Spiritual Warfare — The Basics
It’s imperative that Christians get hold of the fact that our fight is not with people but with the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:12).
Many believers will respond, “Okay, but I don’t know how to fight evil spirits.” Others are understandably intimidated by the concept of “spiritual warfare,” which simply refers to overcoming evil through spiritual means. I was too at one point. Knowledge is the key to overcoming these hurdles. Hosea 4:6 states that people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. It takes one key to open a treasure vault. Just so, you may be one piece of vital information away from entering new realms of victory in the spirit. Of course, knowledge by itself isn’t enough; you have to understand it, which is where insight or revelation enters the picture and, most importantly, you have to apply it, which is wisdom. Wisdom is the application of what you know and understand.
The Three Foundational Truths of Spiritual Warfare
The first thing you must understand about spiritual warfare is that the devil is already defeated. Jesus Christ triumphed over the kingdom of darkness by the cross:
And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
Satan and his angels have been disarmed! The Messiah triumphed over them through his death, burial and resurrection. They’ve been stripped of their power and authority for all those who believe and are in covenant with God through Jesus Christ. This explains why the forces of darkness do everything in their power to hinder the good news of the gospel from coming to people. Every time someone turns to God in repentance and faith it’s one more person they’ve lost and no longer have authority over.
The second thing you must understand about spiritual warfare is that the believer has authority over Satan and his minions. Notice what Jesus said to his 72 disciples:
“I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. (20) However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
“Snakes and scorpions” are figurative of the devil and demonic spirits. Jesus gave his disciples authority to trample them under their feet, that is, overcome their power. Hence, filthy spirits had to submit to them and the disciples were understandably elated (verse 17). They delivered people from demonic oppression and possession; they healed the sick and brokenhearted; they set the captives free because they had the authority and power to do so.
If Jesus’ disciples, who weren’t even spiritually regenerated at the time, had authority to overcome the powers of darkness, how much more so Christians who have been spiritually born of the imperishable seed of Christ (1 Peter 1:23)?
Get a hold of this fact: If you’re a believer YOU have authority over the kingdom of darkness! All the spiritual forces of evil are under your feet! They don’t have the authority to overcome you; you have the authority to overcome them!
Words have the power of life and death (Proverbs 18:21), so make this powerful positive confession:
I [state your name] have the authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the devil and his wicked angels. Nothing will harm me. I have the victory – Hallelujah!!
Make Biblical statements like this your regular confession. Speak them with fervor! Never speak disempowering words of doubt, defeat, fear or grumbling. Cast such things off on the LORD in prayer, which is venting (Psalm 55:22 & 1 Peter 5:7). When you spend quality time praising, adoring and communing with the Most High the very light of his presence will squelch emotional waste like doubt, fear and worry. Do this regularly. God is the Fountain of Life and in his light we see light (Psalm 36:9); darkness naturally vanishes!
The devil may prowl around like a roaring lion trying to frighten people immobile with his intimidating roar, but for the believer who walks in faith he’s a toothless, clawless lion. More than that, the Bible describes Jesus Christ as the genuine Lion of Judah. In other words, Jesus is the real deal, while the devil is just a counterfeit – a fake – who prowls around like a roaring lion. Oh, sure, he can attack since he’s “the god of this world” and we’re invading his turf, but the Bible says all we have to do is “submit to God and resist the devil” “standing firm in the faith” and the devil will literally “flee” from us (James 4:7 & 1 Peter 5:8-10). This is what the apostle Paul called fighting “the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12). When we stand in faith with our spiritual armor on and swing our spiritual swords the forces of evil have no recourse but to “flee.” One minister I heard said the imagery in the original language is of a dog running away with his tail between his legs – “Yipe, yipe, yipe yipe!!” Picture that the next time you take a stand in faith against the enemy and have yourself a knee-slapping victorious laugh.
The third foundational truth of spiritual warfare is that believers have the authority to bind and loose.
The Principle of Binding & Loosing
Jesus unveiled the incredible authority that believers have in a discussion he had with his disciples in Matthew 16:13-19. He asked them if they knew who he truly was. Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (verse 16). Notice Jesus’ potent response:
Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. (18) And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. (19) I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
What is the “rock” on which Jesus said he would build his church mentioned in verse 18? It’s not Peter whose name in Greek, petros, means “stone.” The “rock” on which Jesus will build his church is petra, meaning “large rock” or “bedrock.” When you’re driving down an interstate highway and pass through a section with sheer rock cliffs on either side it’s obvious that the road-workers literally blasted through a big hill or mountain. When I see this I often marvel at the solid mass of rock underlying the topsoil. This is petra or bedrock. Jesus said his church would be built on such bedrock, figuratively speaking – an incredible mass of solid rock. What is this “rock”? It’s the revelation – the fact – that Jesus is the Christ or Messiah, the Son of the Living God, who died for humanity’s sins and was raised to life for our justification, disarming all diabolic powers and authorities. This is the gospel or “good news.” Jesus’ church is built on this incredibly good news. It is through this gospel that people escape bondage from the kingdom of darkness and become part of God’s kingdom.
Why did Jesus emphasize Peter’s name, petros? Because, although Peter was a little “stone,” he would become a part of the bedrock of the church of Jesus Christ, as are all believers. We’re all little “stones” that together make up the bedrock of the church, Christ’s body on earth!
Jesus adds in verse 18 that the “gates of Hades” would not overcome his church. The “gates of Hades” was a colloquial Jewish phrase for death, which makes sense since Hades (or sheol in Hebrew) is the realm of the dead and consequently a person would have to die to go there. Jesus was saying that even death, Satan’s ultimate weapon (Hebrews 2:14-15), couldn’t stop the Messiah from birthing and unleashing his church. And it didn’t. He was raised to life and the rest is history. Furthermore, death has no power to destroy the church, period. Every Satanic attempt to wipe out believers and stop the church’s spread has failed; in fact, the blood of martyrs has always served to advance God’s kingdom rather than diminish it (e.g. Acts 7:59-8:4).
Now we get to the meat of Jesus’ statement. In verse 19 he said that he would give “you” the “keys to the kingdom of heaven.” “You” is not limited to Peter but refers to any believer who acknowledges and embraces The Christ. Keep in mind that Jesus was originally addressing all the disciples present and not just Peter (see verses 13 & 15); it’s likely that he switched his attention to all the disciples in verse 19, especially considering he addressed all his disciples when he taught the very same thing in Matthew 18:18. With this understanding, Jesus said he was going to give believers the “keys to the kingdom of heaven.” “Keys” refer to authority or power. If you have the keys to a vehicle you wield the power to take advantage of it. The “kingdom of heaven” of course refers to God’s kingdom, the kingdom of light. What Jesus was saying is that he was giving his disciples the power to take advantage of God’s kingdom. This is driven home with the remaining text: “whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” You could put it this way, Heaven will literally back us up in any legitimate effort to manifest God’s kingdom on earth via faith and love, which are the terms of the new testament (Galatians 5:6).
Jesus said to the disciples “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven,” which is future tense. Although Jesus dispersed authority to his disciples as he saw fit during his public ministry on earth, he didn’t give all believers the keys of the kingdom until he was resurrected and properly disarmed Satanic powers and authorities, as shown in Colossians 2:15 above. Ever since, the church has possessed the keys to the kingdom of God. If you’re a believer this means YOU.
The Amplified Bible puts verse 19 like this:
“I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind (declare to be improper and unlawful) on earth must be what is already bound in heaven; and whatever you loose (declare lawful) on earth must be what is already loosed in heaven.”
Matthew 16:19 (Amplified)
This is a straightforward, non-parabolic statement of fact: Believers have the authority to bind on earth what is bound in heaven and to loose on earth what is loosed in heaven. The statement is not linked here to any specific activity, which indicates that it’s a general principle.
Jesus shared this principle in this same straightforward fashion one other time as recorded in the gospels , also in the book of Matthew:
“I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
(19) “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.”
