Charles Stanley - Preparation for Warfare
Have you ever wondered why there are so many references to warfare in the scripture? Because when you think about it, you think about the fact that Paul said to Timothy in Second Timothy, the chapter two, he said, "Suffer hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ". And in Second Corinthians chapter ten, he talks about the weapons of our warfare, pulling down strongholds. He talks about captives and he talks about enslavement and battles and strategy. And all through the Bible, there's a lot in here about warfare.
Well, I wonder how that sorta matches with the fact, for example, that the Bible says that Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace? And He said that you and I would be known by the fact that we love each other. That's how the world would know that we belong to Him. And then when I think about the fact that the Apostle Paul in one passage of scripture talks about warfare and weapons and the armor, and in the same passage of scripture starts talking about prayer.
Well, you know, when you think about it, you don't think about prayer and fighting going together. And so you have to ask yourself the question: What is all this in the scripture about warfare? Well, that's what I want to talk about in this passage today because this is the first in our series on the believer's warfare, and the title of this message is "Preparation for Warfare". And the Apostle Paul had something very clear to say about that. If you'll turn to Ephesians chapter six for a moment.
Paul says, "Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world-forces of this darkness, against the spiritual wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore," he says, "take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm". And then he says, "Stand firm," and he lists all the armor that the believer's supposed to have.
So, I want us to look for just a moment and look at the nature of this battle that you and I face, because the truth is that we do face a battle. When you wake up in the morning, you are into a battle. The moment you trusted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, you were born again onto a battlefield from which you will never leave until God calls you home. You were born into a battle that will never cease. It does not mean the intensity of it will always be the same, but the battle will always be there. There'll never be a time when the battle's over.
Now, what is the nature of this battle? Well, it's a spiritual battle. How do I know that? Well, first of all, because we are spiritual beings. Though we have a body and a soul and a spirit, that which is the most important part of us is our spirit because you and I could live and we will live one day without these bodies. When we leave them here and God takes us on to home, we're still gonna have our spirit and our soul, the real us. That's how we relate to God is through our spirit. So, the truth is that you and I are spiritual beings. And this is a spiritual battle because what Satan is after, he's after every part of us. He wants to get us in our body. He wants to get us in our soul, our mind, will, and our emotion, our conscience, our consciousness, and he certainly wants to deal with our spirit to do anything he can to tear us away in our thinking from Almighty God and our relationship to Him. It is that personal relationship that you and I have with Jesus Christ, that is his ultimate target.
Now, he'll hit us in our body, he'll hit us in our emotions, but what he's after most of all is our personal relationship with the Father, knowing that he absolutely cannot tamper with our spirit. That is, he cannot separate us from God. He cannot in any way reach down and take us and destroy anything about our eternal security. We're eternally secure because God, in His love and grace, has made that a reality. So since he can't take our spirit, what he will do, he will harass us every way possible to make us miserable in life and to keep us from enjoying the Lord and being the kind of witness God wants us to be. This is a warfare.
Listen, it is a war against your soul, your spirit, your body, your future, and your present. Listen, and it's against everything that you love and everything that you hold dear, and especially those truths that you believe in with all of your heart. He, listen, he is against the belief system of the child of God. It is a spiritual battle. Not only that, it is a real battle. There's no question about it. The only people I know who do not believe in the devil are those who've been blinded by him. And so, when I look, for example, if you'll turn to Second Corinthians for a moment. Look, if you will, in the fourth chapter, and listen to what he says in this fourth chapter and the fourth verse. He says, speaking of the unbeliever, "In whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of God of Christ, who is the image of God". He says they... he's blinded their eyes.
Now, think about this paradox for a moment. Here's the Lord Jesus Christ, and what is His goal? To get us to recognize that He is real and we're to believe in Him. What does Satan want to do? Satan wants to deceive us so that we won't believe there's any such thing as a devil. And secondly, listen, that we won't believe there's such a thing as he is, and we certainly will not talk about him. So, as long as he can get people not talking about him and not believing in him, then he's got 'em where he wants 'em. He can do all the kind of underhanded, dirty, nasty, lowdown works he does in a person's life. And as long as they don't realize there is a Satan and that there is strategy going on, they are his victims, then he's got 'em exactly where he wants them.
