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How to Win in Spiritual Warfare

By June 23, 2016April 23rd, 2022Discipleship7 min read

The Trials

When we think of spiritual warfare, we think of trials. But getting rid of trials is not the victory. The true victory consists of how we respond to the trials. The warfare plays out in the battlefield of the mind. Trials confront us in many forms. They include health issues, financial issues, relationship issues and many others.

In 2 Corinthians 10, Paul faced the stress of attacks when his opponents slandered him. These attacks affected Paul emotionally.

Paul also endured physical attacks. He carried the scars of persecution in his body. These included the 40 stripes minus one that he had received, the marks of three times being beaten by rods and stoning (2 Corinthians 11:24,25). These scars were physical. His trials were both emotional and physical. The trial that Paul experienced with his enemies becomes representative of the various trials that we experience. The victory he achieved in spiritual warfare instructs us in the way we can achieve victory in the trials we endure.

The Testing of Trial

Two Greek verbs, dokimadzo and peiradzo, can be translated by such words as “try,” “tempt” and “test.” The common denominator between these two words is the concept of testing. It is like the Lexus manufacturer putting a newly manufactured car on the racetrack to see what it will do. He is not expecting it to fail. The difficult happenings in life are testings. They demonstrate what is in us. We basically can respond either in faith or in the flesh.

The Response

Paul responded to his trial with the fruit of the spirit, pleading with his detractors by the meekness and gentleness of Christ. In doing so, Paul demonstrated that he won in spiritual warfare. “Now I, Paul, myself am pleading with you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—who in presence am lowly among you, but being absent am bold toward you” (2 Corinthians 10:1). If they did not respond to his soft approach, he would come at them in a hard way, disciplining his enemies for their disobedience. “…And being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled” (2 Corinthians 10:6).

The Victory

Victory in spiritual warfare is not achieved by getting rid of the trial. So often as we approach spiritual warfare, we feel that we become champions when God removes the trial from our lives. We believe that, to be victorious, the illness must be replaced with health, the relationship restored, the enemy quit saying bad things about us, our ship arriving with a lot of money to pay our bills. But that is in the realm of the physical.

The Nature of Fighting

The fighting is not physical, but spiritual. Our circumstances may be of a physical nature, but the spiritual world for us is in the mind; and our minds connect the intellect with the spiritual. Paul says that we “walk in the flesh.” This means that we try to seek victory by operating on our own resources, utilizing our mental and physical abilities. But to be successful in the spiritual realm, it means we do not rely on our own strength; and on what we can do.

“But I beg you that when I am present I may not be bold with that confidence by which I intend to be bold against some, who think of us as if we walked according to the flesh” (2 Corinthians 10:2). “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh” (2 Corinthians 10:3).

Our Kind of Weapon

When we say “spiritual warfare,” the emphasis is on the word “spiritual.” This is in contrast to our human abilities. “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God” (2 Corinthians 10:4).

Our weapons are not our human resources. Paul describes our resources as “carnal.” What is the difference between “carnal” in verse four and “flesh” in verse three? None. They both translate the Greek word sarks. I once had a professor who said you can remember “carnal” by chili-con-carne, which is “chili with flesh.” “Carnal” comes from the French-Latin, “fleshly” from the Old-English-Germanic, but they mean the same thing.

The weapons to achieve spiritual victory must be spiritual. They are mighty in God. God is the source in contrast to our human ability. “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” (Eph. 6:10).

The Battlefield

The battlefield of our fight is not in our circumstances. The fight takes place in the mind. The mind is perhaps where the intellect interfaces with the spiritual. Sometimes Satan is directly involved in our conflict. Some biblical incidents reflect that. For example, Satan put the betrayal of Jesus into the mind of Judas (John 13:2).

The Fight in the Mind

“For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ…” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).

The strategy is to tear down strongholds of our minds by God’s might.

The strongholds the Greeks knew were fortresses within Greek cities that were impossible for the enemy to penetrate. In Athens, the stronghold was the Acropolis where the Parthenon stood on the highest point in the city. In the city of Corinth, it was the Acrocorinth, high on the bluff overlooking the city. Acro in both names means “high place.” It was the place that was the most difficult to defeat.

The spiritual high places consist of thinking manifesting arrogance against godly values. One place where this takes place is when the minds of Christian students in secular universities are changed as they become brainwashed with ideas that are completely opposed to biblical values. Some professors ridicule any student who speaks of biblical absolutes.

Another place high things arrogantly go against godly truth and wisdom is television, particularly soup operas and sitcoms that scoff at godly sexual values. Christians laugh and absorb perspectives into their minds that should not be a part of their lives. The same could be said of the Internet. Even the news, with its politically correct thinking, can implant views that are contrary to God’s way of thinking. Victory comes as we assault our thoughts that are contrary to godly thinking. In this passage, the winning in spiritual warfare is not by shouting, “I rebuke you Satan,” but by using God’s strength to cancel our thinking that is contrary to His thinking.

While God may make our trials go away, true spiritual victory comes as we have a godly perspective on what is happening to us, whether the trial goes away or not. The true solution is to reprogram our thinking with a renewed mind, thinking God’s thoughts after Him.

Carl Westerlund has been on the pastoral staff at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa since 1987, following 19 years of pastoral ministry in three other churches.