God Fights our Battles

As Joshua approached the city of Jericho, he looked up and saw a man facing him with sword in hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you friend or foe?” “Neither one,” he replied. “I am commander of the LORD’s army.” At this, Joshua fell with his face to the ground in reverence. “I am at your command,” Joshua said. “What do you want your servant to do?” The commander of the LORD’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for this is holy ground.” And Joshua did as he was told. (Joshua 5:13-15 NLT)

There are times when I feel overwhelmed and helpless.  During those times I believe I am about to be overcome by the enemy.  I look at the work of putting together whatever book I’m writing or lesson I’m preparing or my lack of spiritual maturity when I’m discipling someone or just interacting with people I work with and I become discouraged and overwhelmed by the impossibility of it all.  What’s wrong?  Don’t I have the Holy Spirit?  Aren’t I a Spirit-led believer?  Aren’t I doing what God wants me to do?  By-the-way, those aren’t the right questions to ask.  Those are all asked with the focus on me and my abilities or the work I am doing.  I have stopped treasuring the treasure and have turned my Heart’s desire onto something other than God’s glory.  Oh, I may deeply desire for God to be glorified in me, but on my terms.  Do you see how stupid this is?  Once again I have turned my focus away from God and the all-sufficiency of His Grace and have put it on me and my abilities. 

God allows us to go that way for a while and it get’s discouraging in a hurry.  If we persist despair is next on the agenda.  If we don’t pull out of that we end up in a deep pit of despair.  I always picture that as a sticky morass of self-pity at the very bottom of a deep spiritual trough or valley.  God allows us to sink to that level sometimes so we can get our focus readjusted.  What is the real problem?  The problem is a lack of understanding of two facts which causes us to walk around as if we are defeated when we should be walking in victory.

  The first fact is we are in a spiritual battle all the time.  If we are in Christ we are saved and should have no fear of losing our salvation, however, we have two enemies who deeply desire to make us think we are on the verge of doing that very thing. 

“For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12 NLT)

The first enemy is Satan and his army of demons.  Who is our other enemy?  It is self.  Well, not our redeemed self, but our “OLD MAN” character who is still hanging around wanting us to give up on this spiritual growth nonsense and get busy going after self-gratification back in Egypt.  He does not value godly treasure at all. 

 “…throw off your old evil nature and your former way of life, which is rotten through and through, full of lust and deception” (Ephesians 4:22 NLT) 

These two enemies are clever, stealthy and experts in the art of the ambush.  Their only desire is to defeat us and make us fleshly and ineffective in the Kingdom. 

The second fact is our part in the battle with our enemies is mostly defensive. Our Lord fights the offensive battles for us.  Sadly, we try to fight our own battles, both the offensive and defensive, with inadequate weapons.  Our enemies know this and come at us from ambush, deceit and circumstance with frightening looking weapons which easily defeat us.  We end up in full retreat.  Why?  We do not understand it is God who is to fight against these enemies not us.  Our part is to be armored so we can withstand the attack and remain standing. 

“…Be strong with the Lord’s mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies and tricks of the Devil.” (Ephesians 6:10-11 NLT)

To keep from sinking into despair, discouragement and defeat we must understand these two facts then take action.  Our two enemies are to be fought or resisted with very different weapons and tactics.  Let’s look at the spiritual warfare against Satan and his demons first. 

We must understand clearly we are in a battle or war that will not end until we make it to Heaven. 

“This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.” (Ephesians 6:12 MSG) 

I really don’t understand why Satan hates us so much, but he does.  His goal is to keep as many people as possible from living lives which glorify God.  How does he do that?  He lies to the lost keeping them from the truth of the Gospel while targeting believers with lies about God and how much He loves and cares for us.  We have eternal life in Christ.  He can’t take that away from us, but he can do things which will cause some to live lives which do not glorify God.  You already know who lives that way don’t you?  The Soul-led do that.  The Soul-led are living lives which are in total retreat much of the time.  They are nearly powerless and so are walking in defeat more often than not.

