My good friend and former area minister Paul Fulks used to say, “When the Lord starts blessin’, the devil starts messin’!” In my personal life, in my public ministry, and in the churches I’ve pastored, I’ve seen it happen again and again. When the Holy Spirit begins drawing people to Jesus for salvation or deeper commitment, Satan will do all he can to shut things down. A common term for this phenomenon is spiritual warfare, and the Bible speaks of it repeatedly. The Apostle Paul says in Ephesians 6:12, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” 1 Peter 5:8 also tells us, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour” (NLT).
Here at First Baptist Church of Nitro we’ve seen many people digging into their Bibles and spending greater amounts of time in prayer and fellowship through the Experiencing God study. Vacation Bible School had a record number of children and adults participating in an outreach effort that began building relationships with many children, youth and adults in the Nitro area. Our youth and younger adults just returned from two mission trips to Charleston, SC and Haiti. Young people responded to calls to vocational ministry, led the lost to Christ and the saved to the Lord in devotion. Greater life and energy have been surging into our worship services as more of the membership, both younger and older, participate. Children, youth and adults are attending Camp Cowen and experiencing spiritual transformation. The Holy Spirit is moving, and Satan is not pleased. If you have been stepping up your relationship with Jesus, spiritual warfare will come. The enemy will want to take from you the progress you’ve made. Here are three basic but vital things we can do to prepare and to respond.
Spend time in prayer. On the spiritual mountain top, prayer is pretty much a given. When we resume our daily routine however, it is tempting to drift from regular times of focused prayer. We say, “I am just too busy to pray” or “I just stay in an attitude of prayer throughout the day.” Jesus himself only had three years to accomplish His ministry, and was extremely close to His heavenly Father. Still, He saw it necessary to have regular times of focused prayer. If it was necessary for Jesus, it is certainly necessary for us. To be strong against the enemy, spend time in prayer.
Meditate upon God’s Word. Psalm 119:11 tells us, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, He responded to each temptation with passages from God’s Word. There are a variety of ways to mediate upon God’s Word. We can read it, study it, discuss it, listen it to through dramatic recordings or Christian music, and memorize it. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
Prioritize attendance at Sunday School, worship services and Bible study. There is strength in numbers, but more often than not we take a pass on the spiritual strength that only gathering together provides. Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Matthew 18:20). Hebrews 10:24-25 also reads, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another,…” All of the spiritual blessings mentioned above were experienced while God’s people were gathering together. Why is it then, that we normally allow anything and everything to keep us from Sunday School, worship, and Bible study? Our forefathers had the right idea when they said in the old Baptist church covenant, “We engage, therefore, by the aid of the Holy Spirit…to strive for the advancement of this church…to give it a sacred pre-eminence over all institutions of human origin.” To previous generations, being in church was a given, not one option among many places to be on Sundays or Wednesday evenings. Those previous generations tended to be stronger spiritually than we are today, because they placed a higher priority on being in church than we do.
Will you continue to walk in the spiritual blessings the Lord has allowed you to witness over the past several weeks, or will you drift? To stand your ground in the midst of the spiritual warfare that is certain to come, at least three things are necessary: Spend time in prayer, mediate upon God’s Word, and prioritize attendance at church. What will your choice be?
With a shepherd’s heart,