I was asked to speak at a women’s event this past Saturday called ‘Suited Up for Battle’. This is a ministry of my sweet Judson College sister, Felisha Sealey Johnson, and she asked me to talk about spiritual warfare and our communities. So this blog post is basically what I shared that day, so if you were there, this might sound a bit familiar!
I also want to share the fact that this event was attended by mainly African American women. I was the only white speaker (of 8 for the day). And I want to say that I LOVED IT! First, there is something so enlightening about worshipping with different people in a different style and culture. It’s also incredibly bonding when you see the commonality in it all. We are all children of God, who loves us all the same, regardless of what our skin might look like! And in particular, this group of ladies (and a few men) were so empowering and encouraging to me while I was speaking. They are so full of life and affirming. I wanted to take them all back home with me to my home church so they could teach my fellow church members that it’s okay to be vocal!!
Getting back to the blog topic… here’s some background on me. I grew up in a large A/G church in Birmingham. I feel very blessed that I was taught a lot about spiritual warfare during those years. I saw angels in my bedroom once during a storm. My dad saw a demon slinking his slimy way down the hallway of our house. And I learned very early the power that is in the name of Jesus.
Currently, I am a UMC pastor’s wife. My husband serves at Fayette FUMC. The UMC denomination has an itinerant system, which means they move their pastors throughout the conference. We have served in 8 churches and communities and lived in 10 homes during our 20-year marriage!
NCF – Pinson
Taylor Memorial UMC – Clay
Pell City FUMC – Pell City
Union City FUMC – Union City, TN
Latham UMC – Huntsville
CrossWinds – Harvest/Madison
GracePoint – Mt. Olive/Gardendale
Fayette FUMC – Fayette
So when Felisha asked me about speaking on the topic of spiritual warfare and our communities, I thought I should be able to do that. I know and firmly believe in spiritual warfare. I’ve lived in lots of different communities… Surely I could think of something to say! But instead of it being easy, I struggled coming up with something specific to share about how we can fight the enemy and take back our communities.
The one thing that I did keep coming back to was something all the churches had in common: Churches are full of defeated, broken down Christians. A bunch of wounded, whipped warriors.
Whether I was in a big city like Birmingham or Huntsville or in a rural town like Fayette, rich or poor, big congregation or small, there seem to be more defeated, broken-down, wounded and whipped Christians than victorious, active, healthy, and strong Christians. Thus we have unhealthy, stagnant, and complacent churches, which has a DIRECT impact on our communities.
We can’t talk about how to defeat the enemy in our communities until we learn to defeat him in our personal lives.
On a personal note, in the UMC, where I have been for the past 16 years, spiritual warfare is not a topic that is spoken of often. There are a few that know a little, but it is not taught like it was when I grew up.
C.S. Lewis said, “There are 2 equal and opposite errors in to 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.” Seems that most of the folks I have worshipped with over these past few years either disbelieve or have never truly been taught or exposed to the spiritual realm. And the few that might know something will say something like, “I know of the armor of God – we made some paper armor at VBS!” Let me tell you, that paper isn’t going to protect you from the fiery darts Big Red likes to hurl!! But that’s about as far as their knowledge goes.
Speaking of that armor, let’s look at it. Ephesians 6:10-19 says we have a:
Belt of Truth
Breastplate of Righteousness
Feet shod with Readiness from the Gospel of Peace
Shield of Faith
Helmet of Salvation
All defensive. Armor is defensive. A way to protect ourselves from Satan. But what about our offensive attack?
The last thing in the list is the The Sword of the Spirit! This is our weapon! This is how we take the fight to him!
But unfortunately, in my experience with Christian women, we do not seem to be very skilled in swordfighting!! We don’t know how to use our swords!
What is the Sword of the Spirit? It is the Word of God!
Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
This Word was made flesh when God sent Jesus to us. And this word, as described in Hebrews is dynamic, active, accomplishing God’s purposes. It’s described in the OT and the NT.
Psalm 107:20 – the sent Word heals
Psalm 147:18 – the sent Word melts ice and commands nature
Isaiah 40:8 – it endures forever
Isaiah 55:11 – will not return void and will achieve God’s purpose
Ephesians 5:26 – cleanses and washes the church
James 1:18 – gives new birth
1 Peter 1:23 – gives eternal life
And we have all this at our disposal, and yet we leave it on the shelf, getting dusty, neglecting it. We have our armor on, so that helps protect us. But that doesn’t keep Satan from coming near! But it’s time to fight! Time for an offensive attack! Satan has to keep his distance when our swords are in use!