  The Spirit-led are powerful in the Lord, but not invulnerable.  We can make mistakes which cause us to become easy targets.  Have you ever watched a boxing match?  One style of boxing has the boxers use one of their arms as a defensive weapon and the other one for offense.  The defensive arm is always up and held out or bent with the glove out in front of the face to protect it.  This keeps the opponent from being able to get a good jab or punch into the head.  However, if the boxer lets his guard down by lowering that defensive arm he is vulnerable.  If the opponent is quick he can get a good left or right cross into the jaw or side of the head.  The boxer who lets his guard down is in trouble.  He is in danger of being knocked out or knocked down.  At the least he will lose points.  In our spiritual battle we must keep our guard up.  That requires diligence.  There can be no laziness or sloppiness here.  Only the diligent understand there can be no let up in our vigilant, watchful care of our Heart’s condition. 

“Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet.” (Ephesians 6:13 MSG)

What weapons did God issue to us?  Will just the possession of the weapon be enough?  What about training?  Are all believers equally adept at using these weapons? Let’s see.

 “Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:14-18 NASB)

How can truth, righteousness, peace, faith and salvation be weapons?  The sword of the spirit sounds like a weapon though.  Let’s look at them closely. 

Remember back in Ephesians 6:13 we read Paul’s exhortation to be prepared and to stand.  Well, that is actually how we must utilize these weapons.  We must be willing and prepared to use them.  We must be that Spirit-led believer who will stand in the gap and not compromise with heresies, false teachings about God or attempts to sow deceit and mistrust in the Body of Christ or lay self-righteous, judgmental guilt on the lost no matter how tempting it is to do so.

 We must remember who the enemy is.  Satan has no power over believers unless they give it to Him.  The Spirit-led fear God not Satan. The proper fear of God breeds an attitude which defies worldly logic.  Yes, there are risks and dangers in this 21st Century world gone mad.  There are terrorists, both foreign and domestic.  There is always the chance a tornado, hurricane or earthquake could ruin your day.  The airplane you are flying in could crash, but so could your car you commute in everyday.  However, the Spirit-led believer who takes the weapons God issues to them and takes the stands of defense God directs them to do does not really fear any of those things.  He or she fears God instead.  This means he or she has come to understand God is in complete control.  If He has determined we will die on a certain day at a certain time then we will.  He is the one who sets our lifespan.  With that in mind why should we become paralyzed with fear when a mad sniper is on the loose in our city?  Why should we fear if perhaps a rage driven motorist might take out his frustrations on us?  We shouldn’t.  We need to be afraid of one thing only, letting God down.  He is our Heavenly Father who loves us. 

To stand is both how we use our weapons God has issued to us and the goal in using them.  We seek to stand and not falter and the correct use of the weapons of this spiritual warfare will accomplish it.

What is the first weapon?  “…HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH …” (Ephesians 6:14 NASB) Our first weapon is truth.  Paul the Apostle uses an analogy of comparing its function with the belt a first century Roman soldier would use.  The Roman soldiers of that era wore loose fitting tunics.  The loose fitting garment would be in the way during hand-to-hand combat so, in preparation for battle, the soldiers would tie up the loose ends of their tunics with a sturdy belt. This lessened the chances of tripping over the flowing garment or being hung up somehow by it.  How does this analogy reveal how we should use truth?  The Spirit-led believer lives a life devoid of hypocrisy.  Hypocrisy is living a life based on lies or deceit.  A life full of hypocrisy is a defeated life.  It is a life in bondage.  The Spirit-led have dedicated themselves to becoming Christ-like.  They do not compromise on the standard of truthfulness which Christ’s demands from His disciples.