Here the principle is linked to prayer. If believers on earth agree in prayer about something it will be done by our Father in heaven. This doesn’t, of course, negate the power of singular prayer as James emphasized how effective the prayer of a righteous individual is and cited Elijah as an example. Elijah prayed successfully all by his lonesome (James 5:16-18). In fact, Jesus himself set the example of solitary prayer, as shown in Luke 5:16 & 9:18, and taught believers to regularly pray in private (Matthew 6:6). Nevertheless, Jesus’ words in verse 19 signify the power of agreement in prayer. He adds in verse 20, “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” This bespeaks of a ‘corporate anointing,’ a special sense of the Lord’s presence when engaging in united prayer. This itself is linked to the principle of binding & loosing: Jesus is in heaven at the right hand of the Father but through prayer believers loose his ‘manifest presence’ into their very midst on earth.
What exactly does it mean to “bind” or to “loose”? The Greek word for “bind” is deo (DAY-oh), which means to literally bind or figuratively in the sense of prohibiting or hindering, while “loose” is luo (LOO-oh), which means to unbind or release. What this means is that believers have the authority to hinder or prohibit the kingdom of darkness on earth and to release God’s kingdom. The kingdom of darkness is prohibited in heaven so we can prohibit it on earth; the kingdom of light reigns in heaven so we can loose it on earth. It’s that simple, and we’ll see numerous Scriptural examples of such “binding” and “loosing” as we proceed.
Binding & Loosing Through Prayer
The principle of binding & loosing is supported by what we know as ‘the Lord’s prayer,’ the prayer outline Jesus gave his disciples:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed by your name, (10) your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Verse 10 is not talking about praying for Jesus’ return and the set-up of his eternal kingdom on earth, whether in the Millennium or eternally, it’s talking about the principle of binding & loosing in this “present evil age.” This means now. Do you want God’s kingdom to reign in your life and the lives of others? You have to release it through prayer. Do you want God’s will to be done in your life and the lives of others? You have to loose it via prayer. In other words, God’s kingdom will not come and reign on this earth unless a believer releases it through prayer and action; and God’s will is not done on earth unless the church looses his will via prayer and action. Simply put, believers have the power to bind the kingdom of darkness and loose the kingdom of light.
Someone might understandably respond: “Well if God’s so Almighty why doesn’t he just automatically do everything? Why does he need believers to ‘release’ his will through prayer?”
It’s true that the LORD is Sovereign, meaning he reigns supreme; the Bible describes him as “the King of all the earth” (Psalm 47:7) who owns the earth and everything in it (Psalm 24:1, 50:12 & 1 Corinthians 10:26). Jesus himself called Father God “Lord of heaven and earth” (Matthew 11:25). So there’s no disputing that the Almighty reigns supreme and “does whatever pleases him” (Psalm 103:19 & 135:5-6).
However, it’s also clear in Scripture that the devil is the “god of this age” and the “prince of this world” who rules the kingdom of darkness or underworld , which is the dark spiritual dimension that underpins and enshrouds the world (John 12:31 & 14:30). Anyone who’s not part of God’s kingdom is subject to this dark kingdom because they’re “by nature objects of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3) ; this includes everyone who doesn’t have a covenant with the Almighty, meaning all unbelievers:
We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.
1 John 5:19
…the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray.
The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ,
2 Corinthians 4:4
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, (2) in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.
These passages are mind-blowing and convincingly show that the “whole world” is presently under the control the kingdom of darkness, which is why the Bible refers to this current era as “the present evil age” (Galatians 1:4). This doesn’t, of course, mean that all unbelievers are frothing at the mouth with evil, but rather that they’re subject to the kingdom of darkness whether they realize it or not. The depth of their subjugation is dependent upon how far they choose to embrace the flesh, which is the Satanic nature. We see evidence of Satan’s rulership and influence all around us constantly: wars, crime, corruption, broken families, immorality, injustice, poverty, disunity, disease, death, etc. Don’t be alarmed, however, because – as you can see in the passages above – the devil’s control is limited to those designated as “the world,” which doesn’t include blood-bought, spiritually regenerated believers, Hallelujah! Christians are the “church” of Jesus Christ, literally “the called-out ones” in the Greek. This means believers have been rescued from Satan’s kingdom:
For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves,
Not only have we been delivered from the kingdom of darkness we’ve been placed in God’s kingdom as his beloved sons and daughters!
Binding the “Strong Man”
Further evidence of the principle of binding & loosing can be seen when Jesus exorcized a demon from a mute/deaf man and healed him (Matthew 12:22). Jesus then explained the principle at work behind this successful deliverance and healing:
“…how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can rob his house.”
Jesus likened the devil, and the powers of darkness in general, to a “strong man” with “possessions” in his “house.” The only way you can successfully rob this strong man is if you first tie him up, that is, bind him, then you can rob him of his spoils. This is precisely what Jesus did, spiritually speaking, when he exorcised the demon from the man and healed him. He “tied up” or bound the demonic spirit and robbed Satan of his possession. Jesus prohibited the kingdom of darkness from continuing to hold this man in bondage and loosed healing. Parallel accounts are detailed in Mark 3:20-27 and Luke 11:14-22 while a similar example of exorcism and healing can be found in Luke 9:42-43.
Speaking of healing, James 5:15 addresses church elders praying over a sick person: “And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up.” This is an example of binding & loosing – the elders loose the Lord’s will via prayer and the sickness is prohibited; healing flows and the individual recovers.
So far we’ve seen clear Scriptural evidence that the principle of binding & loosing can be applied to prayer, exorcism and healing. These three alone involve a wide breadth of activities.
We are “In Charge” Until Christ Returns
Further support for the principle of binding & loosing can be seen in the analogy of the church as the “body of Christ.” This obviously signifies that the “head” – Jesus – is in heaven, at the right hand of the Father, while his “body” – the church – is on earth carrying out the Lord’s will as his arms, legs, tongue, hands and feet (Ephesians 1:20-23). The church manifests God’s will on earth and hinders the devil’s kingdom. We – the “body” – just have to make sure we’re tight with the “head” so that we properly get ‘orders from headquarters.’ If we attempt to conduct God’s will on earth separate from the orders of the “head” in heaven we’re destined for dead works and disillusionment. Needless to say, get close to the LORD and stay close; only perform the specific assignment(s) he gives you to fulfill. Each believer has his or her specific assignment from the Head in heaven and each group of believers, or church, has their specific tasks. Jesus effectively illustrated this:
It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells one at the door to keep watch.
Christ has gone away and is in heaven at the right hand of the Father. He’s left his servants in charge while he’s away. Each believer has his or her “assigned task.” Each church has their “assigned task.” The fact that the servants are put “in charge” clearly signifies that believers have authority to act in his place and carry out his will until he returns. This authority is the power to bind & loose: We prohibit the kingdom of darkness whenever or however possible and release the kingdom of light as the Spirit leads. We thus advance God’s kingdom on earth.
Binding & Loosing Via the Word of God
It stands to reason that the principle of binding & loosing also applies to the teaching and preaching of the Word of God. How so? Since godly knowledge, understanding, wisdom, insight and revelation are transferred via the sound teaching/preaching of God’s Word, we can safely conclude that doing such manifests God’s will on this earth and naturally spreads his kingdom’s reign through transformed lives that produce the fruit of the spirit. The fruits of the spirit are the very qualities of God’s character and kingdom. This automatically hinders the kingdom of darkness since light displaces darkness.
Notice what the Bible says about Jesus sending out his twelve disciples:
When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, (2) and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.