So when somebody says, "I don't believe in the devil". Chalk 'em up, he's got 'em right where they are. Because that's exactly, in fact, that is his, listen, that is his ultimate weapon. If he can just get people not to believe in him, that he does not exist, therefore his strategy, his works and his ways, they won't give him any credit for that. He doesn't want any credit for it. He just wants to get what he's after, that is the enslavement of mankind. This is a real battle. The devil is real, and not only that, but listen, the hardships and the difficulties and the trials he sends into our life, they're real. When you're hurting emotionally, it's real. When you're hurting physically, it's real. It's real pain, it's real hurt. These are real situations, real circumstances. This is where we live.
We have to face things. Financial situations, family situations, physical situations, all these things are real. He's behind every single act of sickness. I'm not saying that God does not allow things in life, but ultimately all death, all sin, all sickness, all evil, ultimately is the result, you have to trace it all the way back to Satan in the Garden of Eden. That's where it all began. And so therefore, you and I have an enemy who is out to destroy us at any cost, and he'll use any means, listen, any means to do so, which God allows him to use because he is not unlimited in the things he can do. This is a real battle.
So we're talking about something that, in the eyes of God, is absolutely extremely important. And this is why Paul says now here's what you have. Here's who you are. Here's how we ought to live. But I want to tell you, you're gonna have opposition. Now, there's a second thing he says here I want you to notice, and that's this. He says you're to assume responsibility. Look, if you will, now in verse ten. He starts off, he starts off this alarm. Now, an alarm is a sound or a signal that danger is close by. Something is about to happen. So that's why we call this an alarm. Listen, "Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might".
Now, I want you to notice what that word, when he says, "Be strong in the Lord". The word means to be empowered, and it is in a present tense, which means... here's what it means. It means continually, continually, listen, continually being empowered. This is not something we do for ourselves. This is something Almighty God does for us. That is, God is continually empowering us to do, to become, in every decision no matter what, He's the one who's doing it. Now, listen to what he says. He says finally, be strong or he says to be empowered by. Now, what is he talking about? Simply this, that the Lord Jesus Christ who is living on the inside of us in the presence of the Holy Spirit, listen, He is the source of our strength.
Now, there's not a single one of us who can match it with the devil, not a one of us. We're not as smart as he is, we're not as powerful as he is. Is he more powerful than we are? Yes, He is. He's smarter than we are? Yes, He is. He's had more experience and He has, listen, He's brought down the greatest. He's brought down the greatest. There's not single one of us who's smart as the devil. And so, when he says, "Be strong in the Lord," what is he saying? He's simply saying this: that you and I are to so live our lives in this battle that we, listen, that we draw our strength, we draw our strength to stand against the devil from the presence of the Lord Jesus. He is our strength. He is the source of our strength. So we're not to try to draw this from ourselves. And so he says we're to draw it from Him.
Now, I want you to look, if you will, in Ephesians chapter one. Go back to the first chapter and look in this nineteenth verse. You're gonna find three of the same words in Paul's prayer here that we just saw in this sixth chapter. Now, watch this, very important, coming to the most important part. He says in verse eighteen, this is a prayer. He says, "I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of God's calling in your life, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints". That is, what He's gonna do as a result of having us as His children. Look at this. And he says, I want you to know, "what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us," of His empowering toward us. He says I want you to understand how great the power of God is toward you.
Now, watch this, that is you, "who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might". Now, look at that and go back to chapter six for a moment. And look, if you will, in verse ten. Notice what he says. He says here, "Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might". He said here, spoke of the power or the strength. He says, "And strength of His might". Now, what is he talking about here? He's talking about, he's talking about divine strength. He's talking about divine power. But I want you to notice what he says. Look at this now. Be strong, he says, how? He says be strong, how? In the Lord. Now, it's interesting and not an accident that he didn't say, "Be strong in Jesus," because be strong in Jesus, we think about the sweet name of Jesus and salvation, forgiveness. He didn't say, "Be strong in Christ". We think of the Anointed One, the Messiah. He said, "Be strong in the Lord". The Lord God Jehovah. And that is the sovereign, absolute, complete, final ruler and all authority in the world, now, has been in the past, and forever shall be.
That is, there's absolutely no strength and no power to compare to the power of Almighty God. He is, listen, He is omnipotent, we say. Satan is not. Satan's not omniscient. He doesn't know everything. He doesn't know your thoughts. He's not omnipotent. He's not omnipresent. He's not everywhere. He doesn't have all power. And you and I will say and quote to other people, "He that is within us is greater than he that's in the world". There is a power that is within you that is greater than the power of Satan. It is His power, His strength, and His might. Now, you say, "Well, if I have all this strength, then why am I not stronger"? Okay, now here's the thing I want you to listen to. Are you listening? Say amen.
