I got this from Frank the author a while back and have been wanting to post it for a while now. Enjoy
Is The Devil on Vacation?
The Forgotten Realm of Spiritual Warfare
Copyright ©2007 by Frank A. DeCenso, Jr. All verses NKJV
See any new bestsellers or hear any sermons on spiritual warfare recently? I haven’t. Maybe the devil went down to Georgia for a vacation and we should all be focusing on becoming better people. Or, kinder and gentler folks who only say “hi” to our hurting neighbors. Or, just refer sick people to doctors and ‘crazy’ people to psychiatrists.
Or maybe…just maybe…we have forgotten some basic truths in Scripture – forgotten to employ them, and forgotten to mentor and equip others in them. Even though there are differences among Christians about how Spiritual Warfare should be engaged in, the Bible makes it clear that engagement is required, and so we should at the very least focus on the fundamentals, both personally and corporately.
In this brief article I am going to discuss this subject using a few select Scriptures and then attempt to apply them relevantly to our lives. As Christians who have been given authority over the enemy (Luke 10:19), we should never overemphasize the devil and his acts. However, ignoring the warfare we are called to engage in is foolhardy, and will only cause an epidemic of ‘adversarial amnesia’ among God’s people who have been called to do battle, both for themselves, and for others.
To start, I’d like to give some Scriptural statistics about the number of times the demonic is mentioned in the Gospels and Acts (using the NKJV):
• Gospels: 112 verses
o satan: 15 verses
o devil: 15 verses
o demon: 18 verses
o demons: 31 verses
o evil spirits: 2 verses
o unclean spirit: 12 verses
o unclean spirits: 7 verses
o demon-possessed: 12 verses
• Acts: 9 verses
o satan: 2 verses
o devil: 2 verses
o evil spirit: 3 verses
o unclean spirits: 2 verses
o “other” spirits: 2 verses
Statistics like these can be used to prove opposite points. For example, on one hand someone may say that encounters with the demonic were greater in the Gospels for various reasons. Perhaps since Jesus hadn’t yet ‘defeated’ the devil on the cross yet, evil spirits were running amok; while after the cross in Acts, we see less mention of them. Therefore, the activity of the demonic today is less pronounced.
On the other hand, someone else may conclude that the sheer magnitude of the encounters that Jesus and the early church in Acts had was incredible, and therefore we shouldn’t deceive ourselves into thinking that somehow demonic powers have ceased operating today. We should take up the example of Jesus and the early church, and with a discerning spirit deal with the demonic as led by God’s Spirit.
My tendency is to side with the second ‘group’ – we need to be discerning and aware, as well as prepared and equipped, to deal with whatever the enemy is up to in our lives as well as in the lives of others.
However, rather than focus on the Gospels and Acts, in this article I’d like to look at a few verses in the epistles that give us pause for concern regarding those who dismiss the demonic as a relevant topic today. Each writer of a New Testament epistle wrote about dealing with the demonic – Paul, Peter, James, John, and Jude. Let’s look at a few of the references.
“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. (11) Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. (12) For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. (13) Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. (14) Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, (15) and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; (16) above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. (17) And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; (18) praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints— (19) and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, (20) for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.”
Probably the most preached and taught about passage in the Bible on spiritual warfare is this passage in Ephesians. It’s been dealt with innumerable times by exegetes and teachers, so I simply want to point out a few things.
Paul’s encouragement in this passage tells us to “stand against”, “withstand”, and “stand”, wearing the armor of God. Why? Because the enemy has strategies (“wiles”, vs. 11) set in place against us; because we “wrestle” against the forces of darkness (vs. 12); and because we face “evil [days]” (vs. 13). In other words, despite the finished work of Jesus on the cross, there is an ongoing conflict being waged against us, and if we ignore it, we may in some way not be able to stand against those attacks. But the encouragement is that by applying the armor of God to our lives, we will be able to stand victoriously.
Paul also admonishes us to pray for him so that he’ll be able to open his mouth and preach boldly (vss. 18-20). Paul understood that the preaching of the Gospel was something that attracts enemy attacks, and he wanted believers to partner with him in prayer for his ability to continue in boldness, despite all opposition – demonic or demonically inspired.
My conclusion is that we need to be diligent in both the applying of God’s armor over our lives, and our warfare in prayer on behalf of those in active ministry. These two admonitions are clear in this text, and if we ignore the reality of the warfare that precipitated the admonitions, we may be allowing ourselves and others to face undue hardships. God has provided all that we need to stand for ourselves and others, because there is a war going on, and we are in the midst of it whether we believe it or not.
1 Thessalonians 2:18
“Therefore we wanted to come to you—even I, Paul, time and again—but Satan hindered us.”
Paul was a Christian just like you and I. His calling was different than yours and mine, but his Christian life wasn’t. He ate food, drank water, and fought spiritual warfare. He also did something that every one of us should do – he discipled believers.
In this passage from 1 Thessalonians, I believe Paul wanted to visit the Thessalonians for the purpose of discipling them. He saw them as his children , and he had a great interest in their spiritual maturity.
