Understanding the Battle behind Spiritual Warfare
To understand the battle of spiritual warfare, we need to begin with acknowledging that we are in a war. Battles make up smaller components of the bigger picture. By definition, battles involve combat between two persons, between factions, between armies and they consist of any type of "extended contest, struggle, or controversy" (Webster-Merriam). As Christians, we are in a spiritual battle of some sort on a daily basis. In warfare, battles are fought on different fronts, for different reasons, and with varying degrees of intensity. The same is true in spiritual warfare. Our spiritual battles and warfare are real, even though we cannot physically see the attacker. But, we can educate ourselves on how the battles are fought and how they impact our lives on a daily basis.
We have to ask ourselves, “Why do we even want to fight spiritual warfare?” It will do us no good to educate ourselves on the battle if we see no reason for the fight. War is very controversial today in the physical realm. Those attitudes, beliefs and convictions will transfer over to the spiritual realm. However, in the spiritual realm, there is a battle going on regardless of our opinion. We are either victors or victims. Jesus has come and conquered. The war is already won in the heavens.
Jesus told us in Matthew 28:18 that, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” We now have the privilege of having an eternal relationship with God. Many of us enter into that covenant of salvation by grace. But the Matthew 28:18 verse is not only about our salvation; it is also about our every day victory, which adds up to victorious living in Christ. Every day victory is achieved by knowing, believing and understanding the battles that we are enduring daily, regardless if we are passive or active in the battles.
Do you want all that God has for you on this earth right now, or do you want to wait until you get to heaven to receive the victory and blessings?
This Bible study on Understanding the Battle of Spiritual Warfare will give us a foundation on where, how and what the battles look like in our lives. We are going to examine three main areas of where the battles are fought: the Spiritual Battle, the Worldly Battle, and the Battle Within Us. We will review and discuss what the Bible says regarding these areas and will learn how to apply the scriptures to our personal lives to bring victory over these battles. It begins with learning the truth of God's Word and dispelling the lies of the enemy.
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Part I: The Spiritual Warfare Battle
How do we know that there is a spiritual realm? If we cannot see it, should we believe in it? Many believers and unbelievers today do not want to “deal” with a world we cannot see when the world we do see is hard enough to “deal” with. Before we can discuss the spiritual battle, we have to believe in the spiritual realm. We have a tendency to act like a two-year-old child who closes her eyes and places a blanket over her head, really believing that no one can see her because she cannot see them. Just because we cannot see the spiritual realm does not mean it is not there.
Keith Green, a Christian song writer, wrote, “I [Satan] used to have to sneak around. But now they just open their doors. No one’s looking for my tricks because no one believes in me any more.” However, if we choose to ignore or not believe in the spiritual realm, we will find ourselves confused, frustrated, and quenching the peace that God has promised to each of us. The best defense is a strong offense. Just educating ourselves about the spiritual realm is half the fight and God gives us everything else we need to be victorious with the other half.
Question 1: What words used in the verses below describe the spiritual realm and its invisible components?
According to Hebrews 11:3, what is required for us to believe?
What does that mean to you?
We all have an innate sense that there is more than what the eye can see. However, since we do not see it, we often fail to believe in it. If we do not believe in it, then we cannot be aware of all that is going on, for and against us. Whether we choose to believe in the existence of spiritual beings and places does not change the fact of their existence and their activities. Let’s step back a minute to assess what we do believe. As Christians, it took faith to believe in Jesus Christ. We cannot see Him but we believe that He died on the cross for our sins. We believe that God raised Him from the dead and we believe that He alone is the source of our eternal salvation.
All those beliefs are not physically seen by us today. We believe Jesus accomplished these things in the spiritual realm when He lived in the physical realm on earth. We know that we, too, need to believe in this physical realm to be welcomed into His spiritual realm. Thus, it is faith that confirms to our hearts that we will be going to a very real place called heaven someday. The Bible is filled with references to the heavenly realm or a place that is invisible to our eyes physically today, yet very real in its existence. We believe with the eyes of our heart, instead of with the eyes in our head. There have been others who were able to see with their physical eyes into the spiritual realm.