All right, look at this now, go back to this sixth chapter again, and I want you to look at these words for a moment. Look at these words. When he says in verse ten, look at them now. He says, "Finally, be strong in the Lord". Be empowered in the Lord, "and in the strength, the might of Almighty God". Listen, the strength of His might, of His authority. Now, listen carefully. Power and authority are not the same. Power and authority are not the same. And when you look at this passage, you understand. Authority is not necessarily power. But rather, authority, authority is power that is imparted in a given situation or a given circumstance.
Now, let me illustrate it by this. I could have some power without having any authority, but let me give you a good example of what I'm talking about because this is true of all of us. Let's say that you are a policeman, that you're a traffic cop. And in this big intersection, we don't use lights here, and so we gonna have you to direct the traffic. And so the traffic is coming from your right to the left and it's moving. And you step out and you say... What happens to the traffic? Stops. And then in a few moments you say... What happens to the traffic? It moves. Then you turn up this way and you say... So, they come. And then you do this and you do this, and then people can just walk all across the walkway.
Now, I want you to think about something. Over on this side are four lanes. There's two big eighteen wheelers loaded. Two or three panel trucks, four or five cars. On this side, same thing. Over on this side, a whole bunch of cars, just lined up back yonder. Over here's just like, you know, like eighty-five traffic in the afternoon, they're just everywhere. Now, on the front up here is a little Beetle Bug. That is, a little Volkswagen Bug, real small. And so, you're standing out there. Let me ask you something. Do you have more power than that Volkswagen Bug? Couldn't that Volkswagen Bug run over you if it wanted to? In other words, if you just stood there and if he wanted, he could run over you, couldn't he? Now, you know, an eighteen-wheeler can, so we're not even gonna worry about that one.
So, there you are. But isn't it interesting, if you stand up there with your police uniform on and you say... Let me ask you a question. What stops the traffic, your power or the authority you represent? You have authority. You have, listen, authority is power delegated to us. So, when you say... The traffic stops. The traffic stops. The traffic moves. Not because you can stand up in front of an eighteen-wheeler and say, "Stop, stop, stop, stop, stop"! No. Because he'd just make a pancake out of you is what would happen. But when you stand up with your uniform on and you say... You could stop ten thousand eighteen wheelers because of the authority behind you.
Now listen, here's what He's saying in this passage. You and I, listen, we have not only the strength of God, we have the delegated authority to be able to say Satan, get out of here. Leave me alone. Now, there've been times when I'd wake up in the middle of the night, me talking to the Lord and Satan try to work on me. I just say Satan, get out of this room, get out of this house, get off this acre and get out of this block. You say, "Well, that's foolish". No it's not. You know why? Because when you say, "In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by His precious blood," he is gone. You know why? He hates the name of Jesus and he hates the very idea of the blood of Christ. That, listen, that is when somebody says, "Well, that's just hocus-pocus". I tell you what, you try it. It's not hocus-pocus. It is the power of God released in a human being. And that is exact... listen, every single believer has Christ living on the inside, so we have the strength of God. But the strength of God's not enough.
We need the authority of God in our life. We have, listen, we have divine authority. When can we exercise that authority? Only when we're walking in the Spirit. Listen, God's not gonna allow us to exercise divine authority if we're living in the flesh, living in our naturalness, doing our own thing, living in disobedience to God. Somebody says, "Well, suppose I'm right in the middle of it and I'm having a difficult time". Then you cry out to God. You cry out to God, "Father, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by Your precious blood, I call down, I call down Your strength. I want, I need Your strength". And it's just, listen, can we speak to Satan? Absolutely!
Listen, when you tell him to be gone out of your life, he's got to walk out. If you're walking in the Spirit and you're exercising, listen, remember, it's not our strength. We can't shove him around. Remember that, what you and I do, we're calling into that circumstance the authority of the sovereign of this universe, and Satan cannot do anything God doesn't allow him to do. Why would God just allow him to keep on tantalizing us and harming us or whatever he's doing when we call upon the name of the Lord? This is not to say that you and I cannot go through situations and circumstances that are painful and difficult. We say, "God, where are You"? "I'm right here". "God, why do You let this happen"? "I've got a purpose in mind".
And so, oftentimes we may have to say, "Lord, what's Your goal for me in this difficulty and hardship"? But that doesn't mean that I have to yield to the devil. It doesn't mean that I have to succumb to his temptation. And it doesn't mean I have to give up and be discouraged. So we're talking about two different things. We're talking about Satan trying to destroy you, trying to get you to make the wrong decision, and trying to get you to fall or yield to some temptation. We, listen, we have the power of God and the authority of God. It is His strength. He says we are being empowered. Now listen, I can be empowered, but if I don't take advantage of it, if I don't act out that power, if I don't exercise my life out of that strength, then I have to do it in my own. This is why we falter and fall. You have the strength of God available, and you have the authority of God behind your life.
