The modern soldier is well trained and equipped in the art of waging war. By the time he (or, in this day and age, she) is ready to face battle, many long hours will have been spent in basic training. He will have been prepared physically and mentally to deal with the rigors of combat. The soldier will know how to identify the enemy and his tactics. To battle against the enemy, he will be adept in using the tools of his trade. In combat, he will carry the most advanced military gear his country can afford. Some of this equipment is designed to take out the enemy, while other parts are designed to protect critical body areas.
The boots the soldier wears will protect, support and strengthen the feet carrying him into battle. A camouflaged uniform makes him less visible to his foe. Around the upper body he dons a flak jacket or a bulletproof vest to protect vital organs. Over this, he will put on a load-bearing vest (LBV) to carry grenades and other ammunition.
Around the soldier’s waist will be a belt holding a first-aid kit, canteens of thirst-quenching water and a knife. Strapping on an “Alice” pack, he will carry 100 pounds of additional essential gear. He will never go into battle without a bullet-stopping Kevlar helmet protecting his head. And in his hands he will carry a battle-tested, lethal M16 rifle.
When worn and properly used, these things can mean the difference between staying alive or becoming a casualty of war.
In the Bible, Christianity is compared to warfare. Indeed, it is a very real aspect of the way that those who follow Christ must live. Those who desire to live this way will face many battles—battles that must be won if we are to make it into the kingdom of God. There is effort involved—energy must be expended in the day-to-day life of a true Christian.
The reward—eternal life!—is well worth this effort. We dare not let this goal slip away. Notice this admonition from the Word of God: “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto you are also called, and have professed a good profession before many witnesses” (I Tim. 6:12). Take note of the powerful verbs used here—fight, lay hold—urging Christians to take action and put forth effort. No one can sit idly by and expect to win the Christian fight. We must always be ready to valiantly defend our position.
Paul urged Timothy to do just that: “This charge I commit unto you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on you, that you by them might war a good warfare; holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck” (I Tim. 1:18-19).
Too many, especially in this age, failed to take these words seriously. Growing tired and lethargic, no longer putting forth the required effort, they allowed their faith to become smashed like a ship pounded by waves. Battle fatigue set in and they became as casualties of war.
No wonder Paul further instructed Timothy to “endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ,” knowing that “no man that wars entangles himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please Him who has chosen him to be a soldier” (II Tim. 2:3-4).
Paul knew that his “son in the faith” would face many tough battles, constantly fighting against the enemy forces seeking to take his eternal life.
To win this all-out war, a Christian’s focus must be centered on the task at hand. He must allow nothing—no entanglements or distractions—to avert his attention.
Paul had steadfastly followed God’s way as a soldier of Christ. He knew shortly before his death that he had won the Christian fight. Notice: “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing” (4:6-8).
Waging war has been continual throughout the history of God’s Church. Paul could clearly see that from his day forward, all Christians would engage in struggles, conflicts and real battles against evil forces.
Like Timothy, upon our conversion and baptism, we were put into the Church—inducted as soldiers into the army of God. We did not volunteer; we were drafted (John 13:18; 15:16). Yet, we are not a physical army fighting with physical weapons of war. Nor do we fight against a physical foe. As the Church of the living God, we are a spiritual army. And we are at war—engaged in spiritual warfare!
Paul admonished the Corinthians of this very fact, telling them, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds)” (II Cor. 10:3-4).
Every good soldier will study his enemy to determine his strengths and weaknesses. And to be able to defeat the enemy, he must know how to deftly use, with overwhelming force, the weapons at his disposal.
Every true Christian faces the same three enemies. These mighty foes are in league against us. They are crafty, cunning and lurking about, ready to attack at every opportunity. They seek to confuse and overwhelm us and wear us down. Their ultimate goal is to murder us, to take away eternal life.
These three enemies are self, society and Satan. We will have to battle them for the rest of our physical lives. Every ounce of energy and effort must be put forth to gain victory over them.
Let’s examine each of our enemies.
