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7 Things Christians Get Wrong about Spiritual Warfare

Published Apr 10, 2024
7 Things Christians Get Wrong about Spiritual Warfare

Each person exists in the physical and the spiritual realms, and there are struggles in both of these aspects of life. When thinking about difficulties we face in the visible world – the physical side of life – it is easy to list off trials. From natural disasters, to sickness, to aging, to the antagonism of others, many feel inundated by the real hardships of living in a sinful world.

But there is another realm, one where angels and demons are real, and where prayer has great influence. Like with all things spiritual, because of the intangible nature of spiritual warfare, there are many things about it that are confusing. It is in the best interests of the enemy, the Devil, to confuse Christians about how to best fight him.

Some of these errors are more common in different denominations, and others are more or less prominent in different cultures, but they all manifest themselves across the Christian faith.

Here are seven things Christians get wrong about spiritual warfare.

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woman hiding face in shirt

1. We Can Ignore Spiritual Warfare

There are many Christians, particularly in the western world, who can go their whole lives without an awareness of what is going on in the spiritual realm. They see it as something from Biblical times, or for more charismatic denominations. But by ignoring this part of their life, they give evil a foothold. For believers who ignore spiritual warfare, the devil can hide overt demonstrations and continually whisper in their ear, keeping them from growing closer to the Lord by obsessing over the things of this world.

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world” (1 Peter 5:8-9).

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Man hiding from a shadow monster

2. Assuming Satan Will Be Personally Attacking Us Every Day

While it is true the potential for trials, tribulations, and temptations exists every day, not every day is going to be full of intense spiritual battles. The Lord promised that He would guide His people to periods of rest. After Elijah’s spiritual battle against the prophets of Baal, God led him to a period of peace and refreshment. When David was burdened, the Lord helped Him. While there will be periods of spiritual warfare, to believe there are no periods of peace is to ignore the assurances of the Lord.

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake” (Psalm 23:1-3).

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Woman being tempted to do evil

3. Thinking Things Are Spiritual Warfare That Are Not

The Bible makes a distinction between trials, tribulations, and temptations. The first is when God allows difficulties so we can draw closer to Him; the second is when hardships come by way of the world being fallen. Temptation is when the Devil and evil, or the power of the flesh, try to lead people away from God. Some people make the mistake of assuming that any difficulty they face is an attack, and that it needs to be dealt with as spiritual warfare. Understanding the difference between the three is important, and it is crucial to use prayer and the Bible as tools to discern what is happening when there is hardship.

“But test everything; hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

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Clock on the wall

4. Assuming We Will See Immediate Results

For new Christians, the idea that they could move mountains and defeat demons through spiritual warfare can be exciting – intoxicating even. However, this desire can become a temptation and a problem in itself. Sometimes warfare takes time; as evidenced by Daniel praying for weeks, unaware that a messenger angel was battling to bring him a message in the spiritual realm for that same period of time. When a person has the expectation that a powerful prayer, a laying on of hands, or an anointing with oil will have immediate results, they can be disappointed in the Lord, rather than understanding that sometimes warfare takes time, and that God’s timing for victory is not necessarily His.

“On the twenty-fourth day of the first month…I lifted up my eyes and looked, and behold, a man clothed in linen, with a belt of fine gold from Uphaz around his waist…His body was like beryl, his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a multitude… ‘Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia’” (Daniel 10:12b-13).

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Fuzzy, scary silhouette of a man reaching out a hand

5. Assuming It Will Look Like a Horror Movie

Demonic possession is real, and it can be terrifying. However, because believers are sealed by the Holy Spirit, they cannot be possessed. Non-believers can be possessed, and demonic influence is real, regardless of whether or not someone is saved. Certain evil principalities have a small amount of power and authority while the world waits for the return of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, modern horror films have deceived people into believing any demonic activity will look like what they see on screen. Evil influence can look subtler, or the way it is dealt with can look different than is often portrayed in pop culture in the western world.

“As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and us, crying out, ‘These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.’ And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, ‘I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.’ And it came out that very hour” (Acts 16:16-18).

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6. Obsessively Preparing, or Not Preparing at All

Spiritual warfare is a battle that is being fought daily across the world, though it may not be daily in an individual’s life. Many Christians make errors that fall on two sides of the same issue – being prepared. Some people go about unprepared for an attack from the enemy and are taken off-guard when it happens. Others go about life so hyper-vigilant for an attack they miss out on blessings and joys, and are distracted from having a relationship with God. Instead of being focused on the Lord, they are focused on the enemy. War is exhausting, and spiritual warfare is no different. Neither approach is healthy, as one allows the devil to have influence through unreadiness, and the other keeps their eyes off God.

“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 firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:13-18).

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8).

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7. Forgetting the Victory Is Won

Sometimes prayers are not answered the way we would like, whether because it is not God’s will, or because someone else has a choice. Other spiritual battles take years to be resolved, especially if it is a spiritual stronghold. The Bible provides a great assurance though, that Jesus has the final victory, and that it is guaranteed. He has defeated sin, death, the grave, and will return to rule and reign for 1,000 years, and then forever. When entering into a spiritual battle, it is important to enter it knowing the God of Angel Armies, the One who holds all things in His hand and has the final victory – He is in the battle too.

“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).

Through the power of Jesus Christ, believers are assured, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Even though spiritual warfare is often hidden behind the veil, it is ever-present, but it is not something Christians need to be focused on all day every day. When trying to understand it, we should pray and go to the Bible for wisdom and guidance, taking heart in the ultimate victory of Jesus Christ.

“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.” - C.S. Lewis

Sources

Evans, Tony. Victory in Spiritual Warfare. Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 2011.

Wagner, C. Peter. What the Bible Says about Spiritual Warfare. Regal: 2001.

Wilmington, H.L. Wilmington’s Guide to the Bible. Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, 1981.

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Bethany Verrett is a freelance writer who uses her passion for God, reading, and writing to glorify God. She and her husband have lived all over the country serving their Lord and Savior in ministry. She has a blog on graceandgrowing.com.

Originally published Wednesday, 10 April 2024.