Phyllis Beveridge Nissila
Introduction to this series from Part 1: “Bringing Prodigals Home”
Part 2: “Focus, Fill, and Fight”
There has been a lot of good information and commentary over time on the specific nature of the (spiritual) “weapons of our warfare” and the designs of Satan since pen was first put to papyrus on the matter way back in B.C., the same warfare that is also encapsulated here, in A.D.
But what I offer in this post is specific to what seems rampant in the world of late that I call the “trifecta of evil”: mockery+contempt=the New (lethal) Rage:
–>Not your ordinary “mockery” (for grins and giggles) but “Insulting or contemptuous action or speech: derision.”
–>Not your ordinary “contempt” (out of distaste or disregard) but “The act of despising…disdain…lack of respect or reverence for something (or someone).”
–>Not your ordinary “rage” (whether righteous or just reckless) but “To show extreme or violent anger” of the kind that “happens in a way that cannot be controlled”(Mirriam-Webster).
What makes this deadly trio particularly destructive is that after a while, after trying myriad ways to counter the combo with reason, recipients of such hatred just want it to stop.
It’s as if the rage itself becomes the reason to engage for the purposes of manipulation and control. An analogy is physical pain. A nurse friend once said we don’t really adapt to pain. We continue to focus on it until it goes away, however this can be achieved, which is why addiction to pain control agents is rampant.
Meanwhile, what else is going on while we are concentrating on a cure?
“Race to the Bottom of the Brain?”
You might say, such rage triggers a “race to the bottom of the brain,” a phrase Tristan Harris,* a former ethicist at Google, helped popularize. Harris now writes and speaks on how tech companies hook users by exploiting what intensifies addiction (the good, the bad, and the ugly) in order to make advertising billions. Since his days at Google, Harris has been developing software to help people extricate from the carefully programmed, addictive nature of certain apps. And modern technology arguably draws a lot more people a lot faster into that which prompts rage.
But whatever causes our minds and emotions to “race” to the bottom of the brain, or amygdala, that is where we react to fear, among other emotions, with fight, flight, or freeze responses.
Until there is resolution, or at least some plan of action to combat this fear exacerbated by the New Rage, higher-level critical thinking is set aside, or lower on the priority list, as we attend to the demands of the urgent, or what seems urgent. And every day, it seems, alerts of some new terror, scandal, ad/or doomsday event keep the mental red lights flashing and sirens screaming in the lower parts of the brain–to keep us there.
No wonder people turn off and tune out.
But of course we can’t. We need to keep the (neural) pathways open to the top of the brain, so to speak, the cerebral cortex where we can effectively sort it out, discern fake from real, and respond with as much grace and wisdom as we can muster in order to counter the addiction(s) effectively.
As believers, we are also “commissioned” to “occupy (literally carry on with daily business) until He returns,” thus, a few good “spiritual warfare tactics” in honor of this year of Our Lord, two thousand and eighteen, are in order for those occasions when we do, of necessity or by accident, find ourselves on “battlegrounds” in both private and public domains.
Spiritual Warfare ca 2018–and In
First on the list of spiritual battleground strategies I would say is two-part: know yourself and your enemy. This is important on several levels.
Regarding temporal warfare, famed military strategist Sun-tzu put it this way: “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
St. Peter put it this way: “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith” 1 Pet. 5:8-9.
And patience comes in very handy on the “front lines”: “Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city.”
How to “stand firm?”
The original biblical source nuances this in two parts:
1) “Be sober-minded” as “to be calm and collected in spirit; to be temperate, dispassionate, circumspect.”
2) And “watch,” as in “give strict attention to, be cautious, active, to take heed lest through remissness and indolence [laziness] some destructive calamity suddenly overtake one.”
And he has had centuries to perfect his dark arts.
Second on the list of battle strats is to prepare well.
From Sun-tzu: “The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy’s not coming, but on our own readiness to receive, him; not on the chance of his not attacking, but rather on the fact that we have made our position unassailable.”**
In addition to maintaining the aforementioned “armor of God” here are two spiritual perspectives:
1)From Peter: “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you,” and
2)From Zechariah: “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.”
In short: No surprise, here. The enemy isn’t going away. Besides, and most importantly, he is a spiritual entity (appearing in and/or influencing the flesh), requiring spiritual ordnance.
The best real-time, flesh-versus-spirit battleground illustration I can think of (and often do, these days) is what Jesus, Himself exemplified in His own “temptation” to succumb.
What DID Jesus Do?
