Elementary Spiritual Warfare
The Battle Surrounding Trust: Lesson 23
Now that we have worked our way through the many strongholds that typically afflict and hinder our life in Christ, these lessons could seem overwhelming. "It's too complicated!" is the legitimate cry of a heart yearning for freedom as well as transformation. We surely need a principle of simplicity or we may quickly fall again into bondage.
Jesus said, "How narrow is the gate and restricted is the way that leads to life."[i] His way seems "restricted" at times, but it is always simple. Children live in the Kingdom far better than we do.[ii] The really hard part is re-learning how to stay surrendered to the Giver of Life, something we could all do as children.
An old hymn summarizes the walk nicely: "Trust and obey for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey."[iii] This lesson is about the elementary spiritual warfare around trusting (the "narrow gate"); the next lesson (Walking in the Spirit) will be about guidance - learning to walk in the sometimes "difficult way" of obedience to the Spirit.
Our Number One Assignment
Our elementary spiritual warfare concerns the intense battle surrounding of our daily life in Christ. Our job as "soldiers" is to make sure that our hearts stay surrendered to the Lord throughout the day - keeping us willing and able to trust and obey our Master and Commander (who is also our best Friend).
This is our number one assignment in life given to us by Jesus Himself as the "first and great" commandment.[iv] Loving God with our whole hearts certainly entails giving the whole of our life over to Him in full submission to His leadership. Such surrender and centering of our life in Him is not possible without the gift of faith; living un-surrendered and un-centered in Him is unthinkable once true faith has come. Indeed a living faith always carries us into this position of humble, trusting dependence and willingness to follow the One who has revealed such love to us.[v]
Our hearts are moving towards surrender or drifting into the Great Rebellion. This not Star Trek: There is no Neutral Zone. There are only two spiritual principles at work in our universe and they are always at work upon us. This is why the keeping of the first commandment is so critical to our life mission: We cannot fulfill our secondary purpose in the lives of others if we do not learn to stay united to His life (our primary purpose).
The level of peace and confidence we have in God will declare the issue all day long - that's God's way of giving us feedback moment by moment on how well we are doing with the most important thing we need to be doing - trusting and obeying Him.[vi] This is the battle for one's own life - and it is waged in the heart.[vii]
In boot camp all new recruits are issued rifles and taught to protect their lives and the lives of their comrades. In the "battle" of daily life our rifle is our heart! The enemy wants to get his finger on the trigger of our heart and start firing it off at ourselves and others. Such "misfires" are almost irresistible when we don't keep our heart clean and clear in the Lord (of negative emotions and stronghold issues).
But suppose the Lord gets His finger on your heart, then He can use you to give mercy, peace and patience where it is needed as you go through your day. That's much better isn't it? So our heart is a powerful weapon for advancing either the Kingdom of God or the kingdom of darkness.
Trusting His Hands; Seeking His Face
Here is another principle of simplicity that companions with trust and obey: No matter what the enemy is doing, God is also at work to accomplish His good purposes. This is especially true of the dynamics of transformation. Since the great battle of daily life is for our heart, we need to trust His Hands and seek His Face.
1) His Hands: God is at work on all things in our lives with one great purpose in mind. We need to know, understand and be in agreement with that purpose, or our lives will not make sense, nor will we realize the focal point of the enemy's attacks. God's Hands are always at work to conform you to Christ - shaping you from the outside in.
Picture the Lord reaching through all of the outward circumstances of your life, seeking to "center you" on the Potter's Wheel.[viii] What is His goal in each and every moment? To draw out of you a Christlike response, or (if you can't yet do that) to prepare you to be able to respond as the New Creation you are at some point down the road. The ultimate good that God has in mind is not just His blessings being poured into our lives, but the incomparable blessing of actually becoming more like Jesus in all of our ways in this life.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son. Romans 8:28-29 ESV
2) His Face: What is God's work on our interior? His primary purpose is to transform us into the Image of His Son from the inside out - by revealing His Image to us. The Father reveals the Son; the Son reveals the Father.[ix] Whenever we get our spiritual eyes back on Jesus, we experience a shift from being self-centered to being Christ-centered.
This interior transformation happens as we "see" by faith some offering of grace in Jesus that enables us to fully surrender to whatever He has allowed or is asking of us in His sovereignty. Once we again become centered and surrendered, submitted and committed, the good fruit of His Spirit flows into us and through us. In this way His Face transforms us into His Image (Beholding the True Image).[x]
But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord, the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18 WEB
These two great works of God are going on all of the time. Always the Father's Hands are upon us to raise up whatever we surrender to Him and to work through all things to increase our willingness to surrender all, even if we are fighting against what He is doing through our ignorance of His ways. At the same time the revelation of Jesus Christ is working within us at all times, however little we may be aware of it, to transform the way that we live and to enable us to surrender to the Father.
This process can be greatly enhanced by our cooperation. We can make it our goal to more frequently choose to surrender to the work of His Hands; we can also choose to more actively seek His Face and re-surrender at any moment. As you learn this you will discover that you are in the "driver's seat" where your spiritual growth is concerned! You will have mastered this vital 'tactic' of our elementary spiritual warfare.
Let's see how this plays out. The Father has His hands on our lives like a Master Potter working with absolutely everything (the good, the bad and the seemingly indifferent) to accomplish His great desire - to refashion us into children who display the nature of His Son. As a potter exerts great pressure with his hands to center clay on the wheel, the Father also works through the stress in our lives to bring us again and again to the place of inward surrender.
Like un-centered clay we often try to fly off the wheel! But under the pressure ("humble yourselves under the mighty hand... ")[xi] we finally stretch our faith vision to see something in the Lord that helps us to yield our stubborn resistance and say, "Not my will, but Yours be done."