If there is one thing that the devil hates almost as much as evangelism, it is probably discipleship. Satan knows that disciples do the works of Jesus , and Jesus’ works were done to destroy satan’s works. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that a strategy of the enemy’s is to prevent believers from being discipled to minister as Jesus did, because when Jesus’ disciples minister as He did, the works of the devil are destroyed and people are saved, healed, delivered, and opened to the kingdom of God.
What’s interesting in this verse is that Paul saw the hindrance as being from Satan. Not from Mother Nature (bad weather), or human frailty (forgetting the way to Thessalonica), or a myriad of other earthly causes. He discerned the hindrance as being from satan himself.
How many times have we been hindered from doing the works of the Lord? Maybe the car wouldn’t start when we were to go evangelize a friend; perhaps we got food poisoning prior to a street witnessing event. It’s possible that many hindrances we face that prevent us from doing the works of the kingdom are simply the result of our human weaknesses. But its also possible that sometimes the hindrances are demonic in nature, and without utilizing the discernment that Paul utilized, and the understanding of how satan tries to counter kingdom works, we may chalk up all our hindrances to earthly causes.
Is it possible that Paul didn’t see this hindrance coming in time to stop it? I don’t know. But the fact remains that this hindrance prevented Paul from visiting the Thessalonians, whom he desired to visit several times.
2 Timothy 2:3-4
“You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. (4) No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.”
When you became a Christian, did anyone tell you that you were entering a war? Were you informed that you had enlisted as a soldier in the Lord’s army? Probably not in so many words, but you were born into a battle. Even though Paul was addressing Timothy, whom Paul later said was a minister and was to evangelize , he was still a believer first. We have seen from previous verses in Ephesians that we are also involved in warfare – thus, we are soldiers too.
Paul admonishes Timothy to “endure hardship” as the soldier that he was. The specific hardship isn’t defined, but based on what we know about the kingdom of God, we can safely assume it wasn’t sickness that he was to endure. It may have been persecution or the prevalence of false teachers that Timothy had to endure, since Paul later mentions them both. We are soldiers and as such there are things in life we’ll have to endure and fight against.
We should also bear in mind that soldiers don’t just sit around waiting for attacks to come; soldiers initiate attacks on the enemy. As members of God’s kingdom, we are pilgrims in a world that is said to be “under the sway of the wicked one” (1 John 5:19), and exists in an “evil age” (Galatians 1:4). However, our pilgrimage includes the warfare elements of evangelizing through His power (2 Corinthians 4:7) those still held captive to the “god of this age” (2 Corinthians 4:4), and discipling them in the ways of God’s kingdom (Matthew 28:19-20).
1 Peter 5:8-9
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. (9) Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.”
Peter wrote that believers need to be alert because the enemy is sneaky. He is looking for an opportunity to pounce on unsuspecting believers. The context suggests persecution or discouragement due to persecution (see 1 Peter 4:16). Whatever the case, spiritual alertness is a crucial element in our lives as believers. If there wasn’t an enemy currently prowling around to attack us, we wouldn’t need to be alert, sober, and vigilant.
Peter also tells us to “resist him, steadfast in the faith”. This again suggests the warfare mentioned here is persecution-related, but have we ever really thought about how persecution is potentially a demonic attack? If it is, and we are to endure persecution for the cause of Christ (see 1 Peter 4:12-14), then this admonition is to not allow persecution of any kind to derail our faith in Jesus.
Lastly, Peter makes it clear that our “adversary the devil” isn’t behind bars in a jail somewhere awaiting execution. He is actively involved in attacks on God’s people. If this is the case, then spiritual warfare is being perpetrated against us, and we need to understand that.
Don’t allow persecution dissuade you from your commitment to Christ and His works. Stand firm in Him, and His presence will comfort you even in the midst of fiery trials.
“Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”
By way of conclusion, I simply want to note that James didn’t say ‘ignore the devil and he will flee from you.’ James said to “resist him.” To resist him in this context is probably a resistance of the temptations for earthly things and power (see James 4:1-4) that we encounter on a daily basis. By submitting our wills and hearts to God, our resistance will be much easier. When we fall in love with God and partner with Him in the building of His kingdom, the things of this world will mean less and less to us, and temptation’s strength over our lives will be diminished. Satan would love to have a weak church fighting among themselves for power, and seeking worldly pleasures. That is part of his warfare strategy against us. We can fight it by embracing our God in fullness of love and dedication.
This warfare is not going away until we are with Him. Nor is the devil. Fight the good fight of faith, and don’t allow the enemy to fool you into thinking he is a harmless little kitty. He wants to cause you and the church great harm. Stand fast in your relationship with God, and draw closer to Him (James 4:8). As you do, He will draw closer to you and no foe can then prevail:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? (36) As it is written: “FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE KILLED ALL DAY LONG; WE ARE ACCOUNTED AS SHEEP FOR THE SLAUGHTER.” (37) Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. (38) For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, (39) nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.