith may vary even from moment to moment. Elijah had dynamic faith on Mt. Carmel but little faith in facing Jezebel (1 Kgs. 18:20-40). We have heard that it does not matter how much faith we have but only in whom. This seems inconsistent with the rebuke of the Lord for those who had “little faith” or His commending those who had “great faith” (Luke 7:9; Matt. 8:10; 15:28). Even the disciples begged, “Lord, increase our faith” (Luke 17:5). The Lord prayed that Peter’s faith would not fail under trial (Luke 22:32). Faith may be weak or strong (Rom. 4:19-20). Its effectiveness depends upon the ability to resist doubts, to focus unhesitatingly upon the naked promises of God (Jas. 1:6-8). This corresponds to the mountain-moving faith of which the Lord spoke (Mark 11:23). Such faith can only be present in those who walk closely with God, in whom the Word of Christ dwells richly, who consciously yield themselves to the control of the Spirit. It may also be true that those who have experienced God in life’s varying situations have learned how to trust Him.

2. How Do We Exercise Faith Effectively? Faith grows in strength by practice. We learn to trust God for a small amount before learning to trust Him for a greater amount. We find by experience that He is reliable when we depend upon Him, not our own devices. We must purpose to change our mental acceptance of certain truths into real action by living according to what we say we believe. We should stop saying that we believe what we refuse to live.

It is evident that faith is nurtured and strengthened by feeding on the Word of God regularly and by appropriating the promises and provisions of God. The Lord who does not lie expects us to believe His Word. He rebuked those of His disciples who did not believe Him (Luke 24:25; Mark 16:14). “Where is your faith?,” He asked. It is necessary to reject doubt. Fix your eye firmly on what He promises. Claim what He promises. Claim these promises for yourself, if they legitimately apply. Depend on Him. Step out in faith where you are called to do so in daily living. Receive by faith what others cannot see in the hand of the unseen God. Persevering prayer is an act of faith and will break through the discouragement of obstacles, delays and other opposition.

It is by faith that our lives can be changed from impotency to power (Matt. 17:14-20). Any failure may be due to a lack of faith in matters where God wills success. “Do you believe that I am able to do this?,” was Jesus’ searching question to a blind man. According to his faith, his sight was restored. We must claim the Name of Jesus (Acts 3:16), by which there is authority over elements, demons, diseases and death itself. Exercise the authority of His Name (Acts 19:11; 3:6-8). Lay hold of God and refuse to let go in matters where His will is laid out in the Word. Claim victory even in circumstantial matters where you sense a clear assurance that it as God’s will, not just your own desires. This is exercising the weapon of faith.

The Weapon of the Word

“And take … the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God” (Eph. 6:17). In its living and active power it is able to penetrate the innermost being of the soul and spirit (Heb. 4:12). It examines the very thought and intent of man’s heart. It is like a fire in the mouth of God’s prophets and it is capable of devouring people like wood (Jer. 5:14). It is like a hammer which breaks rocks in pieces (Jer. 23:29). It is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16). It bears fruit when sown on proper ground (Mark 4:14,20). It accomplishes what God sends it forth to do (Isa. 55:11). It cannot be broken or nullified, no matter how hard men may try (John 10:35). It will not lose a single dot or comma until its purpose is complete (Matt. 5:18). It can give life, sustain life, and consume life. Here is a formidable weapon indeed.

One may define the written Word as the Sacred Scriptures in their entirety, the revealed mind of God given through chosen men as “God-breathed” truth (2 Tim. 3:16). The Word, in a secondary sense, may also come from God through the mouths of His prophets (1 Thess. 2:13), or those who authoritatively declare what He has written. Such utterances from human instruments should always be tested for their harmony and consistency with the written Word (Acts 17:11).

1. How Does The Word Work? It works in a supernatural way that is beyond human explanation. It is life rather than magic that accounts for its effectiveness, since God is its source and author. When a sinful person hears the message, is convicted of sin and turns to God (John 8:9; 16:8), that is a miracle. When there is the birth of a new spiritual life it will be due to the agency of the divine Word, not human words (1 Pet. 1:23; Jas. 1:18). When we are liberated from the slavery of sin, it is this Truth that will make us free. When there is cleansing from the defilement of moral uncleanness, it is the Word which is a primary instrument (John 15:3; Eph. 5:26). When men and women are set apart for God’s use, it is usually through the Word (John 17:17); so also even non-living things (1 Tim. 4:5). What gives us life and guidance? It is God’s holy Lamp (Psa. 119:105,130). What most fitly nourishes even the new believer? It is divine food for the soul (1 Pet. 2:2; 1 Cor. 3:1-2). What can encourage us in dark times? That which uplifts us is from God’s mouth (Rom. 15:4; 1 Thess. 4:18).