Now we as women surely know how to use OUR words, don’t we? We talk A LOT. My husband often gives me the ‘let’s wrap it up’ hand signal when I’m in the middle of a story giving every tiny, minute detail! Either face to face, on the phone, or behind a screen, we can use some words… but we don’t know how to use THE Word!
What do we need to do? What next?
A few Sundays ago, we had an acoustic set for worship because our stage was set up for VBS. Our worship leader Sam started singing one of my favorite songs, “Goodness of God”. After he sang the bridge, he went into the chorus of “Surrounded”…
“This is how I fight my battles
This is how I fight my battles
This is how I fight my battles..
It may look like I’m surrounded, but I’m surrounded by You
It may look like I’m surrounded, but I’m surrounded by You”
And it hit me! This is how we sword fight!
Through our praise – singing and speaking of the goodness of God! Especially in the midst of the storm or when the darkness is all around!
Through our prayer – praying His scripture over our lives, our families, our communities!
Speaking His promises.
This is how we fight!
There are 2 stories in the Bible that speak specifically about the power of praise. One in the Old Testament and one in the New Testament.
1 – II Chronicles 20 – King Jehoshaphat of Judah organized a choir which defeated 3 large armies that were set to destroy them.
v.21 – 23 – “After consulting the people, Jehoshphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise Him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: “give thanks to the Lord, for His love endures forever”. As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah and they were defeated. The men of Ammon and Moab rose up against the men from Mount Seir to destroy and annihilate them. After they finished slaughtering the men from Seir, they helped to destroy one another.”
“Give thanks to the Lord,
For His love endures forever.”
That was their song… their war cry… their weapon.
It confused their enemies and they destroyed one another!
In A Woman’s Guide to Spiritual Warfare, Quin Sherrer talks about this very story. She says, “Praise has a threefold purpose in Spiritual Warfare:
1 – It glorifies God and keeps our focus on Him and His power.
2 – It terrifies the enemy and throws his ranks into confusion.
3 – It encourages the believer as he or she proclaims the victory in the spiritual realm before it is manifested in the natural realm.
She wraps up by saying, “Walking in a spirit of praise helps us remember that we fight from a position of victory, not defeat! Y’all, that’s a game changer!! Knowing that you are already victorious gives you the upper hand every time! I actually just read a picture quote on Instagram yesterday that said, “Remember, we are not fighting FOR victory, but fighting FROM victory!” The victory has been won my friends!
2 – Acts 16:16-40 – Paul and Silas are in prison, after being dragged, stripped, and flogged.
v.25 – 26 – “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open and everybody’s chains came loose.”
Praising God, praying, and singing songs of His goodness moved the very foundation of the prison and people were set free! They were wielding their swords for sure! I honestly feel as though the demons fleeing from that place caused such a powerful vacuum that it sucked the air right out of the place and caused the foundation to crumble! Our swords are mighty and swift!
Praying God’s Word is the other way to use your sword.
1 – Speak His name, just like I learned to do as a child. We had this little devil puppet in Children’s Church that would sometimes pop his little head up from behind the stage. We would shout, “in the name of Jesus, get out of here!” And that puppet would FLEE as soon as we said the name of Jesus! I know it’s a silly, simple little lesson, but it has stuck with me for 40 years and I use it on a daily basis!
2 – Speak His promises over situations. I am more than a conqueror. I am a new creation. I am a daughter of the King. He sets a table before me in the presence of my enemies. There is power in our words!
3 – Intercede for others – I go on these medical mission trips annually to Honduras. I’ve seen God move when I have prayed on behalf of a family who couldn’t do it for themselves. They had used every word and every tear they had left. They just needed someone to join in agreement with them. And heaven moves!
4 – Binding and Loosing –Matthew 16:19 – “I will give you keys to the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
One school year, in the Christian school I grew up in, the secretaries would walk the loop around the sanctuary gossiping, just wrapping it up in dissension and division. One of my teacher friends heard about it, and decided to go around doing her own prayer walk around the building! She would walk that circle to undo all the mess that had been wrapped around that building. She was binding what they had loosed and loosed the Holy Spirit round and round again! She was sword fighting loops around that school!
Satan is looking for new ways to penetrate the weak spots in our armor. And let me tell you friends, when you are asked to speak about something, it naturally uncovers all the areas you are weak in! I know that my sword is a bit dusty. I know my skills are a bit rusty. But it’s all about to change. Instead of just standing there, with my back against the wall, hoping he leaves me alone or that he doesn’t see me, I’m going to make him wish he had never messed with me to begin with!
Pick up your swords, girls! It’s time to battle!
Begin to wield them like the warrior princess we have been called to be! Once we do that, we can take back our families, our churches, and our communities.