Words from Charles Spurgeon’s “Spiritual Warfare in a Believer’s Life” struck me today.
“Unbelief is the source of our chief weakness.”
As I learn more about the spiritual battle raging around us, awareness of the precariousness of our minds and hearts makes me more determined to build a steadfast faith. It also shocks me I lived in ignorance for so long.
Throughout his book, Spurgeon explains the temptation of Jesus in the desert in a way that lays bare the enemy’s tactics. He comes at us with doubt, appeals to pride and comfort. The same temptations he used on Jesus, he uses on us. One would think it would be more complicated than that, but it’s not. And we keep falling for it.
Jared C. Wilson, in his book “The Gospel According to Satan,” breaks it down even more.
“The enemy attacks by appealing to satisfaction, beauty, and pride.”
Our weapon against these temptations is just as simple and steadfast:
Sword = the Truth of God’s Word.
Know your enemy
Awareness is vital for engaging in any kind of battle. Even Sun Tzu’s Art of War talks about knowing your enemy. If we do not understand how the enemy attacks, how are we to defend ourselves? Denying the battle altogether is even more dangerous.
My headlong dive into the depths of hell on earth began with baby steps. First, I was a new Christian, high on salvation. But I did not take the enemy or spiritual warfare seriously. Next, subtle, small temptations evolved into horrible behaviors I gradually lost control over. I gave in to the attacks at such small intervals of acceptance that it was hard to recognize.
Along with all that came doubt. I questioned, I paid attention to the enemy’s planted whispers that cultivated doubt. “If God loves you, then why…” I felt justified and right in my choices; I deserved (fill in the blank). The result was horror, and to minimize it with nicer words would diminish the severity of the consequences.
Jesus describes what happens perfectly:
“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.” (Matthew 12:43–45, NIV)
The consequences of even a smidge of unbelief are why I fear the enemy so strongly now. I know impure spirits continue to knock on my door.
My faith is stronger now than it’s ever been, but even now, I have nightmares. They used to be much worse, more horrifying, but they always feel real, as if by appealing to my unconscious state a door will open. The dreams contain many of the temptations that caught me up before, stirring feelings of inadequacy, anger, belligerence, and entitlement.
Except now I see the dreams for the lies they are. Somehow, I learned to fight in my sleep. In my unconscious state, I defiantly scream, “I belong to Jesus!” Over and over, louder and louder. It takes repetition, but I wake up feeling as if I was just in a fight physically and emotionally. Once my husband told me, he could hear me talking in my sleep. I can’t always remember Scripture, but my fallback position is to call on the power that is the name of Jesus.
Sword of scripture
Unbelief shows up in different ways. We humans like to intellectualize or make sense of God’s plans for us. Why does God allow (fill in the blank)? Why does He not answer my prayers? What did I do to deserve (fill in the blank)?
As an excessive ruminator, I had to learn to stop that. It remains a struggle.
God’s Truth is simple: He loves us, we belong to Him; we are blameless in His sight, there is no condemnation for our past when we are forgiven. We are made new. God’s ways do not make sense and they need not make sense to us. He never promised us a life without hardship and pain, but He promised to never leave us. We are His.
Our single weapon, the one weapon Jesus used repeatedly during His temptation, was the Word. Spurgeon preaches that using the same words, “It is written…” will defeat the enemy every time. Scripture memorization, hiding His Word in our hearts is not just a solid practice for good Christians, it builds an arsenal of undefeatable weapons.
Memorization is not my thing. I was never good at it. I can remember songs, though, and there are countless songs filled with scripture. No matter the method, the goal is to hide the Word in my heart. When the enemy comes at me with temptations of satisfaction, beauty, or pride, I feel more confident in wielding the power of the name of Jesus whether I am awake or sleeping.
Simplify the Truth in your heart. Believe the simple truth that you belong to God, that God loves you, that God is always with you, and you need not understand what He’s doing. When you feel doubt, when you feel the questions rising, take it as a sign to cling to Him and abide in His Love. Trust in Him and wield the Truth.