Three spiritual warfare principles
As we cheer on the Olympians, we may also find some useful strategies for engaging our enemy and celebrating our own victory in Jesus Christ.
Do you like to lose? Who does? Just like athletes, Christians are called to train hard for victory: “You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally” (1 Cor. 9:24-25 MSG).
The Tokyo 2020 Olympics invites us to both hone and take joy in our competitive strategies and disciplines in our war against our enemy, the devil. As we watch, we, too, can be “like a champion rejoicing to run his course” (Ps. 19:5 NIV). Athletes study videos to learn from their competitors and also to spot weaknesses. Although I’m not an athlete or even a big sports fan, I do love to win, and I’ve also gleaned helpful lessons from cinema.
In First Knight, a movie based on the British King Arthur legend, Richard Gere stars as Sir Lancelot. Marveling over Lancelot’s dazzling swordfighting skills, an opponent he’d beaten asks him, “How did you do that? Could I do it? Tell me; I can learn.”
Flashing a self-assured smile, Lancelot replies with three things he considers necessary to win a fight:
“You have to study your opponent, how he moves, so you know what he’s going to do before he does it.”
“I can do that,” the man says with a confident shrug.
“You have to know that one moment in every fight when you win or lose, and you have to know how to wait for it.”
“And I can do that,” the man responds again, looking curious to hear the third clue.
“And you have to not care whether you live or die.”
The questioner just stares, speechless.
We find these three universal strategies clearly laid out in Scripture for us to apply to our daily needs:
Principle #1: Know the enemy
We’re “not oblivious to [Satan’s] sly ways” (2 Cor. 2:11 MSG). In 2010, when asked by a pre-believing friend to pray for her in her dire domestic straits, I was disappointed that she did not choose to invite Jesus into her life to help her. Still, attempting to honor her request, I began binding adverse spirits through prayer. However, I came up with a list too long for my journal, so I started a spreadsheet. That spiritual inventory now contains the names of 284 spirits which I, and the friends who have partnered with me, have identified and annotated with Scriptures that we use to identify and to immobilize incoming attackers. The first couple who completed it together were faced with a family situation that was causing my friend to awaken in the night in tears. Counseling was not resolving the impasse. But when the three of us believers sat down to identify and bind the attacking spirits based on the inventory, they experienced freedom which enabled them to then pray likewise on behalf of the family member they were in conflict with. Within three days there was a breakthrough, and that friend is now using the inventory to help a friend of hers through a family dilemma. We need to be clear about who the enemy is and help each other to become be aware of his schemes.
Principle #2: Timing
“There is a time for everything” (Ecc. 3:1 NIV). I watched a movie about the samurai Musashi. At one point, he squares off against his enemy, circling silently for hours on a snowy night. Both are waiting for the moment when the other is off-guard. In the same way, victory comes to us when the Spirit says, “Now!” and we obey. This is the second revision of this article which I have written. The first did not include a mention of the spiritual inventory. But now, as we prepare to present Japan’s first four-day HeartChange Workshop here in Shizuoka (beginning September 13) we will need to be a bit more aggressive in countering enemy attacks if we are to attain victory. Today, September 10, I invited some of my colleagues to run through the inventory with me. It’s important to be sensitive to the Spirit about timing.
Principle #3: Not caring whether we live or die
Not caring whether we live or die frees us to experience the victory Jesus has already won for us, knowing that whatever happens to our physical bodies, we are safe with Him. Though sorely tested, Job was able to declare of his Lord, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust him” (Job 13:15 KJV). Several of us on the workshop staff are dealing with medical issues that could be distracting or potentially debilitating. To win deliverance, salvation, and healing for the four-day workshop participants, we need to keep our eyes on Christ our Healer who alone has the power over life and death.
Are these three principles adequate to guarantee us a win every time? No, but thanks be to God, we have the master military manual in our hands. It is the sword of the Spirit and includes many other essential principles of warfare. For example, since the spiritual war occurs in our minds (2 Cor. 10:4–5), it is there that we must win every battle, as Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane before facing the cross. An excellent book by Steve and Wendy Backlund recommends daily declarations for building our faith.1 The Bible tell us: God is on my side. Therefore, I declare that I cannot be defeated (Rom. 8:37; Ps. 91; Phil. 4:13). In order to win every battle, we must believe that because of Jesus’ completed work on the cross, we cannot be defeated unless we simply give up. In the war between good and evil, the stakes are much higher than on the Olympic field. Despite his brilliant battle strategies and celebrated moral rectitude, Lancelot, and Camelot with him, fell on principle #3. He forgot that death should have been preferable to the fleeting pleasure of violating his liege lord’s wife, Queen Guinevere. Ultimately, the victory Jesus won for us at the cross is not merely over the enemy of our souls, but it is the rewarding transformation of our own fallen human nature into the likeness of Christ. Taking Job as our example, may we each declare in triumph, “When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10 NASB). See you in the Winner’s Circle!
- Steve and Wendy Backlund, Igniting Faith in 40 Days: The Power of Hope, Declarations, and Negativity Fasts (Igniting Hope Ministries, 2012), 42.