Maturity in Christ: Enduring Spiritual Warfare

A message for Akron Alliance Fellowship Church, Akron OH, Sunday, August 21, 2022.

For the “Live in Church” audio of this message, click here.

During the month of August, for those of us that are in the know when it comes to football, there is competition in the air!  Horse racing may be referred to as the Sport of Kings, but for me and many others, football is the king of all sports!  (Sorry about that, baseball fans!)  The competition has already started for high school, college and professional football teams all over the country.   It’s training camp time, and before an official game is played at any of these levels, there are players who are competing for roster spots.  You can’t get on the field to play games unless you show up for practice and get into playing shape.  Training camp, and how well you compete, means everything for the upcoming season.  A lot of moving around, hitting, sweating, working out with weights, and everything that goes into preparation—including study time of the playbook, the terminology and the different plays—will determine whether or not you will succeed.

Study time is especially necessary within the competition.  The better you are in your study time and preparation is where you can gain a competitive advantage on the field. 

What you put into it is what you will get out of it.  Does that sound familiar?

A few weeks back I had mentioned that there is a competition taking place for each of us during every waking moment.  The competition that we are in is a lot more serious than that of training camp, or even during the course of a game or the entire football season.  What’s at stake for you and me is the battle for our hearts and minds, and our children are also fully involved in this competition.  It is a very serious matter. 

The competition is better described as an ongoing series of battles.  These battles are the throes of spiritual warfare.  Our only objective here is to win.  In sports, you will often hear the saying that “winning isn’t everything.”  Well, this is not about sports, and it’s nothing to play around with.  In our battle, when it comes to the FINAL result, WINNING IS EVERYTHING!  We are not to consider the alternative when it comes to the disposition of our souls.  We MUST win…or else.

In order to win these battles, we must prepare.  We must put in our study time.  We must equip ourselves with the necessary tools to be ready to execute at a moment’s notice—whether we are ready or not.  Teachers have a big time responsibility to get the people ready to go.  The constant struggle that comes with spiritual warfare requires a mindset to keep it moving and pay it forward:

Ephesians 4:11-15 NLT

11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.

13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. 14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.

As we learn the truth through teaching and instruction, it is only natural for you to share this truth with others.  Those who know and understand the character of Jesus Christ will indeed pay this wisdom forward to others.

This is a message that we all must take seriously, and even for the person who professes a relationship with Jesus Christ.  If you know Jesus, you are to have a heart for Jesus as you move about.  How are others to know the truth if everyone around them is quiet about it?

Romans 10:12-15 NLT

12 Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him. 13 For “Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.” 14 But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? 15 And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!”

I made it a point in my previous message that our time in church and in our personal Bible study MUST be time well spent.  We have everything to gain as we stay rooted in God’s Word and when we challenge each other as we seek God’s wisdom together as we go.  Why do we all need to be in the Word?  It’s quite simple.  Just look outside your window.

Paul, in his dialogue with Timothy, was all about making him aware of the world he was in, and we’re in the same place:

2 Timothy 3:1-5 NLT

1 You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. 2 For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. 3 They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. 4 They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. 5 They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly.  Stay away from people like that!

We’re in the last days, and we must use discernment as we go through the battle:

2 Timothy 3:12-14 NLT

12 Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. 13 But evil people and impostors will flourish. They will deceive others and will themselves be deceived. 14 But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you.

You must remain faithful.  You must stand firm in the Word of God.  It is because He is faithful.  He will help you in the throes of this battle.  His Word is everything and that it why we must rely upon it.

2 Timothy 3:15-17 NLT

15 You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.

The Word is not to be shunned, put to the side or ignored.  We don’t need more pretenders of the faith.  We need contenders of the faith.  People who are ready to speak and share God’s truth whether it is convenient to do so or not. 

You will win the battle and overcome spiritual warfare with the help of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, but you must prepare. 

  • You must put in the time for study. 
  • You have to learn the terminology with Scripture in order to execute it properly. 
  • You have to trust the Teacher, Jesus, and have confidence in His Word.

Here is a tough part of this message for everyone to know and understand.  I can’t make you do any of these things.  You have to want to do these things on your own.  A football player has to put in the work ahead of time even before he even smells the grass on the football field.  He has to work out.  He may not like working out, but he HAS to do it in order to give himself the best chance to WIN.  A football player will not remain a football player if he slacks off in any way.