When Jesus sent out the Twelve he gave them authority to stop the kingdom of darkness and release the kingdom of God. This is binding & loosing. Note the four things they did: They drove out demons, cured diseases, preached the truths of God’s kingdom and healed the sick. We’ve seen clear evidence that the principle of binding & loosing applies to exorcizing demons and healings, which means three out of four of these activities definitely fall within the spectrum of binding & loosing. It naturally follows that preaching the Word of God’s kingdom also falls within this spectrum. When the twelve disciples returned and gave a good report of their activities they all “withdrew by themselves” to the town of Bethsaida (Luke 9:10). This indicates, incidentally, that Jesus recognized the need for ministers to retreat for rest and refreshing after significant ministry endeavors, which naturally protects ministers from burnout (take heed if this applies to you and don’t feel guilty about it). When the crowds learned of their retreat they followed them to Bethsaida where Jesus kindly welcomed them and “spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing” (Luke 9:11). As you can see, teaching God’s kingdom is put on a par with healing (see also verse 60). Both are examples of releasing the kingdom of God on earth, which naturally stops or hinders the enemy’s kingdom.
Binding & Loosing Via Speaking in Faith
Speaking in faith, as depicted in Mark 11:22-24 and Luke 17:5-6, also falls within the parameters of binding & loosing, which Jesus taught in the same breath as praying in faith:
“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. (23) “I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in this heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. (24) Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
Speaking in faith includes blessing someone or something, as when Paul blessed the believers in 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17. It would also include cursing something like when Jesus cursed a fig tree as an illustration (Mark 11:12-14, 20-21).
Let me give an example from my own life. I had an irritating skin rash on the back of my hand for over two years. I showed it to my doctor during a check-up and he referred me to a dermatologist. I had no desire to waste time or money on a skin doctor so I continued to put up with the rash until I got righteously angry over it last winter. The Spirit strongly impressed me to curse the rash from the roots repeatedly and speak healing over the back of my hand until it was gone and that’s exactly what I did. I cursed the rash, commanded it to die and leave my body; and then blessed my hand, loosing healing and health. Guess what happened? The rash completely disappeared, but it took a while – nine weeks, in fact – and I had to be stubbornly tenacious, especially when it would reoccur after starting to die out. This is perseverance or following through. Faith and the Word of God are not enough in such cases; we must add perseverance, which is patience (2 Peter 1:5-6). The Bible emphasizes that it’s through faith and patience that we inherit what is promised (Hebrews 6:12), not just faith.
It’s also important to understand that speaking in faith can be canceled out by speaking in unbelief since words have “the power of life and death” (Proverbs 18:21). Unbelief cancels out faith and vice versa; it’s a common sense principle. So when you’re speaking in faith for something never contradict your faith with words of doubt because, if you do, you won’t get or accomplish what you’re believing for. Contradicting your faith with words of unbelief is tantamount to being double-minded, and the Bible emphatically declares that the double-minded man “should not think that he will receive anything from the Lord” (James 1:6-8). Put a guard on your tongue after you speak in faith so that you don’t succumb to words of doubt and grumbling, which is especially tempting when it’s taking a while for your miracle to manifest. I had to do this when speaking in faith over my skin virus for nine weeks.
Ever since the healing manifested, the back of my hand has been a 24/7 testimony to God’s healing power that is released through persistent faith! The great thing about these types of experiences is that they naturally build one’s faith and confidence. Just as David took on a lion and a bear before having the faith to fight Goliath (1 Samuel 17:33-37), so we’ll have to take on lesser ailments like skin viruses before conquering something bigger, like high blood pressure and stroke. This is just common sense.
Jesus illustrated that speaking in bold faith like this is mountain-moving and tree-uprooting, hence manifesting God’s will and spreading his kingdom through the believer who’s “in charge” while the Messiah is in heaven.
A General Principle
Since it’s clear that the principle of binding & loosing involves prayer, exorcism, healing, teaching/preaching God’s Word and speaking in faith, we see innumerable examples of this principle all over the New Testament. Jesus, the apostles, and other believers regularly performed these activities. They regularly bound the kingdom of darkness and loosed the kingdom of God. Yet, with the exception of Jesus figuratively equating an exorcism to binding up the strong man and taking his spoils, we don’t see evidence of anyone saying “I bind” or “I loose.” This doesn’t necessarily mean believers can’t use these terms, or similar terms like “I prohibit” or “I release,” it just indicates that the principle of binding & loosing is a general principle that transcends the usage of such terminology. In other words, if Christians are interceding, teaching and preaching, exorcizing demons, healing and speaking in mountain-moving faith they are binding & loosing, period. Yet some believers unfortunately get in the habit of saying “I bind this” or “I loose that” so often it becomes redundant and tiresome. This isn’t necessary since we don’t see evidence in the New Testament of individuals utilizing this terminology when binding & loosing, with the exception of Jesus’ analogy of binding the strong man when he exorcised a demon and healed a mute man.
What we do see is believers simply operating in these varied activities as led of the Spirit. For instance, we see believers praying for others, which automatically releases God and his will in the people’s lives and situations for which they’re praying. One good example is where Paul prayed for the Colossian believers in Colossians 1:9-12. By praying for them Paul was actually loosing God into their lives – his will to be done and his kingdom to reign – even though he didn’t use the terminology “I loose.” Praying for people like this is effective because, as already noted, when the light of the LORD’s presence enters the picture, darkness flees. In short, prayer itself looses God and automatically binds up the enemy.
Another example would be when Jesus was confronted with a demon-possessed man in Luke 4:35; he simply but sternly told the evil spirit, “Be quiet!” What was he doing? He prohibited the demon from speaking and then exorcized it from the man. You see, Jesus had the authority to bind on earth what is bound in heaven and evil spirits are certainly prohibited in heaven. He walked in this truth but he didn’t say, “I bind you demon!” Again, I’m not saying you can’t say “I bind” or “I loose.” By all means, use this terminology if you feel led to do so; I myself use it, just be careful not to overdo it. God is not one-dimensional and we are called to imitate him (Ephesians 5:1). Be led of the Spirit. Follow the example of Jesus Christ and the New Testament believers as illustrated in the Biblical blueprint. Amen.
Recapping Binding & Loosing
Let’s now summarize the Scriptural support for this powerful principle for easy access and reflection. I’ll include some additional tidbits to keep it interesting:
- Jesus taught the principle of binding & loosing twice in Matthew in a straightforward, non-parabolic manner.
- In Matthew 16:18-19 binding & loosing is clearly based on the authority Jesus gives the church, his called-out ones (us). We possess the keys to God’s kingdom.
- In Matthew 18:18-19 binding & loosing is linked to prayer. Hence, prayer is a major conduit through which God’s will is released during this “present evil age” on earth, which automatically displaces the kingdom of darkness.
- Jesus exorcized a demon and healed a man of muteness and blindness in three of the four gospel accounts and linked it to the “bind the strong man and take his possessions” metaphor (Matthew 12:22-29, Mark 3:20-27 & Luke 11:14-22).
- The previous two prove that the binding & loosing principle applies at least to prayer, exorcism and healing, which itself is a wide range of activities.
- Jesus taught the principle in the prayer outline that we know as ‘The Lord’s Prayer’: “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10 & Luke 11:2). This type of prayer indicates that believers have the mandate and authority to release God’s kingdom to reign and his will to be done on earth with the implication that, if we don’t do it, it won’t be done. This naturally gives the believer an incredible sense of the power and importance of intercessory prayer, including praying over one’s own life and family. Needless to say, this is a powerful spur for Christians to pray and grow in it.
- In light of the previous, is it any wonder that James 5:16 stresses how powerful and effective the prayer of a righteous person is? Prayer isn’t some useless religious ritual, unless of course it’s given in that type of faithless, legalistic spirit (see Matthew 6:7 & Mark 12:40). Genuine prayer offered in faith and love literally releases God’s will in this earth. No wonder there are so many examples of prayer in the Bible, like when Paul prayed for the Christians in Ephesus (Ephesians 1:16-21 & 3:14-19) or when he requested prayer for himself (Colossians 4:2-4 & 2 Thessalonians 3:2). Why did Paul pray for others so often? Why did he request prayers for himself and his ministry? Because prayer is so vital and effective! This is why Paul encouraged prayer for everyone, particularly all governing authorities, because God wants them “to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:1-4). This is why Jesus instructed believers to pray that God send workers into the harvest fields (Luke 10:2). Prayer clearly isn’t some dead religionist work. If someone somewhere doesn’t pray it, it won’t be done; it’s that simple. You must get a hold of this.
