A Biblical Strategy for Spiritual Attack
I stood in the middle of our finished basement, my heart sinking as I surveyed the ruined floors and damaged walls. All the furniture and decor was in disarray. Our kids’ blankets, clothes, and toys were scattered in all directions. Carefully organized shelves had been dismantled, closets had been emptied, and dozens of our boxes and belongings were piled haphazardly in a corner.
Our septic system had backed up and flooded our entire basement. The restoration company had ripped out the carpet, removed large sections of drywall, and dismantled or moved nearly everything in order to professionally sanitize it. We lived in a ranch-style home and all of our kids’ bedrooms were in the basement, so the septic back-up quickly sent most of our household systems into a state of chaos (such as not being able to find any diapers or wipes at critical moments and having to dress our baby boy in girls’ pajamas!).
I sighed in dismay. It was during an especially intense season of travel and writing deadlines. We had four children under the age of five — which was a daily challenge in itself. We’d been required to move into a hotel for several days while our house was being decontaminated — not an easy feat with so many little children and a household in upheaval.
But that was only the beginning. In the midst of this chaos, our entire family came down with a respiratory illness that caused three of our four kids to need breathing treatments multiple times per day. I became extremely ill and run down, yet I had no choice but to continue traveling and speaking, caring for sick children, and attempting to bring a measure of order and stability to our daily life. We had some wonderful helpers at this time who helped share the load of childcare and daily logistics, but the pressure I was feeling was undeniable.
On the heels of this trial came significant financial challenges in our ministry. Commitments that had been made to us seemed to vanish in the wind for one reason or another. We suddenly felt like we were being hindered in everything we were called to do.
And then on top of everything else, some key relationships in our life began to unravel. Certain friends turned on us, leaving false accusations and turmoil in their wake. The heartache of feeling betrayed and despised by people we had loved and trusted was almost more than I could bear. Though I knew their accusations and hatred were not based in truth, the pain was very real.
One day I came home to overhear my husband Eric on the phone with one of these friends, who was also a pastor. Immediately I knew something was wrong. The man was yelling curses into the phone so loudly that I could hear him from across the room. I froze in shock as I heard this man I once respected scream horrible accusations at Eric that were so far from being true they were laughable. And yet, this certainly wasn’t anything to laugh at. It was at that moment when it became very clear to me that we were under intense spiritual attack. The enemy was hitting us hard, attempting to bring chaos and discouragement into our lives in any way he could.
And suddenly, I realized why.
Several months earlier, we’d made the decision to launch a discipleship training center designed to equip Christians in Gospel-centered living. God had enabled us to miraculously acquire a vacant college campus, and we had been making preparations to transition out of full-time speaking and into full-time discipleship.
We hadn’t been prepared for the spiritual backlash that followed on the heels of that decision. A lot of people in our life saw this as a step down — going from speaking to thousands of people at large events to investing the majority of our time into a much smaller number of spiritually hungry Christians. But now, as I began to see how hard the enemy had been hitting us, I began to realize that our discipleship ministry must not be so insignificant after all.
Eric and I had learned through previous seasons of spiritual attack that when we received an undue amount of attention from the enemy, it usually meant we were on the cusp of something important for God’s Kingdom. So, although we were weary from our recent battles, we were also encouraged to realize that we were on the right track. And we also knew that we didn’t have to take Satan’s attacks lying down.
Having been in ministry for most of our married life, we’d learned some important truths about our authority in Christ. After the disturbing phone call Eric received, we knew we were once again in a season when we should be wielding that authority strategically.
We began to take a stand against the powers of darkness that had been attacking us. And in a short period of time, the chaos and discouragement swirling around us began to lift. Launching our discipleship training center was not easy, and we continued to face many tests of faith along the way, but the enemy was no longer able to wreak havoc in our family and daily lives once we saw what was happening and began to resist him.
