For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Ephesians 6:12 (NIV)
All of us go through difficulties in life. Some people think that every kind of struggle they endure is the result of some devil attacking their lives. Honestly, I think the devil gets blamed for so many things that is not even remotely his doing. He obviously likes it because he is like a naughty child seeking attention. But let’s look at this in a bit more detail.
Four reasons for difficulties
Just like any good father or coach, you would want to develop the potential of your children to its maximum. The principle in this regard is resistance. You cannot develop stronger muscle without resistance.
God will oftentimes design tough situations for you to deal with. The aim of the struggle is not to succeed per se, but to develop. Even though we might often think we have failed miserably, God looks at the strength that was developed and is pleased with our progress.
Another reason God might place us in a predicament is, He might see a character flaw in our lives that He wants to Father. He will then construct a situation for you to be confronted with your pain or immaturity. By His Grace, He will help you to deal with this inner brokenness. The purpose of this will be to bring healing and maturity.
In many cases, people will resist this training by God and attribute the difficult time to the devil. They refuse to acknowledge God’s Sovereign hand and Love in their lives and start rebuking the devil and fighting an enemy that doesn’t exist in this case. Which brings us to the second reason for difficulties in our lives:
One of the ways you know someone has a bad character in their lives is by giving them loving correction. We all have character flaws that result in situations going haywire in our lives. The problem is, we don’t like to admit it.
There is a very big difference between being teachable and learning something. I know a lot of people who love learning new things. They have a wealth of knowledge about either a specific topic or even a wide variety of subjects, but they are not teachable at all. With knowledge comes pride. This is why we need to stay teachable.
To be teachable means you are willing to acknowledge your own flaws and work on them. The Biblical term will be repentance. Giving someone loving correction about blind spots or character flaws in their lives will reveal whether they are simply smart vs teachable and repentant.
Again, those who are unteachable in this situation will rebuke the devil and fight an enemy that is supposed to be overcome by humility and repentance, not pride in spiritual warfare.
Sin in the world
Another reason why people might experience tough times is simply that we are living in a fallen world. I am currently sitting in my bed with bad head-cold. Eyes and nose running, feeling really sorry for myself. It is fast approaching man-flu. I am not sitting blaming the devil for this. Nor am I thinking God is trying to teach me something. I don’t think it is a result of unrepentant sin or bad character. It is part of life.
I know there will be no flu in heaven one day. But, we are not in heaven yet. So while I am down here I need to eat healthily and keep my immune system pumped up. And, while I am now feeling sick, I must just as well use the opportunity to rest and take advantage of everyone serving me in bed (or just dream about it I guess).
Then we also have an enemy. Yes, there is a real devil with minions that hate you and wants to destroy your faith. He will do whatever he can to make you either stop believing in God or stop growing in your faith.
In order to do this, he can use multiple tactics.
Here are a few examples:
He can cloud your discernment about God teaching you. Instead of embracing God’s discipline, you start blaming God for not making you feel comfortable. This will increase your fear of the devil and decrease your faith in God. A very effective way to get people to live in fear.
The devil will make you blame other people for your troubles. We cannot take responsibility for other people’s behaviour, only our own. Yet the devil would try to convince you that you are the victim and you are entitled to have things easier. This will lead to a lack of repentance and becoming unteachable.
He could also make you give too much attention to him. The devil is very small in comparison to God. Yet, when we focus on him, we don’t see this great God we serve. The devil loves attention and would not mind you beating him up and even defeating multiplied minions under his command. As long as you are fighting him you are not worshipping God. The devil is not always trying to win. Oftentimes he is just aiming to distract. The very fact that you are fighting him is a win for him.
Then, in seeming contrast to the previous point, failing to discern the enemy and resisting him. When the devil does attack to destroy, we sometimes do not recognise his schemes. By failing to discern his plan, he will then hide so you cannot notice him.
When are you under attack?
I will give you three reasons whyI think anyone might be under a demonic attack. Let me use a war analogy.
