Spiritual warfare is real. Oftentimes in our lives it’s when we continue to wade through the lukewarm waters of failing to be conformed to Christ that we either neglect it or declare it isn’t real. We typically do this because we are rarely under attack. The lack of attacks is typically because we seek to have no part in the proclamation of God’s Kingdom, no announcement that “Jesus is Lord”, and are all but closed to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We are thus no threat to the prince of this world, satan.
I have found a common denominator, however, in the life of God’s saints who take the words of Jesus literally in that the gates of hell shall not prevail against the church – all face spiritual warfare. This is no different for pastors, this is no different for me, in my life.
So what follows is a brief story, a narrative if you will, of warfare I encountered last month. I share this story not to obsess over warfare, but to highlight the fact it is real. However, more so, I tell you so that you can see the many weapons we have in dealing with spiritual warfare, especially when we find ourselves under heavy assault from the father of lies and his minions.
It started out as a typical, beautiful day here in Nash County. I had made my rounds at the church office, Corner Coffee Cafe (to get my favorite Americano) and had some great conversations along the way. It really was a fine day. However, everything changed when my phone rang and I received some news. It was quite disturbing and concerning. Clearly spiritual warfare. I prayed with the person, hung up and went on my way. Later, my phone rang again. Another issue had arisen. Completely separate, but part of the same attack.
For the sake of keeping things confidential, let me just say, they were frustrating, difficult conversations because they were conversations where it was clear other people were under serious attack and my heart was breaking for them.
As I considered these phone calls, a heaviness began weighing over me. Many of you will know what I mean. My body got sore, I started feeling badly, my spirit was heavy and downcast within me. I entered a funk. I wasn’t physically sick, but the enemy was heaping situations and problems on me that were traveling down spiritual avenues in my life that were making me feel just plain, “blah”.
In all this, I felt like a declawed kitten, certainly not like a roaring lion, with the King of Glory on my side. I became defeated, so I resorted to something that helps me work through things – yard work (my best conversations with the Lord happen during yard work or in a deer stand). Yet still in all this, to no avail, I was heavy, defeated, my soul was downcast. I didn’t want to pray anymore. I didn’t want to listen to worship music. I wanted to be alone and sulk. Remember, tell the truth, shame the devil.
Then came along my wife.
She found me outside, very much aware of the phone calls I had had, the conversations that took place and the spiritual heaviness that had engulfed my entire being. So she did something weird, wild, and just flat out, out there.
What did she do? I‘ll continue the story next week.
So what did my wife do? She wrapped me up in her arms and she prayed over me.
Now for full transparency, the size of my faith was half the size of a mustard seed, prayer wasn’t going to do anything, I was thinking. I had already prayed, but to no avail. Yet, while my faith was wavering, her faith was strong. I had slipped to being overwhelmed by the problems, Anna was living in the realm of being overwhelmed by the mighty power of God and what God does when his people pray.
So, Anna, my wonderful bride, stood in the gap for me and prayed. While she prayed, I felt the same. I didn’t see any angels coming down. I didn’t see balls of fire coming from heaven to destroy demons. But here’s the thing, here’s the weapon she exercised against the cosmic darkness – she stood in the gap and prayed for me, her faith was moving in the place of my waning faith.
I continued in my yard work, but as I did, I noticed something – the heaviness was being lifted, little by little, I was feeling open. A song was being sung in my heart and was making its way to my lips. My soul was going from downcast to “look and see what God has done”. I was hearing the words of God over me, very similar to what God said to Moses, “you have only to be still and I will fight for you.”
Healing happened. Not because I prayed, but because someone else prayed for me. Remember when the other people removed the roof for the man that was paralyzed? That afternoon in our backyard in downtown Nashville, I was the paralyzed man, my wife was the friend who removed the roof and ushered me to Jesus.
The enemy loves and advances his cause when we listen to his lie that we are all alone in life. Saints, this is a lie from the pit of hell and it’s our holy role to send it back to the pits of hell that we might sing the song of heaven over all those who are suffering from attacks from the enemy.
Seasons come and go in our lives. There are times we are strong in faith and can stand in the gap for those weak in faith. There are times when we are weak in faith and need someone strong in faith to stand in the gap for us. These are precious resources we have, from God, in spiritual warfare.
God’s heart for individuals is community in the Way of Jesus, in the power of the Spirit. The enemy’s design is utter isolation where we succumb to how weak we can be in life, so that we eventually give up.
I praise God that my bride loves me enough to get in the way, to stand in the gap. She got in my business, she entered the fray and proclaimed the name of Jesus in a way I could not.
Are you standing in the gap for others? Are you getting into others’ business? The world keeps trying to sell us this bill of goods that faith is private. Faith, my friends, is not private, it’s public, because our faith in Christ informs and forms every single aspect of our lives. So much so that we are not afraid to pray with those in distress, those mourning, those suffering, those who are hurting.
Let’s bring people to Jesus, let’s get in folks’ business, but not to gossip about them, but to offer the gospel to them – to offer Jesus to them, the only One who can handle our everything and bring healing, restoration and hope to our brokenness.
Luke is Pastor of Discipleship to the community of saints, in Christ, at Nashville UMC.