How does this “belt of truth” help us fight this spiritual battle?  If we are living lives based completely upon the truths revealed in the Bible then we will leave no opening for accusations from the enemy against our character.  We must dedicate ourselves to learning and knowing the Word of God as deep and complete as we can.  Why?  It will become written on our Hearts.  When that happens we become the mature believers God wills for us to be and we will not stumble around over any false doctrine that becomes popular. 

“For length of days and long life and peace they will add to you. Let not mercy and truth forsake you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart, and so find favor and high esteem in the sight of God and man.” (Proverbs 3:2-4)

To fight this battle we must start with God’s truth.  It is where we start and it will stick us to God’s will like glue.  If we desire to center out lives in the center of God’s will then we must learn and apply God’s truth to every part of our life.

What is our second weapon? “…PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS.” (Ephesians 6:14 NASB)  Think of the breastplate as our modern-day body armor.  What does body armor do?  It keeps our enemies weapons from penetrating our vital organs by providing a protective layer of armor which can stop those weapons.  What is this spiritual warfare body armor made of?  It’s God’s righteousness.  How can that defeat our enemy’s weapons?  God’s righteousness speaks of God’s holiness.  What is that?  It is the distinctive attribute of God that is higher, purer and separate from the World and its sinful ways.  We looked closely at this in the chapter “Holiness.” 

How do we use this weapon?  How can we acquire God’s righteousness?  How would this protect us?  We take on God’s character by becoming Christ-like.  How do we become Christ-like?  We must mature and become Spirit-led believers who are constantly walking pure and holy before our Lord in and by His power.  When we do that we are covered in Heart armor, not body armor.  This Heart armor shields our Hearts from the defilement of the ways of the World because the Spirit-led are jettisoning those things from their life which defile them and instead are taking on godly things.  They are fasting from the flesh and feasting on God.  This causes a move towards separation from the world.  The Spirit-led are constantly living this way.  As they do this they take on the mind of Christ.  This means they have become transformed and have become qualitatively more Christ-like.  The call back to Egypt is easily ignored by the Spirit-led believer as he or she “does all they can do to stand firm.”  Why?  Their character has been altered as God has granted them repentance.  Satan’s call to be prideful or self-focused is easily deflected by this Heart armor of Christ’s very character.

So far we have our loins girded by God’s Truth.  That keeps us from stumbling over false doctrine, false teaching and false preaching.   It also removes the hypocrisy from our character which would cause us to live compromised lives if tolerated.  Along with that our Heart is protected by Heart Armor which is God’s Righteousness.  This causes us to take on His very Righteousness which changes our character.  This character change is bringing us to Christ-likeness.  When our Heart is armored in God’s Righteousness it is protected from defilement from ungodly, worldly, fleshly thoughts, ideas and conformity to the world.  What’s the big deal?  What do our thoughts have to do with sin?  We need to understand where sin comes from to answer that.

“For all that is in the world–the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life–is not of the Father but is of the world.” (1 John 2:16)

“But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.” (James 1:14-16)

Sin’s sources: (cf. 1 John 2:16; James 1:14-16)

  • The Lust of the Flesh
  • The Lust of the Eyes
  • The Pride of Life
  • Our own desires

If we deeply desire to be free from besetting sin then we should understand where it originates and how to defeat it.  This study on using our God-issued weapons correctly shows us what to look out for and how to stand in victory.  So…let’s continue.

What is our third mighty weapon?  …having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE…” (Ephesians 6:15 NASB)  Roman soldiers wore a type of boot with spikes or large nails in them to grip the ground.  These were intended to enable them to stand firm while in hand-to-hand combat.  What is the analogy between these ground gripping boots and the Gospel of peace?  The believer has accepted Jesus as Lord and savior.  When that happens he or she receives eternal life and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  It is very important for us to understand the believer is now at peace with God.  Prior to salvation we are all God’s enemies.  At the moment of salvation we are changed. 

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we havepeace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:1-2)

            If we fully understand the enormity of our common salvation how shall we live? 

