Spiritual warfare? What does this have to do with learning to worship the Lord on an intimate basis?
Over the past few months we've been exploring the importance of worship, and how it is the means by which we are changed into Christ's image. Why do we bring up the subject of spiritual warfare? We do so because if we are going to be true worshipers of God, more than ever before we need to be knowledgeable in the art of spiritual warfare. We need to know the enemy - his tactics and his ways - because, believe me, we are going to need this wisdom!1 If we want to survive these "end times", we really have no other option than to learn how to fight the enemy and how to do warfare for ourselves, as well as all those for whom we pray.
Therefore, part of our prayer time in the Holy Place must be concerned with asking the Father to expose the enemy, to bind him in Jesus' Name and to loose any strongholds that have been established.
The Enemy's Involvement
When we are lukewarm Christians and have only a "form of godliness" (2 Timothy 3:5), the devil doesn't really seem to bother with us. Why should he? We're no real threat to anyone, least of all him. As my Chuck often says, "Many of us are undercover Christians - i.e., no one knows we are." So the enemy leaves us alone. But let us begin to worship and love the Lord with all our heart, mind and soul. Then, watch out! We're in for a real battle!
Remember how the Israelites tried to stone Joshua and Caleb for their commitment to "go all the way" with God? (Numbers 13:30-14:10) Well, it will be the same with us. Instead of our friends rejoicing or understanding what has happened to us, they'll think we are crazy. They'll ridicule us, mock us and even call us fanatics. You watch, the enemy will find many holes in which to attack us!
Jesus warns us in John 16:2, "These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended. They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor Me."
Why is it that when we decide to surrender everything to the Lord, we automatically become huge targets? When we become worshipers, it's almost as if we develop a great big bull's eye on our chest that says, "I love God, shoot me!" The reason this happens is that our mortal enemy not only hates God, he also hates anyone who wants to follow Him. If we are lukewarm, he won't bother with us. But, watch out if we become "hot," we'll become immediate "pot shots." Satan will do anything he can to thwart God's plans in us and through us, even sending out "angels of light."
Thus, if you intend to learn to worship the Lord, then you must be prepared to fight the enemy, and that involves learning spiritual warfare.
How Do We Fight?
Okay. How do we fight?
We fight by surrendering more! Yes, you read that correctly. We learn to fight the enemy by surrendering ourselves more - not to him, but to the Lord.
Look at Moses. Moses endured such horrendous chiding, testing and humiliation. How did he handle this? What did he do? He withstood the enemy by not letting doubt, unbelief, fear, insecurity, bitterness, guilt, etc., consume him, but instead choosing to surrender everything to the Lord and trusting Him even more. During his difficult trials, Moses shut himself up on that mountaintop, prayed, worshiped and looked only to the Lord for His wisdom. (Exodus 5:22; 6:7; 19:3-25; 33:12-22) In the end, because of Moses' complete obedience to the Lord's will, the enemy was defeated and he was able to lead a nation to freedom.
Another example is Stephen who, even as the Israelites were stoning him, looked, prayed and called upon the Lord. Acts 6:15 explains, "...all that sat in the council, looking steadfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel." See also Acts 7:59. Again, how did Stephen do this? He did it by having such unshakable faith and reliance in the Lord that he was able to "see" Him in the midst of the fire. Just like Moses, he "endured, as seeing Him who is invisible." (Hebrews 11:27)
A further example was the miracle of Job, who in spite of his incredible difficulties continued to cry out, "Though You slay me, yet will I trust You." (Job 13:15) And finally, there was Paul who, at times, felt lost, confused and bewildered because of the rejection, mockery, malicious gossip and persecutions that he experienced. He even came to a point of "despairing of life itself." (2 Corinthians 1:8) But the way Paul handled these things was not to give in to defeat but to believe and act out 2 Corinthians 4:8-9: "We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, [so] that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body."
