Understanding Spiritual Warfare, Part VI

Stop praying and see what happens. Or, stop obeying, and see what happens. Or, slip up just for a minute and see what happens. Likely — if you’ve been a Christian for any length of time — you’ll find yourself embroiled in some form or another of “spiritual warfare” that is graciously designed by God to help “get you back on track.” Let me provide you with a lucid example.

Several times in the Old Testament, we read that Saul (Israel’s first king) was afflicted by an evil spirit. Not only do the Scriptures say he was afflicted, it actually credits the “job” as being carried out by God Himself. This is what I call “spiritual warfare” that you cannot run away from! “Now the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord terrorized him.” (1 Samuel 16:14). Again, two chapters later, “Now it came about on the next day that an evil spirit from God came mightily upon Saul, and he raved in the midst of the house.” (1 Samuel 18:10). Again, a third time, we read, “Now there was an evil spirit from the Lord on Saul.” (1 Samuel 19:9). Friend, it was from the Lord!

Saul! What happened? Well, if you have read the story, you will know that Saul disobeyed God (on a number of occasions). Saul was proud — he wanted to “show off” his great strength, instead of relying upon God’s. He did a number of things that were downright displeasing to God. So, what did God do? God is no man’s debtor. The Bible says that God is not mocked; we will reap what we sow (Galatians 6:9). Well, I believe that for reasons relating to God’s holiness, as well as His love for both Saul and His people (Israel), that He had no other choice but to “afflict” Saul in some tangible way, in the hopes that Saul would wholeheartedly decide to “change his mind.”

Saul had a choice — either repent (change His ways), or deal with the judgment that would arise as a result of his disobedience. As a man called by God, these were the only two options open to Him! “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts” (Psalm 95:7-8; Hebrews 3:7-8). “For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain terrifying expectation of judgment, and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries.” (Hebrews 10:26-27).

The preceding passage does not refer to losing one’s salvation (a common misinterpretation) but rather the fact that judgment — sometimes very strict judgment, even — can and does often come upon people who refuse to repent (especially those who have received a knowledge of the truth, as it says in that passage). That judgment could take the form of marital problems, financial problems, job problems, mental, emotional, health problems — you name it — yes, even death, in some instances.

That God could, and would, do this, is evident, for the Scriptures declare it. Is it worth it, then, to disobey God? Never! On the contrary. “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, as [the people of Israel did] during the time of testing in the desert.” (Hebrews 3:7-8). Are you embroiled in spiritual controversy? It may very well be that you need to repent — change your ways, so that times of refreshing may come upon you. “God commands all people everywhere to repent!” (Acts 17:30).