“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” (1 John 3:1-3)

When that deep and wonderful understanding of true salvation becomes firmly implanted in the forefront of our consciousness our spiritual feet will also be firmly planted in the center of God’s will.  We will not be pulled away or knocked down by anything our enemy can throw at us.  He will not be able to convince us we are God’s unloved step-children.  He will not be able to move us at all when we stand this way. 

We have peace with God.  He is on our side.  He wants only the best for us.  When tests and trials come or our enemy tries to wreck our faith and effectiveness by getting us to go back to Egypt we must stand firm.  We can do that because our confidence is in God and His power and love for us not our own puny strength.  The Soul-led have a problem with this.  This is why they walk in defeat most of the time.  They are constantly going back to Egypt by giving in to those besetting sins.  The Spirit-led are in-tune with God.  They are living for Him and His glory, not theirs.  When tests and trials come or the enemy attacks they depend on God to fight the battle as they stand firmly right where God wants them to stand.  They can do that because they know even if they die by whatever is going on it is wonderful because God is in control and His will is right and perfect.  Their life is for His use not theirs.  He is the master they are the empty chosen vessel to be used as He wills.  His glory is paramount not their survival.  With this attitude in place the Spirit-led believer will stand firm no matter what comes their way.  This is the life which lays up treasure in Heaven.  This is the Heart whose treasury if being filled to overflowing with God’s Goodness.  This is the believer who is becoming Christ-like.

            What is our fourth weapon? “in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:16 NASB)  The Greek word used for “shield” in this verse refers to the large leather and wooden shield the Roman soldiers used to stand behind.  It was large enough to protect the whole body.  In some cases the soldiers would put all the shields together to form a type of “turtle shell” that would protect many from an arrow attack.  This weapon is for our complete protection from the temptation attacks of our enemy.  Satan shoots at us with arrows of fire such as “resentment”, “lust”, “self-protection”, “simulated attacks on our pride” and many other things which would normally cause an unprotected believer to fall and not stand.  However the prepared believer will stand behind their shield of faith and not be affected by this attack.   This faith is our basic trust in God, His faithfulness and power.  If our faith is weak then our shield of faith will be small and not as effective.  If we are fully trusting God and are living the Spirit-led life then our shield of faith will be large enough to catch all of these fiery arrows before they hit our Hearts. 

The Roman soldiers would soak the leather part of their shields with oil so the fiery arrows would be extinguished on impact.  When our faith is dynamic and constantly growing it is like that.  As each fiery temptation hits we should rely on this faith to extinguish them.  A word of warning—the more we grow in grace and have our faith built up the more Satan targets us.  However, we should have absolutely no fear of him.  Fear God and turn over all of the battles to Him.  It is not cowardly to do this.  It is wise and more importantly, it is God’s will.  He never intended for us to fight it out with Satan.  We should let God do all of that for us.  We are told to simply stand and not fall away fully using all of the armor God has issued to us.

What is our fifth weapon?  “…take THE HELMET OF SALVATION…” (Ephesians 6:17 NASB) This weapon should be easy for us understand.  The helmet protects the soldier’s head.  Without our heads we would be dead.  Sorry…chuckle.  The helmet of salvation is not what saves us.  This message is to people who are already believers so it can’t be referring to taking on a weapon to become a believer.  No, this is talking about our assurance of salvation.  I really get frustrated when I come across people who say our salvation is conditional on our performance.  No it isn’t.  The quality of it may be but not the fact of it.  There have been and will be multitudes of people who look like the real thing, but are not.  They know how to “do church”, but they don’t know the savior.  When these people eventually fall away there are some who will say they lost their salvation, but the Word of God is clear they never were saved to begin with.

