Have you ever found yourself thinking that God ought to be making your life easier? Have you ever done your best to follow Him-and then gotten upset and frustrated because everything seemed to go wrong?

If you answered "yes" to either question, you're not alone. Most Christians today believe that life will be easier, sweeter, and better if we follow Christ the way we should.

But the Bible describes a surprisingly different reality for the Christian life. Yes, God has a great plan for your life, but (are you ready for this?) that plan involves spiritual warfare. And when things go wrong in our lives, we may be experiencing those battles firsthand.

Now I'm aware that there are some wild, bizarre teachings about spiritual warfare. All you have to do is turn on the TV, and you can hear some pretty weird ideas about Satan.

There are two dangerous reactions to these teachings. The first is to deny that Satan exists-that he's only a cartoon character with horns, a pitchfork, and a red suit. The other extreme is to think that there is a devil behind every difficulty, challenge, or physical illness. Balance and wisdom are crucial.

That's why it's vital for Christians today to understand what the Bible says about Satan, demons, and spiritual warfare. The New Testament's central passage on spiritual warfare is Ephesians 6:10-12; five basic realities about spiritual warfare flow out of these three verses.

REALITY #1 There Is an Invisible World

The first basic truth about spiritual warfare is that an invisible world, another dimension, exists beyond our own. This world involves angels, demons, and spiritual realities, and is just as real as the physical world. For a powerful example, check out 2 Kings 6:15-17.

REALITY #2 You-Yes, You-Are Involved in an Invisible War

There is a battle being fought for the soul of every person on this planet-and you are involved. Forces of evil are pitted against the forces of good, and you and I are right in the middle of this war. The apostle Paul makes this very clear when he declares: "Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but . . . against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Ephesians 6:12).

REALITY #3 Your Foe Is Formidable

Here's the most troubling news. The devil's goal is to destroy your life on earth and to discredit the cause of Christ through you. So you need to be alert and aware. Satan plays for keeps. He wants to mess with your mind. He wants you to start thinking wrongly about God, wrongly about yourself, and wrongly about others. If he can do that, he knows you'll make destructive choices for yourself and for those you love.

REALITY #4 You Must Know the Enemy's Tactics

To win the battle against him, you need to know Satan's strategies. Do you understand that there are certain times of the day when you're more vulnerable than others? Do you realize that when you are fatigued or traveling out of town, you're more likely to fall into sin or discouragement? Do you understand that because of your personality, your background, and your baggage, he knows what your buttons are and he will push them at the right time?

Satan is a master of sin and deception. He has been a student of human behavior for thousands of years and knows how to tempt us through worry, self-reliance, discouragement, worldliness, and immorality. (See next article.) He is constantly looking for ways to trip us up! There is an unbelievable amount of material in the New Testament about demonic spiritual warfare. Study, study, study. But a caution: Don't be afraid of him or become preoccupied with Satan.

REALITY #5 In Christ's Power You Are Invincible

Finally, you need God's armor to fight and win. Meditate on Ephesians 6 to learn about this armor and what it means for your life. We'll never be able to win this fight on our own. We need God to protect us with His helmet, shield, and breastplate. And we need His offensive weapon, the sword of the Spirit, God's Word. (See also 2 Corinthians 10:4-5)

Let me conclude with some great news. As a believer in Christ, you do not fight for victory in the spiritual war. You fight from victory. In Christ's power you are invincible-you are on the winning team! Our destiny with Christ is secure. And when we understand the realities of spiritual warfare, we can also win the day-to-day battles we face here on earth.

Excerpted from the message, Spiritual Warfare 101, by Chip Ingram. Used with permission. Copyright 2001 by Chip Ingram. All rights reserved.

About the author: Chip Ingram is President of Walk Thru the Bible in Atlanta, GA, and Teaching Pastor of Living on the Edge, a national radio ministry.