Understanding Our Authority
There are a lot of misconceptions among Christians today when it comes to resisting Satan’s attacks on our lives. Many believe that all trials and challenges are God’s will and design for their lives, and therefore they never feel quite right about taking any kind of stand against them. For years, this was the way that Eric and I viewed all the hardships that came into our lives, big or small. We felt that the most spiritual thing we could do when difficulties came was to simply have a good attitude, avoid complaining, and move forward the best that we could. There is certainly plenty of biblical basis for this kind of response. We are told to “give thanks in all circumstances,” (1 Thes. 5:18 ESV) and “Consider it pure joy … whenever you face trials of many kinds” (Jms. 1:2 NIV).
But these principles must also be balanced with God’s clear commands to resist the enemy, remain steadfast, and take the shield of faith:
“Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (Jms. 4:7).
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith…” (1 Pet. 5:8-9).
“…[take] the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one” (Eph. 6:16).
Several years into our ministry, Eric and I finally awakened to the fact that many of our extreme difficulties were actually harassments from the devil for the purpose of hindering us in our marriage, family, and calling. We began to study the power of Jesus’ Name and our “legal right” as Christians to use that Name. Instead of just accepting hindrance and harassment as normal, we began to walk boldly in the authority Jesus had given us. It wasn’t anything complicated or dramatic. We simply commanded Satan, in Jesus’ Name, to stop interfering with our ministry and personal lives. And we continued to boldly resist his interference anytime we sensed he was harassing us.
It proved to be a turning point in our life and ministry. For years we had felt ineffective in our ministry because we were so busy reeling from one major blow after the next. We became so preoccupied with our own day-to-day survival that we were unable to be proactive and strategic about building God’s Kingdom. But once we learned how to resist Satan’s attacks instead of resigning to them, we became spiritually offensive instead of constantly being on the defense.
We began to live according to the reality that Jesus proclaimed, “Behold, I give you the authority … over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you” (Lk. 10:19). Our Christian lives became effective once we recognized our authority in Christ and learned how to put the enemy in his place through the power of Jesus’ Name.
Should We Expect a Life of Ease?
A common misconception in Christianity today is that taking a stand against the enemy’s attacks should lead to a life of ease and comfort. Some Christians have misused the concept of taking authority over the enemy, seeing every form of challenge and discomfort as something they have a right to resist and reject. They believe it is God’s will that they avoid any kind of difficulty, and therefore they blame anything unpleasant they face on the devil and his wiles.
But Scripture is very clear that our Christian lives are not meant to be easy and comfortable. When we choose to follow in Christ’s footsteps, we choose the Narrow Way of the Cross. This does not mean a lifetime of unceasing health, wealth, and prosperity, as some modern church-goers claim. Rather, it means persecution, rejection, misunderstanding, intense tests of faith, and constantly dying to self. (Just read Hebrews 11 if you are unsure on this point!)
As Amy Carmichael wrote, “It is so fatally easy to forget that we are not here to enjoy life, to live pleasantly, without stabs and rending griefs that leave scars … [but] that I may know Him and the … fellowship of His sufferings.”
So how does standing against Satan’s attacks fit into this crucified life to which we are called? How do we know which difficulties to resist in the authority of Jesus’ Name, and which to humbly and joyfully receive as loving faith-tests or godly discipline from our faithful Father?
Understanding Enemy Hindrance
During Paul’s ministry, he talked about being “hindered” by Satan from a specific purpose he was attempting to accomplish. (See 1 Thessalonians 2:18.) This word “hindered” means to impede, to detain, or to cut into.
Have you ever noticed that when you step forward into a specific task that God has called you to do — such as purposeful prayer, ministry to others, etc. — something happens to distract, discourage, or thwart you? That’s the kind of hindrance Paul was referring to.
When Eric and I first started our full-time speaking ministry, I started getting sick nearly every time I tried to speak publicly. Health problems that I’d never really had before — such as constant sinus infections, lung infections, headaches, and stomach problems — hindered me from sharing the message God had called me to share. At the same time, certain people that we’d invited to help us with our ministry began to undermine us in bizarre ways — lying to us, stealing funds from the ministry, and causing our resources to erode to the point where we could no longer function in the work God had called us. We began to resent ministry and became so frustrated that we came close to quitting, which was exactly what the enemy wanted.