- The analogy of the church as the “body of Christ” signifies that the head, Christ, is in heaven but the body, the church, is on earth carrying out the Lord’s will as his arms, legs, tongue, hands and feet. We just have to make sure we’re tight with the head so that we properly get ‘orders from headquarters.’ After all, a natural body only responds to the will and impulses of its head (brain); it goes without saying that if a body starts functioning on its own, separate from the will of its head, there are and will be major problems.
- Since godly knowledge, understanding and wisdom are imparted via the sound teaching and preaching of God’s Word we can safely conclude that doing such manifests God’s will on the earth and naturally spreads his kingdom’s reign through transformed lives that manifest the fruit of the spirit, which automatically hinders the kingdom of darkness. This isn’t to suggest, of course, that every time someone teaches/preaches from the Bible it’s accurate or that he or she is advancing God’s kingdom. After all, those who transfer knowledge are also perfectly capable of transferring or perpetuating error, which is why I emphasize the sound teaching and preaching of God’s Word.
- Jesus spoke of speaking in faith in the same breath as praying in faith (Mark 11:22-24); both are examples of loosing God’s kingdom and hindering the enemy’s kingdom. Speaking in faith includes both blessing and cursing.
- The innumerable examples of Jesus, the apostles and other believers praying, exorcizing demons, healing, teaching/preaching the truths of God’s Word and speaking in faith as seen throughout the New Testament.
With this Scriptural support in mind, let’s observe multiple examples of binding & loosing from just one chapter of the Bible, the first chapter of Mark:
Mark 1:22: People were “amazed” at Jesus’ teachings and the authority he wielded. Since Jesus was “God with us” (Matthew 1:23) his teachings unveiled truths that truly gave life and set people free, which is why his listeners were so amazed. Jesus was the express opposite of the dead legalistic religionists the people were used to – so-called religious leaders who had no concern to set people free and give life (Why? Because they had neither – and you can’t give something you don’t have!). If this isn’t loosing God’s will in the earth and advancing his kingdom, I don’t know what is.
- Verses 25-26: Jesus commands an unclean spirit to shut up and come out of a man in the synagogue; hence, he forbid the demon from speaking and prohibited it from possessing the man.
- Verse 31: Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever; she then starts to wait on them.
- Verse 34: Jesus heals many in Capernaum who had various diseases.
- Verse 34: Jesus prohibits numerous demons from speaking and drives them out of many people.
- Verse 35: Jesus goes off to a “solitary place” very early in the morning to pray. This wasn’t some useless ritual. Prayer is a major vehicle through which God’s will is released in the earth, enabling his kingdom to reign, spiritually speaking.
- Verse 39: Jesus travels throughout Galilee and preaches in the synagogues.
- Verse 39: Jesus drives out demons throughout Galilee.
- Verses 40-42: A leprous man asks Jesus to heal him “If [he] is willing.” Filled with compassion, Jesus reaches out to touch him and says, “I am willing… Be clean!” Thus curing the man.
This is just one chapter of the New Testament! Amazing, isn’t it?
I realize we went into quite a bit of detail on binding & loosing, but it’s vital that every believer understand this powerful principle to effectively manifest and advance God’s kingdom in his or her arena of influence on earth.
One closing thought: In addition to being tight with the Head in heaven, please be sure that when you practice these activities you do them in love as defined in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Why? Because faith works in love, which means our faith is activated and energized by love (Galatians 5:6 Amplified). Consequently, any binding & loosing we do separate from agape love is “nothing” but dead religious works (1 Corinthians 13:2).
To illustrate, my wife and I visited a couple churches last winter, both with less than 40 people. We had the opportunity to meet the apostle of these churches who had his own small ministry school and quite a few small satellite churches in “third world” areas. After he preached a sermon my wife wanted to compliment one aspect of his teaching, so we approached him. Unbelievably, he just blew her off and walked away, totally ignoring me in the process. It was so bad it was funny. Bear in mind that there were only 25 people present so it’s not like he had masses of people to attend to, nor did he have a plane to catch. Not to mention my wife and I were the only two to approach him, the only two new people in the bunch. Wasn’t he the leader? The apostle? Where’s the kindness? The hospitality? The humility? The love? The fruit?
Being an “apostle of nations” and doing a lot of binding & loosing around the world is wonderful, but it’s all nothing if we forsake the simple tenets of agape love. It goes without saying, no matter how great your work for the Lord always resist the temptation to fall prey to the worldly arrogance of the “Rock Star Syndrome.” Amen?
“We Are More Than Conquerors”
Some like to give the impression that spiritual warfare is rigorous and woeful, a heavy religious drudgery, but nothing could be further from the truth. Although you have to be stern and authoritative when you stand in faith and “swing your sword” – the Word of God spoken in faith – particularly when dealing with cases of demonic possession or environmental cleansing, spiritual warfare is actually easy and can even be fun. Don’t let anyone fool you (like those who try to impress others with how hard they labor for the LORD, which is a trait of legalism or counterfeit Christianity, the same trait of the prodigal son’s older brother who didn’t know his father and therefore didn’t have the heart of his father; see Luke 15:11-32). Remember, the devil and his cohorts are already defeated. Jesus did the hard part. All we have to do is fight or resist in faith. It takes effort and bold tenacity but it’s no sweat, really.
The Bible says “we are more than conquerors” (Romans 8:37). A conqueror is someone who fights and defeats a foe. A person who is “more than a conqueror” is someone who partakes of the blessings of victory because the foe is already defeated. Make no mistake, you are more than a conqueror since Jesus has already defeated the enemy and you have authority. Simply believe the Word, speak it authoritatively and stand your ground in faith.
To help understand this concept of fighting a foe who’s already defeated let’s look at an Old Testament comparison. As previously pointed out, the Israelites couldn’t fight spiritual forces of evil because they weren’t spiritually regenerated and therefore lacked the nature or position to do so; hence, they only had the authority to fight people, not all people of course but the ones the LORD commissioned them to fight. When this happened the Almighty would say that the enemy in question was defeated before the Israelites even drew their weapons. A good example of this is when the Israelites conflicted with the Amorites in Joshua 10. The LORD declared in verse 8, “Do not be afraid of them; I have given them into your hand. Not one of them will be able to withstand you.” Notice that God spoke of the foe as defeated before the Israelites fought – “I have given them into your hand.” It’s past tense. Yet even though these enemies were declared defeated by the LORD it was still necessary for the Israelites to pull out their weapons, boldly go forth and fight. Similar examples from the book of Joshua include the Israelite’s conflicts with Jericho (6:2) and Ai (8:1).
In our covenant, however, our fight is not with people but with the spiritual forces of evil that seek to afflict and manipulate people for their own wicked ends. Even though the devil and his unclean angels are already defeated, believers still have to put on their armor, draw their weapons and fight. When we are faithful to do this victory is guaranteed, just as it was for the Israelites when they boldly faced their foes. How can victory be guaranteed? Because God has declared that the enemy is already defeated!
Get excited because the devil and his fellow losers are already defeated and you have the authority to trample them under your feet and overcome!
Although spiritual warfare isn’t some tedious religious chore it does of course take faith, boldness, effort and tenacity, as shown in this statement by Jesus:
“From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.”
