We are at war! Jesus warned us about it: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10a). The question is not whether the attack will come, but when and how. The answer, when the attack does come, is to focus not on the attack or on the enemy, but on the Lord. Isn’t it encouraging that Jesus brought his statement to a triumphant conclusion: “But I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10b)? A while ago a merchant in Toronto got so tired of shoplifters he took the law into his own hands, apprehended a thief and held him until the police arrived -- then got charged for assault! Fortunately the judge saw things differently and acquitted him. The enemy comes continually into our lives to shoplift -- and worse. We don’t have to wait until the police arrive. We have a hotline to the Lord. This does not mean that everything will always run smoothly for us, but it does mean that we can avoid a lot of unnecessary grief if we learn to follow God’s directions for conducting this war.
We need to learn two things: what the tactics of the enemy are, and how to counteract them. In any warfare, this two-pronged approach is critical to success on the battlefield. It is no different on the spiritual battlefield. And let me underline this: these are not strategies to put in place the moment the attack comes. A successful army has discerned the strategies of the enemy long before any attack and put measures into place to counteract them. What coach goes into a game against an opposing team without studying that team’s strengths and weaknesses and devising a strategy to beat them? We can turn and cry out to God at the last minute, and he will hear us, but we will be much more effective in overcoming the enemy’s attacks if we have prepared our defence -- and our offence -- first.
Let me give you a useful tip how to do this. Paul begins his famous exhortation on spiritual warfare in Ephesians 6 with the word "finally." This is very significant. The advice on how to conduct spiritual warfare in the following verses is only the last part of a much longer section. Beginning at Ephesians 4:1, Paul gives a total (on my count) of 31 commands on how to live our life for God. Those 31 commands are the foundation for the successful warfare he describes in 6:10-17. If we have put our lives in order, we can be confident of success when the time of battle comes.
And don't be discouraged by the fact you're at war. The enemy only targets those who are a threat to his authority. The thief comes to rob, kill and destroy, but in the midst of the attack Jesus comes with his gift of abundant life.