Now, I wouldn't even think about standing up here if I didn't have the authority of God behind this message. What's that authority? Well, part of that authority is right here. Because all I'm doing is just telling you here's what God says, here's what God says, here are the principles of scripture, here's what God says, here's the authority. Almighty God's the authority, I'm not the authority, He's the authority. I'm just a mouthpiece, He's the authority. It's not my strength, abilities, or talents, this is God's work being done God's way in God's power by God's authority. Nobody can take credit. That'd be foolish for anybody to take credit for that. The authority of God is from the Word of God, from the Spirit of God.
Now, he says, first of all, my responsibility is to be strong. The second thing he says, we have two responsibilities and that's to stand firm. Look at this. Now he says it four times but you only see three here, and I want you to show you where the fourth one is. Look at this, if you will. He says in verse eleven, "Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand," how? "Firm, entrenched against the schemes of the devil". And then, if you'll notice, he says in verse thirteen, "Therefore take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day". That word in the Greek is the same as the word here stand, stand firm, only has a prefix on it, and it's used here to say resist or stand against in the evil day. And having done everything to stand firm, stand firm.
So four times He says this. Why would He say stand firm? I want you to notice something. What's missing in this whole passage on warfare is this, and he tells us what our armor is in a few moments, but nowhere in this passage does He say, "Forward march"! Nowhere does He say, "Attack"! What does he say? He says, "Get ready for battle, and what I want you to do is I just want you to stand firm". You know why? Because He says to us exactly what the prophet said to Jehoshaphat in that twentieth chapter when they were going out to face their enemy. He says, "Stand still and watch the salvation of the Lord". He said to Moses on the bank of the Red Sea. He didn't say, "Get ready to fight those Egyptians". He said, "Stand still and watch the salvation of God".
Now listen carefully. God doesn't want you and me fighting the devil. He doesn't want that. What does He want us to do? He wants us to be strong in Him, and He wants us to stand still and watch Him do His marvelous, miraculous thing. That doesn't mean we're just gonna say, "Well, God, what are You up to"? No, we're aware of what's going on, our strength is in the Lord, and we have taken our stand against evil, against sin, against the devil, against this temptation, against this trial, against this persecution. We've taken our stand. Now, what is it we're to do? We are to trust Him.
So when you say stand, how? This is the way we stand. We stand in the strength of Almighty God. We stand patiently waiting for Him to intervene in that circumstance. We stand dressed in the armor of God, the helmet of salvation, the breast, to protect our thinking, the breastplate of righteousness to protect our emotions, girdle of truth to protect what we believe, and so on. We, listen, we stand in the authority of Almighty God who stands with us. Listen, and we stand confidently. We don't have to be fearful. We don't have to flee, we don't have to falter, we don't have to fall. We just stand and watch God do His work. Now listen, this is what resting in the Lord's all about. It's not fighting. It's resting in the Lord. That's not inactivity.
Listen, you ask any soldier on a battlefield when he's entrenched and waiting for the enemy to attack, well, are you just being passive? No. That's why he says, "Stand firm and stand against". Take a stand against, knowing that Satan is going to attack or you're facing that attack. Now listen, if you want God's best in a world that is so bent out of shape and so messed up and fouled up. Even in the midst of all this, you can still have life at its best if you'll place your trust in Jesus Christ. Because without Him, look who your friend is. Without Christ, you've got the devil as your leader.
You say, "Well, I don't believe in Him". You know what, that doesn't make a bit of difference in the world, that's exactly what he wants you to think. He doesn't want you to believe in him because if you start believing in him and identifying what he's doing, you'll want to change. He doesn't want you to change. But my friend, when you change by the grace of God, you'll understand what you've been missing. You want Christ to be your captain. You want God the Father to be your commander in chief. You want life at its best? Yours for the asking if you will trust Him as your Savior.
Father, we love You and praise You and bless Your name, and ask that the Holy Spirit would seal this message, seal it so tight it cannot be escaped, no one can ignore it, but it's fruit will be the salvation of those who are lost. Its fruit will be strengthening for those who feel weak and those who seemingly are faltering and falling over and over again. We love You and praise You that You are trustworthy, reliably present, always there in every circumstance of life. In Jesus's name, amen.