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“…for though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again.” (Proverbs 24:16)
“I will not die but live and proclaim what the LORD has done.” (Psalm 118:17)
Every Christian experiences spiritual battle, the essence of which is God’s truth against the lies of the devil (John 8:44, Revelation 20:7-10) and the kingdom of God against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:11-12). We all know what it is like to deal with the ugly onslaught of the enemy and to face the barrage of his assaults.
I don’t know a single Christian, including myself, who has never been wounded at one time or another during spiritual battle. That is, they have allowed the lies of the devil to infiltrate their minds and to damage their firm grip on God’s truth, and/or they have opened a door of satanic attack through their sin and unrepentance and, by failing to stand firm against temptation, have been overcome by the enemy.
The Bible tells us that the devil is an opportunist and that he especially preys upon the weaknesses of our flesh (James 1:13-15, 1 Peter 5:8-11) in order bring us down. Therefore, James tells us:
“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” (James 4:7-10).
Despite our best efforts to resist sin and to stand firm in the truth of God’s Word, many of us have taken hard hits and have been knocked down in our battles against the devil.
But for every moment in which we’ve fallen down there is also another moment in time in which the Lord raises us back up again.
The battles we face will not end until our days on earth are over, but one thing is for sure, with Christ we already have the victory, and what we need to do is to continually stand firm in it (even if we need to get back up on our feet again first).
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” (Ephesians 6:10-18)
In my own contemplations about spiritual battle, the longer I go on with the Lord the more I realize that, fundamentally, all spiritual warfare is focused upon this one point:
Who will you worship?
“One does not have to penetrate deeply into the Revelation of John to discover that both God and the devil are seeking worshipers (see Rev. 7:11; 13:4; 14:7, 11). Time and time again the line is drawn between those who “worship the beast and his image” and those who worship God.
In the last great battle before Jesus returns, the outcome of every man’s life shall be weighed upon a scale of worship: in the midst of warfare and battles to whom will we bow, God or Satan?
Yet, while this warfare shall culminate in the establishment of the Lord’s kingdom on earth (see Rev. 11:15), we must realize the essence of this battle is the central issue in our warfare today…”
Satan himself revealed this primary motive of his, for in his last ditch effort to tempt Jesus in the desert, “…the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. ‘All this I will give you,’ he said, ‘if you will bow down and worship me'” (Matthew 4:8-9).
But our Lord Jesus discerned the battle, resisted the temptation and, “…said to him, ‘Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him” (Matthew 4:10-11).
In James 4:7 (above), the prerequisite for successfully resisting the devil and causing him to flee is completely submitting to God (and think about this: if you are not wholeheartedly on God’s side by absolutely surrendering yourself to him, then whose side are you on??)
The Bible goes on to tell us that this act of total submission and absolute surrender to God is also the essence of true worship, for Romans 12:1 says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship”.
Therefore, worship is like a shield around a soul who is absolutely surrendered to God. Psalm 91:1 says, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”
Nothing can intrinsically harm one who worships the Lord. Though he or she may lose all of his or her possessions in this earthly life, even life itself, the true worshiper is always sheltered in the Presence of the Most High.
Worship is always going on in heaven, as we clearly read in the exquisitely beautiful chapters of Revelation 4-5. Worship in heaven never ceases. This is paradise, my dear brothers and sisters. When we worship, we are simply joining in with the unending worship in heaven.
The devil rages to disrupt our continual worship, and he seeks to redirect it onto something else–ideally, himself. However, nothing can harm the soul who will not be disrupted and who refuses to bow down and worship anything or anyone else but the Lord.
In addition, when we read through the Old Testament we see another fundamental, oft repeated and profoundly simple pattern emerge:
Whenever the Israelites were unfaithful in the area of worship and began worshiping idols, they experienced defeat in battle. However, whenever they faithfully worshiped the Lord alone, they experienced victory, no matter what the natural odds.
I learned the truth of this Scriptural principle many years ago when God set me free from my bondages to addiction. I certainly know what it is to struggle against my flesh and the devil and to experience defeat again and again against habitual sin. I also know what it is to be deeply hurt and to have these unhealed wounds and unresolved issues exacerbate my struggles against these bondages. Like flies to open wounds, these issues became places in my life which attracted satanic attack and bondage.
However, I must note here that our Western culture is one of victims and self-focus. We are a culture who does not like to take responsibility for our sins but instead likes to excuse away our sinful behaviours and attribute them to ‘conditions’. We do not like to own our sin and admit it, even though the Lord sees straight into our hearts anyway.
God beckons us:
“He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13)
In my journey to victory over addiction, bondage and demonic oppression, I have thoroughly learned that my misery was wholly due to my fundamental sin of not being an absolutely surrendered worshiper.
“Some sat in darkness and the deepest gloom, prisoners suffering in iron chains, for they had rebelled against the words of God and despised the counsel of the Most High. So he subjected them to bitter labor; they stumbled, and there was no one to help. Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness and the deepest gloom and broke away their chains. Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men, for he breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron.
