For centuries, Israel’s appropriation of the promised land was blocked. It was beyond their control: they had to wait until ‘the iniquity of the Amorites was full’.b
That time finally arrived and Joshua was ready. But forty years limped by before he could begin Canaan’s conquest. His mission was mothballed because of the sins of his people.c
And while he was waiting, he couldn’t even begin his vocation as leader of Israel. This, too, was outside his control. Moses was still alive and Israel needed only one leader.d
So what was he doing during this time? Elisha, centuries later, was known as the man who poured water on Elijah’s hands.e Joshua, too, might have been little more than servant to the man of God.f No matter how valuable and potentially satisfying this service was, I suspect he sensed a niggling emptiness about it. He was marked for other things. But the time would come when all the pieces were divinely fitted. He could then triumphantly assume the role he was born for.
Like Joshua, we can be ready, yet have to wait for others. Like Job, we can be mature, dedicated Christians and yet be buffeted by undeserved adversity. Or our quandary might be more like Daniel’s.
Satanic opposition hampered Daniel’s ministry. He had sought a revelation. Heaven was silent. Though uncertain about what was happening, Daniel fought on in prayer and fasting, day after day. Heaven’s reply had been dispatched on angel’s wings, but evil powers blockaded it. When the celestial courier finally arrived, he revealed he had been engaged in heaven’s answer to Star Wars.g Spiritual powers had been locked in supernatural combat. For twenty-one earth-days the battle raged. Perhaps the weapons used defy our comprehension, but I believe a deciding factor was something we know a little about – the impassioned prayers of a man who longed to serve God. With the resolve of a marathon winner, Daniel prayed on and on and on. Had he accepted the hold-up as heaven’s final answer, the enemy might have successfully intercepted the prophetic message.
With Satan lusting after our ministries like a crazed beast, we either pray or are preyed upon.
The presence of obvious physical reasons for our problems does not reduce the likelihood that they are shots fired from the spirit world. Paul faced enough natural dangers to seize anyone’s attention – wild seas, infected wounds, bandits – yet he focused on spiritual battle.
Humanists imagine they have suddenly become incredibly smart, being able to discern physical and psychological reasons for phenomena. They have actually become incredibly thick, being able to see nothing but the blatantly obvious. Paul’s words stick with appalling accuracy: ‘Professing to be wise, they became fools.’h Don’t catch their blindness.
Though Paul regularly bled at the hands of human opponents, he insisted that our fight is not with people but with spiritual powers.a His gospel threatened the livelihood, pride and traditions of thousands. Wherever he looked, human reasons for his struggle glared at him. Yet he saw the human component of his conflict as inconsequential. Either Paul was a fruitloop or we clash with the non-physical realm more than most of us suppose.
Foot-sloggers are no match for the prince of the power of the air. If we neglect prayer, dark forces will forever sabotage our labors; our attempts to attack their kingdom will never get off the ground. Join the prayer force. A defiant fist amuses Satan. An uplifted hand terrifies him. Prayer will shoot him down.
Prayer is Not Enough
Prayer is fearsome ammunition. Without a canon, however, even the deadliest ammunition cannot pound the enemy. For faith-packed prayer to reach its full ferocity it must be used in conjunction with two other aspects of spiritual warfare. One aspect – legality – is automatic for the born again warrior. It is the other – authoritative aggression – where many of us falter. Add this to prayer and you have an arsenal against which the combined forces of hell are reduced to a cringing rabble of terrified wimps.
If undesirables have moved into our house, it is insufficient to establish that their action is unlawful. Nor is it enough to complete an assertiveness training course. Confirming our legal standing and strengthening our resolve to enforce our rights are both vital steps, but it is futile to stop here. We must actually evict the squatters.
Our spiritual union establishes the illegality of Satan’s move against us. Without this, as the sons of Sceva discovered, good intentions and pious or aggressive ranting achieves nothing.b
In addition, we need prayer to build us up, empowering us for spiritual confrontation. We often so focus on Paul’s itemization of the armor in his classic on spiritual combat that we forget it culminates in ‘praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit’.c The disciples, bewildered by their inability to expel a demon, needed Jesus’ revelation that there is no alternative to prayer.d No matter how intimately they knew Jesus, prayerlessness still meant powerlessness.
Yet with our union with Christ resolving the legal issue and prayer girding us with divine strength, insidious trespassers will continue until we enforce our blood-bought rights. Jesus, ‘who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed of the devil,’e not only spent entire nights in prayer, he authoritatively confronted anti-God forces. Time and again he rebuked opponents to God’s will, be they fevers, storms, demons or whatever. We must follow his lead.
The Bible opens by affirming that God created humanity to rule. From the onset, the Lord of hosts delegated authority to man and woman.f Humanity lost much when it lost its innocence, but with the breaking of sin’s curse by the shed blood of the innocent Son of God, we are again expected to rule, acting like Jesus in ousting evil hordes.
If you were granted police powers, would you tolerate a law breaker vandalizing a sacred place, or assaulting someone, or molesting a child? Well aren’t you the Spirit’s holy sanctuary, part of Christ’s body and God’s own child? Is it proper for you to passively endure an evil assault upon your person? Shouldn’t you be incensed that defeated low-life, whose surrender cost the very life of the Son of God, would have the audacity to trespass onto God’s turf, insult a work of God and violate a part of Christ’s very body? When opposed by vile spirits, rise with indignation and enforce your Christ-won authority by ousting those frauds.
When buffeted by malicious powers we are likely to feel as green and as limp as wilted spinach. We must understand that authority has nothing to do with how vibrant we feel. A police officer has as much authority when he is tired as when he is fresh. A bed-ridden king has more authority than a nobleman in the prime of manhood. The issue is not how strong we feel, but whether we are bound to the One granted all authority in heaven and earth.