© Mindaugas Dulinskas | istockphoto.com

Surviving Spiritual Conflict

FacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailReading Time: 5 minutes

The new Little League baseball player had just struck out. He ran to his father in tears. “He won’t let me hit it, Daddy!”

The father, although moved by his son’s tears, didn’t complain to the umpire or scream at the opposing pitcher. He gripped his son’s shoulders and faced him squarely. “He’s not supposed to let you hit it. His job is to pitch the ball. Your job is to hit it. That’s baseball.

We may smile at the child’s complaint. But we are not much different when we experience spiritual attacks, when temptations arise and circumstances conspire against us “just when things were going well.” If we are followers of Jesus, we should learn to expect spiritual warfare to come our way.

We should also learn to recognize spiritual conflicts. Not every mishap or misfortune is a spiritual attack. An unusual string of disappointments or setbacks is not necessarily a sign of spiritual warfare.

So what is? And, more to the point, once we recognize a spiritual attack, how should we respond?

Beware of spiritual warfare

There once was a king named Jehoshaphat. Part of his story is recorded in 2 Chronicles 20:

After this, the Moabites and Ammonites with some of the Meunites came to wage war against Jehoshaphat. Some people came and told Jehoshaphat, “A vast army is coming against you from Edom, from the other side of the Dead Sea. It is already in Hazezon Tamar” (vv. 1, 2).

The Bible doesn’t say straight out that this was a spiritual attack coming against Jehoshaphat. Biblical authors sometimes revealed that a particular attack came from an evil spirit. But not always.

However, notice that the verses above started with the words “After this.” These refer to chapter 19, which describes Jehoshaphat getting his spiritual house in order, starting to make spiritual reforms, and obeying God in a way he hadn’t done before.

That is one key to recognizing spiritual warfare. If you are just loping along, spiritually stagnant, not passionately pursuing God, wholeheartedly obeying Him, or reaching out and sharing your faith with others, you’re not likely to experience a spiritual attack. You might be a pawn in a spiritual attack on someone else. You might have plenty of problems. But if you are not posing any particular threat to influence the devil in this world, then your Enemy will probably leave you alone.

But when you or your church starts to make inroads — perhaps in new or adventurous ways — into the Enemy’s kingdom, you should beware of spiritual attacks. Just because things go wrong is no guarantee that you’re on the right track. But if you’re on the right track, you will be under attack.

So how do we survive spiritual conflict? Jehoshaphat’s example when he had to face an approaching army of Moabites, Ammonites, and Meunites also provides a helpful guide for how we’re supposed to respond to spiritual attacks. In fact, he did four things that we can emulate.

Seek the Lord

Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him (vv. 3, 4).

Jehoshaphat sought God’s guidance. He proclaimed a fast, uniting God’s people in humility, submission, and concentration on their need for God and His help. And he prayed. The Bible says Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah came together “to seek [God].”

If we want to overcome a spiritual attack, we must seek the Lord, listen to Him, engage in a fast, and focus our prayer efforts. We must humble ourselves and confess our sins. And we must pray, perhaps like never before.

Acknowledge your weakness and God’s strength

The second key to overcoming spiritual attacks is to acknowledge your weakness — and God’s strength. The story continues:

“Lord, the God of our ancestors, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you. . . . But now here are men from Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir, whose territory you would not allow Israel to invade when they came from Egypt; so they turned away from them and did not destroy them. See how they are repaying us by coming to drive us out of the possession you gave us as an inheritance. Our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you” (vv. 6, 10-12).

God longs to deliver us from the devil, but He will not do so until we let go of the reins of our own lives. As long as we think we can get through with our own cleverness or good looks — or even on our own “spirituality” — we cannot survive spiritual conflict.

We must come to terms with our own helplessness, or we won’t be prepared to survive spiritual conflict. And we must acknowledge God’s strength, reminding ourselves that nothing is too difficult for Him, including anything our Enemy may throw at us.

Acknowledge that the battle is not yours

When under spiritual attack, we must remember that we cannot engineer, manipulate, or strategize a victory in our own strength, as the biblical account makes clear:

All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the Lord. Then the Spirit of the Lord came on Jahaziel son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, a Levite and descendant of Asaph, as he stood in the assembly. He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s’” (vv. 13-15).

Jehoshaphat didn’t even have to fight that battle; God did it for him. That doesn’t mean Jehoshaphat did nothing. He still had to assemble his army and march them to a certain place and take up positions. But when Jehoshaphat had done all God told him to do, God did what
Jehoshaphat could not do.

It’s the same when we face spiritual attacks. We have a role to play. We have weapons. It’s just that, as 2 Corinthians 10:3, 4 says, we live in this world, but we don’t fight our battles as the world does. Our weapons are empowered by God “to demolish strongholds.” Letting God fight for you can be a tough position to take, especially if you like to be in control. But for us, as with Jehoshaphat, surrender and trust mark the line between victory and defeat.

Renew your commitment

The episode continues:
“Jehoshaphat bowed down with his face to the ground, and all the people of Judah and Jerusalem fell down in worship before the Lord” (2 Chronicles 20:18).

Take a moment to think back: What started the attack? The catalyst seems to be in chapter 19, when Jehoshaphat revived the worship of the Lord, restoring righteousness to Judah — obeying God in new and exciting ways. But then he received the news that the sky was falling, and enemies were throwing everything they had at him.

So when Jehoshaphat and all the people of Judah and Jerusalem fell down in worship before the Lord, they had come full circle. The enemy was defeated already, even before the cavalry left the stables, because they refused to give the enemy a foothold (Ephesians 4:27). Thus, when the people arrived at the battlefield, “they saw only dead bodies lying on the ground; no one had escaped” (2 Chronicles 20:24).

Our tendency when the Enemy attacks is to panic. We may start arguing among ourselves. We may let little irritations become major conflagrations. We may be distracted from the things that invited the attack — which may be exactly what our Enemy wants.

But we must be wiser than that. We must stay focused on God, keep our eyes on Jesus, concentrate on worshipping Him, obeying Him, serving Him, and leading others to Him, whatever anyone else may do. We must use the weapons God gives us: submission, trust, worship, prayer, and fasting. And then we may not only stand but may see the Enemy run.

Bob Hostetler
Latest posts by Bob Hostetler (see all)

Bob Hostetler is an award-winning author, literary agent, and speaker from southwestern Ohio. His fifty books, which include the award-winning Don’t Check Your Brains at the Door (co-authored with Josh McDowell) and The Bard and the Bible: A Shakespeare Devotional, have sold millions of copies. Bob is also the director of the Christian Writers Institute (christianwritersinstitute.com). He and his wife, Robin, have two children and five grandchildren. He lives in Las Vegas, NV.