Jay Blogs – Life is War

This year, our school theme has been “Battle Tested.” We can all resonate with life as a battle—to live is to endure both inner and outer strife. 

Our newsfeeds fill with notices of war and political and racial conflict. More than that, however, simple daily life is rife with struggle. Fighting the temptation with anger and frustration I feel when the lady in front of me in the grocery store forgets something, goes back and retrieves it from the farthest corner of the store while all of us wait, and then proceeds to pay her bill in pennies (who even carries pennies anymore?). Or the temptation I feel after a long day at work not to grouse at my kids or my wife—the relentless assault on one’s self-esteem that is often modern-day parenting.

Social media creates a combative context for anonymous yet damaging warfare. The voices in my head conspire to tell me I’m not good enough, or not as good as I once was, or that the suffering I’m enduring is unfair, unjustified, or should be happening to someone else. War is not just something that occurs “over there,” it’s around me and within me every day. I have an enemy, and he’s waging a relentless war on my heart.

Paul David Tripp notes that in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, in the midst of the apostle’s counsel on marriage, anger, parenting, communication, and living together in community as the church, he gives us the greatest instruction on how to resist and overcome the enemy of our souls, the devil. Life is war, then and now, in our broken world. Until Christ comes again to make all things new, we’ll be battling back against our enemy, both in the midst of the great missional work of bringing the gospel of Jesus to the world around us and in the simple mundanity of resisting the urge to lash out at that hothead on social media. In this battle for our souls, will we be victims or victors?

In Ephesians 6, Paul says that God gives us armor and tells us again that we don’t fight against people. That’s a great reminder, because one of the enemy’s greatest ploys is to get us attacking each other instead of him, to blame others and direct our anger toward them while he sits back and laughs at us. Other people are sometimes (but not always) pawns in the hands of demonic forces who have dominion in our sin-filled world. These spirit beings are our enemies, and spiritual forces can only be defeated with spiritual weapons. Words, food, alcohol, sex, exercise, buying things—these are all physical things, and when we use them as weapons to medicate ourselves and battle back the demons, our enemy will just take them from our hands and beat us with them. We need the right weaponry.

First, Paul says that God gives us the breastplate of truth. Our enemy is the father of lies, and he uses guilt, shame, and other falsehoods to trap and turn us. Jesus turned back the enemy in the wilderness using God’s word, and we do the same when we combat lies with the truth of God. Just today, I was talking to a friend who was grieving the death of her husband, and we prayed together, speaking truth from God’s Word into the lies that would have otherwise brought depression and despair. After a few minutes of speaking the truth, we both had a sense of calm and peace that was clearly Spirit-given. The only way we have truth at our disposal is if God’s Word is on our lips and in our hearts; we have to know it.

God gives righteousness—the ability, empowered by the Holy Spirit—to live a holy life. We don’t live lives of purity to earn points with God or to be seen by others as better, but because by coming after Jesus every morning, abiding in him, and strengthening our affections toward him, we are stronger to resist Satan’s temptations. What we do with our bodies drives our spirits, and vice versa. We are holistic beings; it’s all connected. We live pure lives so that our spirits and hearts will be pure as well. To win the battle against our flesh is to win back our spirit. When we live righteously, our affections are driven toward the Lord. What the devil has to offer no longer becomes as attractive or desirable as what we already have. The greater love for God and his righteousness outweighs the lesser love the enemy offers.

God offers shoes of peace in the midst of anxiety and turmoil when I’m tempted to panic at the suffering of the world around me or my own perceived inadequacies. Instead, I can rest in how the God of the universe is working in me, making me something different and greater than I was before. This is the best footwear ever, because it anchors me, grounds me, and holds me in place when the enemy assails me with fear.

And I fight back with the shield of truth, blocking out Satan’s lies against me and bringing to bear the power of salvation and the Holy Spirit that lives within me in the world around me. With these weapons, I damage my enemy the greatest way I can—by taking his captives away from him, in Jesus’ name.

Jesus called the disciples to “bear witness.” Bearing witness means more than just giving our testimony, although it includes doing so. It means being his personal representative of all Jesus is, said, and did to the dying world around us. The one thing our enemy, in all his powers, cannot overcome, has been defeated by, and will one day be eradicated by is the power of Jesus in the world. That power is in you, living and active through the Holy Spirit. Every time you speak and act in Jesus’ name, bringing others to him and giving testimony to who he is, you drive the devil back further into his hole.

The final image Paul wants to leave us with is not of you as a soldier, fighting alone. If you’ve ever seen movies about the Romans or Greeks, what made the soldiers so formidable and so dangerous was that they linked armor and shields together, becoming one. When the Persians met the Spartans at Thermopylae, 7,000 Greeks held off over 100,000 Persians for seven days because the Greeks fought as one unit. When you live, work, worship, and, yes, fight in community with your brothers and sisters in Christ, you’re more powerful than Spartans. You’re invincible, even against Satan and his forces. The gates of hell cannot stand against you.

You are the victor, in the name of Jesus and in the power of the Holy Spirit. But you have to prepare for battle. Stop playing the victim when all the tools of war you need to win are at your feet. Put them on, and get in the fight.