Like so many aspects of mainstream culture, the Pentecostal/Charismatic sub-culture has trends (anybody remember the Prayer of Jabez?). I’m not saying these trends are necessarily bad, and I’m perfectly OK with the idea that there are seasons in God that emphasize one facet of truth as opposed to another, but there is one trend that that seems to run on a shorter cycle than the others: spiritual warfare. I do realize that by even calling this a trend, I run the risk of confusing or offending someone, and that is not my intention, so please hear me out…
I believe that spiritual warfare is a biblical idea. I believe Satan exists, along with demons. Really. I don’t think the Apostle Paul was speaking poetically when he told the Ephesians to “take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.” (Ephesians 6.16 ESV) Unfortunately though, discernment seems to be profoundly lacking in much of the warfare being waged. You see, this same apostle informed us just four verses earlier that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood.” This whole lack-of-a-phyical-presence thing leaves room for a whole lotta speculative spiritual throw-downs, or so it seems to me.
Let me be more plain: I think that what is often labeled as an attack of the “enemy” (then launching a full-scale tongues counter-attack), is more accurately the painful consequence NOT of fiery darts but our own sin or ultimately, God’s chastisement. At least a good amount of the time. You see, we have an aversion to suffering. BIG TIME! We are almost convinced it’s morally wrong. I love what Eugene Peterson says on this topic, “There is an American myth that denies suffering and the sense of pain. We act as if they should not be, and hence we devalue the experience of suffering. But this myth denies our encounter with reality.” (from Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work, p. 137 – citing Ivan Illich)
If we live under the presumption that suffering is inherently bad, it only makes sense that we’d fight back in resistance. But if we understand the Scripture to reveal a heavenly Father who uses pain and hardship in our lives in many glorious ways and for his glory (Hebrews 12.3-11), then maybe before we bind the Devil we should go to our Father for discernment. Maybe he’s the one wreaking havoc in your life right now, in an effort to refine you, stop sinful behavior or just get your attention! After all in that immensely popular Old Testament text, Lamentations 2.5, the writer tells us that “The Lord has become like an enemy…” Maybe instead of going to the “enemy’s camp” we need to start going to the throne of grace followed by a quick trip to the bathroom mirror!