How to Fight Spiritual Warfare God's Way
- Jason Soroski jasonsoroski.wordpress.com
- 2021 30 Mar
As we study the Gospels, the one apostle that stands out as the leader of the group is Peter. Peter is geared towards action and is the one the others seem to look toward for leadership. Yet Peter had to learn the hard way about fighting spiritual warfare correctly, and that lesson is very applicable to us. When we fight spiritual battles, we have to fight the way God has called us to fight.
As we walk once again through Holy Week and consider Peter’s role in it, I am always concerned that I might ‘get used’ to the story, and that I might grow numb to the fact that we are celebrating the One who led a sinless life, gave himself up for us, and rose again from death! I don’t ever want to take that for granted, but live for Christ every day! Jesus said that when we live for him, we will encounter opposition. This is made perfectly clear in Matthew 10:22, “You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved”. So, if we are to be hated, and we will be attacked, how are we to properly and effectively fight for the cause of Christ?
Choose Your Weapon
I don’t like the idea of being hated by everyone, but in a culture increasingly opposed to Christ, there seems to be little option. When people hate you, they will want to fight, and we must be prepared to fight back. Like so many others before me, I want to fight diligently for my faith and defend Christ at any cost. Yet there is a great danger in fighting the wrong way. Our first response often seems to be lashing out in anger or contempt. Just check your social media feed or the local news outlet to confirm this.
The night Jesus was betrayed, everyone was taken by surprise. Everyone, that is, except for Jesus. Jesus knew what was coming and he knew how he needed to handle it. Peter did not. Before soldiers came to arrest Jesus, before Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss, Peter had sworn that he would be willing to fight and die for Jesus. Peter believed that he had what it would take to attack anyone who dared to attack his Lord. And when the time came, he did just that. When he saw Jesus being arrested, he did the only thing he knew how to do – he drew his sword and went on the attack. The problem is that he did it the wrong way and for the wrong reasons and it only made things worse.
Put Away Your Sword
John 18:10 tells us that, “Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus)“ . When Peter saw his faith under attack he came out swinging. Surely this made him a hero, a shining example of one who would take on any odds to fight for Christ! Actually, it did just the opposite. He did not get praise for this at all. What he received was not a compliment from Jesus but a rebuke, recorded in John 18:11, “Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”
Peter does not hear Jesus say, ‘well done, good and faithful servant! You really stuck it to that guy!’ He hears correction for doing things wrong, for working from his own strength instead of working from the strength of Christ. Peter’s effort to defend Jesus his own way turned out to be a very bad move.
Matthew 26:52 records Jesus telling Peter, “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword”. What we learn here is that our struggle is not with flesh and blood, but against the powers of darkness (Ephesians 6:12). This goes against our tendency to swing away and cause as much damage as we can against our human enemies. When we do this, sometimes we take off an ear, are proud of ourselves, and find that reason to celebrate. Yet Jesus condemns this and goes as far as to heal the pain that has been caused by restoring the servant’s ear back to the way it was before Peter hacked it off (Luke 22:51).
Even in this moment, Jesus was not about tearing down and destroying but healing and restoring.
God Is Capable of Defending Himself
Jesus asks Peter, “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53).
In his frenzied effort to defend Jesus, he seems to forget exactly who Jesus was. I am afraid we make the same mistake. Jesus asks us to stand firm in our faith, and put on spiritual armor to withstand the attacks of the enemy, but in no way does he need us to ‘defend’ him. He is the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. He is the one who created all that is and all that will be, which makes him more than capable of defending himself from that guy on Twitter that said mean things about Christianity.
We are to speak the truth, of course. We are to be prepared to defend the reasons we believe and proclaim the truth of Christ in all that we do. But let us remember that God is powerful beyond our understanding, and is he is fighting our battles for us, not the other way around.
The Importance of Knowing Scripture
Jesus continues by saying, “But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?” (Matthew 26:54).
Are you reading your Bible daily? Paul writes in Ephesians 6:17 that we are to, “take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Peter was right in that we are to do battle with a sword; he just had the wrong sword. In choosing our weapons, we need to be well-versed in the Word of God and use that weapon to do our battle. People around us will manipulate Scripture to their purposes, or even misrepresent entirely what it says. We protect ourselves and fight those attacks by knowing it well and gripping it with confidence.
Our knowledge of God’s Word, and our ability to handle it well, will keep us safe and allow us to protect others from bad ideas that sound good on the surface but lead to death.
Prayer Comes First
Jesus was the only one who knew what was coming and how to respond to it because Jesus was the only one praying. Before we attempt any type of spiritual battle, we must do battle in prayer! God will speak to us through prayer and prepare our hearts for anything that is to come. Anything done outside of prayer is doomed to fail, as we see in Peter’s poor attempt to ‘do something.’
As Jesus is praying desperately to the Father, he wants his apostles to do the same and praying with him. Yet even knowing this, they just went to sleep, “then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter” (Matthew 26:40). We cannot jump from spiritual sleep (or physical sleep for that matter) and expect to be effective. Jesus calls on us to pray just as he called on them, knowing that this is what will prepare us to stand firm to the end against the schemes of the devil and the lies of the world.
As we reflect on the death and resurrection of Christ, let us learn from Peter’s mistake. We fight our battles in the strength of Christ, through the power of prayer and the Word of God. When we take on our battles this way, we can be assured that we will be successful in accomplishing kingdom purposes.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/Balazs Toth / EyeEm
Jason Soroski is a homeschool dad and author of A Journey to Bethlehem: Inspiring Thoughts for Christmas and Hope for the New Year. He serves as worship pastor and in Colorado and spends his weekends exploring the Rocky Mountains with his family. Connect on Twitter, Instagram, or at JasonSoroski.net.