One of the things I’m working on is changing the way I think. I’ve found that there’s often a negative narrative scrolling through my mind, at a baseline level, where I almost don’t even notice it. It’s the assumptions I live with about who I am and the things I am focused on.
It’s just too easy to see my flaws and forget that they aren’t the whole picture. Everyone is flawed – even those people who look perfect and check off all their boxes on the checklist each day. It’s what it is to be human.
Yes, I have the spirit of God living inside me. Yes, it’s the same spirit that resurrected Jesus. Yes, it’s the spirit that empowers me to overcome every obstacle. BUT it’s still housed in my frail, human flesh. Both of those things are at play all day, every day.
I still have a mind and a body. Both need tending to. One thing I have warred against, been stubborn against, is this teaching, or idea, that when God is present in our lives and hearts, we have this freedom that should instantly manifest itself. It’s not usually said quite so blatantly, but I have heard it stated that way.
It goes like this: when abundant life isn’t manifesting itself, we must simply speak to it, say some words, or the right prayer, “bind or loose” something, and that will fix it right up. It’s a simplistic view of what some Christians call spiritual warfare (I know not every sector of the church uses that particular language). It’s a war that is mostly waged with our mouths.
I believe that we do, indeed, live in a war zone, of sorts – our world is filled with good and with evil, life and death, and we all get caught in the crossfire, in one way or another. Some ways are blatant and heartbreaking and some are more hidden and subtle.
It’s those subtle things that get us, sometimes, because we ignore them, or think they ought not need our attention. Why can’t we just get over it? Was it really that big of a deal?
If it changed the direction of your life or traumatized you or altered your thinking in a deep way, then yes. It was a big deal. If you can’t see or hear or trust God because of it, it’s a really big deal.
I don’t want to get too far into that, at this point. I’m just saying, maybe we need to broaden our definition of “spiritual warfare.”
For many, it’s a focus on darkness, evil and the demonic (which is real, y’all – just look around), and praying against those things. And let the record show, I do believe prayer is essential. Really, really, essential.
What I’d like to do, though, is broaden the scope of our thinking and our strategy. As I heard someone say recently on Dan Allender’s podcast, if we think we can do spiritual warfare without doing the work of actually tending to our hearts, we’ve set ourselves up to lose.
I am a body, a mind, a heart, and a spirit, with a history – every one of those parts has been affected by this fallen world, and every part needs my care and attention.
For me, spiritual warfare has become about doing whatever it takes to live a wholehearted life through Christ – to love God with every part of my life; to love my family, my friends and my neighbor, selflessly and with humility; to live a life that qualifies as worship, because all things are done in his sight and for him – not to earn a single thing, but in love, as a response to who he is.
To do that kind of battle, I need to give attention to each part of who I am. The Bible is full of practical instruction. Much of what Paul taught the early church had to with behavior – how to live in community and how to live toward a god who is worthy of our best. I see every bit of it as a kind of spiritual warfare.
He absolutely told them to pray in all things, to pray without ceasing, but he also told them to forgive, to be mindful of others, to care for those of weaker faith, to carry one another’s burdens, to live in truth, live a righteous life, to use restraint, to hold back expression of certain spiritual gifts to make room for strangers, to be on alert for false teaching, to submit to one another in everything.
He taught them so many practical things and I see all of it as a means of warfare on behalf of ourselves and our friends. A breakdown in any of those areas has spiritual consequences.
Tending to the heart, body, mind and spirit might require different things for each of us. You might need to change your diet and habits. And really, don’t we all? The food we eat and the amount of exercise we get directly impacts how we think and feel.
It might mean getting good counseling. I don’t believe it’s wrong to seek out someone who understands both psychology and scripture. We are physical beings and science is not our enemy. You have a brain and a mind (two different things) and sometimes we get a glitch that needs attention. Our minds need to be renewed and our thinking changed.
If you’ve experienced trauma or tragedy or abuse, you might need to do some work to heal your heart. It’s one thing to forgive the offender. It’s another to take back territory and address the ways we’ve responded to the situation.
There are coping mechanisms that help us get through, but often, when they are no longer needed, we still hang on to them, and this prevents us from maturing and developing healthy relationships.
It might, and probably will, mean finding people to pray with you and for you. Sometimes we can’t pray, or don’t know how or what to pray, so partnering with someone who loves us is good and helpful. We aren’t meant to live this life alone, unknown by others.
It might mean carving out more time for prayer and the word of God. If we imagine we can do the above things without feeding our spirits, we are mistaken. The spirit is the part that goes with us when we leave these bodies behind (along with the mind – but who can determine where the lines of separation are drawn, though?).
Paul said to keep on being filled with the spirit. This is, by far, the most essential element of our battle. The spirit was given to us to empower, guide, comfort and teach us.
I’m laughing because this is not where I thought I was going when I began this post. I just started typing and this is what came out. I’m going to roll with it and I’ll share what I planned to share later in the week. Maybe. It was about the importance of our words, ironically.
What I’m campaigning for here is a holistic approach to our lives in God. And since God never used the phrase, “spiritual warfare,” himself, I think I have the freedom to expand it if I wish.
This isn’t about using natural solutions to solve spiritual problems, as I’ve heard it said. It’s about understanding that you are a spirit being trapped in a natural context, and they interact and affect each other in ways we cannot fathom.
Everything you do to move toward him and toward wholeness, is war on behalf of your spirit. It’s making way for his life to flow in you and through you, so that those living waters Jesus talked about can flow freely through clean conduits.
It clears the way for joy and peace and love and patience and kindness and all those things that will be evident when the holy spirit has full access to our lives – body, mind, heart and spirit.
And that’s a really good thing. Jesus came to give us life. He said it was for freedom that he set us free. We actually are free and whole, we just don’t know how to act like it yet. That’s what we are talking about here. Becoming what we already are.