“They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.” (1 John 2:19 Emphasis Mine)

The truly saved will remain in Christ.  The problem is the Soul-led live lives that are not full of assurance of salvation so they doubt the veracity of it.  The Spirit-led have no problem with assurance.  They know God deeply and commune with Him a great deal.  With that sort of relationship there will be assurance with no doubting.  The helmet of salvation is that assurance.  How does this assurance work in shielding us from the enemy’s attacks?  Since our assurance provides protection against Satan’s attempt to get us to be discouraged and doubtful we must do those things which will make it strong.  I know of only one way.  That is to be in a dynamic and deep relationship with God.  Nothing else will do it.  When we live this way our Spirit bears witness with the Holy Spirit to build that assurance.

“God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children” (Romans 8:16 MSG)

            God loves us and wants our assurance to be deep and dynamic.  Why?  So we will have the ability to not be driven to discouragement and doubt by the attacks of Satan.  However, sometimes we make bad decisions like becoming self-focused.  This opens us up for attack because we have let our guard down.  Doubt and discouragement are designed to make us ineffective.  We must keep our guard up and we must not take our assurance for granted.  We must cultivate an environment where it grows stronger and more vital to our walk by faith. 

If we say we have assurance, but spend the minimum amount of time in His presence then we are lying.  There is no way the helmet of salvation could be functioning for a believer who never puts it on.  As we spend more and more time with Him we are putting on and leaving on that helmet.  We don’t reach down, pick it up and put it on when the battle starts.  We put it on before the battle.  We put it on when we seek to stay in God’s presence continually.  Who does this?  The Spirit-led do this.  The Soul-led are usually walking through this life wearing their helmet only at church.  That is like a football player suiting up to hear the coach tell the team the game plan for next week’s game then when the game starts they find they left their helmet back in the locker room.  They aren’t even allowed in the game without it. 

The Soul-led are self-focused and after self-gratification above all else.  They not only don’t know where their helmet of salvation is, they don’t remember where they left their belt of truth, their Heart armor, their shoes of the Gospel of peace or their shield of faith.  It is so hard to remember how to use them anyway, why bother.  They just get in the way while watching TV. 

The Spirit-led got that way by learning how to properly use this godly armor.  They know that these weapons are defensive and designed specifically to allow them to stand firm.  They know it is God who fights the offensive battles.

There is one weapon left.  Actually it is a pair of weapons that work together in a mighty way to defeat our enemy.

“…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints…” (Ephesians 6:17-18 NASB)

            The Greek word “sword” here means the small two edged sword that Roman soldiers carried.  It was between 6 to 18 inches long.  It was small, but it was all they needed.  They were so well armored they simply had to learn to fight as a unit and use all of their weapons correctly so they would be successful.  How does this analogy work for us in this spiritual battle?  The sword in this analogy is clearly the Word of God, the Bible.  How can that be our only offensive weapon?  The Word of God is infinitely more powerful than any weapon Satan has.  The Roman soldier used his sword for both defense (deflection) and offense (attack).  The believer should us the Word of God both ways as well.

Having scripture written on our Hearts is vital. (cf. Proverbs 3:2-4)  Why?  When we know God’s word we can use it to defeat the enemy when he attacks us.  Jesus did that. The following passage is long, but be patient, take your time, read, reflect and meditate on God’s truths revealed here.

“Next Jesus was taken into the wild by the Spirit for the Test. The Devil was ready to give it. Jesus prepared for the test by fasting forty days and forty nights. That left him, of course, in a state of extreme hunger, which the Devil took advantage of in the first test: “Since you are God’s Son, speak the word that will turn these stones into loaves of bread.” Jesus answered by quoting Deuteronomy: “It takes more than bread to stay alive. It takes a steady stream of words from God’s mouth.” For the second test the Devil took him to the Holy City. He sat him on top of the Temple and said, “Since you are God’s Son, jump.” The Devil goaded him by quoting Psalm 91: “He has placed you in the care of angels. They will catch you so that you won’t so much as stub your toe on a stone.” Jesus countered with another citation from Deuteronomy: “Don’t you dare test the Lord your God.” For the third test, the Devil took him on the peak of a huge mountain. He gestured expansively, pointing out all the earth’s kingdoms, how glorious they all were. Then he said, “They’re yours–lock, stock, and barrel. Just go down on your knees and worship me, and they’re yours.” Jesus’ refusal was curt: “Beat it, Satan!” He backed his rebuke with a third quotation from Deuteronomy: “Worship the Lord your God, and only him. Serve him with absolute single-heartedness.” The Test was over. The Devil left. And in his place, angels! Angels came and took care of Jesus’ needs.” (Matthew 4:1-11 MSG)

