The Art of Spiritual War

Since we are in a battle, what lessons of war can we learn and apply to our spiritual fight?

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Please make sure you have read my previous post “Take Ground in your Battleground.” This week’s post is a continuation of the previous article.


“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33 NIV

The glorious news of Jesus’s victory on the cross is that He defeated sin and death forever! He has the ultimate victory which we share a part of as Christians. That is not to say that we are not in a battle; we are called to equip the armor of God and realize that we do not fight against flesh and blood.

Since we are in a battle, what lessons of war can we learn and apply to our spiritual fight?

Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” is one of the world’s most famous military texts. In researching it, I found that there are some basic principles we can apply to our battle with spiritual warfare. It’s not meant to be a 1 for 1 comparison, but there are some interesting parallels I found if it is interpreted as an allegory for our battles as Christians.

 

Choose your battles

“He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.” – Sun Tzu

We should not seek out a fight with the enemy unless we are specifically directed by God. A good example is going into a new age bookstore trying to cast out demons! Remember the Sons of Sceva in Acts 19? We should be ready for battle at all times and fight to keep God the focus of our jobs, families, and communities.

We have no power on our own apart from the power of God’s Spirit in us. The enemy is powerless when he recognizes the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead dwells in us. We cannot be so bold as to think we have any authority on our own.

 

Timing is essential

“The quality of decision is like the well-timed swoop of a falcon which enables it to strike and destroy its victim.”  -Sun Tzu

Ecclesiastes talks about how there is a time for everything, a time to laugh, a time to cry, a time to rejoice, and a time to mourn. Only by discernment from the Holy Spirit can we ensure that we are not taking action in a self-righteous or self-serving way. Are we pushing the gospel upon someone when we should just show him kindness? Do we ask for something that only serves our needs (like winning the lottery) without seeking the heart of God for His will?

We may have the best intentions, but without God’s timing, they are irrelevant. Spirit-inspired decision-making relies on knowing when to move and when to rest.

 

Know yourself, know the enemy

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” – Sun Tzu

As far as knowing ourselves, this doesn’t mean that we use a self-reliance and self-help type of approach. We need to know who we are in Jesus. We need to know that we are children of God, called to be holy before Him as we commit our ways to His. Our identity cannot be in something that can be taken away from us. Our identity is in Jesus who is the author and perfecter of our faith (Heb. 12:2).

In knowing our enemy, the Bible says that we are not unaware of his schemes (2 Cor. 2:11). We need to understand that Satan is looking for Christians to devour, to take off the battlefield, and to leave ineffective for God and His Kingdom. We do not need to study all the little details of the demonic and occult to be able to understand that we need the full armor of God in order to withstand these attacks (Eph. 6).

 

Count the cost

“He who wishes to fight must first count the cost.” – Sun Tzu

This sounds surprisingly familiar to the lesson of Jesus in Luke 14:28: “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?” Jesus finished this analogy by saying, “In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples” (v. 33).

Christians often do not know what they are signing up for when they accept Jesus. They may have been told incorrectly that following Jesus leads to wealth and prosperity. They may have been promised healing or freedom from an earthly problem. To properly count the cost as a Christian, you must be willing to give everything over to God without knowing whether or not you will get it back. We should be eternally thankful for the redemption we have from death in our sins. True joy in God allows us to find peace with having a relationship with our Savior for all of eternity and not for what we can hope to achieve here on Earth.

God may never ask us to give up everything; it may just depend on how much it has a grip on our lives. Remember the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:21? Jesus asked him to give up everything he had and follow Him. Why? Jesus did not ask anyone else to give up that much. It was not a requirement to follow Jesus even though the disciples did leave behind their old life. Jesus saw that the riches of the young ruler were a stumbling block for him. The ruler followed the commandments but kept asking what he needed to do to get eternal life. Jesus knew his heart and knew that the young ruler loved his riches more than the thought of following Jesus fully.

 

Two or three

“Great results can be achieved with small forces.” – Sun Tzu

Remember Gideon and his relatively small army of 300 from Judges 7 that was able to defeat a much larger enemy because God was on his side? The size of the enemy does not matter, only the size of the God that lives inside you!

Jesus also clarified “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” (Matt. 18:20). If you are in a battle, make sure that you have someone with you, a brother or sister in the Lord, a spouse, a pastor, an elder, a parent, etc. Whoever can lift you up in prayer in your situation is someone you need to lean on during the times of attack. Do not try and go it alone.

Even predators in the wild do not like to attack a herd; they wait for stragglers to wander off and then make off with the easy target. Remember our enemy the Devil roams around like a roaring lion (1 Pet. 5:8). He will try and attack you when you feel alone and weak. Don’t be an easy target!

Discerning Reflection: How do I choose my battles and know if the timing is of the Lord or not? Have I truly counted the cost for what it means to fully follow Jesus? Do I have accountability and support from others in my life that I can be vulnerable with?

Prayer: Lord, help me understand the battle that I face. Help me know that I am fully equipped to fight it if I rely on You and Your power. I pray that I would be a faithful soldier for You in all I do. Amen.

 

Tim Ferrara

Discerning Dad

 

 

This is an updated edition of a post originally published on discerning-dad.com

Featured Image By Unsplash

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About the Author

Tim Ferrara, Founder of Discerning Dad (www.discerning-dad.com). Background in the church all my life. Management experience in the work place. Elder at church and Chairman of the Board of Directors. Husband and father.