Let’s explore the progression of spiritual attack. Negative words spoken against us lead to anger and then the words turn into repeated thoughts and these repeated thoughts harden into strongholds. And once Satan has a stronghold in your heart, you’ve lost the spiritual battle.
If you are not growing spiritually, chances are, there is a stronghold in your life. Some unresolved anger from your past that affects your thoughts and has solidified into a stronghold of unforgiveness or bitterness or resentment. And it doesn’t matter how hard you try to read the Bible or serve at the church, nothing penetrates.
We can’t do anything about other people saying nasty things about us. But we can do something about our reaction. Starting with anger. Anger opens the door to Satan and if you allow anger to remain in your heart too long, he will wreak havoc on your soul. If you don’t believe me, here are some verses about anger.
Let’s start with a few proverbs.
29 A patient person shows great understanding, but a quick-tempered one promotes foolishness.
11 A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man holds it in check.
1 A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath.
19 My dearly loved brothers, understand this: Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, 20 for man’s anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness.
8 But now you must also put away all the following: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and filthy language from your mouth.
Now let me read the very words of Jesus spoken from his own mouth during his debut sermon in…
22 But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Fool!’ will be subject to the Sanhedrin. But whoever says, ‘You moron!’ will be subject to hellfire.
And finally, if we look at the book we are studying currently, please turn with me to Eph 4:26–
26 Be angry and do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and don’t give the Devil an opportunity… [jumping down to v31] 31 All bitterness, anger and wrath, shouting and slander must be removed from you, along with all malice. 32 And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.
You are not supposed to let the sun go down on your anger. In other words, spouses, don’t yell at each other and sleep in separate rooms. Because if the anger remains unresolved until the following morning, you are giving the Devil an opportunity to tempt you, to cause you to fall further into sin, to affect your thoughts and to lead you to inappropriate actions like more anger, wrath, shouting, slandering your spouse before your friends, becoming malicious toward them. Or some spouses fight in a frigid cold war where you stop speaking to one another. Either way, a nuclear war or a cold war, if you let your anger remain and you don’t deal with it, you are giving Satan a chance to form a stronghold in your heart.
12 For our battle is not against flesh and blood…
Paul’s point is this. This is so important to understand. Understanding this is the difference between a victorious life and a defeated life. When someone says something to tick you off, what do you see in front of you? You see an angry person who wants to hurt you. But, when Paul looks in front of him, he doesn’t see a person. What Paul sees is the source underneath those hurtful and negative words–Paul sees none other than Satan himself. Paul recognizes that Satan is using that person to tear him down. So your ultimate battle is with Satan, not the person. Do you believe that?
If you think the person who spoke a hurtful word is your enemy, you will direct all of your weapons and artillery and missiles at him or her. All of your anger, your words, the gossip, slander, your vengeful spirit will be pointed and fired at the person who offended you. But if you recognize that your battle is not against flesh and blood, not against people, but the Evil One, then your response would not be anger, or words fired back or gossip and slander, but you would respond in prayer.
So the next time you are faced with a situation when someone wrongs you, don’t direct your anger at the person. Direct your energy, channel your anger to pray against the power of evil that seeks to destroy you.
How should you pray? We need to put on the full armor of God in prayer. But what does that look like concretely?. I want to end with a few practical applications.
1) Go into battle with Jesus.
13 This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand. We 14 Stand, therefore, with truth like a belt around your waist, righteousness like armor on your chest…
17 Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word.
Some people mistake the belt of truth with the Word of God. The truth and the Word of God are two different things. The truth is the belt, something that holds everything together, your pants, your shirt, the sheath for your sword. The Word of God is not the belt, v17, it is the sword of the Spirit. It is an offensive weapon.
The belt of truth is Jesus Christ. When it’s time to preach on the verse in Eph 4 about speaking the truth in love, I will make the case that the truth is Jesus. For now, in the interest of time, just trust me. Jesus is the way, the TRUTH and the life. The helmet of salvation is related because the helmet protects your head, your thoughts. Instead of thinking about how you are wronged by others and instead of meditating on how angry you are, meditate instead on your salvation. What Christ did for you by dying on a cross for your sins. Meditate on that day and night. Guard your mind with the helmet of salvation. The belt of truth, Jesus, holds everything together. That is the one truth you must never forget. Because if you lose sight of this one central truth, everything else falls apart.
2) Go on the offensive–know the Word and share the gospel.
The Word is a sword. Knowing the Word will give you a sharp weapon with which to fight the spiritual battle. Learn the Word, study the Word, meditate on the Word and then go on the offensive. Also, v15–
15 and your feet sandaled with readiness for the gospel of peace.
You need your feet in order to stand. Although it can make sense that we can stand on the gospel of peace, meaning what Jesus did for us, we mustn’t miss the word “readiness.” Our feet are sandaled with the READINESS for the gospel of peace. Feet are necessary to stand, but they are also necessary for movement. So I think the better interpretation is that we must be ready to use our feet to move where God needs us to be and to share the gospel of peace with people who need to hear it.
Paul continues this thread in v19–
19 Pray also for me, that the message may be given to me when I open my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel. 20 For this I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I might be bold enough in Him to speak as I should.
We need to know the Word, but not simply for us to stand individually. We need to know the Word and put it into action by moving and sharing the gospel boldly. I think this illustrates the principle that sometimes the best defense is a strong offense. Armor is needed to defend ourselves from attackers, but the point of putting on armor is going out to battle. If you are standing behind a fortress wall all the time and you are afraid to move out into battle to save souls, then you will find the walls of the fortress may begin to crumble. But if you are active and moving where the Spirit needs you to be, and your feet are ready to move for the sake of the gospel and you are on the offensive, I think such a person will be much better off spiritually than someone who hides away in a tower where no one can reach him.
3) When the battle is fiercest, hide behind Jesus.
16 In every situation take the shield of faith, and with it you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
Hurtful words that are spoken against us are like flaming arrows. It hits the target, our hearts, and because the arrows have fiery tips, we are ablaze with anger and the fires of hell spread out from there. Instead of falling for Satan’s tactics, we can pray for faith. Who is our faith directed toward? Jesus. He is the shield of our faith. When we are weak, we can literally hide behind Jesus, our shield. When someone says something hurtful, instead of becoming angry and opening the door to Satan, pray. If the words are really hard to handle, tell Jesus, I can’t handle it. I am not humble, I am not gentle, I am not gracious toward this person who is attacking me, but Jesus, you are. You are humble, you are gentle, you are gracious. Please forgive them and help me to forgive them. This is what hiding behind Jesus looks like.
4) Lastly, intercede for the saints.
18 Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert in this with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints.
You and I will go through days when our defenses are down. That’s why we need to intercede for one another. At a church, we may be standing upright as individuals, but if Satan attacks the brother or sister next to us, even though we were strong, suddenly, we’re at risk. Because Satan will use that brother or sister to come after us. Pray for one another. Intercession forms a canopy of protection over us.
Knowing life is a battle for our souls and recognizing that our battle is not flesh and blood, let’s put on the full armor of God and be vigilant for ourselves and for one another.