On Spiritual Combat

“This is not a time for passive living, not a time for passive Christianity, and we are required to not only take up the full armor of God but also to arm ourselves with all the weapons of spiritual warfare.”

On Spiritual Combat is a spiritual warfare guide for military members, law enforcement officers, first responders, and all sheepdogs (protectors of the flock). This spiritual warfare book prepares their hearts and minds for battle, teaching them to identify, understand, and fight evil forces.

Adam Davis, co-author of this book, is a former police officer who knows the stress and pressure our law enforcement officers face. As an author (of five books) and speaker, his mission is to offer help and hope for those who walk the thin blue line. In his writing, Adam provides spiritual nourishment and encouragement for the law enforcement officers through personal stories, Scripture, and prayers.

Since his retirement from the US Army in 1998, Lt. Col. Grossman has been on the road over two hundred days a year for over twenty-one years as one of our nation’s leading trainers for military, law enforcement, mental health providers, and school safety organizations. I had the pleasure of meeting him nearly a decade ago when my son was in the Police Academy. One of his presentations was not only for the cadets, family members (parents, spouses) were invited and encouraged to attend, so as to have a better understanding of what our loved one would be facing on a daily basis and the best ways, we can support them. Grossman’s book, On Combat was suggested reading for the parents, “required reading” for the cadets.

All around us every day, an unseen combat rages. It is invisible, yet we feel it in every aspect of our lives. It is a spiritual war. It is a battle for our souls.

The armor of God, that I mentioned in the first paragraph is described in the book of Ephesians, which was written by the Apostle Paul, as an encouragement to the church in the city of Ephesus. In this passage we are told that our primary battles are of a spiritual nature and that we need “spiritual armor” to be able to stand firm in the midst of these battles.

This is Paul’s plea for the church to stay strong in their fight against the “devil’s schemes.” After many years of faithful service, Paul knew first-hand that the enemy was always working to undermine the people of God, and that his methods were crafty. Believers needed to be alert and ready to fight, standing against “the powers of this dark world.”

Ephesians 6: 10-18

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

 13 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. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened the belt of truth around your waist, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace16  Besides all these, taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the Evil One; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.

It’s important to note here that Paul wrote Ephesians to both men and women, and the truth he wanted to convey is as relevant now as it was 2,000 years ago.

Ladies, that means, as Christian women, we also have a responsibility to suit up!

What Paul is saying when he talks about the armor of God is that Christians have access to incredible power. While there are dark forces at work, the believers are in Christand Christ has won. Jew or Gentile, man, or woman, whatever their station in life, they are one with each other and with the Messiah. And they have everything they need—if they put the armor on.

Paul is comparing aspects of the Christian faith to the equipment carried by a soldier. Each piece of the metaphorical armor of God connects to an area of spiritual life important for reliance upon God’s strength. Only by relying on God, through these spiritual tools, can we overcome spiritual evil and succeed at living out God’s will.

The Belt of Truth is the first item in our arsenal. One of the devil’s favorite weapons is lies. Often, he distorts the truth so that it can be hard to distinguish fact from fallacy. But if we ask, God will give us discernment, the wisdom to know His truth above all the other noise. And in today’s world, there is a lot of noise (internet, social media, television, politics and so on).

The Breastplate of Righteousness covers our hearts and other vital organs. In a sense, the breastplate covers the most vulnerable areas of a warrior. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the spring of life.” The righteousness that guards a believer’s heart is the righteousness of Christ.

This piece of spiritual armor helps us act in ways that are good, right, and holy before God. We put it on by choosing to do what is right, rather than what is easy.

Righteousness in the Bible is often used interchangeably with justice. To be righteous is to act justly before God and others, as God himself is. It’s difficult to do, which is why we need God’s power working in us to do it.

Footwear of the readiness of the gospel: Our feet are to be “fitted with the readiness that comes with the gospel of peace.”

For a better understanding of this verse, it helps to remember where Paul comes from. The Roman soldiers of his day typically wore sandals which allowed them to move quickly during battle and provided protection for their feet. Here Paul imagines the shoes as “the readiness given by the gospel of peace.” Shoes made a soldier “ready” to run into battle. The gospel of peace likewise makes a believer ready for spiritual battle. Anyone who has walked around outside with no shoes knows that some areas are virtually off-limits when you’re barefoot. Shoes give you the ability to go almost anywhere. Shoes also provide traction. The gospel anchors our faith in certain basic, universal truths. Without that, we’d find our foundation slipping.

One of the modern world’s most common problems is stress. Yet the peace given through the gospel is the answer to most of our daily anxiety. We can cast our cares on God because He cares for us. Further, connecting the concept of “shoes” with the gospel of peace may also suggest the idea of believers taking the gospel into daily battles, sharing it wherever they go Believers are given the gospel of peace in order to be ready for battle and to help others facing spiritual attack.
Those who study martial arts know that setting one’s feet is the beginning of all combat. They affect balance, grip, power, and movement. In the same way, the foundation of our day-to-day Christianity is the gospel.

We follow Paul’s command to have “feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace,” when we know the Gospel and are prepared to live it out throughout the situations, we face each day.

The Shield of Faith: One of an ancient soldier’s most important tools was a shield. It was essential to protect against enemy attacks, Faith, in this case, is what deflects the attacks of the enemy. Shields are purposeful instruments, not walls to hide behind. Shields, by their nature, are meant to be used with strategy, awareness, and cooperation.

The beauty of a Roman shield was its ability to resist nearly any type of attack. In this context, Paul notes that the shield of faith “can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.” The attack he mentions is fiery arrows, a common tactic in ancient war.