The first enemy in the Christian’s daily warfare is the self—carnal human nature, with all of its inordinate lusts. As II Corinthians 10:3-4 shows, as long as we are in the flesh, we will have to battle our carnal human nature. The natural mind is a stronghold against God. It does not want to be conquered; it does not want to submit to the will of God. Carnal nature is the enemy of God, and is even against the very knowledge of God. It wants—and will try—to destroy you (Rom. 8:5-7)!
The self wants to do its own things and think its own thoughts. It will cleverly rationalize all it wants to do. It is “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9) and seeks only to bring forth the works of the flesh: vanity, jealousy, lust and greed (Gal. 5:19-21). It wants us to violate God’s spiritual Law, enticing us to sin. By doing this, it can cut us off from God (Isa. 59:1-2). Unless we successfully wage and win the war against the self—striving to resist its impulses leading to sin—our human nature will destroy us.
We must “[cast] down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and [bring] into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (II Cor. 10:5). There is an ongoing battle for control of your mind—a battle that you must win at all costs!
The second deadly enemy of all Christians is this present evil age—the society that surrounds us (Gal. 1:4). All it has to offer looks very appealing, alluring and glamorous. It brims over with the latest electronic gadgets, trendy clothing, fast cars, endless movies, music, shopping malls, dance clubs, pleasures, thrills, excitement, and on and on. This world appears to be wrapped with everything that glitters and is gold. It appeals to the five senses. And because it is built upon and motivated by the products of human nature—vanity, lust, greed, etc.—we are naturally drawn to it and, if not on guard, caught up in it.
Since early childhood, we began conforming to the world’s ways, customs and practices. We learned to celebrate its holidays. We easily accepted without question the lifestyles of the world we grew up in.
Yet, this is what our attitude toward society should be: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passes away, and the lust thereof” (I John 2:15-17).
We must carefully examine our ways to see if they conform to God’s ways or the ways of this world. We must overcome and reject every way that is contrary to the Christian walk. We dare not become involved in close relationships with people of this society, or “go along to get along,” worrying about how the world views us. Conforming to the world is not warring against it!
The world hates us because we are different from it—not of it (John 17:14, 16). Yes, we live in the world, but we cannot be a part of it. We must fight against its pulls like a soldier on an obstacle course, which strengthens and challenges him. A Christian must handle the obstacles of a society full of snares, barbed wire and land mines.
Take this admonishment to heart—your life depends on it: “Know you not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (Jms. 4:4), “and the world passes away, and the lust thereof: but he that does the will of God abides forever” (I John 2:17).
The third great enemy of all Christians is Satan the devil. As the “god of this world” (II Cor. 4:4) and “the prince of the power of the air,” he “works in the children of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2), and injects his attitudes into their unsuspecting minds. No wonder the Bible refers to society as “this present evil world” and states that it is thoroughly deceived (Rev. 12:9).
Satan has so completely deceived the world that it is in doubt of his very existence. Human beings are completely ignorant of the fact that human nature is really Satan’s nature! As “the prince of the power of the air,” he broadcasts feelings of anger, hatred, rebellion, envy, jealousy, lust, strife, bitterness, resentment, competition and so on, seeking to instill these thoughts in the mind of every human being. He is clever, cruel, relentless and experienced. He never grows tired. Nor does he suffer from battle fatigue. He constantly broadcasts attitudes of doubt, despondency, depression and negative feelings.
Most of all, he seeks to overcome and overwhelm those who have the Holy Spirit. Converted minds are not immune to Satan’s broadcast. He wants the people of God to doubt, be depressed, be hostile to authority, and be filled with bitterness, resentment and criticism against the ministry and each other. These are nothing more than “thought bombs” being dropped all around us!
Acting swiftly, at our most inopportune time—when we least expect it—Satan will exploit and intensify every rationalizing excuse and compromising twist of our carnal mind. He will poke and probe for weaknesses—anything he can use against us, anything that will appeal to human nature.
And he does not work alone. Notice: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness [wicked spirits] in high places” (Eph. 6:12). The devil has a whole army of demons that he enlists in his effort against us.