2. How Do I Use The Word Effectively? You cannot be honest with yourself or others if you do not respect and obey what it teaches (Eph. 6:6; John 14:15,21). If you respect this book as the very oracle of God, then you will esteem it more important than ordinary food (Job 23:12). You will “eat the Word” daily and rejoice (Jer. 15:16). You will claim its promises, not just store its information (Rom. 4:20-21). You will meditate upon it day and night (Josh. 1:8). As you understand, apply and act upon what you are taught by the Spirit from this book, you will begin to make proper use of it. A mind saturated with the Book is the most prepared. Memorizing is most helpful in this regard.

As a good soldier knows and uses his weapons, so the spiritual warrior will use skillfully the Word of God against enemies (Luke 4:1-13), with the unconverted or with other believers. By the Word you can refute unsound doctrine as well as give sound teaching (Tit. 1:9). You can sustain the weary one when needed (Isa. 50:4). In particular, we want to sow the seed of the Word of the Gospel in the hearts of the unconverted (Isa. 32:20) in a widespread way. Where possible, we want to distribute literature which contains the Word. We should imitate the Lord as He dealt with Satan by using the Word authoritatively.

The Weapon of Prayer

“Pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints” (Eph. 6:18). To “pray without ceasing” is a command of God (1 Thess. 5:17). It is a source of astonishment even to God that believers fail to intercede for others in prayer (Isa. 59:16). The prophet Samuel felt that it was a sin against the Lord if he ceased to pray for his own people (1 Sam. 12:23). The Lord Jesus in His earthly life demonstrated a continuous life of prayer dependence. It is so vital that He still continues this ministry from Heaven (Heb. 7:25; Rom. 8:34), as does the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:26).

1. How Does Prayer Work? There are some amazing promises made by God in connection with prayer. “If you ask anything in My Name I will do it” (John 14:14). These and like verses should not be separated from conditions specified by God elsewhere. These include praying in the Name of Jesus (John 14:13), praying in the will of God (1 John 5:14), the need of true faith (Mark 9:23) and personal purity (Psa. 24:3-4). These conditions might also be called the laws or requirements for effective prayer.

Prayer is communication with God. It is much more than asking. It includes worship (which unlocks divine blessings), thanksgiving and confession. Prayer seems also to have the power of an invisible spiritual force. One thinks of Moses having his hands lifted in order for Israel to prevail over Amalek (Exod. 17:11-14), or in the clash of spiritual forces contending with each other (Psa. 18:6-10).

2. How Do I Pray Effectively? We still need the Lord to “teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). This no doubt means to teach that we need to do it in all circumstances, and also how to do it according to the mind of God. Conviction that it is indispensable in our lives, and commitment to pray perseveringly, are both necessary. It is something that we must do regularly, rather than study the subject more.

Conclusion

A good soldier will keep in mind that he is always ready for battle, for a call to duty. We must know our weapons and be using them properly at all times.

Our major opposition is not in the visible world. Our major weapons therefore are not worldly or fleshly weapons. No earthly armies rely primarily upon faith, prayer and the Word of God. The war is deadly and, like other conflicts, there will be casualties. It is sad when believers are knocked out of combat through their own sin and unbelief. It is worse when they become disabled or even lose their lives, thereby being removed permanently from the battle.

The Lord says He has made us to be more than conquerors. He has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness. He has defeated our major foes at the Cross. He is always there to lead us in triumph if we follow Him. There is no provision that He has not made to enable us to be victorious warriors. In light of this, we need to use our spiritual weapons fully each day of this continuing conflict until we go to meet Him.

Lesson 11 Spiritual Warfare In Discipleship

1. Read Ephesians 6:10-18. Why do you think this passage likens our struggles to warfare while here on earth? Support your conclusion from your own observations, as well as from Scripture.

2. Ephesians 6:11 admonishes us to put on the “whole armor of God.” What is meant by the whole armor of God and what does it include?

3. Describe faith, according to your understanding.

4. What has in the past, or perhaps even now, prevented you from living this life of faith? What can be done about these deficiencies?

5. The Word of God is called the Sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17). How does the Word function in your personal Christian life? Be specific. Read Psalms 119:11,105; Joshua 1:8; Ezra 7:10; John 15:3.

6. From the following verses, explain how and why the Word must be used in evangelism (1 Pet. 1:23; Rom. 1:16; Isa. 55:11). How could this be applied in your life?

7. Daniel was a warrior in prayer and an example for us. Consider his well known prayer of Daniel 9. How can you apply any observations from this prayer to your own life?

8. What have you learned from the list of conditions for answered prayer that you need to apply personally in a more definite way?