It’s been a couple of months since Joe made a profession of faith in Jesus. Initially, he was really excited about his new-found faith. He felt like the weight of the world had been lifted off his shoulders. He told everybody he could think of: his family, his neighbours, his friends, and even associates from his drug-dealing days.
The response was mixed. Some people were happy for him. Others were confused by what he was saying. A few people laughed at him and told him publicly but, recently, he has discovered that some people, including family members, were mocking him on social media.
Joe is very upset and angry. He’s not used to people treating him like this. People used to have respect for him. They used to fear him. He doesn’t know how to act. He doesn’t know what’s going on. He feels so confused.
One minute he is on top of the world and the next he is really depressed. One minute he is sure of God and the next he is full of doubts. Why are his friends and family being so dismissive of his new-found faith? Why can’t they be happy that he is trying to get his life in order? What’s happening to him?
During the first Gulf War in 1990, retreating Iraqi forces engaged in a ‘scorched earth’ policy—setting fire to as many Kuwaiti oil wells as they could. They had lost the war but still wanted to cause as much damage as they could to hamper the progress of the coalition forces as they moved back in. Their aim was merely to frustrate the advancing army in a final act of desperation.
This is exactly what is going on in Joe’s life right now. Colossians 2:14–15 teaches us that when Jesus went to the cross, God “disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” In other words, Jesus has fully and finally defeated the devil. All that the devil is doing now is engaging in his own scorched earth policy with his army of demons.
Joe is experiencing first-hand the reality of the spiritual battle that every person becomes involved in once they hand their lives over to Jesus Christ. This is part of what it means to ‘count the cost’ of being a Christian.
Hard, Narrow Path
Joe needs to learn that now, and for the rest of his life, he is in an all-out, no holds barred, spiritual war. Some people think that Christianity is a way to an easier, happier life. They assume that once someone gets right with God, then all will be fine with their world. Of course, it is true that when people, by faith, repent of their sins and look to Jesus for forgiveness, life does get better—at least it does spiritually speaking.
- It is true that eternal life is far better than eternal death.
- It is true that heaven is better than hell.
- It is false that life gets easier when we become a Christian.
- It is true that when people come to Jesus for new life, they are at the same time leaving their old life behind.
- It is true that when someone comes to Jesus, they have ‘switched sides’ on the spiritual battle going on for the souls of men, women, and children around the globe.
- It is true that King Jesus is far superior to the ruler they used to have in their life.
- It is false that this old ruler is going to go down without a fight.
- It is true that the devil is very angry and hostile to Jesus and is the sworn enemy of every Christian.
Now Joe, much like the rest of the world, had no idea that coming to Jesus would mean having to battle the devil and a load of demons! That seems a little bit weird and also terrifying at the same time. But, it is important for Joe to know the full story of the spiritual battle that he has now signed up for.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.(Eph. 6:12)
These truths will help Joe see that what he is experiencing is not new. It is not unique to him. Every single Christian in history has been through it. And every single Christian in the world is battling the enemy every single day of their lives. Joe needs to understand that this swirl of emotions he is caught in is a perfectly natural reaction to what is going on in his life.
In fact, Joe is fighting a coalition of evil. There is Satan, his old ruler, and his tag-team partners in crime—the flesh and the world. Together, these forces of darkness are seeking to kill Joe’s faith.
So Joe thinks to himself: This all sounds a bit hardcore. What’s the point of trying to be a Christian if I’ve got to go through this for the rest of my life? I might as well give up now, right?
The short answer to Joe’s question is: No! We could be tempted into thinking that it would be better to go back to our old way of life rather than face the trials and temptations of living for Jesus. But God has plans for all of His people, and those plans are ultimately good for us.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.(Rom. 8:28)
Even in the midst of our spiritual battles, God is working for our good. If God has given us a way to be forgiven in Jesus, don’t you think He will give us a way to be victorious in our warfare through Jesus? Of course He will! While we wage war, we do not go to battle unsure of our victory. We are to be entirely confident and assured that we will be victorious in our warfare. The same faith that was needed to initially trust God for salvation is the faith that will be continually needed to stand strong in our relationship with the Lord—even in the face of opposition.
Here are merely three (of many!) reasons we can have such confidence.
1. We are well protected.
Jesus secured our protection in His prayer for us to His Father. “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.” (John 17:15) Jesus has pledged God’s protection to us through His prayers for us. This is more than just protection from the devil; it’s also protection from our own sin. He has prayed for us so that our faith would not fail. This is why the Bible refers to Christians as, “. . . those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ.” (Jude 1)
2. We are well empowered.
When thinking about the spiritual battles we are facing, we may be tempted to despair. They seem to be massively strong influences, and Joe is concerned that he might not be strong enough to fight them. It’s one thing to think about a fist fight one-on-one, man-to-man. But this? How can he even begin to fight a spiritual battle against such strong enemies?
Well, Joe is right to question, but wrong to be concerned. The Bible tells us something amazing about God’s power working in us. Like a grown man doesn’t need to fear the strength of a toddler, so a Christian doesn’t need to fear the strength of our enemies, because God has given us His strength through His Spirit! “For he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)
3. We are well equipped.
God has not left us to fend for ourselves in coming up with a battle plan. Just as it is with our salvation, God has richly provided us with everything we need for life and godliness. This means that everything we need to be godly and and continue growing in our relationship with God has been given to us, including what we need to be found victorious in our spiritual war.
For instance, we are told that God has given us weapons with which to wage war. He didn’t give us rocket launchers with our Bibles, or physical swords when we finally understood the gospel. We don’t have flesh-and-blood enemies (for the most part), but spiritual ones. So understandably, the weapons He gave us are spiritual.
For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.(2 Cor. 10:3–4)