This passage is a wonderful example of the “offensive” as well as the “defensive” use of the sword of the Spirit.  Did you also notice how Jesus prepared for these tests?  What did He do?  He fasted and prayed.  The praying is implied, but Jesus is a great example showing us how we should seek the face of God as much as possible.  Fasting is an awesome spiritual tool.  I admit I was skeptical the first few times I attempted it.  However, each time I have found myself in a completely new spiritual place.  God has shown me fasting is a deep, personal example of self-denial.  When we fast we are denying our Heart’s attempt at fulfillment from the flesh.  This makes seeking the Lord for fulfillment much easier.  To fast correctly we must do it as fasting and feasting.  That means, fasting from food while feasting on God.  It is amazing how this principle works to bring us closer to the Lord.

What weapons did Jesus use while being tempted and tested?  He quoted scripture and he fasted and prayed as He stood firm.  Satan can not defeat the believer who does this.  The rest of the armor is for protection from the ambush and the deceitful attacks which are designed to discourage and make us ineffective and to retreat.  However, the sword of the Spirit and prayer (yes that is the second weapon in this pair) are God empowered offensive weapons which make Satan flee.  God fights our battles.  Our part is to use the weapons He gave us.  The sword of the Spirit and prayer are mighty weapons which release God’s power against the enemy.

Many are skeptical about God and answered prayer.  Why?  I believe it is for various reasons, but probably because they aren’t praying God’s will so they never experience the blessing of having direct answers from God they understand.  God answers all prayer one of three ways.  He will say “yes”, He will say “no” or He will say “wait.”  Why would God say no?  Here are some people who will not hear “yes” or “wait” from God when they pray.

  • The disobedient (cf. Deuteronomy 1:45; Isaiah 14:37; Isaiah 28:6)
  • Those who hold on to sin (cf. Psalm 66:18)
  • The indifferent (cf. Proverbs 1:28)
  • The unmerciful (cf. Proverbs 21:13)
  • Those who despise the Law (cf. Proverbs 28:9)
  • Those who shed blood (cf. Isaiah 1:15)
  • Those living in sin (cf. Isaiah 59:2; Micah 3:4)
  • The stubborn (cf. Zechariah 7:13)
  • Those who waiver (cf. James 1:6-7)
  • The self-indulgent (cf. James 4:3)

The people who would be found matching one or more of these behaviors which disqualify them from having God responding to them in prayer have one thing in common.  What is it?  They are self-focused.  There is an element of disobedience to God in every one of these examples.  Their focus is on self.  They are self-directed and completely driven by self-gratification.  They do not have genuine humility as one of their major character markers; do they?  Pride marks their character.  That is why they are fully focused on self-gratification.  How does God respond to the proud compared to the humble? 

“And what he gives in love is far better than anything else you’ll find. It’s common knowledge that “God goes against the willful proud; God gives grace to the willing humble.” (James 4:6 MSG)

The proud may make an attempt at prayer, but God’s reactions are one that speaks of Him giving them “a cold shoulder.”  That means He will not respond positively to the believer who is full of pride and, therefore, is praying selfishly.  They are praying for “stuff.”  They may pray for improved health or the miraculous, but their motives are still based on “self.”  They are suffering from a condition called Hard-Heartedness which means they are full of unbelief.

How are we to pray so God will come and fight our battles like He says He will?  We must have a condition called Tender-Heartedness.  Here are some of its attributes.