All these renowned men not only endured huge trials in their lives, but conquered them. And they did so by surrendering themselves even further to the Lord and recognizing the enemy's involvement. As a result, they were enabled to go on, filled with an inner peace that God's will was being accomplished.
One of the reasons God allows hard times in our lives is to strengthen our faith. (See our book Faith in the Night Seasons.) He arranges difficult situations so that we can see for ourselves how very weak our faith is. Remember in Deuteronomy 8:2, God reprimanded the Israelites, telling them that He had tested them so that they might see (for themselves) their own hearts and their own unbelief. God is constantly doing the same with us - testing, proving, stretching and enlarging our faith, because our faith is the foundation of our walk. Faith is what our worship is built upon.
It's also true that if our faith is weak, we won't be able to stand against the enemy of our souls. If our faith is strong, then there's no end to what God can do through us.
If we are not being "stretched," then we're not really growing at all! Real faith is made up of a series of choices - choices to cleanse our hearts of all sin and self; choices to trust God regardless of our circumstances; and, choices to rely upon His ability to implement His will in our lives. These are the same kinds of faith choices that Moses, Stephen, Job and Paul had to face in their situations. At the time, they certainly didn't "feel like" making these choices, but they knew that their lives depended upon it, so "by faith" they made them anyway. And these are the same kinds of faith choices that we must make in order to have peace and joy in the middle of our trials.
Then we too can be troubled, perplexed, persecuted and cast down, but not distressed, in despair, forsaken or destroyed. (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)
The Battle is Not Ours, But the Lord's
God tells us in 2 Chronicles 20:15 that "the battle is not ours, but the Lord's." We must continually remember this. Otherwise, we'll end up confused and afraid.
Do you recall the story of Elijah, the great Old Testament prophet of God?
1 Kings 18 tells the story of a severe drought. In the third year of the drought, the Lord said to Elijah, "Go and present yourself to King Ahab and tell him I will soon send rain." Elijah did as he was told and asked the king to bring all the people of Israel to Mt.Carmel, along with 450 prophets of Baal and 400 priests of Ashorah, who were supported by Jezebel, the king's wife. Elijah wanted to prove to them who the true God was. "If the Lord be God, follow Him; but if Baal, then follow him." (1 Kings 18:21) What happened next was that the pagan priests and prophets danced, wailed and cried all night long for their god to show his strength. But nothing happened. Then Elijah got up, called on the Name of the Lord and "fire immediately came down from heaven and consumed his offering." (1 Kings 18:38)
Elijah then slew the false prophets and was given supernatural strength to outrun King Ahab's chariot back to the city. As Scripture puts it, "The hand of the Lord was [mightily] upon Elijah." (1 Kings 18:46) But when King Ahab told his wife Jezebel all that Elijah had done, she was furious and sent a message back to the prophet, threatening his life. This letter made Elijah deathly afraid and he fled for his life. In the letter, Jezebel spoke just like an enemy, "You've had it; you've gone too far. The battle is now between you and me." (1 Kings 19:2)
The interesting part about this statement is that it really was the truth! The battle on Mount Carmel was not between Elijah and the prophets of Baal, but between good and evil, the Lord and the devil. It was a battle between the powers of darkness and God's body of believers ("light bearers") here on earth. Queen Jezebel represented Satan and his demonic hordes as his tool to bring disorder, confusion and turmoil. Elijah represented the Lord and His believers.
As a result of that vicious threat from Jezebel, Elijah (filled with fear) sat down outside the city gates and wailed to himself, "Only I am left. All the others have been slain and now they seek my life." (1 Kings 19:10) He accused the Lord by saying, "God, you let the devil get to me. You let him harass me. You let him take away my joy. I don't deserve such treatment. I have done everything you told me to do."