The work of His hands helps us to seek His Face! From this hallowed place of surrender the Father is able to raise us into new life - just as a potter raises the centered clay into the form he envisions.[xii]
Going through Our Day like Jesus
Since the Father is working 24/7 to conform us to Christ, it will certainly help us to cooperate with Him if we gain vision for what that looks like. Though outward works are important fruit to cultivate, for the purpose of this series, let's consider what it means to be conformed to Christ in terms of the inner life and your emotional state.[xiii]
Would you like to go through your days the way Jesus did? No one alive has walked through daily life with more love, more peace, or more joy. Yet no one alive has ever had a tougher assignment to carry out or faced more opposition. Consider how your approach to daily life might change if you would follow Jesus in these ways:
1) Love and joy: Jesus was able to keep joy and love alive in His Heart because He was masterful at forgiving sinful people.
Would you like to go through your day free of hurt and offense like Jesus did? You have Him inside of you to help you forgive.
2) Acceptance: Jesus suffered rejection by many people He deeply loved, yet He was able to live with His Heart secure, knowing He was loved by the One who matters most.
Would you like to go through your day protected and filled by God's love for you like Jesus did? You have the same Father devoted to you. Value His acceptance of you above the opinions of others.
3) Peace and guidance: Jesus was able to live in complete dependence upon God's control of the world, not His, and yet He was peace-filled all of the time, no matter what the enemy was stirring up, because He kept trusting the Father with all things and was willing to obey in all things.
Would you like to go through your day with peace and trust like Jesus did? You have a new nature in you that loves to live His way.
4) Stress free: Jesus saw people all around Him carrying heavy burdens and living with great anguish and injustice, but He never got burned out, over-burdened, angry or depressed in serving God.
Would you like to be able to care for others in your daily life like Jesus did? He is right beside you, willing to help you learn how to let Him carry your burdens.
This is the way of life that Jesus wants to live in us by His Spirit, and our Father is so zealous for giving it to us that He is making all things serve this higher purpose. What's to stop us?
The Counter Feints of the Enemy
Certainly the enemy cannot stop this work of the Father's Hands - he is a defeated foe! God hates every evil and has determined and declared that all things will be made to work for the good of the people He is redeeming.
Meditate on this life-changing truth: The enemy cannot make the evil he does through human sin stick to anyone. God will overturn it all and make even the worst things the enemy does work for our good. So how does the enemy make evil stick? By getting us to bind the hurt, pain and injustice of the past to ourselves through bitterness of heart and by unbelief in God's promises. We are being manipulated into becoming our own captors! This is monstrous, outrageous and infernally ingenious all at the same time. Don't fall for it a moment longer!
If God is working upon us through all things by His hands and working within us through all things by His Spirit to conform us to Christ, then the enemy (having read the Bible) is also working through everything to oppose God's work...
a) By tempting us to doubt that all things are working for our good (thus trying to counter the work of His hands) and
b) By "drawing us away" from the revelation of Jesus Christ (thus trying to counter the work of His Face).[xiv] As Dr. Jack Deere once said, "The enemy has W.M.D.'s of his own - Weapons of Mass Distraction."[xv]
Once we are no longer beholding our matchless God with a heart of confident faith, we are prey to the enemy and of little threat to his kingdom. Even worse, we are unwittingly being re-shaped into the image of the ultimate fallen one, Satan, who is the most unforgiving and anxious being in the universe.
Have you been tempted to doubt the work of God's Hands? Have you been distracted from keeping your focus on Jesus? Then be prepared to fight! You get to choose what you want to believe and whose image you want to focus on and live by.
If something in you doesn't want to trust in, surrender to and rely upon your God you have just met the enemy's handiwork - don't let it reign over you. Carry it captive to Christ instead.
Like those who rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem, we have to learn to do the work of the Kingdom with our sword and shield at our side if we want to see the old stronghold walls of self-protection come down and the new, glorious walls of His salvation go up.[xvi] How long will that campaign take? Only He knows. But we can be sure of this: It will be well worth the effort it takes to fully enter His Kingdom in this life.
Fight the good fight of faith! [xvii]
Father, thank You for all of the ways that You are training me for those conflicts with the enemy that cannot be avoided. May I ever trust that You are also fighting with me and for me. I fully accept this calling upon my life - to fight the good fight of faith - and I realize that the first battle is always for my own heart - to keep it surrendered to You. Make me willing to be made willing to surrender everything to You, each and every day.
Take It to Heart!Don't just give these truths a 'head bob'! For further study and for help working these truths into your heart and life, see Spiritual Warfare 101 part 2 (Head to Heart Guide 23) and 'work out' with exercises, discussion questions, review of main points, digging deeper, more scriptures, model prayers, renunciations/affirmations and practical steps of life application.
Scriptures and Foot Notes
[i] Matthew 7:14 WEB
John H. Sammis (1846-1919), lyrics: 'Trust and Obey.'
[iv] Matthew 22:38
[v] Galatians 2:20
[vi] Colossians 3:15
[vii] Proverbs 4:23
[viii] Isaiah 64:8; Romans 9:21
[ix] Matthew 11:27
[x] 2 Corinthians 4:6
[xi] 1 Peter 5:6
[xii] Romans 9:22-24
[xiii] Galatians 5:22
[xiv] James 1:14
[xv] Jack Deere, seminar notes, MorningStar Ministry, Charlotte, NC. September 2005.
[xvi] Nehemiah 4:17-18; Isaiah 60:18
[xvii] 1 Timothy 6:12; 2 Timothy 4:7