Interestingly, the shield is the only defensive piece of armor which can also protect other people. Ancient soldiers would typically fight in formation, interlocking their shields. This meant each man protected both himself, and others, with his shield. In the community of believers, cooperation, unity, and holiness is crucial. When we work “in formation,” we form a wall of faith which makes the entire church safer and stronger. When doubts, fears, and insecurities start to creep up in our lives, we can choose to take up the Shield of Faith that keeps our trust firmly in God.

The Helmet of Salvation is the assurance that comes from knowing that we are “in Christ.” We put it on by placing our identity in him and focusing on his plan.

When the Apostle Paul referred to the “Helmet of Salvation” in a letter to the church of Ephesus, life was no picnic for his audience. They lived in a culture hostile to their faith. At that time, the helmet was the final piece of armor put on by soldiers, but arguably the most important.

This helmet gives believers the assurance of knowing where they stand on the battlefield between good and evil—and whose side they are on. A helmet can also serve as a signifier. When the enemy looks at us, he sees that we belong to Christ. We carry with us the seal of the Holy Spirit. A helmet protects our brain, basically our minds. It is because of salvation that our minds can be sound. We are assured of our eternity, and made righteous recipients of peace, practitioners of faith, and knowers of truth. Our minds are protected because of Jesus’ work on the cross.

This piece of the armor of God is a reminder that God has had a saving plan for the world from the beginning. Ephesians 1 talks about how those who are in Christ are a part of that plan of salvation. It’s the “big picture” of what’s going on in the world, and we often lose sight of it!

When we came to faith in Christ, that worldly spirit was replaced with the Spirit of God. Through Him, we gain the ability to understand what can only be understood spiritually, apart from our physical senses. God has freely revealed these things to us about His Son and the opportunity to be included in His family. He wants us to know them and trust them as true.

The Sword of the Spirit is the one offensive weapon in the list. Paul notes that the Spirit is the word of God—how he speaks to us. This includes God’s Words in the Bible, but also how he speaks to us through creation, through prayer, and through the body of Christ.  Since this is the only offensive weapon we must fight with, we had better learn how to use it and use it well. The written Word of God carries God’s power and authority. When we speak that word, (a power our own words do not have) that power is brought into the conflict, carrying the same power and authority.

The way we use the sword of the Spirit is connected to the word rhema. We must speak the word. In Matthew we read about Jesus being tempted by Satan in the wilderness. With every temptation Satan presented, Jesus returned the reply “it is written” and he used his sword.

The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:3-4)

Jesus spoke the Word of God directly to Satan. After each temptation, he said, “It is written,” and proceeded to speak the Word of God to Satan. This is how you fight back against the enemy. You must use the Word of God. You cannot be silent in battle because the word rhema means utterance (spoken word). You cannot make a silent utterance. There is power in the Word of God, and there is great power when we speak the Word of God, so we should not be afraid to speak out what God has declared in his word. That’s what Jesus did. Every time you say, “it is written,” you declare the Word of God. Satan cannot stand up to this.

We can seek what the Spirit is saying through prayer, reflection, studying the Bible, fasting, Adoration, silence and other spiritual disciplines. These simple practices help us to hear and follow his voice as we use the Sword of the Spirit to engage in the spiritual battle.

It makes sense that Paul wraps up the full armor of God verses with a call to prayer. It’s essential to using the armor of God, as we really can’t put them on and access God’s power without praying.

Praying in the Spirit is an ongoing conversation with God that can involve praise, gratitude, requests, laments, or even just listening to him in silence as you seek his will. The full armor of God is a way to describe some of the many blessings of God in the life of a Christian and the tools with which He has equipped us to stand firm against the evil one and have spiritual victory over the enemy. The battle is ultimately God’s, but we do have an active part to play. Putting on the armor is the first step to being victorious.

Here’s a prayer you can pray based off the armor of God Scripture passage.

Gracious God,

We praise you, Lord, for your plan of salvation for the world, which includes men and women from all groups of people. We pray that you strengthen us with power through your Spirit—and grasp how wide, long, high, and deep your love is.

As we live our lives worthy of the calling we’ve received, walking in the way of love, please help us be strong in your mighty power and put on your armor each day.

May we stand firm in the belt of truth, rejecting the lies that bombard us every moment.

May we find strength in the breastplate of righteousness and seek justice in a world that is selfish and cruel.

May our feet be ready to spread the hope that comes from knowing the gospel of peace.

 May we rest behind the shield of faith, extinguishing arrows of doubt, insecurity, and self-validation.

May we wear the helmet and trust in your salvation, which has been unfolding since the beginning and will be complete in your time.

May we take up the sword of the Spirit—your word—seeking your wisdom and guidance as we engage with the world each day.

May we remember that your power is always at work in us and through us and that we only need ask for it.

In Jesus’ mighty name we pray,

Amen.

The book, On Spiritual Combat, is a compilation of weaponry–an impressive synthesis of biblical truths that supply us with the weapons that produce remarkable results when we battle dark forces.

Lt. Col. Grossman, a man of faith, has used his experience and understanding of the Word to write a book that I believe we all need to read and reflect on. It was the inspiration for me to dive deeper into the understanding of the Sacred Scripture that the apostle Paul wrote about in Ephesians.

With God, we will rise as virtuous Christian warriors who defend and protect the innocent, helpless, and oppressed.

*** Given the content of On Spiritual Combat, it seems appropriate to have a link to Saint Michael the Archangel, who has a special heavenly role in doing battle against the devil.

What it Means to Love God
Spiritual Communion