  • Wholly God-Focused Heart (cf. Deuteronomy 4:29; Jeremiah 29:13)
  • Contrite Heart (cf. 2 Chronicles 7:14; Isaiah 58:9)
  • Believing Heart (cf. Mark 11:24)
  • Righteous Heart (cf. James 5:16)
  • Obedient Heart (cf. 1 John 3:22; 1 John 5:14)

The Tender-Hearted believer prays and get’s answers.  That does not mean they always hear “yes” or “wait”, but they do not run in defeat and discouragement when God does say “no” either.  Why?  The Tender-Hearted believer knows it isn’t about them.  They know it’s all about God and His glory.  They have no problem with that, because they are humble. 

I placed a scripture from Joshua 5 at the beginning of this chapter.  It is about the events just after the crossing of the Jordan River and just prior to the siege and conquering of Jericho.  Here it is again.

“As Joshua approached the city of Jericho, he looked up and saw a man facing him with sword in hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you friend or foe?” “Neither one,” he replied. “I am commander of the LORD’s army.” At this, Joshua fell with his face to the ground in reverence. “I am at your command,” Joshua said. “What do you want your servant to do?” The commander of the LORD’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for this is holy ground.” And Joshua did as he was told.” (Joshua 5:13-15 NLT)

This passage is awesome.  The “Man” Joshua encounters is no normal man.  Joshua meets the pre-incarnate Christ and as soon as He reveals this fact to Joshua he knows it immediately.  What does he do?  He falls before Him and worships Him in complete humility and submission.  He does not ask for stuff.  He does not even ask for victory.  What does he say?  “I am at your command.  What do you want your servant to do?”  Well, that should be our attitude toward our Lord always and especially when praying.  Real prayer happens as we enter the throne room and come boldly to the throne of grace. 

“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:17)

Yes, we should come boldly because we do so by His grace, but also we must understand whom we are seeking.  We are coming to the throne of God.  He does Love us and wants to bless and grow us, but He will not compromise any part of His character or alter His will just so we can be happy in our circumstances.  Joshua humbled himself, worshipped and submitted entirely to the Lord.  He was obedient.  He would remain obedient for the rest of his life.  Our attitude before our Lord while in prayer should be to seek His will and pray along those lines.  Yes, we should ask for his divine protection for our families, people traveling and those in combat in foreign countries.  Yes, we should ask for His healing touch on those who are sick.  Yes, we should ask for wisdom.  Yes, we should ask the salvation of the lost.  Yes, we should ask for His peace to come through us to all those around us.  But in all of the things we ask, we should seek His will to be done above all.

Correct praying is done as we seek the mind of Christ.  We must become so close to God we are in tune with His will.  When we do that we will pray His will.  However, the opposite is more often true of us isn’t it?  When we pray from the center of self-focus we get the following results.

“You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” (James 4:3)

Praying correctly prepares us for the battle and helps us stand during it.  Praying selfishly prepares us only to retreat and be defeated. When Satan attacks the prepared believer what happens?  The prepared, Spirit-led, Tender-Hearted praying believer stands using all of their God-issued weapons.  When it gets really rough he or she will call on God to deliver them and He does.  Do not misunderstand!  We are talking here about the spiritual battle that comes at us to defeat us into ineffectiveness.  It is God’s will we learn to do all we can to stand against our enemy, but call on Him to defeat the serpent.  He does that as we use the sword of the Spirit and Prayer. 

What about our other enemy?  Remember him?  He’s our “OLD MAN” sin nature.  He is all about self.  He is a craven, sneaky, selfish, greedy, miserly, fleshly, prideful idol constructor.  He is totally dead spiritually.  He does not know or understand God.  He only wants to be fed.  His only drive is to indulge himself in anything and everything that feeds self-gratification.  His main attack method is distraction followed by ambush.  No matter how much we desire for him to die and go away he is still there.  What can we do to defeat him?  Well, God fights our battles.  Never forget that. 

