Lessons in spiritual warfare can be uncomfortable at times—perhaps most of the time. And they can pop up in the most unexpected of places.
But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. (1 Thessalonians 5:8)
One morning recently, I arrived at the office feeling on top of my game spiritually. My drive to work was filled with worship, praise, and prayer. Even my quick glance at the news, while serving as a reminder of our world’s darkness, served as fuel to ignite intercession to see that darkness pierced. Truly, I was ready for come-what-may—or so I thought.
About an hour into my workday, I placed a phone call to a vendor to resolve an issue. Getting through to the vendor was a little challenging. Eventually I was greeted by a courteous receptionist who tried her best to help me. But the problem persisted, and my response to her efforts included a tiny bit of annoyance and condescension.
I ended up on hold. And while on hold, I underwent the lesson.
It came in the form of a gut check. Or maybe it was an inner “tap on the shoulder.” Whatever it was, it certainly was the Holy Spirit speaking to me. Here’s what He said (in so many words):
“Gary, if you want to change the world, you need to first allow Me to change you. And then, you need to start by loving the person in front of you.”
Needless to say, that message didn’t exactly stroke my ill-begotten ego. I didn’t like facing the reality that my “tiny bit” of condescension produced a behavior that was ugly and disgusting. And I certainly didn’t expect this message in the middle of a routine work day.
But I knew my behavior had to change. I felt my heart being pierced. I sensed His loving correction. I became painfully aware that, while getting “locked and loaded” for battle that day, I’d left off the most important part of my armor: love.
In short, I was getting a crash course in Spiritual Warfare 101—with a highlight on the lesson titled “love.”
What I Learned
What did I learn from this particular lesson (aside from the obvious)? Simply this: my attitude toward a receptionist during a routine business call has the power to advance or hinder the spread of the gospel. What seems insignificant to me can have enormous spiritual ramifications.
In today’s hyper-politicized, hyper-polarized, even “hyper-pagan” world, people are still thirsty for love. And no, I’m not talking about the mushy, “everyone-goes-to-heaven” kind of love. I’m talking about love that truly cares. I’m talking about love that chooses to put itself in others’ shoes. I’m talking about love that weeps over people’s brokenness.
For me, that love starts right in front of my nose. It begins with my family and with all who I rub shoulders with on a daily basis—whether for 5 hours, 5 minutes, or even 5 seconds. If I can master my “love lesson” with these people, I can indirectly influence a good slice of the world.
Let me put it another way: as I allow Him to mold my character to reflect more of His love and His character onto the person in front of me (or over the phone), I steward the entrance of His light into that person’s soul. Multiply that by the number of people I interface with daily, and it becomes clear I am fulfilling the Great Commission while simply going about my daily life.
The Ultimate Spiritual Warfare Strategy
Spiritual warfare can mean different things to different people. But when we boil it down, it is essentially this: conducting warfare in the spirit realm against the demonic forces that are marshalled in opposition to God’s authority. Knowing that, it is crucial to understand the mindset of these opposing forces if our warfare is to be successful.
Our adversary is shrewd. That much is obvious. He knows fully well how to exploit our weaknesses. So let’s ask: what are his weaknesses? Is he lacking in power? Is he lacking in wisdom—at least of the worldly kind? Is he lacking in strategic warfare knowledge?
The reality is that he does possess these entities in abundance—way more than we do. It is true that he lacks God’s wisdom, power, and authority. It is also true that we have spiritual weapons at our disposal to wage warfare against him in these areas. But since we “know in part and see in part,” we may sometimes misuse these weapons—if only by mistake.
The one “weapon” our adversary is completely lacking is love.
Let me repeat: the one spiritual weapon our adversary does NOT have is…LOVE. He cannot fight back against it because he doesn’t have it. After all, if God is love and satan hates God, he wants nothing to do with love. He doesn’t understand it. He doesn’t speak its language.
Love is the one weapon against which our adversary is completely defenseless.
Bringing It All Home
As God’s redeemed people, we’ve been recruited by God as His co-laborers in bringing restoration to our neighborhoods, cities, and even nations. Though our roles may be different, we must each carry His passion and His boldness to see the mission through. We need to expect opposition and prepare to wage warfare accordingly.
But while waging warfare, let us never forget that restoration starts with loving the person in front of us. Indeed, love is the most effective spiritual warfare weapon we have. His love compels us to sacrifice. It compels us to take risks. It compels us to reach out.
We can have all the warfare weapons in our bag—but without love, it is of no effect (1 Corinthians 13:2-3).