This obviously suggests that the kingdom of heaven is taken hold of and advanced by those with “forceful” or “violent” faith and diligence. Yes, the poor in spirit possess the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3) but genuine meekness obviously includes bold tenacity, particularly when it comes to spiritual warfare, which is the example set for us by Christ himself in the gospels. So rise up in bold faith and don’t shrink back! You’ll never outgrow spiritual warfare; you must simply learn to fight. That’s what this teaching is for – learning to fight, God’s way. He’ll teach you how to fight in your covenant just as he taught David how to fight in his (Psalm 18:34 & 144:1).
Let me share an example of spiritual warfare from my own life: My wife and I were attending a local church where I taught a handful of sermons. The first one was, by far, the most difficult teaching I ever gave. It felt like I was being choked by some unseen presence the entire time; the resistance was incredible. My wife and I prayed about the matter over the next several weeks and the next two times I ministered it was better but I could tell the people were in some sort of religious stupor, even though I did everything in my power to stir them up and get them excited about the fascinating truths of God’s Word and kingdom. Three days before I was scheduled to teach the fourth time the Spirit moved me to ask for the keys to the building so I could pray inside. Up to that point I had prayed a number of times outside the facility, but the problem was inside. There were suffocating spirits present who resisted the truth and kept the people captive in a religious coma. I informed the pastor that it was time to “break out the heavy artillery” and he knew exactly what I meant, so he gave me a key. That night my wife and I went into the facility and blasted some jubilant praise & worship. We sang, wept, danced and prayed in the spirit. I anointed and blessed the podium, the altar, the pews, the doors, the walls and every room. My wife knelt at the altar and wept and, later, laughed. I ran, danced and leaped around the sanctuary and through every pew, stairwell and room. We spoke the Word of God boldly, authoritatively and joyfully. We laughed often, loudly. We bound up the atmosphere of religious formal death and loosed the spirit of freedom, life, joy and power. I came back the next two nights for some more action. What were we doing? We were conducting spiritual warfare. The church facility needed cleansed of life-sapping unclean religious powers. By Sunday morning the environment was cleared up for me to minister effectively. The people were awakened from their religious stupor and hungrily ate up the Word of God, which was the first time I witnessed this since my initial visit there eight months prior. Praise God!
Some might understandably argue that unclean spirits don’t reside in church sanctuaries. They do in the ones where a lifeless religious spirit is tolerated and encouraged! I know because I personally experienced their suffocating presence. They were literally camped out there, facilitating an utterly sterile environment. Everything looked right on the outside – there wasn’t a speck of dust and everything indicated that it was an authentic Christian environment – but there wasn’t any life. In fact, the atmosphere was completely resistant to life, truth and faith. It needed cleansed, pure and simple; and spiritual warfare was the answer.
What my wife and I did certainly took time and effort and we had to be bold and stern at times, but it wasn’t some woeful religious drudgery. No, it was easy because the enemy’s already defeated and we’re more than conquerors. In fact, it was a blast.
When you engage in spiritual warfare do the same, even if it’s simply interceding for people who need salvation. Speak the truth of God’s Word loudly; speak it authoritatively. Fast and pray when necessary (Matthew 17:21.) Pray in the spirit and sing in the spirit. Do it with passion. Have a praise & worship celebration. Dance in the spirit. Since you are a royal priest or priestess you have the authority to bless (1 Peter 2:9). Take note of the priestly blessing in Numbers 6:22-27. Place your hand on people and objects and bless them; so shall you put God’s name on them and the LORD will, in turn, bless them. Smear them with anointing oil if you so feel led of the Spirit. When the light of God’s presence enters the picture darkness flees; it has no other recourse. It’s like flicking on the lights in a dark room.
So have a good time conducting “spiritual warfare.” Never view it as some tedious religious chore. No, it’s a powerful and effective service because you have the authority to trample on the devil and his minions and to “overcome all the power of the enemy” (Luke 10:18-19). Remember, you’re not just a conqueror, you’re more than a conqueror!
How to Recognize an Attack
Our subject is spiritual warfare. How do you recognize when you or someone else is under attack?
Keep in mind that we’re not talking about temptation to sin here. A person is tempted to sin via his or her own evil desire, which stems from the sinful nature (James 1:14-15). This is the conflict of the two natures within every person, flesh and spirit, as detailed in numerous passages, such as Matthew 26:41, Romans 8:5-13, Galatians 5:16-24 and Ephesians 4:22-24. This is an inward battle that each believer must master through Christ, but it is not the outward battle we’re addressing here. The outward battle involves the kingdom of darkness attacking or hindering you from the outside. Even in cases of demonic oppression or possession the unclean spirits originate from beyond oneself.
With this understanding, how do you recognize when the kingdom of darkness is attacking you? After all, how can you effectively “fight the good fight of faith” if you’re not even aware you’re under attack?
The Bible says that Jesus came to “destroy the devil’s works” and to heal “all who were under the power of the devil” (1 John 3:8 & Acts 10:38). Being “under the power of the devil” is the result of falling prey to his attacks. All of the enemy’s various attacks can be reduced to five basic categories:
- Physical illness
- Mental illness
- Poverty or financial lack
- Human attack and defeat
- Premature death
These five encompass all the numerous curses of the law listed in Deuteronomy 28. The Old Testament agreement that the Israelites had with God was simply this: If they obeyed the law the LORD would bless them; if they failed to obey the law they’d be cursed. In the latter event, God would remove his protective hedge and allow the devil and his minions to attack the Israelites, or perhaps God did it himself; either way they would consequently suffer any manner of the curses of the law. These myriad curses can be distilled into the five general categories noted above.
For further proof consider the case of Job. In the first two chapters of the book of Job we observe him being hailed as a righteous man by God Himself, but Satan argues that Job was devout simply because the LORD blessed him. In other words, he was in it solely for the blessings. Consequently, God allows the devil to attack and we see Job assaulted in all five of these areas:
- Physical illness: Job was stricken with painful boils from head to toe (Job 2:7).
- Mental illness: Job was thrust into dire mental anguish after the Satanic assaults to the point of craving death and hurling irreverent accusations at the Almighty (Job 3, 10:1-3 & 30:31).
- Poverty or financial lack: Job’s great wealth consisted of numerous employees and thousands of sheep, camels, oxen and donkeys; all but four of his people were killed and all his animals were stolen or destroyed (Job 1:14-17).
- Human attack and defeat: The Sabeans and Chaldeans, who up to that point lived peacefully by Job, attacked and killed almost all his employees and stole his wealth (Job 1:14-15 & 17) Keep in mind that this category does not refer to just human attack, but rather human attack and defeat.
- Premature death: Job’s ten children and nearly all his servants were killed (Job 1:14-19).
All five of these general curses come from the devil’s bag of tricks. When Satan attacks he’s not going to appear as some cartoonish figure with a pitchfork. He’s going to assault you in one of these five areas. You must get a hold of this. Why? Because you can’t very well take a stand and resist in faith, as the Bible instructs, if you don’t know you’re being attacked. How can you effectively conduct spiritual warfare if you’re not even sure you’re under attack?
Am I saying that Christians can walk in victory over all five of these general maladies? Yes, absolutely. What I’m not saying is that you won’t be attacked in these areas. When you are attacked – and you will be attacked – you must recognize it and take a stand. Resist in faith. In fact, put up your shield of faith even before you’re attacked, which will shield you from many of the enemy’s flaming arrows (Ephesians 6:16); in other words, his fiery darts will be extinguished before they can harm you. Pull out your sword as necessary. Your sword is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17). Slice down all lies and curses. Take a stand in faith and persevere. Continue walking according to the Word in general and learn to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. Don’t back back. If you make a stand in faith and persevere I guarantee you the devil will flee like a yelping cur with his tail between his legs. The Bible guarantees it. It’s your covenant agreement with the Most High. Just make sure there’s no sin in the camp, so to speak. Keep your spiritual arteries clear of the build-up of unconfessed sin. Always be quick to repent when you miss it and God will faithfully “purify you from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9).