Some became fools through their rebellious ways and suffered affliction because of their iniquities. They loathed all food and drew near the gates of death. Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He sent forth his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave. Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men. Let them sacrifice thank offerings and tell of his works with songs of joy.” (Psalm 107:10-22)
During my days of struggle, I often pointed out to God that my hurts “made” me feel, think and act in certain unbiblical ways.
But making excuses for my sin never set me free.
Then there came a day when I finally faced the fact that, regardless of all of my hurts and unresolved issues, I was not an absolutely surrendered worshiper of God. So instead of pointing out to God for the umpteenth time that my wounds and past events were influencing me to sin, I acknowledged to his face that I was an idol worshiper. I repented and renounced worshiping other things instead of God (primarily, myself and my desires). Having been forgiven and washed clean of all my sins (1 John 1:9), I then surrendered myself to God, to worship and serve him only. After this my full and lasting deliverance quickly came.
“But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:57)
These days, whenever I have been knocked down in a spiritual battle and am struggling to get back up, I have come to realize that the enemy’s attack is always fundamentally focused upon the issue of worship.
I have fallen down because I have chosen to stop worshiping God or because I have begun to worship other things.
Sometimes I might have to get a little tough and brave and resilient against the influences that are turning me away from God in order to recapture my undivided devotion in worship, but by the power and strength the Holy Spirit gives me, I rise to my feet again.
“Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. I will praise you, O Lord, my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever. For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths of the grave.” (Psalm 87:11-13)
* * * * *
I have wanted to draw this picture for perhaps a decade now, but I have always lacked the ‘vision’ of what the drawing was to physically look like. I had attempted a few rough drafts over the years, but none of them was ever “it”. (I have written more on this a little further down).
Finally one day, as a knocked down, wounded soldier, I sat down at the piano to worship. I was in a dreadful spiritual battle and in a real mess in my head. I began playing songs about the blood of Jesus and my salvation. This encouraged me. Then without realizing it, my fingers just started to play a song about Christ the King being exalted over all his enemies. This moved into exaltation songs. I then discerned the battle that was coming against me, and once again I realized it was all about worship. Emboldened and strengthened by the Holy Spirit, I began to rise to my feet again, to take up my weapons and to stand against the enemy, who was seeking to destroy my worship. All of a sudden, in the midst of all this, clear as day, I saw the imagery for this drawing, which I had longed to see for a decade.
One important thing I have learned in spiritual battle is, when we have been knocked down and our spiritual armor is strewn all around us, the first item we need to take up is the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. The second is the shield of faith, which can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one (See Ephesians 6:10-18). Like Nehemiah rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 4), we constantly need to have a weapon in our hand to be prepared to face any attacks that may come against us as we are getting back up on our feet again. The Word of God upon our lips is what strengthens us in our faith (Romans 10:17). Likewise, the shield of faith can extinguish ALL the attacks of the enemy, even when we are still trying to get the rest of our armor back on.
I have drawn two angels ministering to this believer. This is based on the Scripture passage in Hebrews 1:14, “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?”
The main reason why I struggled for so long to come up with suitable imagery for this drawing is because I had to illustrate that it is 100% God’s grace and 100% the power of the Holy Spirit that raises us back up to our feet, and that it is not through our own will power and strength that we arise and overcome the devil. Nothing truly spiritual in the Christian life is ever the result of our own human efforts, for then we would deserve the glory instead of God. Yet, individual responsibility also mysteriously factors into the equation. Whenever we are in full agreement with the will of God for our lives and fully believe it will be done so according to our faith, the power and enablement of God will always meet us in our human impotence to energize us to fulfil his will (Philippians 2:12-13). This is an incredibly difficult concept to illustrate visually.
The imagery of the light shining down on the wounded soldier illustrates divine empowerment and providence, while the man standing on his feet illustrates the human responsibility of faith (which itself is also a gift of God’s grace). The imagery of the angels holding the man’s spiritual armor demonstrates firstly that God never abandoned the man in his battles and, secondly, that God’s providence is readily available for the taking and is to be received through the man’s faith.
Though this soldier in the Lord’s army had fallen down wounded, God has raised him up again.
So may it be for all his wounded soldiers.
This drawing is very closely related to my other drawing “Spiritual Warfare” (Spiritual Warfare, Victory Freedom Healing Series). I have visually hidden a lion’s head and two serpents in my drawing, “Spiritual Warfare”, and in keeping with that theme, I have also hidden seven fleeing snakes in this drawing. This is based upon the Scripture in Deuteronomy 28:7:
“The LORD will grant that the enemies who rise up against you will be defeated before you. They will come at you from one direction but flee from you in seven.”
They are in the rocks.
(See also “Broken Wings Learning to Fly Again” (Spiritual Warfare, Victory, Freedom Healing Series), “Lion of Judah Arising” (Praise and Worship Series 2) and “Spiritual Warfare” (Spiritual Warfare, Victory, Freedom, Healing Series).)