Each of us must “be sober, be vigilant; because [our] adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour” (I Pet. 5:8). Our battle cry must be “resist the devil,” knowing that “he will flee from [us]” (Jms. 4:7). Though Satan is a cunning, brilliant and relentless adversary, we can—and must—defeat him.
We are not alone in our daily Christian warfare. As a spiritual army, we have the greatest Commander-in-Chief possible—God the Father. He has called us—drafted us—into His army to fight against our three great enemies. God is able to “supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19). He has not left us defenseless, unable to fight against our foes. He has given us the most powerful force in the universe, His Spirit, which is available to us at all times. Since the time we became Christian soldiers at baptism, we have been infused with it. We are admonished to “stir up the gift of God, which is in [us] by the putting on of…hands” (II Tim. 1:6) which is not “the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (vs. 7). We can never allow our supply lines to this power to be cut off.
Our orders come from the “captain of [our] salvation” and the “author and finisher of our faith”—Jesus Christ (Heb. 2:10; 12:2). And as our Captain, Christ will lead and help us in battle. Notice this Old Testament passage: “And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with His sword drawn in His hand: and Joshua went unto Him, and said unto Him, Are you for us, or for our adversaries? And He said, No; but as captain of the host of the Lord am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto Him, What say my lord unto His servant? And the captain of the Lord’s host said unto Joshua, Loose your shoe from off your foot; for the place whereon you stand is holy. And Joshua did so” (Josh. 5:13-15).
The One who would later become Christ appeared to Joshua, holding His drawn sword in hand, and declared that He was the Captain of the Lord’s host. Since Jesus is “the same yesterday, and today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8), He will lead us into battle and to absolute victory, as He did for Joshua and ancient Israel. We can take encouragement from these words:
“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord; and the people whom He has chosen for His own inheritance. The Lord looks from heaven; He beholds all the sons of men. From the place of His habitation He looks upon all the inhabitants of the earth. He fashions their hearts alike; He considers all their works. There is no king saved by the multitude of an host: a mighty man is not delivered by much strength. A horse is a vain thing for safety: neither shall he deliver any by his great strength. Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear Him, upon them that hope in His mercy; to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for the Lord: He is our help and our shield” (Psa. 33:12-20).
As long as we strive to obey and please God, we need not fear. It is not a question of whether we will win the war, but rather when. Keeping a right heart, a right attitude, along with remaining close to and in contact with the Captain of our salvation, assures our protection from the enemy (Psa. 34:7).
Like any good battlefield commander, Christ has thoroughly equipped His army with tried and tested battle gear. It is essential that you know what each piece of this armor is and what it is used for, and to never go into battle without it. Neglecting or forgetting any part will leave you exposed and unprotected.
Through Paul, we are urged to put on the armor of God—also called the “armor of light” (Rom. 13:12)—in order to fight and prevail in this spiritual battle. Consider: “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of god, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil…Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth.” (Read Ephesians 6:10-17.)
Truth refers to the inspired Word of God. Christ plainly stated that God’s Word is truth (John 17:17). This is a critical piece of the Christian’s armor. Through the Bible, the true God is revealed to us. We know that He is the Creator of all that is, and that He and Jesus Christ currently constitute the God Family, into which we can be born. We know about the Sabbath and Holy Days. Through God’s Word, we have the knowledge of His plan of Salvation. We also know the true Jesus Christ, who is our Savior, High Priest, elder Brother and soon-coming King. Because God opened our minds to understand His Word, we have been freed from the false, Satan-inspired pagan customs, traditions and holidays of this world.
Having our loins “girt” with the truth protects and insulates us from the fiery darts of the devil. Truth must be firmly secured about our waist—attached to it is the breastplate of righteousness and hanging from it is the sword of the Spirit. Losing any part of the truth leaves the breastplate of righteousness loose and allows the sword of the Spirit to fall on the ground. If this happens, we are leaving ourselves exposed to fatal injury.
