My wife and I were reading through Judges this morning about the story of Gideon. I think we sometimes over-glorify certain Bible characters because God used them to accomplish some amazing things in their day to bless God’s people. Despite God visiting and empowering Gideon to defeat the Midianites who were occupying Israel at the time, in fact, Gideon was a very fearful person and soon after his victory, he used the booty to make a golden image that became an idolatrous stumbling block to the nation. How different was Gideon’s life situation from ours!
How does the battle Gideon faced as an ancient Israelite apply to our lives as followers of Jesus in the 21st century? For Jesus, Paul and the other apostles, warfare was clearly not about waging literal war against other people. They were peacemakers, healers and ministers of reconciliation. They pulled back the curtain behind the visible world in which we live. Their lives and ministries exposed and dealt with the dark forces that are generally “pulling the strings” that create human strife, deceit, violence, idolatry, war, crime, abuse of authority, illness, relational breakdowns, and many more subtle evils in our world. Paul indicates that the same is true for us in Ephesians. We are called to be this kind of warrior.
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:10-17
I am all in favor of engaging in some of the more obvious activities that relate to our wrestling match with evil forces … focused prayer and fasting, speaking to power, delivering people from evil spirits, being practically engaged in our culture at large. However, I also think it is important to point out some of the softer counter-intuitive ways that we actually engage in our wrestling match with evil powers. We need to broaden our understanding of the battlefield and realize that some of our weapons are quite subtle in nature.
Here are a few that I think of:
- Regulating our big emotions that can trigger us to rely on our flesh.
- Speaking the truth in love to the people around us.
- Being long-suffering and patient.
- Keeping (and returning quickly to) our peace and remaining relational at all times and living in rest.
- Being tender in our responses to weakness in others.
- Spreading the joy of Jesus by looking into someone’s eyes and smiling.
- Trusting in God’s goodness when situations are challenging.
- Doing the next right thing God’s Spirit is inspiring you to do.
- Offering a hug to someone who is upset.
- Remaining curious when someone is upset with us.
I view these kinds of responses to living in an interactive relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as mighty and devastating weapons against the principalities of darkness. They may not seem very heroic, but they are! You and I can become these kinds of “spiritual warriors” in our spheres of influence.
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