Knowing our capabilities
In my previous post I shared that many Christians have the tendency to confuse the nature of the struggle in which the Church has been engaged since Jesus’s resurrection. The apostle Paul told the church at Ephesus that “we know the schemes of the devil,” but the reality is that most Christians do not know how the devil employs his tactics. Today, I want to briefly share the first level of developing a coherent spiritual strategy.
The first level of an effective strategy has three elements: (1) knowing the Church’s capabilities, (2) having a working knowledge of the enemy’s capabilities, and (3) understanding the landscape of the battlefield. I will discuss each element on subsequent posts to avoid making them too long.
Many Christians make the mistake of approaching our struggle against the power of darkness as an offensive war. This is a major blunder because our war against the powers of the air is a defensive war. The apostle James reminded us of this truth. He said: “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Neither James, nor Jesus when he was being tempted, suggested that we needed to take the battle to the devil. The main reason we cannot take the fight to the devil is because if we do, we will lose. We don’t have the power or the weapons for an offensive war. Our weapons are all defensive in nature because the battle is not ours. The battle is the Lord’s (1 Samuel 17:47). Similarly to David’s fight against Goliath, we do not use worldly weapons. David faced the giant with stones, while Goliath came after David with swords, spears, and shields. While it is true that David charged Goliath, we must understand that Israel, and David, were fighting a defensive war because the Philistines had come to destroy Israel.
Once we understand that the Church is in a defensive war, we can make the proper analysis of our own capabilities. Allow me one more clarification. In real combat between human armies, an offensive operation must be carried out with a three to one ratio. That is, if we are on the offensive against an enemy with fortified defensive positions, we must attack with three battalions for every enemy battalion on the ground. Conversely, when we are the objects of the attacks, the attacking army must bring three battalions for every battalions we have on defense.
I believe many Christians get into spiritual trouble because they do not have the patience to wait for the enemy’s attack. They want to take the fight to the enemy, and they are totally unprepared to carry out a successful fight. The key word for the Church is resist. Since we know we are in a defensive war, now we can describe our capabilities in terms of the weapons we have at our disposal. Allow me to share what I consider are the three most significant weapons the Church has to fight and win against the war against the principalities of the air.
The truth is the most powerful weapon we have to win the war against the forces of darkness. If you remember Jesus’s temptation in the desert, at no time he attempted to fight directly with the devil. Jesus’s tactic was to resist the temptations using the word of God as his weapon. As you remember Jesus answered every temptation from the devil with quotes from God’s word. For example. When the devil told Jesus that if he was the Son of God he could turn the stones into bread so he could satisfy his hunger, Jesus answered: “It is written, man shall live by bread alone” (Matthew 4:4). The devil tried to distort biblical revelation, but when Jesus answered with the correct interpretation, the devil had no place to go. Jesus’s example should be the model the Church uses to overcome temptations and to defeat the attacks coming from the forces of darkness.
If you have paid attention over the last fifty years, the enemies of the cross have dedicated almost every breath to convince the world, and the Church, that the truth does not exist, and if it exists no one can know what it is. The truth is the most powerful weapon in our spiritual arsenal. Therefore, Christians must dedicate most of their time in knowing and understanding the truth.
Faith is the second weapon we have to win our personal battles, as well as our corporate ones. Our faith is the controlling element in how we respond to God, relate to the world, and overcome trials. On one occasion Jesus told the disciples that they needed to forgive their neighbors seventy times seven. The disciples felt that Jesus’s standard was too high for them, and they responded to Jesus by saying, “increase our faith,” (Luke 17:5). They were basically saying that they were not strong enough spiritually to totally depend on God to exercise forgiveness to those who offended them.
In another place the apostle John said: “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1 John 5:4). When John said that our faith overcomes the world, he was making reference to both, the faith that received Jesus’s gift of eternal life, and the totality of our lives as we live in the Church and in relationship to the world. In other words, when our daily walk is totally depending on God’s grace, this faith defeats the world.
Love is the third weapon we have to win our battles. The love we are talking about here is not the emotional connection between a husband and wife, or between parents and their children. In this context love is the weapon that is contrary to hatred, anger, revenge, and violence. This love is a selfless dedication to becoming more and more like Christ. God’s love was so vast that he, who is holy and pure, chose to become a human in order to save us from our depravity and rebellion. The apostle Paul stated that we need to “let love be genuine” (Romans 12:9). He followed this statement by saying “abhor what is evil.” When the apostle juxtaposed these two statements, he made a direct connection between genuine love and rejecting evil. The apostle Paul told the Ephesians church that he wanted us “to know the love of God that surpasses knowledge” (Ephesians 3:19). This love produces a fullness of God in our lives. To the Colossians Paul said that “love…binds everything in harmony” (Colossians 3:14). When people are motivated by “agape” love, they can transform the world around them.
Some of you may have noticed that I did not include prayer as one of the top three weapons. The reason is that prayer without truth, faith, and love, is ineffective. You must remember that Jesus was not able to prevent the devil’s temptations even though he had been in prayer and fasting for 40 days. However, when the temptations came, he repelled them with the word of God. Prayer then, is not a weapon. Our prayer life should be the evidence that we have surrendered our lives to Christ, and that we are dependent on God’s strength to provide the cover we need to survive the enemy’s relentless attacks.
This exposition was not meant to be exhaustive because of the space it would require, but I wanted to give a brief summary to continue developing a coherent strategy. In our strategic development we now know that we are fighting a defensive war, and we know the three most potent weapons we have against the enemy. (NEXT: having a working knowledge of the enemy’s capabilities).