September 22, 2015
What Do You Know about Spiritual Warfare?
Post by Brittany Tedesco
Imagine living in a community where you're expected to support idol worship. Your neighbors beat on your door and demand you throw some money (or food or whatever) into the treasury for the idol sacrifice.
I don't want to support this, you think, knowing there will be consequences if you don't.
This exact scenario played out in Nepal a few months ago. Christian Aid Mission supports a native missionary there who told us that all of the people in his village gathered together to organize a community-wide puja (an act of worship to a Hindu god or goddess).
The villagers determined that every household must contribute either money or rice to help celebrate the puja. They far outnumbered the Christians in the village. The missionary we assist had planted a church there, attended by nearly 100 believers. These gathered together and affirmed one another's decision not to contribute toward the idol worship.
This didn't go over well with the villagers, who banded together and threatened to evict the Christians from the village if they refused to participate in the event. As the day of the puja approached, the believers were continually heckled and harassed in the marketplace.
If the Christians were biblically ignorant, they might be overcome by fear, assuming they were helpless victims at the mercy of the mob. They might have relented to the demands, and compromised their beliefs.
But they knew better, because they knew the Word. They knew their battle wasn't against flesh and blood. And so they used the weapons of their warfare, coming together to pray and fast.
The disgruntled villagers gathered to confront the missionary, telling him that if the Christians didn't participate in the ceremony, the villagers would have no recourse but to fight against them, because Christianity, they said, is an unwelcome, foreign religion.
With all eyes on him, the missionary stood. His church had gathered elsewhere to pray for him. "We are also citizens of Nepal, and we have a right to believe in Jesus Christ," he began. "So, whether you send us out of this village or fight against us, still we will love you and not fight against you. We cannot worship idols or give any money or rice."
The crowd seemed to soften. His response wasn't what they were expecting. "What kind of people is this?" they asked themselves. Finally, they determined to exempt the Christians from participating in the puja.
For the next several days, the villagers engaged in the widespread idol worshipping event. With earthen jars, they carried water from the river to throw at the feet of the idols. During their final day of worship, at the order of a Hindu priest, they gathered in front of the temple. He would take all of their earthen vessels, he told them, and throw them down from the temple to break them into pieces. Whoever was lucky enough to collect one of the shards would be blessed by the gods.
The Christians watched as the mob descended on the broken jars, pushing and fighting for a piece. The aftermath was head injuries and broken bones. Ambulances loaded with wounded people headed for the hospital.
Some of the villagers remembered the Christians and their refusal to participate in the ceremony that had resulted in anything but blessing. Four families made the decision to follow Christ. The missionary baptized them. A spiritual battle was won.
What would you have done?
Do you know much about spiritual warfare?
I'll admit, the notion has intimidated me. Ignorance has characterized my understanding of this topic, which I imagined was all exorcisms and brazenly rebuking the devil. Who am I to engage in such spiritually lofty business? I'll just steer clear of that stuff. . .I'll just stand on the sidelines and occasionally be a victim of my circumstances.
The only thing is, we're all in a battle whether we like it or not. You can stand on the sidelines and put your weapon down only if you want to get beat up. Ephesians 6:12 tells us that our struggle isn't against human beings, but against spiritual forces of evil.
I think most "enlightened" folk in developed nations ignore or reject the idea of spiritual forces at work around us. But pagans in less developed nations sure do grasp the concept.
Take the Hindu island of Bali, Indonesia, for instance. Our Southeast Asia Director visited Bali a few years ago, taking note of the shrines covering every part of the island. . .a shrine for every person's land, house, and family. Larger shrines for every cluster of families, others for each village and district, and the Mother Temple for all of Bali in the center of the island. Atop each shrine is a chair, a "god seat," built for the spirit who rules over each area.
The Balinese understand territorial spirits. What they might not know is that these spirits are demons.
In 1 Corinthians 10:20, the Apostle Paul, in instructing his flock about idol worship, tells us that the "things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God."
Deuteronomy 32:17 also seems to link idol worship with the worship of actual demons. "They sacrificed to demons, not to God."
The Bible also makes mention of territorial spirits. In Daniel 10, an angel tells Daniel that he and another angel, Michael, were battling evil spiritual forces, referred to as the "princes of Persia and Greece."
A few months ago, my pastor relayed an interesting story to us. He'd encountered a man who was struggling greatly with various problems in his life. He prayed for and witnessed to the man about Christ, and then asked him if he would like to receive Jesus as his savior.
"I can't," the man told him.
"Why not?" my pastor asked, assuming the man meant that he wasn't willing or ready to put his trust in Jesus.
"I just can't," the man answered. "I don't know why, but I just can't."
Understanding that the problem was spiritual, my pastor prayed for God's spirit to overcome spiritual forces of darkness. At the end of his prayer, the man cried out that he wanted to receive Jesus as his savior. A battle had been won in the spiritual realm. A captive was released from the enemy's camp.
Christian apologist, J.P. Moreland, asserts that a key component in spiritual warfare is knowledge. Knowing God's Word is crucial to the ability to fight spiritual forces of darkness. Otherwise, we'll fight blind. . .or not at all.
Engaging in spiritual warfare isn't just for a special group of people. It's for everyone who calls upon the name of Jesus. And you don't have to have special gifts or "powers" to do it. Fervent prayer and studying God's Word is what it takes. Can't we all do that?
Oh how we need more spiritual warriors in our midst today. Like never before.
And really, who wouldn't want to fight on the winning side—that of Jesus, who is seated at God's right hand, "far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come" (Ephesians 1:21 NIV).