Spiritual warfare? What is it and does it exist?

This week we had a conversation with N. N is not doing very well, and he wondered if God was punishing him for something from the past. He doubted enormously, it was really a struggle, what am I doing so wrong? Does something you do wrong now (in God’s eyes) also have consequences and, if there are, where do they come from? Why am i struggling with it so much? It almost feels like a spiritual battle, does that even exist?

We have tried to explain the question as follows:

Yes, doing wrong in the eye of God certainly has consequences! First, Let’s start with the story of Adam, Eve, Serpent and Apple (or banana, the bible says fruit, not which fruit, lol)

God did NOT intend and make the earth as it is now, full of misery and pain. He had made a perfect world (Genesis 1 and 2) without pain and misery.

And God has given us a choice (Genesis 2) whether we listen to Him… or not. If yes, then the world would remain perfect, if not… then surely there would be a consequence:

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

Genesis 2:15-17

And what did Adam and Eve do? That’s right.. They knew better… (so they thought), didn’t listen to God and ate from the “apple”….

And don’t think we’re better than Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve did see God every day (literary).. And yet, it went horribly wrong.. We would have made the same choice, or worse.

I sometimes say: if I had been Adam, I would not only have eaten the apple, but I would also have chopped the tree into pieces, made it into a BBQ and even ate the snake….

I am no better than Adam and Eve, on the contrary.

So, the consequence would be death. Full stop. And that’s where the story of Jesus comes in. Instead of us immediately receiving that ultimate punishment (immediate death in paradise and done with it) Jesus died for us… and if we believe that, we will come to paradise… for eternity, without pain and misery… what a tremendous gift from God that He has given His son Jesus. So that He died for us. Wow, just wow… we deserved the punishment for what we did… but Jesus took “the blame”… wow… (and then we explained the story of Jesus to N)

Anyway… yes, so, we don’t have to pay that ultimate price…, but God didn’t just let it go either… there were certainly consequences:

To the woman he said,

“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.”

To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’

“Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat food from it
all the days of your life.

It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.

Genesis 3:16-18

Wow… goodbye perfect world… welcome earthly death, pain, sweat and tears, illness and more misery… So, here we are. In a world that is anything but perfect. What a misery it is sometimes (or often…). Therefore, yes, our actions certainly have consequences. To this day, you see what happens when we know better than God. What a misery.

But then… the question was… “If I do something wrong today, will God punish me for it tomorrow? Am I thereby punished with illness or other matters”?

Yes and no. You now absolutely do feel the penalty for not listening to God: The Story of Adam and Eve. So getting sick is unfortunately part of it. Can’t be denied.

But if you believe in what Jesus has done for you, it ends there. Note the following Bible verse:

For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.

Hebrews 8:12

If you believe what Jesus has done for you, that ultimate price (death) has been paid. And God not only forgives your sin, but even forgets it! God no longer sees you when he looks at you, but sees Jesus. And since Jesus is perfect, you are perfect and God doesn’t punish anyone who is perfect. That only applies if you believe that Jesus died for you and if you have asked God for forgiveness for all your sins… That is a hard condition.

And now today… the world is NOT perfect any more and the misery is real. Let’s look at the following Bible verse:

6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.

7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11 To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

1 Peter 5:6-11

You see in that part that God makes a promise. It’s not a question of “if” God honours you (which is WAY more than saving you from today’s misery), but only “when”. (6)

Also, see that God knows that it is not easy for you (7) and He wants to hear it from you. He would like to talk with you.

In verse 8 you see who is now bullying you (or worse) “Your enemy, the devil”. There’s the party that’s giving you so much trouble right now. It’s not God, it’s the devil.

You also see there that God knows that, he sees that there are many people who are having a hard time and that they also have doubts in their faith. And this is what you have to do: “Resist him, strong in your faith.”

And then in verse 9 comes another promise from God: “After suffering a little while, He will make you perfect and strong.” And that’s a divine promise to you and me!

Not because WE are so good and so strong… no. Because GOD is so strong, stronger than you and me: “To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.”

So, there is a bright future ahead of you in the distance. In the middle of a world that is anything but perfect.

And now we come to that spiritual battle with which we started… It really exists. The pain is there. If you follow God, the devil is definitely trying to get you down. He will really do his stinking best. And the closer you get to God, the angrier that devil will get… and the more battle there will be… If you think a little further, then it’s actually a compliment if you feel attacked… The devil isn’t happy… because you get closer to God!! Mhhhhhh…. That’s another thought! There’s even a (pretty spicy) Bible verse about it… beware… it’s really spicy! Here it is:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

James 1:2-4

Your struggle, your pain, it’s real. But the choice is yours: will it bring you closer to God, or will you let the devil win? If your pain brings you closer to God… then you are already a winner! Despite all the pain.

Do you purposely have to look for a fight to fight the evil forces? God will help you, right? Yea and no. …. Let’s see what the bible says about it again:

Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Ephesians 6:11-18

If you read carefully, something stands out…. One moment, here’s a picture:

There are 6 things you need to use:

  • Helmet: Defensive
  • Breastplate: Defensive
  • Belt: Defensive
  • Shield: Defensive
  • Sword: Offensive
  • Shoes: Defensive

Does it stand out? But 1 of those things is offensive.. The rest, all the others 5: defensive!

So yes, with God you can attack evil, you certainly have that option.. But it is not for nothing that 5 out of 6 are defensive… including the sandals… with which you can run away from evil….

God knows that evil attacks you, it is not God that attacks you, but the devil. And God has given you 5 defensive things that you can defend yourself with. And if you are VERY confident that God wants you to draw the sword, then you can…along with God. Never and never alone. You are weak, God is strong. It is His sword.

The spiritual battle is real. The devil tries. But with God… you are already a winner today if you understand God’s big picture….

And with this explanation, N came to God… and he understood the whole picture… welcome to the family N. Yes, your pain from today has not gone away… but it has changed…. And God has made a promise to you:

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

1 Peter 5:10

Ah, how long do these conversations last? Usually, somewhere around an hour. It just depends on how much time you need, sometimes more, sometimes less, there is no maximum time.

And yes… if you have to try to explain the above in that time, you have to work hard… and it is tough… And yes, that also means that all that material has to be somewhere in your head to be able to use it fast. That preparation also takes time, a lot of time. So with those 1.5 hours you are certainly not there, but the result… wow.

Why do we go all the way back to Adam, Eve, Apple… and not answer the question simpler, less complicated?

Well, we want to make sure that (in this case) N knows the complete gospel. Not just a part of it. In this case, N knew some of it, but not the complete picture. If you don’t explain the complete picture, you could create a “false gospel”. Just to give you one example:

“God = love. And for that reason, I do believe in him.”

Uhhh… yes… God is love, that is correct… but if that’s about it what you believe… and you don’t know who Jesus is, and why Jesus died for you.. You created some sort of false god in your head… a god that does not let you into heaven.

Only if you believe what Jesus did for you and why… the door to heaven is open for you. And yes… that’s why we often go back to the basics… and that does take time. Not only for us, but also for the person we speak with. They also have to invest time and effort… but when you get it… it was all worth it.

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