When I meditate on how Jesus countered the evils of His day, this thought surfaces. As illustrated on His own mountain of temptation, Jesus employed essentially one tactic, three different ways: He replied to His–and our–real adversary, who “appears” in various forms, with Scripture.
In the case of Jesus in the wilderness, we only know that Jesus heard Satan. In other biblical accounts, Satan also appears as a snake, a scorpion, a dragon, even an angel of light. But whether one regards these as symbolic or real, the results are the same: temptation and destruction–should we succumb.
But how do mere words stop the “enemy”?
The same Words from the same God that spoke time and matter into existence, effectively rid Jesus of temptation and can effectively rid us of same. At least stop the progression of evil–whether internal or external–for the moment.
And this, in my view, is where effective spiritual or “spirit versus spirit” warfare starts (after “arming oneself,” see above), i.e., with learning, meditating on, referencing, and speaking God’s Word, the same Word that is “alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, (penetrating) even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; (judging) the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
Because that’s where it all begins, i.e., in the mind and heart.
So we need a warfare tool that addresses what’s attempting to trap us mentally and spiritually, because the rest of the damage follows, if not checked.
Today, I believe it is primarily the trifecta of evil that keeps us mired in the emotional conflagrations at the bottom of the brain while calmer heads and prevail (whether calm for good or manipulative purposes). The temptation appears as either desirable (as in all those fun apps that keep us hooked, or via the usual “sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll”) or bad (as in the seemingly unrequitable rage to which we are tempted to react in kind).
Amid these potent forces, it takes all our intellectual–and spiritual–smarts to maintain ground and to “advance” as needed as we go about our business.
But how does this really work?
The Goal and How to Get There
According to the advice of Sun-tzu, the goal of warfare is to win for the good of the State (3). His text specifies attitudes and actions needed for success on the ground.
According to Jesus, the goal is peace. As He put it: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
How does this work for success in the spirit?
Peace not only keeps us thinking critically, away from the emotional frenzies battling it out in the amygdala, it also reduces stress. And stress, literally, kills.
At the very least, stress-induced illness can bench us when our attention and strength is most needed in whatever strife is stirring up around us, not to mention how stress can interrupt our daily business.
But on another, spiritual, front, our real enemy also seems to know the strength of God’s Word, i.e., he knows he is also subject to it.
When we resist the temptation to get caught up in the mocking, contemptuous, rage machine, we can clear our minds and free up our neurological functioning to “go high,” as it were, and remember that On High are the answers to what really ails the world just now.
There is power in the words and in the Word.
Jesus showed us this back on that mountain by combating Satan with Scripture.
For example, we effectively battle when we remind our real adversary that our “inheritance” is NOT contempt, rage, and whatever else lurks to chain us with evil, by quoting 2 Timothy, 1:7, “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
For example, we win over the enemy when he tempts us to focus on our guilt rather than our salvation, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…” (Romans 8:1).
For example, we overcome temptation when tempted to doubt God by using the same Words Jesus used on that mountain: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).
For the believer, then, by employing the weapon of God’s Word(s), the mind is cleared, emotions are calmed, and critical, spiritual thinking can resume.
Additionally, we experience the (mental and spiritual) strength to live in God’s will which is to live in life, not in stress, anger, rage, and death.
It might take some repeating, however, some meditation, and even some fasting and prayer (read here for a list of verses on the efficacy of fasting and prayer for various purposes).
Most importantly, however, as we meditate on God’s Word, our eyes are drawn away from the tri-part conflagration that snares mind and heart and we are soon able to re-focus on the joy of our “blessed hope” i.e., that event to which we are arguably and prophetically closer than mankind has ever been before, and that is also the genesis of a “joy that is also our strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).
In sum: Jesus showed us there is power in God’s Word (and Satan knows this, too).
Read it, study it, use it.
(See part 4, coming soon, for examples of more specifics on how-to, both spiritually and practically, from the chronicle of the prophet Nehemiah’s “battle plans”.)
**Here is more from Sun-tzu on preparedness. His interpretation of “heaven” and “commander” may be different than the believer’s, but one can easily see the analogy:
The art of war, then, is governed by five constant factors, to be
taken into account in one’s deliberations, when seeking to
determine the conditions obtaining in the field.
These are: (1) The Moral Law; (2) Heaven; (3) Earth; (4) The
Commander; (5) Method and discipline.
The MORAL LAW causes the people to be in complete accord
with their ruler, so that they will follow him regardless of their
lives, undismayed by any danger. (page 3)