Guilt, depression, anxiety and all sorts of spiritual accusations can suddenly catch us by surprise, so how do we combat those moments with the truths we have in Christ.
When I was in high school, I took kickboxing, and I got pretty good. I had a good time with it and was in some competitions and stuff. Now I wasn't a combative person. If anything, people have described me as ‘nice’ almost my whole life. It’s not exactly a description I enjoy, but people call me a nice person.
Well, my school had a bully, and he was a linebacker for our high school football team, probably six feet four and 240 pounds. He grabbed me and said, “Hey, Gary, I heard you’re taking kickboxing. I don't think you're really as good as you think you are. I'm going to fight you after school today.”
I don’t know about how your childhood was, but I’d never been in a street fight. I began to shake all over immediately. I even tried to use the Christian card. “I can’t fight you because I believe in God.”
It didn’t work. He just said, “I don’t care. I’m going to fight you anyway.”
After school, he found me, and I was thinking, “Lord, I hope either like this is a David and Goliath situation where you just profoundly knock him out, or you know, maybe you could help me with the skills I've learned.” I didn’t hear anything, so I just said, “I’m not going to fight you.”
He came for me and started swinging. All of a sudden, either my training kicked in or the Holy Spirit did, probably both. He was throwing windmill punches, and I ducked under one then another and another. He kept swinging wildly, so I thought, “I’ll try giving him a hit.” Boom, right in his nose. I ducked another windmill, and I hit him again in the face. Now he had blood coming out of his nose and his cheek was swelling up. Suddenly, I had the realization, “I can do this. I have the strength to fight back, to defend myself.”
Sometimes the fight will come to you, and you can just sand there, but the enemy is going to start swinging at you. Sometimes you have to get into the battle.
How many of you know you are living in a cosmic war? When you were born, you weren’t born into a pleasant, green valley. You were born into the middle of a raging battle. Satan knows his time is short, and many of us will find ourselves right on the front lines. Now, no reasonably competent captain or general would attack his own troops. He would be foolish. He would know he would lose the battle. In the same way, Satan doesn’t attack his own troops. If people are firmly in his camp, he’ll probably leave them alone. He and his demons are aligned against anyone who isn’t on their side, and that fight is formed against your heart and relationships. He has so many weapons in his arsenal of darkness.
If you actively attack the enemy, expect to have an even larger target on your back. Satan and his forces are coming against you to bring you down. You can’t just stand there and say, “I’m not going to get into a fight.” The enemy is still going to start swinging at you, your family or your closest friends. He’ll try attacking your health or finances. In the Bible, we explicitly see this many times. Job loses his family, all of his wealth and his health (see Job 1). We’re outright told that Satan does this. King Hezekiah was a godly ruler, and he suffered from an illness that would’ve killed him had not God intervened (see 2 Kings 20:1-11). Paul had a thorn in his flesh that he struggled with for many years (see 2 Corinthians 12:5-10).
All of those attacks aren’t the worst thing Satan tries to do to us. He wants most of all to attack our hope. If he can get us to a place to where we just want to give up or maybe so far that we can’t really feel anything at all, the same messages that used to encourage us are going to have to go through a heavy filter of discouragement and defeat.
I think Satan’s greatest assault is this on our hearts, and he does it mainly through accusations. An demonic accusation comes against the very heart of who God made you to be, against the vision or calling that he may have given you. In reality he’s striking out against the beauty of God’s image in you and the desires that God has for your life. He’ll pick an area that has some weakness and start pressing on that spot. When he lands a hit on that weak spot, the pain can be so great that it can cause us to despair.
I saw this in a teaching series that I did in the psalms. Several of these verses were written by David while he was fleeing from Absalom because his son had risen up to take the kingdom from him. Not only had his son convinced so many people to turn away from David, but he’d killed a lot of priests who had supported and prayed for David. We can see how devastating this was for David in these psalms. “Save, O Lord, for the godly one is gone; for the faithful have vanished from among the children of man. Everyone utters lies to his neighbor; with flattering lips and a double heart they speak” (Psalm 12:1-2, ESV).
Perhaps it’s difficult to imagine how exactly Satan does these things to people, especially longtime believers who actively pray and trust God.
I’ll give you an example from my own life. I was in Africa a few years ago for some speaking engagements. I’d been there for about three weeks, and I was really tired. We’d been in a stressful situation as we were traveling through a very demonic part of the country, and we’d seen a lot of spiritual warfare. The night before we were set to leave Africa, I was packing my suitcases, and suddenly I thought, “Where’s my passport?” I started looking around the hotel room, the nightstand, the bed. I typically always know where my passport is.
At this point, I thought I must’ve packed it into my suitcase by accident. So, I started pulling apart my suitcase that I’d just packed, and if you’ve ever been there, you know the frustration. I pulled all of my clothes out, and it wasn’t there. I started looking in every pants pocket. It wasn’t there. I’d already emptied the closet, but I went back to it and checked every corner. I went into the bathroom; I checked under the pillows, even in the pillow cases; I pulled the sheets and covers off the bed.
You know when you get so frustrated that you start going back and doing everything you just did again? I went back to the suitcase, rummaged through the clothes, back to the closet, the bathroom, the bed. Maybe I hadn’t looked closely enough.
I went out into the hallway, thinking, “Maybe it’s in the cafeteria. Maybe I lost my passport and someone brought it to the reception desk.”
In the middle of all this, a very strong voice said in the back of my head, “Gary, you are such an idiot. You’re so stupid. You have two things to do when you travel. Your wife and your team take care of everything. They book your flight, they take you to the airport. They drive you to the conference. All you have to do is preach and keep your passport in your pocket.”
Suddenly, I was saying to myself, “If I can’t even keep track of my passport, maybe I didn’t preach very well either.” The passport was no longer the issue. There was this bombardment in my soul, in my mind, saying, “You're a fool. You're just no good at anything. You’re worthless.” I started agreeing with that voice. I was believing the lie rather than the truth. In that moment, I wasn’t sure what God said about me was true, but I felt sure that what Satan said about me was true. In that moment, I had more faith in Satan’s accusations than God’s word for me.
How do we fight back when we look around and realize that we’re in the middle of a spiritual battle like this against the accusations of the enemy?
The first thing to remember is that Jesus has all authority, and he has granted authority to us as his followers. Very early in his ministry, Jesus preached from Isaiah 61 about this very thing. “The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.’ And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’” (Luke 4:17-21).
Jesus is bringing such good news here. He has the authority to set us free from captivity and oppression, and he offers this liberty to us. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
In this early sermon of his, Jesus is declaring, “I’m here to break the yoke. I’m here to proclaim liberty to people who are captive to the lies of the enemy. I’ve come to bind up every heart broken by sin and accusations.”
We receive an anointing that breaks the oppressive yoke. This anointing culminates through the cross of Jesus Christ, and this power of the cross breaks every power of the assaults against you. Jesus breaks every accusation against you. “You, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him” (Colossians 2:13-15).
God has made us alive and forgiven all of our sins. How did he do this? By canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. Christ nailed that debt to the cross, disarmed the demonic rulers and authorities. He did the work, so we won’t be tempted into pride and, on the flip side, despair when we fail. This gives us a Holy Ghost confidence. It’s a confidence in what God can do through you. It’s a strength to be bold no matter what comes against us. We able to say, “I’m going to stand, and I’ll be strong, having done all I can to stand.”
When we realize that we’re under attack, we have to take action, but we also need to know that we’re not alone. Ultimately, the victory is Christ’s, and we can step up into the fight with confidence. We can turn to God for help and turn the tide of the battle.
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