Question 2: From the following Biblical examples, describe the scene. What is taking place in each situation?
The stories above represent two different scenarios of activity that are taking place in the invisible realm around us. God allowed these men to bridge the gap in the physical realm to see into the spiritual realm. The Lord opened the eyes of Elisha's servant to see the host of God's army. His spiritual eyes were opened to see into the spiritual warfare around him. And only Daniel saw the angel standing before him as everyone else felt the "terror" and fled from the scene. Daniel was granted an access to see, hear and speak spiritually, as he could communicate with the angel.
These examples clearly demonstrate the workings of an invisible spiritual realm around us. The Lord is with us and provides for us through His angels as He chooses. The Lord loves us and protects us physically as He works it out spiritually. However, we must be extremely careful of not delving into this place with the wrong motives. The Bible explicitly warns against the practice of spiritual fascinations. Just as the agents of God exist in this invisible place, so do the agents of Satan. The demonic forces want to lure us into their deceptions of power and supernatural activities. Witchcraft, horoscopes and psychic phenomenon can seem innocent on the surface yet are a dangerous influence causing great harm to those who get involved.
Question 3: There are those who believe that fortune telling, horoscopes and ouija boards are harmless fun, but what does the Bible say?
Have you ever been involved or participated in these types of activities? Discuss what happened and how it started.
We have learned in this first section that the spiritual realm, these invisible or unseen forces, is real. If we believe in Jesus Christ, then we believe that He died to conquer the works of the devil to set us free. There would have been no need to come to die for us if this is all there is. There are forces, both angelic and demonic, that are actively working around us. There is evil that we fight in our spiritual warfare. Jesus told us to pray for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. He told us that the gates of hell will not prevail against the work that God has purposed for us to accomplish, as His will is being worked out in our lives.
But we do hit opposition. We need to understand that the battle is not against flesh and blood but against powers in the heavenly places. As we begin to get a revelation of spiritual warfare, we will begin to understand how the enemy moves against us in the physical realm.
Job is a perfect example of a spiritual conflict that was manifested in the physical form. Job was a real human being living here on earth, but the Bible gives us a clear look at what was happening concerning Job’s life in the spiritual realm. God looked upon Job as a righteous man but, because Satan wanted to prove God wrong, Job became the victim of Satan’s attacks. Job’s family, finances and home were destroyed and his health and friends turned against him. Job experienced very real physical and circumstantial conflicts because of the conflict in the spiritual realm. Job also became the victor because of his faithfulness to God in words and actions throughout the trial. His victory was spiritual, physical and material…on earth as it is in heaven.
In the next section, we need to examine more closely the Worldly Battle. Why is the planet or the world in a battle in the first place? What factors play a role in this battle in our physical lives? Is there anything that we can do on this large scale?
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Part II: The Worldly Battle
The Strong’s Greek and Hebrew dictionary defines the “world” as the “earth (as moist and therefore inhabited); by extensive the globe; by implication its inhabitants; specifically a participle land, as Babylonia, Palestine: habitable part, world.” The world is where people dwell. So the pattern of this world (Romans 12:2) refers to how the people collectively choose to live on the earth. We, as believers, are told to not conform to the norms of how others live but to live to please God, who is not of this world. Jesus said in John 17:14-16, “I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” So, we are called to live in the world but not be a part of the world. Let’s study this passage more closely to understand what the Lord desires from us.
Question 4: In John 17, Jesus gives a clear message through His prayer to the Father about the seriousness of our lives in this "world." From the text below, circle the word "world" and underline (or highlight) every reference to Jesus or God the Father.
“I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. Now they have known that all things which You have given Me are from You. For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me. “I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them. Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth. “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will[believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17:6-26)
What does verse 14 say about the world and us?
What does Jesus ask on our behalf in verse 15?
What is the main point of Jesus' prayer for us (verse 21)?
In your own words, how would you describe the Christian' s place in this world?