If we try to fight the “OLD MAN” with our puny weapons we will eventually fail.  Will power is the main weapon we attempt to use against him.  The problem is he is sneaky and knows how to wait us out.  He knows we can’t keep it up very long.  We will get tired then distracted and then wham, here comes the ambush.  We will then suddenly find ourselves in the midst of some fleshly sin we thought was conquered a long time ago.  This can be very discouraging.  If we can’t defeat him with our will power, then how do we do it? 

The “OLD MAN” sin nature is defeated and made powerless by God and His work in our Heart.  We must obtain, cherish and utilize power from God.  We looked closely at that in the chapter “Real Power.”  We must become Spirit-led.  Only the Spirit-led can live a life in victory over the “OLD MAN” sin nature.  The following passage is another “good read.”  Please take your time. Devour it, meditate on it and look closely at our role in becoming Spirit-led as well as God’s.

“So I advise you to live according to your new life in the Holy Spirit. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The old sinful nature loves to do evil, which is just opposite from what the Holy Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are opposite from what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, and your choices are never free from this conflict. But when you are directed by the Holy Spirit, you are no longer subject to the law. When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, your lives will produce these evil results: sexual immorality, impure thoughts, eagerness for lustful pleasure, idolatry, participation in demonic activities, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, divisions, the feeling that everyone is wrong except those in your own little group, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other kinds of sin. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Here there is no conflict with the law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. If we are living now by the Holy Spirit, let us follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or irritate one another, or be jealous of one another.” (Galatians 5:16-26 NLT)

The Spirit-led has matured and been changed from the inside out as he or she has totally surrendered and submitted to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  God has changed their “Heart’s desire” by circumcising their Heart.  What put the Spirit-led in position so God would do this?  They “nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.”  This is the act of submitting to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  That act says, “Jesus, you are Lord!  I submit myself to your Lordship in every part of my life.”  Well, we might not use those exact words, but in our Hearts we did this.  When we did this “completely” God changed us over time as we learned to stay in His presence. 

Everyone in Christ, the truly saved, has the Holy Spirit.  They became saved when they accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and savior.  They may not have completely surrendered all parts of their lives to Him yet, but that process is ongoing.  The Holy Spirit is constantly working on sanctifying our Hearts to bring us to total surrender.  This surrender is that point when we submit completely to the Lordship of Jesus.  The Spirit-led are totally surrendered.  There is nothing held back.  Look again at the passage we just read.  The Holy Spirit leads us.  Where does he reside in each believer?  In our Spirit!  The definition of “Spirit-led” is “a believer whose Soul is subordinate to his or her Spirit which in turn is led and directed and controlled by the Holy Spirit.”  Doesn’t this match the process in Galatians 5:16-26?  What is the outcome of becoming Spirit-led?  The fruit of the Spirit is produced in our Hearts.  That is—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Now, if these attributes are dominant markers of our character will the “OLD MAN” sin nature be in control?  No, the Spirit-led believer is walking in the Spirit not the flesh.  The flesh and all its sinful desires are nailed to the cross.  What part did God play in all this?  The Holy Spirit leads, directs and controls our Spirits while the Father prunes us as Jesus feeds us from His table (teaches us the truth).  We are changed from the inside out by a very gracious and good God who loves us and wants us to walk in complete Spirit-led victory over the serpent and our “OLD MAN” sin nature.  The really cool thing is He fights the offensive battle for us and gives us mighty defensive weapons to stand and not retreat back to Egypt. 

The believer who obediently stands using the armor God issued them while calling on God to fight off the enemy is laying up treasure in Heaven.  The treasury of their Hearts is being filled with Goodness.  Their “OLD MAN” sin nature is being starved.  He is becoming weak and feeble.  He still demands to be fed occasionally, but the alert, diligent, Spirit-led believer treats those sinful desires as rubbish or sewage because God has granted them repentance as He has changed their Hearts.  They are becoming Christ-like and so are becoming possessors of the Treasure.