Do not allow yourself to be counted among those who slacks off and fails to put in the time to study God’s Word.  If you find yourself always calling on the Lord to perform miracle after miracle in your life to fix your issues, then you’ve missed the point.

You’re not winning anything.  You’re losing.  If you are losing, it’s not over.  You’re still in the battle, but time is short.

How are you to handle the attacks from Satan and spiritual warfare?  Let’s use this time to provide clarity as to what spiritual warfare is and how each one of us is to respond to it.  Within this clarification is self-analysis. 

First, we need to identify spiritual warfare for what it really is, and for those of you who have a relationship with Jesus Christ, He will give you the wisdom of insight.

If you’re not careful, you may inaccurately see what spiritual warfare if we merely look at appearances.  We can go overboard if we label every sin, every conflict and every problem as being demonic in nature.1  Be careful if you do this, because you need to understand that, in your flesh, YOU can sin on your own accord, stir up quarrels with others and create problems without any help from anyone else.  You also should heed the warnings in Scripture about the spiritual realm:

Ephesians 6:12 NLT

For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

Spiritual warfare involves attacks from Satan, but it also can reside within our own hearts because we remain spiritually blind to the reality that we need Jesus in every aspect of our lives.

1 John 1:5-8 NLT

5 This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. 6 So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. 7 But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.

As I stated earlier, you are to contend for the faith and not be a pretender.  Pretenders will lose in battle, but contenders will endure, stand firm and faithfully serve Jesus at every opportunity.

Oh, and it’s not about impressing your family or your friends. You need to work out all of this in fervent prayer with humility to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Here’s a brief pause to those listening who do not know Jesus. It is my pleasure and responsibility to let you know that you do not need to continue to live outside of God’s will for you.  He wants you to seek Him and give you His wisdom and knowledge to be able to get on the winning side of this spiritual warfare that we all must deal with.  He welcomes your questions and your comments.  He wants to speak to you right now about your life and where you are.  Take the time to listen to Him right now.

Self-reflection, when compared to the person of Jesus Christ, should be quite humbling for all of us.

Philippians 2:3-5 NLT

3 Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4 Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. 5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

So we see how important it is for us to know who we are as we prepare for battle.  Not every football player is cut out to play quarterback.  A good football team needs excellent lineman; otherwise, the quarterback will get clobbered.  Receivers won’t catch many passes at all.  Running backs will struggle if the blocking in front of them is poor.  The entire team…coaches and players, regardless of size or strength, need to put in the appropriate preparation time.

All of us, within the sound of my voice, need to prepare for spiritual warfare.  You’re preparing your mind with the proper focus.

You must practice a daily reading and in-depth study of Scripture.  What you put into it is what you will get out of it.

Colossians 3:16 ESV

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

Hebrews 4:12 ESV

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

God will tell you EXACTLY where you are so that you will be ready to move in His power, strength and ability.

Next, you must remain prayerful all day long…not just during your reading and study time.  Pray all day to stay in fellowship with the Spirit.  We need the Holy Spirit all day in order to live and move in His strength.

Colossians 4:2 ESV

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.

Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as our Comforter in the King James Bible, and our Helper and Advocate in modern translations.  All of these refer back to the original Greek word “parakletos,” which is someone who is called to one’s side for help.2  The Spirit is always there for us when we use Him as a resource.

I will summarize today’s message in a similar manner that Paul shared in his letter to the church at Ephesus.  Our victory over spiritual warfare is assured when we know who we are in Christ, know that we need Christ, and have the sense to rely upon Christ during our battle. 

Ephesians 6:10-18 NLT

10 A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. 14 Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. 15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. 16 In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. 17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.

Please remember that your personal preparation and study time will give you the foundational support necessary to live, grow and endure in Jesus Christ.  Paul says it correctly here…you will be fully prepared. 

And you will win.

Call on Jesus right now.  He will show you what you need to do.  He already has the victory over Satan and death. 

Join Him.

Copyright © 2022 Melvin Gaines

1 “What does the Bible say about spiritual warfare?” (n.d.). Retrieved August 10, 2022, from https://www.gotquestions.org/spiritual-warfare.html.

2 Early, J. (2021, February 15). The holy spirit: Advocate, comforter, and defense attorney ~ the Bible speaks to you. The Bible Speaks to You. Retrieved August 18, 2022, from https://thebiblespeakstoyou.com/the-holy-spirit-advocate-comforter-and-defense-attorney/

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