For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1, ESV)
On this day during which we celebrate the freedoms that we now enjoy in this great country, it is fitting to reflect on the fact that it was hard-fought. It was on this day in 1776 that the Declaration of Independence was signed by our founding fathers, officially making it known to anyone and everyone that America was its own country, and they were prepared to fight to make it so. I note that the document was not called the “Hope of Independence,” the “Whisper of Independence,” or even the “Statement of Independence.” No, it was a Declaration! I can see in my mind’s eye, our forefathers, blood pumping hot in their veins, pride burning deep in their chests, as they declared the birth of their beloved country, daring anyone to deny it.
Last week I posted about an even greater battle worth fighting, the battle for our very souls. (You can read that post here.) Last week was all about recognizing that it is, in fact, the battle we must win, and that we must fight. This week, I want to talk about the how. How do we prepare for this daily onslaught? What weapons do we have at our disposal?
I’m certainly going to talk about weapons that you’ve heard of before, but perhaps I’ll be able to present them in a way that encourages you to pick them up and try again. This is not an exhaustive list; through prayer, God will show you ways unique to you that will help you fight the good fight. These are just some of the things that have helped me.
Create a Spiritual atmosphere, intentionally. Notice I said, “create.” As in YOU create it. YOU take responsibility for it. Silly to think it took me this long to realize, but over the past several months, I’ve noticed how different my frame of mind is when I do something as simple as put on worship music when I first wake up. To me, this doesn’t really always equate to just turning on a Christian radio station. Again, we’re talking about being intentional. I need songs that really do lead me into the Presence of God; songs with some depth, songs that mean something to me in my life, songs that really do bestow deep worship upon our King. So maybe this is really more of a playlist that you create, or a Pandora station that you’ve honed. Again, for me, getting something going that I can think or meditate on keeps my mind from trailing off into places it ought not go.
I even like to listen to great preaching! Not only does this keep my mind from more negative places, it actually gets my mind to thinking upon the word of God and propels it more into a more positive and spiritual place. Preaching is not as easy to find, but I usually wind up just downloading a podcast from a church or looking up preachers that I love to listen to on YouTube.
Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:17)
- Sing praises. While listening to worshipful music and/or preaching is a more passive way to create atmosphere (it’s kind of happening in the background), singing is an active way to connect to the Lord, and it further creates atmosphere in your home. There’s just something about the actual act, effort and energy that begins to line your spirit up. It’s kind of like a “warm up,” if you will. Now, I realize that you would most likely not be looked upon fondly by coworkers if you sing while at work, but this is more of an at-home, in-the-car, on-a-walk-at-lunch-break kind of thing. I find that sometimes when I’m just not in a frame of mind to pray, singing is a beautiful segue to start bringing my spirit back into alignment to get me to the point where I can sincerely pray.
About midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing praises to God…(Acts 16:25)
- Apprehend negative thoughts and emotions. One key to being successful in battle is alertness. You must be aware of your opponent’s movements at all times. Thoughts are tricky. Since we can think and also be doing many other things simultaneously, many times our enemy will attack us in the area that we’re not giving much attention to. If my main consciousness is on teaching my Kindergarten class, my subconscious mind can be replaying an argument I had with a friend over, and over, and over. Suddenly, I find that I am irritable and snapping at my students and dying for the school day to end….and I don’t even know why. It’s because the enemy broke through my lines where I wasn’t paying attention: my thoughts. So first we have to become aware of those “imposter thoughts,” and second we have to expel them from our minds. They are intruders sent to destroy our peace of mind and cause us to become so consumed with ourselves that we aren’t able to minister to others in need.
This is not to say that we ignore difficult situations in our lives; it just means that when we think about them, we need to be in a frame of mind where the Holy Spirit is guiding our thoughts to a place of peace and productivity.
We…take every thought captive to obey Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5)
- Pray until there is connection. Of course prayer would be on this list. But I have to tell you, just going through the routine of prayer is not going to get it done. Again, this is something I’m learning, but if I kneel down to pray and I’m tired and cranky and mad…and if I get up again in a few minutes and I’m still tired and cranky and mad, I haven’t really touched the Lord. Somehow, my spirit is still out of whack and I’ve not fully given myself to Him to allow Him to once again bring me into a place of utter and complete submission. When I do feel that connection, there is a shift inside of me. I’m humbled and my priorities get in the right order. I take on a posture of the servant once again. And you know what? When I rise up this time, I’m a warrior.
The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. (James 5:16)
- Meditate on the Word of God. With Bible-reading, I think it’s always quality over quantity. Don’t rush to get through a chapter “just because;” pause, read slowly, and allow the words to seep down into your inner being. Again, a check-list mentality won’t do. If you only read one verse, but you meditate and pray and allow the Lord to speak to you and change you through that one verse, you are so much better off than reading two or three chapters that you can’t remember much from. The Word of God is a “light to our path,” showing us how to live.
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105)
- Interact with God’s people. Yes, church. But I would submit to you, it needs to be more than just church. You need to get around the people of God and be fully present. Do you want to be the conquering, overcoming Christian or just barely eek out a victory? Being intentional about your social time takes it up a notch. The Word tells us that, “iron sharpens iron.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been enriched and encouraged by just going out to eat and spending a few hours with my brothers and sisters in the Lord! No, my introverted self does not always relish the ideas of getting around people when I don’t “have to.” However, my spiritual self recognizes the strength that comes from being around my comrades, those who are fighting this fight with me. It reminds me that I’m not alone!
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:12)
Friends, we must win this war! We can, and we will by the power of the Holy Spirit! What would you add to this list? What tools have you found to be helpful or crucial to winning the battle against the flesh?