Jesus is on a mission to rescue captive souls from a strong enemy (Luke 19:10; Mark 3:23–27). Through His crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus delivered a mortal wound to our formidable foe (Colossians 2:15; 1 John 3:8). He now calls sinners to flee from Satan’s captivity, and align with His everlasting kingdom (Acts 17:30). He commissions His church to join Him in taking the gospel to the ends of the earth (Matthew 28:18–20). This means that, when we follow Jesus, we follow Him into a war zone.
Though Satan has been decisively defeated, and his future is doomed, he lives for the present. He still schemes (2 Corinthians 2:11), stalks (1 Peter 5:8), deceives (Revelation 12:9), ensnares (2 Timothy 2:26), hinders (1 Thessalonians 2:18), harasses (2 Corinthians 12:7), and attacks us with fiery darts of temptation (Ephesians 6:16). We wage war against his dark forces, but not with physical artillery (2 Corinthians 10:3–4). Rather, we are commanded to “be strong in the Lord and … put on the whole armor of God” (Ephesians 6:10–11). When we come to the battle, we do not fight alone. We fight in the strength of our Lord.
On the wall of my childhood Sunday school classroom hung a poster of a Roman soldier’s armor. It explained that God’s armor corresponded to what those first-century soldiers wore. While there are similarities, Paul desires our imaginations to be captured by something far greater than a Roman soldier. He wants us to see our warrior God, who powerfully fights “against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). The focus of spiritual warfare isn’t Satan or an imaginary Roman soldier; it’s our Savior.
Too often, spiritual warfare is seen as an individual believer’s call to put on armor and fight demonic forces alone, as if this is a test to prove his faith. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Spiritual warfare is about God’s people joining their Lord in His warfare. He equips (Ephesians 4:7–16) and empowers us (1 Corinthians 12:11) to accompany Him into enemy territory and further His kingdom purposes (Matthew 28:20).
At times, we fail to put on the armor. We get busy with our own pursuits, and when the struggle sneaks up on us, we try to fight in our own strength. We step out from under our Lord’s strength and are overcome by temptation. We lie instead of speaking truth. We harbor bitterness instead of forgiving. We slander instead of pursuing peace. We justify sin instead of repenting of it. We indulge our lust instead of loving God.
When these fiery darts strike us, we are left wounded and wearied. We grieve the Spirit (Ephesians 4:30) and lose our joy. Our spiritual strength is sapped, desire for prayer dissipates, singing is silenced, shame is stoked, fellowship is avoided, and our taste for temptation increases.
When this happens, we must not lose heart, but rather cry to our warrior God, our great Savior, who leaves none of His fellow soldiers behind. He will not allow us to be snatched from His grasp (John 10:28). Rather, He will throw us over His shoulder, and take us to green pastures and still waters, where He will restore our souls (Psalm 23:1–3). In Him we are strengthened to go back into battle, knowing that our warrior God “will soon crush Satan under your feet” (Romans 16:20).
—Garrett Kell, condensed