Hebrews 6:12 says we need “to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.” The text is speaking to Christians who are already saved, so what exactly are the promises we can inherit through faith and patience? The promises correspond to the five areas noted above:
- Although we’ll eventually grow old and physically die, the Bible promises us physical wellness and healing, as long as we take care of our bodies and walk in faith and patience. We also need to walk in love, of course, because “faith works in love.”
- We are promised mental wellness – peace, joy, faith, vibrancy, power, abundant life, etc. – as long as we put off the flesh and live out of our spirit by the Holy Spirit.
- We are promised financial blessing, which includes provision for any assignment the LORD gives us, but we must cultivate a diligent, faithful and giving spirit (in other words, don’t expect financial blessing if you’re lazy, unrepentant, you don’t believe or you’re stingy). IMPORTANT NOTE: I’m obviously not talking about greed here, which is the love of money, the idolization of lucre. Jesus strongly warned of such fleshly pitfalls (Luke 12:15). Yet the Bible repeatedly promises financial provision and blessing to those in covenant with God (e.g. Proverbs 3:9-10, 10:22, Malachi 3:8-12, Mark 10:29-30, Luke 6:38, 2 Corinthians 9:6-11, etc.). The condition, of course, is that we must walk according to the terms of our covenant, which are faith and love. When we do, we can stand and persevere on these promises when our finances are attacked, like Paul in Philippians 4:11-19; and, make no mistake, you will be attacked. As for those who teach that financial poverty is somehow inherently godly, they’re blind fools. Poverty is a curse (see Deuteronomy 28:15-68). Although let me hastily add that poverty of character is far worse than material poverty, which is why the Bible emphasizes it’s “better to be poor than a liar” (Revelation 2:9, 3:17, Proverbs 28:6 & 19:22). I should also add that it’s of the utmost importance that we maintain balance on this issue – “The man who fears God will avoid all extremes” (Ecclesiastes 7:18).
- Although people will rise up and attack us without just cause, we are promised victory as long as we activate the principle of overcoming evil with good and persevere in faith.
- We are promised long life, 70 years minimum and 80 years preferably (Psalm 90:10); anything more is a plus. The only exceptions are those called to be martyrs for the advancement of the kingdom, like Stephen (Acts 7).
As you can see, the “good news” of the gospel is more than just reconciliation with God and eternal life, as awesome as these are, it’s “reigning in life” by walking in victory over all five of these general maladies (Romans 5:17). But you won’t fully reign over these curses unless you learn how to put off the flesh, live out of your spirit by the Holy Spirit and apply faith and patience. This is a learning process. It takes time and application. It may not happen overnight but it will happen as you grow through learning and applying. Yes, you’ll make mistakes. We all do. When you miss it, get back up! Be honest about your failings, repent where applicable, and then move on (Proverbs 24:16, Psalm 145:14 & 1 John 1:8-9). The only bad mistakes are the ones you don’t learn from. Also keep in mind that it’s always good to have someone near who’s spiritually further on than you, so you can observe and imitate his/her example.
Always be cognizant that your spiritual enemy will attack you in one or more of these areas. The good news is that “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13). This means that the Bible promises freedom to every new covenant believer from all the curses of the law listed in Deuteronomy 28, which comprise the five general maladies listed above. None of these have any right in your life as long as you’re “keeping in repentance” (Matthew & Luke 3:8). You must learn to recognize when the enemy attacks via any of these five basic curses and resist the assault by standing firm in faith and patience (1 Peter 5:8-10). Since the devil and his filthy minions are already defeated and you’re in covenant with the Victor and, in fact, are spiritually born of his loins, the enemy will eventually grow weary and flee in frustration, and the LORD will restore you. This makes perfect sense when you understand that laziness is a trait of the Satanic nature. The enemy prefers to attack those who won’t put up a good fight of faith; in fact, they’re the only people he can overcome.
Examples from Paul’s Life
Let’s briefly look at some examples from the New Testament where the apostle Paul was attacked and overcame in all five of these general areas:
Physical illness. Paul was stricken with some type of physical ailment according to Galatians 4:13, which provided the opportunity for him to preach the gospel to the Galatians. The word for “illness” in this text could also be translated as “weakness” as it does in Matthew 26:41, which reads, “The spirit is willing but the body is weak” (emphasis added). If it does refer to physical weakness, some theorize that it could apply to Paul after he was stoned and left for dead in the Galatian city of Lystra (Acts 14:8-20). They speculate that Paul would surely need time for his body to fully heal from the abuse, which may be why he referred to the situation as a trial for the Galatian Christians (Galatians 4:14). But this seems unlikely since Paul received an immediate healing and walked right back into the city (!), not to mention he left to preach in another city the very next day (!!). Other possibilities include malaria, which was common in the area, or an eye disease in light of Paul’s statement, “If you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me” (verse 15), although this could simply be a figure of speech. Regardless of what Paul’s physical problem was, he resisted the attack in faith and patience, received healing and lived over another decade to fulfill God’s apostolic assignment from Jerusalem to Rome and all points between, not to mention write many other important epistles, like Romans and Ephesians, etc.
Mental illness. The apostles went through many hardships as they determined to advance the kingdom of God. Second Corinthians 11 details Paul’s numerous sufferings, including being thrown into prison multiple times, severely flogged five times (typically 39 lashes!), beaten with rods three times, stoned and left for dead, shipwrecked three times, and more. Not to mention all his labor, sleepless nights and the pressure of all the churches he oversaw (verses 23-29). Facing such horrendous attacks, trials and pressures, Paul and the other ministers were understandably assaulted by negative emotions at times, like fear, doubt, frustration, anxiety and wanting to quit. This is why Paul said they were “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10); he also mentioned “fears within” and being “downcast” (2 Corinthians 7:5-6). But they never allowed such dark emotions to take root in their hearts. There’s no evidence of this in Scripture. They withstood in faith and patience and overcame. Take, for example, when Paul was about to be shipwrecked due to a great storm in Acts 27:21-26; instead of caving in to the fear and despair of the situation – e.g. “We’re all going to die!!” – he received instruction from the LORD and boldly spoke in faith.
Poverty or financial lack. Paul pointed out in Philippians 4:12-13 that he knew what it was like to be in need and also to have plenty; he knew what it was like to be hungry and to be well fed. He also testified to his brushes with poverty in 2 Corinthians 6:10. So we know Paul went through experiences where physical resources were limited. Yet, in the Philippians passage he shared his secret of being content in any situation, whether living in plenty or in want: he said he could do all things through the Lord Jesus Christ who strengthened him. In other words, he stood in faith. He didn’t give in to worry or despair in times of need and cry, “God has forsaken us – we’re not gonna make it!” Likewise, in the Corinthians passage he admitted to having nothing but counteracted it with an expression of faith, “yet possessing everything.” Consequently, he always made it through times of lack with a peaceful contentment. He fully understood that blessings come via faith and patience in our covenant, and faith works in love. Jehovah Jireh always provided and Paul fulfilled his many missionary assignments. Late in his life, when Paul was in custody in Caesarea, Governor Felix frequently went to him hoping Paul would offer him a bribe (Acts 24:26). This indicates that even under house arrest Paul was financially blessed since wealthy politicians don’t try to milk people who are impoverished and have no money.
A good example from the life of Christ would be when tax collectors required Peter and Jesus to pay the annual temple tax, which came to about $500 each (Matthew 17:24-27). Jesus wasn’t taken off guard and, interestingly, didn’t even ask Judas to take the money from their ministry earnings. He had faith that God gives the power to get wealth (Deuteronomy 8:18) and knew precisely were to get the amount they needed by the Spirit. Hence, the LORD provided.