This is the mighty prophet of God who just slew 750 prophets of Baal! Can you believe it? Is it any wonder then, that we too have our down days when the enemy's taunts consume us? As a result of Elijah's self-consumed thinking, he panicked, feared for his life, became depressed and eventually, prayed to die. (1 Kings 19:4)
I want you to really think about this story, because this is exactly what's happening to many believers today. Jezebel represents the enemy in the story of Elijah. She was his tool to bring confusion, disorder and turmoil into Elijah's life. And it almost worked. Well, in these end times, the spirit of Jezebel is back and she is trying to do the exact same thing in each of our lives. When we determine to surrender and live totally for God and learn to worship Him, she uses the same tactics she used with Elijah.
God warns us about the spirit of Jezebel in Revelation 2:19-22 when He speaks about the end-time Church of Thyatira, "...I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first. Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants..."
I believe Jezebel represents a seducing spirit that is at work among worshipers in these end times that desires to break our will and our spirit. Her goal is to rob us of our desire to serve the Lord and to quench our hope in God's faithfulness. If the spirit of Jezebel can make us think that God's Word is not true and that He is not faithful to perform what His promises, then our relationship with Him will immediately collapse. If the spirit of Jezebel can undermine our confidence in the Lord, she has us. The truth is, the Lord values His Word even above His Name. Thus, if He promises something in His Word, He will perform it no matter what.
Psalm 138:2 validates this: "I will worship toward Thy holy temple, and praise Thy Name for Thy lovingkindness and for Thy truth: for Thou hast magnified Thy Word above all Thy Name."
Jezebel wants to sidetrack us: from worshiping to worrying; from being on fire for the Lord to being lukewarm; and, from loving Him to doubting Him. She wants us caught up in the "Oh, poor me" syndrome, filled with self-pity and spiraling straight down into the pit.
When we begin to truly worship - entering His presence daily, vocally sharing our faith and acting as Christ would have us - then watch out! The spirit of Jezebel will use our loved ones, our friends and any situations she can create (any lies, fears, depression or confusion she can prompt) to take control of our lives.
Now when I say "take control," I don't mean "possession." If we are born again, then our heart and our spirit already belong to the Lord. But if we give the enemy "entrances" into our soul by doubt, unbelief or confusion, she will use them to her full advantage. The spirit of Jezebel did it with Elijah. She will do it with us.
It's one thing to stand up for Christ with our friends, our family and our co-workers, it's quite another to stand up against the forces of darkness. Let's see what we can glean from Elijah's experience.
Lessons From the Story of Elijah
There are many lessons that we can learn from the story of Elijah. Here are just a few:
- Even if we run, God is still with us. (1 Kings 19:5-8)
- In order for us to really battle Satan, we must know he is alive and very real.
- In order to regain control, we must unmask the enemy's game plan. Only when we begin to truly understand what Jezebel is up to can we begin our walk back to freedom. Fear is what keeps us captive. It did Elijah and it will us also. (1 Kings 19:12-18)
- Satan wants to use our emotions, our circumstances and our relationships to destroy us; God wants to use them to strengthen our faith. (Psalm 71)
- We must listen to God's voice (1 King's 19:12) and take back control of our lives. When the Lord says: Why are you hiding, we must heed His call. When He says, Get up, don't run from Jezebel, we must obey.
Once Elijah realized what Jezebel was doing, he never again allowed her to capture his mind.
Whether we admit it or not, we are in an intense battle. God knows that if we are not "battle-ready," He can't commission us into the heavy artillery. (Jeremiah 12:5) He knows that if we are wearied in any way by the enemy, we'll never make it through the really tough times ahead. Thus, we have no other choice. Either we learn to fight as God desires or we'll end up like Elijah, cowering in a corner.
Knowing our authority in Christ and how to fight the demonic in the spiritual realm is of utmost importance and must go alongside our learning to privately worship the Lord on a deeper and more intimate basis.
This article has been excerpted, in part, from Nancy Missler's book Private Worship: The Key to Joy. Nancy also authored: Never Give Up!: The Fruit of Longsuffering (Plain and Simple)