I have known many Christians who have normal, peaceful lives until they make a decision to step out into some kind of ministry — whether it’s overseas orphan work or simply volunteering at their church. Often they are met with extremely challenging problems that they never had before, and sometimes they are even tempted to back out of their commitment as a result.
I’ve also known many Christians that are hit with temptation or discouragement as soon as they become serious about their relationship with Christ. The enemy attempts to snuff out the fire in their soul by whatever means he can. And if they are not prepared for his attacks and ready to resist him, they often succumb to his wiles and begin to backslide.
Enemy harassment is very different from godly discipline. Like physical training, God’s discipline brings pain — but it is a healthy, productive pain that leads to greater strength and has purpose and hope. An attack of the enemy breeds nothing but doubt, disillusionment, hopelessness, and defeat.
If there are problems in your life that are leading to despair, defeat, and hopelessness, if you are being hindered from moving forward in your Christian life, or if things seem to fall apart the moment you step out in ministry, then it is quite likely the enemy is harassing you.
The good news is that you are not helpless against Satan’s schemes. If you are a child of God, then you have the legal right to stand in the power and authority of Jesus’ Name and command the enemy to back off and leave you alone. The Bible says that when we resist him, he will flee. (See James 4:7.) Again, resisting Satan doesn’t need to be dramatic or long-winded. You simply need to recognize the power of Jesus’ Name, stand in the spiritual authority He has given you, and tell the enemy he must stop interfering with your life.
Remember, the purpose of taking a stand against the enemy is not so that you can avoid all difficulty or discomfort in your life. Rather, God wants to make us spiritually strong so that we can live loving, sacrificial lives for His glory. God desires to free us from being constantly preoccupied with our own issues and struggles so that we can turn outward and reach others with His message. So be sure that your motives for resisting Satan are in line with God’s. It’s not about protecting personal comfort, but about His glory.
A Strategy for Spiritual Attack
If you are serious about your Christianity, it is vital to have a strategy in place for resisting Satan’s attacks — because the Bible tells us his attacks will come. If we ignore this area of our Christian lives, it’s like leaving our battle weapons laying on the ground in the middle of a war.
Whether you have been experiencing enemy harassment or you are preparing for any kind of ministry, I’d like to share some principles that can help you walk in the authority that Christ has given you and pull down the spiritual strongholds that may be trying to hinder you.
1) Identify Attack Points + Key Scriptures
Prayerfully look at the areas of your life in which you feel defeated, discouraged, or hopeless. Ask God to show you if Satan is attacking those areas. Make a list of every area in which you feel you have been harassed or hindered by the enemy — this list can become an important part of your battle strategy. Once you know the areas where the enemy is hitting you in, you can see the battle more clearly. Identifying attack points helps you to be precise and direct — rather than vague and general — in taking a stand against the devil.
For each area of attack, it can be extremely helpful to find a specific Scripture to respond with, just as Jesus did when He was being tempted in the wilderness by Satan. When the enemy sought to harass Him, He responded with the truth of God’s Word, “It is written…” (See Matthew 4:1-11 to read the full account.)
As you make a list of the different attack points in your life, ask God to direct you to a verse or promise that declares His reality over that area of your life. When the enemy attempts to attack you in that area, you can immediately respond, “It is written…” and stand upon the solid rock of God’s Word as your first line of defense against him.
2) Remove Enemy Access
In our warfare against the enemy, it’s crucial that we remove any legal access that we have given him which allows him to harass and control us. Unconfessed habitual sin, deliberate disobedience to God, harboring bitterness toward another person, dabbling in Satanic activities — all of these things will create access points for the enemy in our lives. We cannot effectively resist his attacks on our lives unless we have first removed any access we have given him within our soul.