Human attack and defeat. Paul was attacked by a man named Alexander the metalworker who caused him “a great deal of harm” (2 Timothy 4:14-15), but Paul overcame and wasn’t defeated or dead. He was able to warn Timothy and believed that the Lord would pay Alexander back for what he had done. Another good example is from Acts 16:22-34 where we observe Paul and Silas being unjustly attacked in Philippi after exorcizing a demon from a slave girl. They were beaten, flogged and thrown in prison. This was a serious attack indeed, but Paul and Silas withstood in faith and perseverance. At midnight they were praying and singing hymns in their gloomy, smelly jail cell (!). They refused to be defeated. They refused to give in to doubt, frustration and despair. They knew that victory was theirs no matter how bad the situation appeared. The next thing you know there was an earthquake and the cell doors flew open! God clearly responds to such stubborn, fervent faith. Not only did they escape, the jailer and his family were saved and baptized! Paul and Silas even stayed and ate at their house that night.
Premature death. Paul healed a crippled man in Lystra, which was a powerful testimony to the people there, but some Jews came and stirred the crowd against him. As noted above, they stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, supposing him to be dead. But Paul received an incredible healing after the disciples gathered around him and he went right back into the city! The next day he was well enough to leave for another town to preach, which indicates a total healing (Acts 14:8-20). Another example would be when Paul sailed to Rome as a captive in Acts 27. A great storm came and seriously threatened all their lives. Keep in mind that, according to Job 1:16, 19, Satan has the ability to utilize nature for his own purposes. The devil didn’t want Paul to fulfill his divine commission of carrying the gospel to gentile kings; hence, he tried to kill him on the open sea via the storm, but it didn’t work because Paul received divine instruction and stood in faith (verses 21-26). Yet the devil didn’t stop there. No sooner was Paul shipwrecked on the island of Malta then a deadly viper bit him (Acts 28:1-10). The islanders expected the apostle to drop dead at any moment but he withstood in faith and instead held a powerful healing revival!
Like Paul, who is our example, we can walk in victory over these five common maladies as long as we boldly resist in faith and persevere, energizing our faith via love. Not to mention simply walking according to God’s Word in general and following the leading of the Holy Spirit. Life’s a fight, fight it. And, remember, we’re more than conquerors, so it’s really no sweat.
Give the Lord a shout of praise and have yourself a victorious laugh!
(I should add here that serious study needs to be balanced out by serious praise. You’ll see many examples of jubilant praise in the Psalms. Being over-intellectual or over-stoical is just as bad as being over-emotional. Balance is the key, which is why Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 emphasizes “There is a time for everything”).
Allow me to reiterate: One of the reasons it’s important to grasp these basics of spiritual warfare is so that you’ll recognize when you’re being assaulted by the kingdom of darkness. After all, you can’t very well resist in faith if you’re not even sure you’re under attack.
The Person of God vs. the Principles of His Kingdom
Some may respond by pointing out that they know certain believers who love the LORD with all their hearts, but they’re not walking in victory over one or more of these curses. The reason for this is simple: There’s a difference between the person of God and the principles of his kingdom. It’s possible to be genuinely tight with the Lord but ignorant of the principles of the kingdom, including the fundamental truths of spiritual warfare. Similarly, it’s possible for an unbeliever who doesn’t even know the LORD to apply the principles of God’s Word in certain areas and be blessed to some degree.
In short, there are highly spiritual Christians out there who are overcome by these curses sheerly due to ignorance! Meanwhile the devil’s having himself a big laugh. And he throws a wild party when some of these dear brothers and sisters inevitably mold their theology to accommodate their defeated experiences. The remedy for this is simple: knowledge. Hosea 4:6 says that God’s people are destroyed because of lack of knowledge – not Satan, not twelve legions of demons, not people, not a bad economy, not negative circumstances, but lack of knowledge. The sole antidote to lack of knowledge is accurate knowledge. Proverbs 11:9 says that the righteous escape through knowledge.
Make no mistake, your biggest enemy is ignorance. It takes one key to open a treasure chest. Just so, you may be one principle of wisdom away from unlocking floodgates of blessing in your life! Even if you’re ten or twenty principles away, the proof of longing is PURSUIT: “Get wisdom, get understanding… Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding” (Proverbs 4:5, 7 emphasis added).
Distinguishing S.I.T.s, M.I.T.s and D.I.T.s
David Servant came up with a good way to categorize human trials in his book God’s Test – S.I.T.s, M.I.T.s and D.I.T.s.
- S.I.T.s refer to Self-Inflicted Trials, like when someone bangs up his/her body due to careless snow skiing or gets nausea after eating too much unhealthy food. In both cases the pain the individual suffers isn’t some diabolic plot, but simply the person’s own foolish choices and actions.
- M.I.T.s refer to Maturing/testing Intended Trials, which include the five general curses detailed above. Take Job’s trials as documented in the first three chapters of Job. God permitted Satan to assault Job with the five general curses for the purpose of testing his motivations. Was Job so godly and devout solely for God’s blessings? Would he curse the Almighty or deny his existence if his many blessings were temporarily removed? Although Job severely vented to God in his misery and frustration he didn’t turn away from him and therefore passed the test. God restored him. When new covenant believers are attacked by one or more of these five curses we need to recognize it for what it is – an attack of the enemy – and resist in faith, like Paul in the many examples detailed above. If we do this, the devil will flee like a pathetic cur with his tail between his legs (James 4:7) and we will experience greater maturity or favor with God as a result.
- D.I.T.s refer to Discipline Intended Trials, which refer to God permitting us to be inflicted by one or more of the five general curses as a means of rebuke for disobedience. This is why some of the carnal Corinthians were sick or prematurely died, because they brought judgment on themselves due to disobedience (1 Corinthians 11:27-31). The same thing with a woman in the church at Thyatira and the people who were foolishly following her bad example. Jesus said he gave them time to repent but they were unwilling so he was going to inflict some of them with sickness (“a bed of suffering”) and even strike some of them “dead” (Revelation 2:20-23).
Needless to say, when we experience one or more of the five general curses – physical illness, mental illness, poverty or financial lack, human attack and defeat, or the threat of premature death – we need to ask ourselves if it’s a S.I.T, a M.I.T. or a D.I.T. If it’s a Self-Inflicted Trial, we simply need to acknowledge our folly in the matter and make the necessary changes. If it’s a Maturing/testing Intended Trial, we should “fight the good fight of faith” with perseverance and victory will be ours. If it’s a Discipline Intended Trial, we need to seek the Lord concerning what it was we did to incur his discipline, humbly acknowledge it, and repent, i.e. change for the better.
For example, two weeks ago I got back from a 5-day vacation in the Breckenridge, Colorado, area and it was just awesome, and inexpensive to boot. Unfortunately, when I got home I copped a grumbling attitude due to some minor grievances. Instead of overflowing with thankfulness for my wonderful God-given vacation I allowed some small mishaps to damper my attitude to the point of being childish. Sickness immediately came upon me and I fought it in faith but it wasn’t working. Then I knew – God was rebuking me for my negative, complaining spirit. Once I realized this, I humbly repented and resisted in faith. I was then delivered from the illness.
Something similar happened to my wife this past week. Carol’s a healing warrior and the epitome of health, but she came down with a sickness that was spreading around the office. Yet, when she tried to fight it off with faith it wasn’t happening. She then knew by the Spirit that it was a D.I.T. She had been holding a minor grudge against a subordinate at work because she caught him speaking negatively about her behind her back. She confronted him and he apologized, but she maintained an attitude against him. In other words, she didn’t truly forgive him despite his apology. Once she got the matter straightened out with the Lord, she resisted her sickness in faith and it left her. This disciplinary trial lasted 24-hours in total.
If you’re faced with such suffering you need to search your heart and deal with it accordingly. You’ll instinctively know in your spirit if it’s a Discipline Intended Trial, unless of course you’re arrogant and stubborn. If it is a D.I.T., immediately make things right with the LORD and then fight the good fight of faith. Victory is promised in your covenant and the enemy has no recourse but to flee. And please don’t get too down on yourself because “the Lord disciplines those he loves” (Hebrews 12:5-8 emphasis added). You’re his precious child and he doesn’t want you walking in the ways of the world.