The breastplate of righteousness is obedience to God’s commandments (Psa. 119:172), which brings automatic blessings and protection from God. In ancient warfare, soldiers wore breastplates to protect the heart. Recall that modern-day soldiers wear flak jackets for the same reason. Similarly, when a Christian incorporates God’s Law into his mind—his “heart,” the seat of his emotions and desires—his motives will be based on love toward God and neighbor, and he will be protected from the way of sin (Psa. 119:1-3, 10, 28-40, 97-110, 112). Keeping God’s Law means that we are always in close contact with Him, and are able to draw strength from His Spirit (Acts 5:32). Living according to the Law ensures our spiritual vitality. Christ clearly stated, “If you will enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matt. 19:17).
The gospel of peace is the good news of the soon-coming, world-ruling kingdom of God—to be established when Christ returns as King of kings and Lord of lords, bringing true and lasting peace to a tired, dying, hopeless world. The gospel provides a solid footing, allowing us to dig our heels in and stand our ground against our three foes (self, society and Satan). History has shown that whenever Christians traded the true gospel for a false one, the kingdom of God was no longer their focus, and they soon accepted a cancerous body of heresies in place of God’s truth. The gospel proclaimed by Christ is a message of hope serving to strengthen our legs as we actively support the Work in carrying it to the world (Rom. 10:15). And as the children of God, who have been called to peace (I Cor. 7:15), we need never worry, be unsettled or have our resolve weakened by world events.
The shield of faith is the faith of Jesus Christ, which we can have within us (Gal. 2:20; Rev. 14:12; Phil. 3:9)—not just our own human, physical faith, which will wax and ebb. Faith is imparted to us by the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22). And it is this faith—Christ’s faith within us—that enables us to conquer and overcome. We will have full assurance in the promises from God. We will have total belief that what He says He will do, He does.
This faith will see us through the many trials and temptations that Satan throws in our path. This shield of faith provides the cover we need. It is a defensive weapon that grows ever larger and stronger with diligent use, eventually covering our entire body.
The helmet of salvation is the knowledge of what salvation is, what it involves, how to achieve it, what it is all about—the purpose of human life. It is the knowledge of the right and true goal, and the awesome potential—the ultimate destiny—of mankind. It is the incredible, inspiring knowledge that we can be born into—become full members of—the God Family. Being armed with this helmet guards us against the blows of the enemy. It protects against the feelings of doubt and depression that Satan desperately wants to inject into our minds, in an all-out effort to cause us to give up. Without this vital knowledge, he could deliver blow after blow. Without the helmet of salvation, we will fail to remember why we were born—and we will also forget what we are fighting for! Knowing that we have salvation waiting for us at the end of the war, we can have the strength and determination to see the battle through to the very end.
The sword of the Spirit is the written Word of God. This is the only offensive weapon a Christian has in fighting the devil and his devices (Heb. 4:12). While it may appear to be the same as being girded with the truth, it is slightly different. Hanging from the truth—all of God’s Word—it is drawn from it, cutting the enemies’ strategies and tactics to pieces. Knowing the whole counsel of God allows us to pull passages from the Bible to deftly wield as a sword, cutting through the lies, falsehoods, feelings of doubt, depression and cunning deceits of our foes. With it, we can also deflect whatever is thrown at us and deal deadly blows to our enemies (Matt. 4:1-11). Every soldier of Christ must master the use of this weapon, keeping it firmly in hand.
After we have put on the armor of God, Paul’s final instruction to us is to “[pray] always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit…watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints” (Eph. 6:18). This is the final thing we must do in the battle against all our enemies. We must draw close to God in persevering, fervent prayer, asking for more of His Spirit, His help and His protection—along with the strength, desire and determination needed to fight each and every battle. We need to continually pray for all of God’s people and the ministry.
Armed with the knowledge of who our enemies are and the tactics they employ, having God and Christ in battle with us, and putting on the armor of God, we can defeat and overcome our foes. This is the perfect strategy for defeating human nature and the pulls of the world, both of which are influenced by the devil. If you faithfully, diligently adhere to this formula, you can and will win your war against these deadly enemies.