How to Stand Firm and Overcome When Facing Spiritual Opposition

If all it took to experience wholeness were a few good facts in your left brain and a few pleasing moments sensing God’s presence for your right brain, maybe we wouldn’t have to address spiritual warfare. But if you haven’t sensed it already you soon will: spiritual opposition is real. Biblically, you can think of this opposition as the world, the flesh, and the devil.

Though that specific phrase isn’t used in the New Testament the categories are certainly there. Our world and culture are an environment where becoming whole is hard. The incoming messages your brain gets are routinely distracting and are often twisted and antagonistic to your wholeness.

And even if both the world and the devil were eliminated, there would still be more than enough “stuff” in your own brain to mess you up. Your whole internal system needs an overhaul. We all need new brain pathways; that’s really what the way of Jesus is all about.

But an additional important way to make sense of what almost everyone walking this journey experiences is to acknowledge that your becoming whole will be opposed. By what? By a real and personal embodiment of evil which Scripture calls the devil, Satan, and his kingdom of darkness that is in violent opposition to God and His kingdom of light and love.

If this topic seems far-fetched and imaginary to you, let me encourage you to keep an open mind, suspend disbelief for a minute, and at least consider that there may be something here. If this topic stirs up anxiety and pressure for you, hang in there; the answer is less complicated than you may have been led to believe.

Thinking about Spiritual Warfare

C.S. Lewis said it perhaps better than any other modern writer:

There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors, and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.

In warfare, an ambush works because you don’t know or believe it’s coming. Denying the existence of the devil gives him a great advantage in his assault on your wholeness. And just as damaging is being preoccupied with the kingdom of darkness and what the devil is doing. In my own research I found that those who thought most frequently about Satan and demons causing them problems were significantly more likely to experience anxiety, depression, and generalized psychological distress.

So if ignoring, fearing, or obsessing over the devil aren’t healthy or useful perspectives, what’s left? How should we think about this? Let’s look at how Jesus faced the spiritual opposition He faced here on earth.

Jesus and Spiritual Warfare

As hard as our lives may be, none of us will ever have Satan and his kingdom of darkness arrayed against us to the degree that Jesus did. The Jews of His day believed in demons and had developed elaborate rituals to get rid of them. When Jesus shows up, He never goes looking for evil, but whenever it presents itself (as Satan himself or as a demon-possessed human being), Jesus is not ruffled. The only drama comes when the demons resist Jesus’ commands.

The people around Jesus are astonished. This is unlike anything they have seen from their Jewish teachers or exorcists. “They were all amazed, and so they began to ask each other, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him”” (Mark 1:27).

No drama with Jesus. No elaborate rituals. And no fear. Just simple authority. And Jesus made it clear that as His followers we have been given that same authority over the kingdom of darkness (See Matthew 10:1; Mark 16:17; Luke 9:1; 10:19). No losing sleep. No trying to get strong enough to defeat the devil yourself. (Don’t try; you won’t win. And by the way, Jesus already did that!) No frantic gathering spiritual weapons to go out swashbuckling against evil.

Our position as followers of Jesus is to stand – to take your position on God’s side and refuse to be moved. That’s how you overcome the enemy. In the well-known spiritual warfare passage in Ephesians, note how many times Paul uses the word “stand.” This is not anxious striving; it’s simply standing firm (Ephesians 6:10–14).

Three things to DO in Facing Spiritual Opposition

At the risk of sounding much too simplistic and categorical, let me suggest three steps, phases, or categories of things to do or pay attention to as you face spiritual opposition.

  1. Recognize the spiritual attack. Not everything is spiritual warfare! Don’t assume; ask often, “Jesus, what’s going on here? Interpret this for me?” But there are warning signs in your mind and heart that can alert you to the reality of spiritual opposition. Three important ones are when you sense confusion, condemnation, or control and manipulation.
  2. Pursue and Find Your Freedom. Like any area of healing or transformation, freedom in the realm of spiritual opposition requires your involvement. You cannot go out and fight the devil on your own, but you can intentionally and actively take into your being the freedom Jesus accomplished. Look for the lies, wounds, and empty places the enemy can exploit. Soak in the truth. And learn what it means to fill your empty soul.
  3. Stand Firm in Your Freedom. If your lifestyle doesn’t change, you’ll easily fall into the same mess you’ve found freedom from. Choose to stay clean, connected, and consecrated. (Those 3 C’s don’t only apply to sexual wholeness, but to any journey of transformation.) And learn to apply the blood of Jesus to your life; there’s no more powerful way to remain protected when dealing with spiritual opposition.

No fear. No drama. Just standing firm.

That’s possible because we know the end of the story.

Spoiler alert; Jesus wins!

Your Turn: Where do you sense spiritual opposition in your journey to experience wholeness? Will you ask, “Jesus, what’s going on here?” What step do you sense Him inviting you to take?  Leave a comment below.

Want more? In the podcast episode this week I explore more in detail the topic of spiritual opposition and how to face it without fear. Listen or watch.

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Is your Sexual Wholeness Being Opposed?

My book Sexpectations: Reframing Your Good and Not-So-Good Stories About God, Love, and Relationships shows you how to address the hard stuff – including the opposition.

If your heart is struggling with anything around sex, love, and intimacy, you need this! This book will help you:

  • reinterpret your sexual story with honesty and compassion
  • find freedom from shame, compulsive behaviors, past harm, and hiding
  • redefine the way you look at God, sex, love, and relationships
  • orient your sexuality as God intended and embrace what He has for your future
  • experience Jesus coming right into the middle of your story to bring healing and wholeness

Check out our new Sexpectations website where you can find related resources. You can download a free chapter of the book, and order the book for yourself.