Now, someone might point out that Discipline Intended Trials complicate the issue because they require the believer to determine if the malady in question is an attack from the kingdom of darkness for righteousness’ sake or a disciplinary measure on God’s part due to unrepentant disobedience. Well, that’s just the way it is. Besides, this very factor calls for an actual relationship with the LORD, which is what true Christianity is all about and separates it from mere human religion. What do I mean? If a believer has a genuine relationship with God s/he will be able to fairly easily discern if the curse in question is the result of a M.I.T. or a D.I.T, as Carol and I did in the two examples above. On the other hand, believers who fail to cultivate such a relationship will have a harder time distinguishing M.I.T.s from D.I.T.s. So, in reality, this is a great spur to go deeper in God!
For more information on S.I.T.s, M.I.T.s and D.I.T.s go to heavensfamily.org and read Chapter 13 of God’s Tests (just click “Shepherd Serve” and then “books” and God’s Test will appear on the list of online books).
Spiritual Warfare and Human Attack
As you can see, one of the five general assaults involves human attack through no fault of your own, meaning you did nothing to deserve the mistreatment; people are attacking you simply because you’re light and they’re darkness, you’re spiritual and they’re carnal, you’re of God and they’re of the devil. This type of polarizing language is no more popular in today’s politically correct climate than it was in the first century, but it’s what the Bible clearly teaches as shown in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18. While this passage is not addressing Christian ethics (Jesus and Paul had regular associations with unbelievers, albeit not intimate relationships) it certainly does distinguish between believer and unbeliever, of which the latter includes counterfeit believers, i.e. modern-day Pharisaical religionists.
When you realize that such an attack is spiritual in nature – in other words, it’s not just that person attacking you, he or she is backed up and manipulated by spiritual forces of evil – it changes your mindset on the situation and helps you effectively strategize for victory.
Let me give an example: I was working a secular job years ago, walking down a hallway, when I overheard two guys behind me mocking and laughing. Since I did nothing wrong to deserve such treatment I recognized it as a spiritually motivated attack. I didn’t allow their derogatory and disrespectful antics to get me down; I didn’t turn around and start cussing or challenge them to a brawl. The Bible teaches that the spiritual believer should avoid quick-temperedness and violence, as far as is possible (Titus 1:7). In fact, a smile beamed on my face and I was laughing in my heart at how pathetic they were because, whether they knew it or not, they were the devil’s little puppets. I maintained a completely peaceable spirit toward them, gave thanks and praise to God, and prayed for them, which released God’s will and power into the situation. In essence I just waved them off as bothersome gnats. Within ten days there were some cuts at the workplace and they were both removed.
What happened? I refused to handle the situation in the flesh, which would’ve automatically tied up the hands of God. I “overcame evil with good” according to Romans 12:14-21 and the Lord was released to take care of the situation for me. It was no sweat.
Here’s another example: Years ago, I observed an enemy at work talking with another employee, “Joe,” whom I got along with. When I saw them together the Holy Spirit revealed to me that this enemy was poisoning Joe’s mind against me. Sure enough, about half an hour later I came in contact with Joe in a secluded room and saw the hostility on his face. Even though there was another worker with him, he immediately started yelling and cussing at me. The other guy was aghast and remained silent. I searched my spirit to receive instructions from the Holy Spirit and He moved me to say nothing and show no hostility. So I just looked at him with a blank face and said nothing; in other words, I overlooked the insults, which is a wise Biblical principle when applicable (Proverbs 12:16). I finished my work, and left the room.
I should point out that Joe was an overweight man, out of shape and well into his 50s. Needless to say, I wasn’t afraid of him. I knew if it came down to it I could take him in a physical challenge, but I didn’t consider this an option since my fight isn’t with people, not to mention two adults brawling in the workplace (or anywhere) is childish. There are exceptions, of course, like self-defense, but it would depend on the leading of the Holy Spirit. No, my fight was with the dark powers behind the assault. Consequently, I prayed for Joe over the next several days and cast my cares. Again, prayer is the catalyst that releases God and his will into a situation on earth. And when the light of the LORD’s presence appears darkness flees.
As it turned out, I saw Joe about a week later and he went out of his way to be nice to me and treat me with respect. He was overtly smiling and making good-natured jokes. This was his way of apologizing and saying, in effect, “I’m sorry for the way I treated you last week, Dirk; it was wrong and I hope we can still be friends.” It’s important to read between the lines in situations like this as people can apologize without necessarily spelling it out, particularly men who often have a hard time with anything bordering on sappy. Take, for example, the criminal Jesus forgave while hanging on the cross (Luke 23:39-43); Jesus forgave him and promised salvation even though the man never verbalized repentance, but Jesus discerned his genuine change of heart. Besides, communication isn’t limited to words; my pets communicate with me all the time in various ways beyond words.
In both these cases I was able to resist my flesh’s knee-jerk compulsion to lash back because I understand the dynamics of spiritual warfare. I know my covenant (agreement) with God and fully realize that my fight is not with flesh and blood but with the spiritual forces of evil underpinning the attacks (Ephesians 6:12). Any type of verbal or physical resistance of human enemies is an option to be resorted to as led of the Holy Spirit, usually a last-resort, but not always, e.g. Paul and an antagonistic magician as shown in Acts 13:8-12.
Years before I met my wife she worked at a department store where she was faced with a hostile situation. Carol’s the quintessence of sweetness; there’s not a single rude or mean bone in her body. Without reason, a surly lady in charge of receiving took a serious dislike to Carol and heaped on the abuse. One day she came home from work in tears the mistreatment was so bad. Discussing the matter with management didn’t help, if anything it made it worse. Most realize that situations like this can make the work environment a living hell. Carol was at her wits end and simply didn’t know what to do. Although she was a Christian she wasn’t the Word-warrior she is today and so wasn’t up on the Scriptural techniques for overcoming evil with good. Fortunately the LORD brought the Word to her another way. In a dream she was clearly shown that she needed to pray for her enemy, so that’s what she did. Carol refused to repay evil for evil, insult for insult and slander for slander. Instead she “killed” the lady with kindness and bathed the matter in prayer behind the scenes, which – again – is the vehicle that releases God’s will and power into situations. Carol discerned a gradual change in the woman over the next several weeks until the woman actually befriended her and couldn’t say enough good things about her!
I’m not promising the exact same results when you face your enemies. Situations and people vary and the LORD’s will is the principle thing. What God’s Word promises is that you won’t be defeated by your foes as you implement the principles of overcoming evil with good and persevere in faith. For instance, I had an enemy at work years ago who routinely mocked me to others (but not to my face) and habitually stirred up strife. I regularly implemented the appropriate Scriptural techniques and was able to generally get along with the man. I prayed for him for literal years, but he never warmed up to spiritual things and it seemed like the LORD refused to remove him from my life. It wasn’t until almost ten years that he was taken out due to budget cuts. In the meantime I learned a lot about dealing with enemies, patience and overcoming evil with good, not to mention it kept me humble. The latter is more important than most of us realize as the LORD is very interested in his children cultivating and maintaining a humble spirit because his favor only flows to the humble, not the arrogant (see Proverbs 3:34, James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5 & Proverbs 14:6).
As you can see, it is of supreme benefit to grasp the basics of spiritual warfare when faced with such situations. It’ll keep you active and free from the ruts of helplessness, frustration, self-pity or bitterness. It’ll empower you to activate the principle of overcoming evil with good and pave the way for ultimate victory. Even in the last example above I had the eventual victory, it’s just that this case took more prayer, effort and patience than I was used to, but it was for my ultimate good because it made me stronger and meeker (not weaker).
Remember, knowledge is the key to empowerment and success, as it is written:
A wise man has great power, and a man of knowledge increases strength;
NOTE: Most of this teaching was edited from chapter 7 of The Believer’s Guide to Forgiveness & Warfare, which is available here (both print and eBook versions).
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