After reading John 17, it becomes clear that if we are in the world but not of the world, we are going to have conflicts. Those conflicts are spiritual warfare. Why? Because the physical manifestations of the world, such as the trees, the ocean, and the sky are not the problem. It is the forces that control the world that are in conflict with God. We, as Christians, are God’s children. Thus, if the world is in conflict with God, the world is also in conflict with us. The prayer of John 17 expresses the heart of Jesus, as He knows the battles that we will face in this world. The world hates those who follow Jesus. We are not called to be of the world, or worldly, but we are sent in to the world to be a witness of Jesus Christ.
This is a miraculous calling and it takes the miracle of the Holy Spirit living in us to fulfill it. It also takes training to discern between the ways of God and the ways of the world. Because we are born into this world, we naturally think according to it. We have to be transformed to understand God’s ways instead (Romans 12:3). God’s ways are not natural to us. We constantly need to crucify our natural inclinations and desires to receive all that God has for us.
God’s gifts are far greater as they are filled with love, joy and peace than what the world offers. The world promises instant satisfaction and pleasures that fulfill the desires of our flesh, a tempting offer but one that Christians must be constantly on guard against. Jesus understood the temptations of the world. He knew that Satan would use every kind of enticement possible to lure man's heart away from God. Jesus also knew how difficult it would be for those who believe in Him but do not remain faithful due to the cares of the world.
Question 5: Look up Mark 4:1-20 to answer the following questions.
What is being sown? See verse 14.
Briefly describe the scenarios of how the seed is sown and what happens to each.
How does the world influence a new believer and what is the result? See verse 19.
The battles of spiritual warfare are intense when a person decides to accept Jesus as their Savior. The enemy will attack from all angles, hoping to dissuade the person from fully giving their heart to Jesus. He will use circumstances, events, people, things and even doubt in their minds to steal their heart back to his ways. The seeds that are sown in people's hearts will either take root on good soil, which is a heart fully surrendered to the Lord. Or, they will be sown in places where the word is snatched away from them until they fall away. These types of battles are fought in the world but involve the spiritual forces of darkness that exist in the invisible realm around us.
Once we are made aware of the world's influences and how they are in contrast to God's ways, we must then learn how to operate in the world as a true follower of Christ. It is one thing to be naive to the world's deceptions, claiming innocence by ignorance, but once the truth is revealed, we have a responsibility to obey the Lord's directions for us.
Question 6: What does James 4:1-4 say about our relationship with the world? How can you personally apply this verse to your life?
Part III: The Spiritual Warfare Battle Within Us
For some of us, the hardest battles of spiritual warfare are fought within ourselves. We can understand the circumstances and situations that the enemy uses to destroy us. We can accept the truth of how the world lures and tempts us. We can understand to some degree that the battle in the spiritual realm is ongoing and real, even though we cannot see it. But, to get a grasp on what is going on within our own hearts and minds can be the hardest, most exhausting, battle of them all.
In this section, we are going to explore what the Bible teaches about the war within us, the constant struggle between flesh and spirit. Our battle with sin “wars” within our members.
Question 7: To begin to examine the battle within us we must first understand its nature. The desires of the flesh are part of our human nature and its history goes back to the beginning of time, as we know it.
Describe the setting in which the word "sin" is first used in the Bible. See Genesis 4:3-7.
What was God's warning to Cain?
Have you ever felt that overwhelming desire within you to let sin master over you? We make decisions according to how we think, feel and want. So, at times, we find ourselves struggling with anger, bitterness and hatred leading us into areas of temptation. But God tells us to fight against those sinful feelings. We must learn to fight against the very nature within us. Paul tells us to put off the old nature and put on the new man (Colossians 3:8-13). The Lord has given us His Spirit who will empower us to overcome but we must be willing to allow Him the authority to be in control of our emotions and behaviors.
Question 8: From the following verses, describe the battle of flesh versus spirit.
How do these examples reflect similar situations in your life?