Target of opportunity
Planned targeted attack
Living in warzone
Target of opportunity
Imagine you are in a war. You are supposed to stay in a safe zone and hide in the bunker. Above your head is a fighter jet looking for someone to shoot. He is not looking for someone specific, but just someone who is in the wrong place at the wrong time - a target of opportunity.
This does not mean he WILLattack. It means he COULD. He might not attack immediately. He might wait for others to think it is ok and safe and in that way lure them out of hiding as well. This passive aggressive behaviour is to create an opportunity to shoot all of them.
The Bible gives us various analogies of hiding under His wings and running into a strong tower. Within this safe place, the devil cannot strike you. But then, you might wonder out in the open field through taking offence in someone. Now you are an open target.
Let me give you a classic example that I deal with often in our context over here. Because families are so heavily broken here, children struggle to honour their parents. The command that says you have to honour your parents has a promise of long life attached to it. By implication, it means you open yourself up to premature death if you don’t honour your parents.
Now, as I said, not everyone dishonouringtheir parents will die prematurelybecause you MIGHTget shot, not you WILL. It might also not mean that you will die prematurely, but that this spirit of death might only touch certain areas of your life like your finances, health or relationships.
This is deceptive and a tactic to numb your conscience. Not always attacking, but only when the opportunity is favourable, lulls you into a deception that your sin has no effect on your life. For this reason, God wants us to obey His commands and his principles. It keeps you safe from being a target of opportunity.
Planned targeted attack
Another reason you might end up getting fired at is simply that of your calling. You have a target on your head. This means the devil knows you are a threat and will plan an attack against anything you are involved. This is strategic and intentional.
This can come in various ways against you. For the sake of not turning this email into an e-book, I will mention only one. During our time in Belgium, we had the occult send undercover christiansinto the church to intentionally bring division.
One of the ways out of an attack like thisis by going on the offence. Your biggest mistake would be to become passive. You need to intentionally stand on the Word, intentionally trust God, intentionally live holy and intentionally resist the devil and his schemes.
When you are busy with God’s work, you are a threat to the devil. He will plan to take you out somehow.
Living in a warzone
The third reason might simply be that you are living in a place of heightened spiritual activity. I remember years ago God showed me a prophetic picture for a good friend of mine being in a tough spot. The picture was of a bunch of ants climbing onto his legs while he is walking through the field. He was living in South Africa at the time.
I told him that he is being bitten by ants simply because he is in a place where there are a lot of ants. Ants are not a problem we have in Belgium. I don’t think I have ever seen any ants over here. This means I do not have to be prepared to fight them. Every area has its own unique battles and struggles. You need to be aware of your spiritual geography.
When I moved to Belgium in 2010, I prepared as much as I could to get ready for life here. But there are simply things I could not have been prepared for. The atmosphere threw a whole bunch of curveballs our way that we simply did not anticipate. This was not because of a target of opportunity or because my life was targeted. It was simply because the spiritual climate here has its own flavour.
When you are in a situation like this, you need to do one of two things. You either move away or you learn to engage your spiritual warzone. Toughen up or move out. It’s as simple as that.
How do you know if it is the devil?
One of the simplest and easiest ways to know whether it is the devil or not is by looking at the frequency and intensity of the situation. When something is abnormally intense and/orlast longer than it should in the usualsetting, you should consider the fact that his might have a spiritual origin. When it is of the devil it has a heaviness to it that is recognisable.
I am definitely not one that blames the devil for everything. I hate giving him any attention at all. He is not worthy of my attention. I do not live in reaction to the devil but in response to the Holy Spirit’s direction and guidance. So, when something is not right, I do not immediately turn my attention to the devil. I only do it when God places my attention on it or when I realise this is something out of the norm.
I do not live in fear of spiritual attack nor the devil's plans. My life is in God’s hands and plans. The discernment comes when you are fully immersed in God’s Kingdom. You will know and have a sense of something that simply “smells” off. When you spend time with God, your spiritual radar will become sensitive enough to pick up on that what comes from another camp.
I want to encourage you today to live for God, obey His commands with everything in you and be open to the fact that not everything bad is devil’s fault. But, when he shows up, deal with it swiftly.