In her book Tramp for the Lord, Corrie ten Boom told the story of a woman who struggled with terrible nightmares. As she met and prayed with the woman about this struggle, she asked her if there was any unconfessed sin in her life, such as unforgiveness or bitterness. The woman reluctantly admitted that she felt a deep hatred toward her mother. Once she confessed her sin of hatred and sincerely forgave her mother (through the enabling grace of God), her nightmares immediately stopped. It was the sin of unforgiveness that had given the enemy legal right to harass her. She was not able to resist him until she first chose to walk in obedience to God.
Ask God to show you whether there is anything in your life that is allowing Satan to have access to your soul. Are there people you need to forgive? Is there a specific step of obedience God is asking you to take that you have been avoiding? Do you have anything in your past that you need to confess and make right with God or others? Are you casually participating in the darkness of our culture — such as watching demonic movies and shows, wearing symbols of death (i.e. skulls), reading horoscopes, etc.?
If God shows you areas that need to be made right, allow Him to lead you through a process of confessing, repenting, and turning from your sin. If you have given Satan access into your life, declare that you are now taking back that territory in Jesus’ Name. Once you have confessed your sin and taken back any ground you have given to the enemy, he will no longer have the ability to control or harass that part of your life.
3) Know Your Position
God has given us everything we need to be victorious over all the schemes of the enemy. The enemy may boast of his power, but God’s power is so much greater than any power of darkness. And when we surrender our lives to Him, the Bible says that we are seated “with Him in the heavenly places” (Eph. 2:6 ESV) and that “He put all things under His feet” (Eph. 1:22). When we give our lives to Him, we are “in Christ” (Rom. 8:1). In other words, if something cannot get to Jesus — and we are in Christ — it cannot get to us. If it is under His feet and we are seated with Him, it is under our feet as well.
Take some time to study your position of authority in Jesus Christ. Read what the Bible has to say about the believer’s right to bind Satan’s work and resist the powers of darkness. Whenever Satan seems to be bragging about his control or power, simply remind him that, “Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 Jn. 4:4 KJV).
When you understand your position and authority in Christ, the enemy will run from you — not the other way around!
4) Resist the Enemy
Once you have identified attack points, removed enemy access, and taken your position and authority in Christ, it is time to resist Satan and watch him flee. In some modern church circles, the process of engaging in spiritual warfare is treated like a circus act, with loud, dramatic displays and antics. There isn’t anything in the Bible that says resisting Satan should be a big performance or a long, drawn-out ordeal. We can simply say no to Satan’s attacks through the power of Jesus’ Name. This can be done silently, in a whisper, or aloud, and it can be done alone or with another person (or people) standing in agreement. Regardless, we don’t need to over-complicate it. The power to resist the enemy does not come from our eloquence or perfection, but through the Name that is above every other name — the Name of Jesus Christ. Even a little child can resist the devil through the power of that Name!
5) Be Consistent Until the Breakthrough Comes
If Satan has been attacking you for quite some time, or if you are entering his territory (such as ministering to the unsaved), it is possible that he may continue to return and harass you even after you resist him the first time. Don’t be discouraged by this. Remember that there are sometimes many individual battles to fight before the war is won. Be consistent until the enemy realizes you are serious about resisting him and you won’t back down. Remember, you are taking territory for Christ, and this may not happen in one day. Ask God to show you how often you should be resisting Satan — in some cases it may be daily, other times it may be a proactive step you take ahead of time when you are preparing for some kind of ministry. If you are faithful and consistent, you will be able to pull down enemy strongholds through the power of His Name.
Many of us default to simply praying for deliverance when we are being bullied by Satan. And while prayer is certainly important, God asks us to do more than just pray when we are attacked by him. 2 Corinthians 10:4 reminds us, “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds…” Notice that the word “weapons” in this verse is plural, not singular, meaning that there is more than one weapon God has given us for the pulling down of spiritual strongholds. So if the enemy has been getting the upper hand in any area of your life, it’s time to pick up the powerful weapon of resisting him in the power of Jesus’ Name.
Let’s never forget the powerful reality of what Christ accomplished on the Cross: “Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it” (Col. 2:15). He is Victor. He is Lord. And if He is for us, then who can stand against us?