We suffer in our flesh, whether we feed its desires or deny its pleasures. We are constantly battling between what we want to do versus what we know the Lord wants us to do. "All have sinned and fall short" but the blood of Christ has saved us from destruction. The battle is waged because we are given the power to overcome sin's grasps. There is no battle when there is no opposing side. It takes two to fight. When we are dead in our trespasses, there is no spiritual battle within us because there is no spiritual life. The Spirit of God brings us to life spiritually, yet we live in these bodies of flesh that still have a sinful nature. Thus, the battle rages in the lives of believers but the victory is assured because we are in Christ.
Question 9: From 1 Peter 4:1-6, answer the following questions:
What is the advantage of suffering in the flesh?
Describe the sins of the past (of the Gentiles).
What happens when we decide to follow the will of God? See verse 4.
At this point, we have to ask ourselves a few questions like “Is Christianity about fighting and suffering or about love and joy? Isn’t the Christian life about peace? Didn’t Jesus do it all so I would not have to? Do I really have to think this much about my faith when it only took one prayer to be saved?” Even if most Christians do not conscientiously ask these questions, their lives reflect the answer. The Christian life is not passive. Jesus told us in Luke 9:23, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.”
Christians are not living the abundant life of love, joy, and peace because they are unaware of how to maintain and claim those promises. Jesus promised us an abundant life that starts here on earth. Until we understand the forces that are against us, and are prepared to fight for what is rightfully ours, we will not be able to receive all that God has for us.
Jesus Christ came to earth in the flesh. He lived a life of much suffering as He denied the desires of His flesh and the temptations of the enemy. Our flesh will suffer just like Jesus but we can be victorious just like Jesus. The victory may not look the same as defined by the world, but nothing compares to a life that is victorious in the ways of God. Think about it: Don’t you want the desires of your heart fulfilled? Don’t you want to know that God heard your prayers and then answered them? Don’t you desire to be all that God wants you to be because He is so good that He only gives you good things? And don’t you want to have all that God wants you to have because He wants the best for you? Don’t you want to do even greater things than Jesus did because you know the Lord and love Him?
If you answered, “Yes. Oh Lord, help me, change me, send me. Don’t let anything prevent me from being all that You want me to be or from receiving all that You want me to receive.” Then, you have to accept that there are forces set against you to prevent you from having any of theses things fulfilled in you. And we must fight those forces in the spiritual realm, worldly realm and within ourselves.
Question 10: What have you learned in this lesson regarding the spiritual warfare and battles in your life? How will you apply what you have learned to your life?
Pray over Spiritual Warfare:
Lord, there are parts of me that do not want to understand the spiritual realm because it seems too scary and too foreign. However, I do realize that I am not where You want me to be. I want to understand what it takes to be victorious. So I ask that You will give me a discerning spirit and I ask that I can be equipped to become victorious. Open my eyes to see and my ears to hear and then, change me for eternal purposes.
In Jesus Christ name, I pray,
Related Podcast Resouce: Is God Still Good When Life Hurts? How to Speak Truth Over Our Fears
We've probably all had seasons that left us fighting to catch our breath–and hold tight to our hope. During those painful periods, we might begin to doubt the heart, power, and goodness of God. In this episode of the Faith Over Fear Podcast, Susie Larson, childhood trauma survivor, chronic Lyme fighter, and biblically anchored writer answers the question she herself wrestled with: Is God still good when life hurts? To hear her conversation with host Jennifer Slattery, click the play button below:
Photo credit: Getty Images/Zeferli
Taken from the Bible study Spiritual Warfare by Tonilee Adamson and Bobbye Brooks, and used by permission of Daily Disciples.
Daily Disciples Ministries, Inc., founded by Tonilee Adamson and Bobbye Brooks, embraces a vision to reach the world for Christ by teaching others how to be His daily disciples. Their mission is to evangelize the lost and to re-awaken the saved to live lives empowered by the Word of God and His Holy Spirit, and to teach and to train those who desire to grow, to serve and to have all that God has for them…encouraging everyone to be a daily disciple of Jesus Christ. From Bible studies to daily devotionals to daily radio programs to a comprehensive discipleshipprogram, Bobbye & Tonilee have a passion to help others apply the Word.