Underestimating the Enemy

enemies god temptation Jan 10, 2021

I haven’t taken spiritual warfare seriously enough. And I have been trying to figure out why. I think it is a hesitancy to assign blame for my failures as a believer, husband, and father, and my long struggle with addiction. I want to believe that it is “all on me.” And if I own the failure, then it is all on me to fix it. With God’s help of course.

In the 12-step program, we talk about our character defects and that these are the root causes of our addiction. Thus, the goal is not just sobriety, but recovery by addressing the deeper issues. As we deal with character defects, we focus on progress, not perfection.

I am trying to add two more components to sobriety and recovery: growth and healing. I want to continue to grow in all areas of life including relationships, work, and health. I want to be filled with the Spirit and live a life pleasing to God that is not hampered by my past addictive behavior. This expectation for growth and healing is motivated by what I see in the word of God, for example, Romans 8:29.

God, healthy things like my church, 12-step program, and positive relationships. My own healthy disciplines. So far, so good—but what about the enemy? What about the opposition? What about spiritual warfare? I have definitely underestimated these things. Why? As I said, it may be an aversion to assigning blame and not taking responsibility for my failures. Maybe it reminds me of the comedian from my childhood whose stock line was, “The devil made me do it.”

Of course, the Bible does not ignore the enemy, but warns us of his presence and desire to defeat and destroy us. In fact, there is not just one enemy but multiple forces to contend with:

“Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places (Ephesians 6:10, 11, emphasis added).

Second Corinthians 10 says that the “weapons of our warfare are not carnal”; in other words, they are not physical but spiritual.

I understand all this on an intellectual basis, but practically speaking, I have pretty much ignored it. A big part of it is that I know the end of the story and that all of God’s enemies—and by extension, mine—will someday be defeated and destroyed and banished from my life. I know that my soul is secure in Jesus Christ and that He is “far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come...and hath put all things under his feet.” And, because I am part of His body, all of these things are under my feet too.

And yet, we are currently warned about him in this life:

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world” (1 Peter 5:8, 9, emphasis added).

The crazy thing is that the verses I have referenced so far are very familiar to me and have been pretty much committed to memory. In spite of that, here is the major problem I am discovering: I only really see myself as the enemy in my life. “I am my own worst enemy.” Have you heard that saying? Do you think that about yourself?

Sure, even in Christ our flesh is under the curse of Adam and the “old man” is with us until the redemption of the body. And denying responsibility for our actions is not wise. But we and the world we live in are obviously influenced by the devil and principalities and powers. Paul talked about Satan hindering him and not being ignorant of his devices. Job’s losses were a direct result of Satan’s work and David was specifically tempted by Satan. The temptation of our Lord Jesus Christ is detailed in the gospels.

But when I fail in thoughts, attitudes, or actions, I want to put it all on me and allow shame and self-loathing to dominate my thoughts and put me in a downward spiral. My “solution” is to isolate and try to “figure things out” so I can “get back to God.” Sick and unhealthy—and it never works.

The beauty of recovery is that I can pretty much see what is unfolding and not fall off the ledge. Yes, my toes may be hanging over but I don’t have to jump. But I need to acknowledge that I have an enemy that wants to devour me and that some of my afflictions and tribulations, mental and otherwise, can be a result of his influence. I need to give due consideration to the things that the Bible clearly warns me about. And I must heed the instruction to “resist the enemy and he will flee from you.”

Maybe this isn’t an issue for you and you blame your enemies more than you take responsibility for your actions. That is just being out of balance in another direction. But I can definitely see that I need to be more balanced in acknowledging and resisting my spiritual enemies. May God give me the grace and wisdom to do so.

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