You gotta love Eugene Peterson and his take on familiar Scripture passages. He's talking about spiritual warfare. He's earthy and pithy. Here's a portion of Ephesian 6 from The Message.
So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we'll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels. Be prepared. You're up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it's all over but the shouting you'll still be on your feet.
I remember the first time I encountered evil in an other worldly way.
I was visiting a friend up in northern Wisconsin. Older friends of his were also visiting. A married couple. An attorney and his wife. I knew the husband, not the wife.
During the course of the evening the couple started talking about the wife’s ability to communicate with the dead. She was a medium. Somewhere along the way she closed her eyes and started chanting and channeling. After a few minutes I felt this deep sense of foreboding, and instinctively knew that something was happening that was both unfamiliar and dangerous. And I remember going over to this stranger and shaking her –doing whatever I could to get her out of her trancelike state. I remember saying very firmly to her ‘stop’. I was truly shaken. I sensed something ‘evil’ in our midst. It was a very uneasy feeling.
A few weeks later I was back at that house. Alone. And I couldn’t stay. Something was different. To this day, I believe that wasn’t my mind playing tricks on me. I wasn’t in any mind-altered state. There was something that frightened me. I felt I was in the presence of something that wanted to hurt me.
Throughout my life I’ve also been in the presence of people that I believe are unduly influenced by evil. They, too, frighten me. I always have a deep sense that these folks are being guided by something that's truly malignant.
So, I believe that there is something evil that tempts people to do evil. It's real. It's dangerous. I believe we have an enemy who wants to attack our heart leaving it scarred, lonely and rendering us ineffective in our work for the kingdom of God.
Anything that is important to God is an enemy of the devil. And we are really, realy important to God. So, if you ever feel stymied in your attempts to reflect the glory of God you can bet you're in the midst of a battle. It's a battle against God and for your heart. And even though the devil is defeated, because of the cross, he is still allowed to have some freedom in this world of ours until Jesus deals with his reign of terror once and for all. Until that time comes he wrecks havoc in order to damage the Lord’s reputation.
We’ve often been told that the problems in our spiritual life will come from the flesh, the world and the devil. In a nutshell that means that we all have spiritual Achilles heels. For some it’s sexual issues, for others gossip, for some it’s how we deal with finances, for others it’s anger, or unresolved guilt or a sense of shame, or an unwillingness to accept or grant forgiveness. The devil will use whatever is our weakness and offer us an alternative from the world. He’ll distort what's meant for good and use it to drive us up, down or sideways and away from God. It’s a battle. Truly a war. The enemy want to attack our heart, discourage our heart, break our heart, and leave us truly heart broken and angry at God. And in the shadow of our discontent the devil stands arms folded, a wicked smile on his lips, a 'gotcha God' expression on his face.
I was reading a book recently called God Goes to Starbucks. In it, the author talks about a Nigerian seminarian who was asked to comment on the differences between Christianity in his native land and what he experiences here in the states. He said that the church is the U.S. is relatively prayerless and that we're unaware of spiritual warfare.
I think he hit the nail on the head. We don't know much about prayer and we too quickly dismiss any notion that a war is being waged for our heart.
The consistent message of the Bible is that there is an Enemy eager to destroy your heart. And this enemy wants to leave your heart homeless, haunted by fears, and feeling completely abandoned.
John Elderedge writes ... “To live in ignorance of spiritual warfare is the most naïve and dangerous thing a person can do. It’s like skipping through the worst part of town, late at night, waving your wallet above your head. It’s like walking into an al-Quaeda training camp, wearing and “I love the United States’ t-sirt. It’s like swimming with great white sharks dressed as a wounded sea lion and smeared in blood. You don’t escape spiritual warfare simply because you choose not to believe it exisits."
The bottom line is, you are going to have to fight for your heart. It’s getting shot at all the time. Are you up for it? Are you up for a ongoing assault against you and yours?
A brand new friend on Facebook wrote to me recently about this topic. She's had some experience with these kind of things and offers some ways to deal with these ongoing assaults. So, I'll close the post with her words. Real wisdom.
I’ve learned to anticipate some of his attacks. I’m speaking next week to a group of women who were sexually abused in the church. I know for a fact that God wants to heal and restore these women. The enemy hates this.
So, I’m on alert this week …not afraid, but on guard…putting on the full armor …and then prepared to watch God do what He does best. Go God.
I used to let the devil intimidate me and would back off from whatever I was doing that brought opposition. Now I tell my husband so he knows and he can pray. I tell at least one good friend who understands spiritual warfare, and I try to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ …the mind seems to be his primary target and playground. I press through in prayer …
Good stuff. Anticipate attacks. Understand the tactics of the enemy. Don't be afraid. Don't back off but put on the armor of God. Pray and enlist the prayer of others. Don't believe the lies that go through our head. Trust God to do His thing, letting Him do what He does best. Go God.