On Spiritual Warfare
“Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul.” (1 Peter 2:11, NIV)
There are varieties of spiritual warfare that are going on in and around you at any one time. Satan is behind all of them in some way. Spiritual warfare that is outside of you may take a myriad of forms. At times, it will feel like the world is against you or you can’t do anything right. You may feel overwhelmed or under pressure. You might feel enormous peer pressure. You might be wrongly accused or put in situations of temptation. There are many ways that external factors can cause spiritual warfare around about you.
At other times, spiritual warfare may be more confined to your own body, mind, and soul. This is an internal type of spiritual warfare. Satan may easily be behind the spiritual struggle, but you are an active participant. You see, your body and its natural or unnatural desires will tempt you to do what is wrong. Raging hormones might cause you to feel overly angry, filled with lust, or tempted to indulge in something you should not. When in the presence of opulence or rich people, you might begin to feel envy, jealousy, or long for money and worldly wealth. Have you ever been on a diet and then craved every food you shouldn’t eat? Well, that can also happen spiritually. After spending a long time being faithful in some endeavor, soon temptations to throw caution to the wind might come on strongly in response. Your emotions, hormones, and body chemistry can all take part to tempt you. What you read or see or hear in social media can push you to act on desires of the body that would wreck your soul. Temptations in your mind can romanticize people or feelings. Alcohol and drugs can take away your moral and spiritual inhibitions. It is normal to feel the pressures of this type of spiritual warfare, but that doesn’t make it any easier!
When tempted with an internal type of spiritual warfare, there are remedies that can help. Prayer helps greatly. Focusing your mind and attention away from the temptation will always help. One man told me that when he feels lust growing in him from a pretty woman at work, he spends his lunch hour taking a long walk. It helps to ease that lust. When tempted to overeat, many work on a hobby or take a drink of water instead. If you find yourself filled with a desire for the newest iPhone or the latest gadget, keep yourself away from YouTube videos about the electronics that interest you. Stay away from stores that sell the merchandise. When commercials for what you lust for come on TV, get up and walk away for a few minutes until the commercial ends or just mute the TV. You need to develop methods to counter the temptations that increase the pressure of inner spiritual warfare.
Carl was a long-time smoker. When he developed asthma and the doctor pointed out that his lungs were damaged by the smoking, Carl decided to quit. He studied ways to quit smoking, talked with God in prayer about it, and smoked the last cigarette in his last pack.
After a few days without cigarettes, Carl’s body began to go through withdrawals. He decided to wear a nicotine patch to help. Then, Carl noticed that whenever he filled up his gas tank with fuel at a corner store, he was tempted to step inside to buy one pack of cigarettes. He decided to only pay for his gas at the pump. When he saw commercials about smoking, he would mute his TV. When he was around a friend who smoked, he wouldn’t stay long. Being a man of faith, Carl joined an online religious group for smokers who were trying to quit. Carl was doing everything he could to stop his smoking.
Two years after Carl quit, he told me that it was the hardest thing he ever had to do. He was surprised how many temptations to start smoking again had arisen in those two years. After a good conversation, Carl told me that in the end he realized that his body was fighting him. His body was going through a long withdrawal. His mind had to adapt to not leaning on the drugs in cigarettes to feel better. His soul had to learn to be honest with God about his desires to smoke.
The scripture for today listed above is a reminder that your body is tempted by “sinful desires” (1 Peter 2:11). Your hormones and body chemistry and genetic components will cause you to be tempted by certain things. Certain odors might prompt you to want to overeat. Beautiful people might tempt you toward lustful desires. Pretty or expensive commodities might entice you to spend money you don’t have. Jealousy and envy can push you to buy or do things just to look good or please others. Selfish motives might drive you to lie, cheat, and steal. The scripture from 1 Peter makes clear that your own internal sinful desires can actually “wage war against your soul”. You might think these words of Peter are overly exaggerated, but they are not. Sinful desires can consume you, torture you, and wreck your relationship with God. Sinful desires can destroy friendships and cause wars with actual bullets and bombs. That internal struggle you face is real. It is difficult. But it is NOT insurmountable.
God can help in many ways to ease the inner turmoil you feel. Lean on God. Lean on others you can trust. Find ways to alleviate the pressure. Take a walk. Say a prayer expressing your frustrations. Read a book on the subject. Talk to your pastor, a doctor, or a strong spiritual friend. “Abstain” (as the scripture for today urges) from these sinful temptations. Refrain from sinful actions. Don’t let those sinful desires or lusts shipwreck your life and soul or consume your every thought. The danger of sinful desires is real. Your response to them is critical to your emotional, psychological, and especially your spiritual health.