How to Train for Spiritual Warfare
Most of us have never seen a real, live war. We’ve heard about them, read about them, watched documentaries and movies on them… but never have we been on the forefront of battle. Neither have we experienced the hardships of living in a war-torn country where skirmishes take place in our own towns. These are circumstances we've only lived vicariously – through the televised or novelized accounts of others.
When we become used to living in relative physical ease and comfort, we are blinded to the war-torn tragedy suffered by millions around the world. We forget what real hardships are, and we forget that we are living in a spiritual war. Because when we forget that we are soldiers, we stop fighting, and lose our effectiveness as Christians in this world.
We have to open our hearts to embrace the uncomfortable reality of our identity: if we are Christians, then we are soldiers. There is no way around it. Being a soldier is hard work. It is even harder for those of us whom God calls not only to be soldiers, but to be captains in His army.
"Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." -Ephesians 6:11-12
Your fight may be against personal temptations. It may be fighting to love. It may be fighting apathy, fear, sin and selfishness in order to share the Gospel. It may be literally fighting for justice for those who are wrongfully imprisoned and oppressed. It may be fighting to provide food and water for those who have nothing. It may be fighting cultural norms with the truth of Holy love on your college campus.
No matter what each of our fights look like – just as there are many branches of the military each with their own responsibility, so it is with us – we cannot succeed in holding our posts and fulfilling God’s commands if we are not training for war.
"Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come." -1 Timothy 4:8
Yet, for all the difficulty involved in our calling, there is a reward. We do not fight for sake of fighting alone – we fight for love, truth, goodness and beauty. We fight to save souls, glorify Jesus, and remind people there is still good in this world, and it’s worth fighting for.
So, how do we train for battle?
- Prayer. There is nothing more powerful than prayer. What we cannot do, God can. Anything that we set our hands to, as Psalm 127:1 says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.” Even Nehemiah spent months praying before taking any action on what he knew God was calling him to do; he knew that only God could prepare his heart and prepare the way for him to move forward. We must take our cue from Jesus who got up early in the morning while it was still dark to find time away from the distractions of people and to-do lists to simply pour out His heart before His Father. Early mornings may not work for you, but it is vital that you make time in your schedule to regularly come aside from ALL distractions, no matter what time of day (or night) it is.
- Fasting. This is one that has been a struggle for me. There are many ways to fast – fasting from sweets, from social media/technology, from anything but fruits and vegetables, or from all food. Recently, I knew God was calling me to fast from everything but water for a day, but because I really did not want to, I rationalized my way out of obedience. I regretted it, and He gave me another chance to obey a couple days later by canceling some other appointments I’d had. I was able to fast, pray, read Scripture, and rest my body. Coming out of it, I realized the benefits of it – not only did it make me appreciate the taste of food even more, but it also strengthened my self-discipline. It helped me to learn to control myself, to deny myself from giving into impulses, and to be more attentive and obedient to the Lord. Fasting is meant to strengthen our spiritual self-control, as well as providing some health benefits!
- Scripture. This is the Sword of the Spirit. It is the way we become more like Him – we hide His word in our hearts so that we might not sin against Him (Psalm 119:11). Jesus said, “If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples” (John 8:31). If we don’t study His word, we’ll never know how to fight our battles. We’ll forget the battles He’s already fought for us, and lose courage in the ones coming up ahead. To memorize His words is to re-train our minds to speak a new language, to think a new way, to become a new person.
- Praise. This is one of the most potent weapons in overcoming negativity and selfishness. Praise is not something we feel – it is an attitude we choose. It is our thinking, speaking, writing, singing words that remind our weary selves of who God is. It is taking our eyes off ourselves and our circumstances and placing them on Him, reminding us of why we trust Him, why He is trustworthy. When the enemy wants nothing more than to drag us down into a sinkhole of sin, depression, despair, or complaining, praise gets our focus right again and reminds us that God is really true, good, and beautiful - He loves us, He has not forgotten us, and He is strengthening us to fight these battles.
You may be tempted to think, “But I’m a princess – I don’t want to fight! I don’t want to wield a sword, see blood or witness the horrors of battle. I want it all done for me. Isn’t that what Jesus did?”
Yes, Beloved, we are royalty – but royalty bears with it the price of responsibility. We are not our own. Jesus gave His life for our freedom, but now He has asks us to “share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.” (2 Timothy 2:3) and to “take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” (Ephesians 6:13).
Let’s take this life seriously, Beloved, putting on the armor of God, training ourselves in spiritual warfare, and engaging in the battle.
Image via Pinterest.