As a child, we will often find ourselves battling fears that have no apparent basis in reality. There is the monster in the closet, an evil transformation brought on by the dark, or the ravenous thing under the bed. As an adult, we seek to dismiss those fears as irrational and unnecessary. We want to convince our children that there is nothing to be afraid of; there is no unseen danger lurking in the darkness. When we encounter the Word of God, however, we find a great truth: we in fact do have an enemy who, though unseen, hunts us like a lion after sheep. Is it any wonder we seem so ill-equipped for spiritual warfare?
The Bible tells us that our enemy appears as an angel of light. It demonstrates that he knows the scriptures and will quote them. One of his names, Satan, means “father of lies” and so we can see that our enemy is cunning. He is described as a “roaring lion looking for someone to devour,” and Jesus said that he comes to “steal, kill, and destroy.” In fact, in Revelation we are told that he is given authority to make war on the saints. Not only is our enemy cunning, but he is powerful. He is far worse than the shadows of our childhood fears, and on our own we are powerless to resist him.
Our heavenly Father, however, did not leave us to face this enemy on our own. First, He is with us; more than that, he is within us. The Bible tells us that God, the Holy Spirit, lives inside of us (1 Corinthians 3:16). Ephesians 6 likens God’s provision to armor that shields and protects us, guarding our hearts and minds. And in 2 Corinthians 10 we are told we have weapons with “divine power to demolish strongholds…demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God.” If the enemy comes only to steal and kill and destroy, and Jesus came to destroy the devil’s work (1 John 3:8), then we are given weapons of mass construction that restore, revive, and build the kingdom of God. So, what are these weapons, and how do we use them?
In his armor of God illustration, Paul cleverly illustrates God’s provision for our defense and security. All the armor of God is standard issue for the child of God – provided by God and sustained by his power. At the close of that passage, Paul reveals these weapons of mass construction: “The sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God,” and prayer for the saints.
Jesus himself is the Living Word of God – God’s message manifest in human flesh. In Jesus we see what it looks like to live out God’s word. The Word of God is written as it proceeds from the Father, living as manifest in the Son, and experienced as it is applied to your life by the work of the Holy Spirit. It is the standard by which we evaluate ourselves and make right judgments. It is the foundation of our conversations, debates, and arguments. It is the light unto our path as we navigate this dark world. 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that “all scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” A sword is useful for defense as well as attack, and the Word of God – the sword of the Spirit – will help us overtake the strongholds of the enemy in the hearts of men and women while keeping us on track ourselves. Our job is to become proficient in using this weapon. In the military, you become so intimate with your rifle by breaking it down and cleaning it, re-assembling it, carrying it, and shooting it that it almost becomes a part of who you are…an extension of yourself. So it should be with God’s word. The difference is, you should become so intimately acquainted with the Word through reading it, memorizing it, studying it, and sharing it (with both believers and non-believers) that you become an extension of it.
Prayer, like the Word, is a powerful weapon against the enemy. Young Timothy, pastor in the church at Ephesus, was admonished to make prayer a priority as it “pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:1-4). Prayer is your connection to God. It is a relational interaction, not a religious habit. Prayer will first change you, and then through you it will change your circumstances. Prayer can accomplish salvation in the lives of others. It opens doors and breaks down strongholds in the hearts and minds of both the lost and the one who offers the prayer. It is an act of surrender to offer prayer unto God. In that surrender, God moves like a potter shaping the clay. Prayer connects us to God and fosters unity among the saints working against the enemy who works to divide and conquer.
We must be careful not to manipulate the Word to suit our expectations and desires, nor to think we can manipulate God through prayer if we just “ask with enough faith” or pray the right words. That is the sin of Satan – we would be joining him in his effort rather than surrendering to God. Perhaps the greatest single victory for the kingdom, where the gates of hell were bashed in and 3000 captives set free was at the day of Pentecost. In the days that followed more and more were added to that number every day. What brought that about? Devotion. The people of God were devoted to the apostles teaching (the Word of God) and to prayer. Later, as the enemy sought to derail this great victory, Peter would state that they could not neglect prayer and the ministry of the Word in order to “wait on tables.” In other words, “we cannot lay down our weapons and stop fighting in order to fill out a supply order.” This steadfast devotion advanced the kingdom of God.
If a security council sent a committee to search your life for weapons of mass construction, would they find any? Would the world find you in violation of its policies? Does the enemy have reason to be concerned with you, or are you no real threat to the army of darkness? “Take up the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:17, 18).