The Stewardship of Spiritual Warfare
We know from I Peter 5:8 that Satan is always on the prowl, especially when Jesus is on the move. Why are we surprised when attacks on our ministry come? Satan has hated Jesus since the beginning of time and has lied and murdered in every way possible to stop the Lord’s Christ (John 8:44).
Therefore, as ministers of the gospel, we ought to expect to be called upon to be good stewards of spiritual warfare in our ministries. After all, the authority and sufficiency of Christ is tried and proven in the oven of adversity.
Our Stewardship: To fight (agonize) the good fight of faith.
This verse from Paul’s instruction to young Timothy was used in both military and athletic endeavors to describe the concentration, discipline, and extreme effort needed to win. The “good fight of faith” is the spiritual conflict with Satan’s kingdom of darkness in which all men of God are necessarily involved. We do not wrestle against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12), we do not war according to the flesh (II Corinthians 10:3), and our weapons of warfare are not carnal (human) but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds (II Corinthians 10:4). In a word, The Bible clearly says, our enemies are not flesh, our war is not a flesh effort, and our weapons are not human! But when our church is fighting, all we encounter seems to be flesh! We read body language, see angry faces, hear cutting words, and watch the hallway huddles curb their conversation when we walk near. All these signs of flesh give us suspicions about the war with darkness.
A good steward of revival must not be surprised when adversity comes. Adversity is as much a part of life with the Vine as grace, faith, and worship. The Father as the faithful husbandman even uses such adversity to prune us for the purpose of more fruit (John 15:1,2).
Peter helps us here. “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you…” (I Peter 4:12).
In seamless fashion, he continues to equip the believer with six attitudes that will enable him to endure and employ the fire.
- Expect it (v. 12).
- Rejoice in it (v. 13, 14).
- Evaluate the cause (v. 15-18).
- Entrust it to God (v. 19).
- Feed the flock with truth (5:2).
- Take oversight willingly (5:2).
You must lead your flock to do the same. Fighting each other is not an option. Remaining objective when under fire is one of the toughest challenges of ministry.
Don’t fight alone. Two are always better than one and a threefold cord is not quickly broken (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).
A pastor should always be in the process of enlarging his intimate prayer team and building a team type ministry. There is a reason why Jesus sent the 70 out two-by-two and why He called Paul and Barnabas and why Paul only traveled alone once. Paul’s missionary journeys were, for the most part, a team effort. In a multitude of counselors there is safety (Proverbs 15:22, 24:6).
Ellen S. Lister selected quotes from the letters of Samuel Rutherford and put them together in a tiny book entitled The Loveliness of Christ. Many of his letters were an encouragement to ministers who were suffering adversity. This quote is helpful to us here.
I found it most true, that the greatest temptation out of hell is to live without temptation; grace withereth without adversity. The devil is but God’s master fencer, to teach us to handle our weapons.
A reviving from God is not the end of all battles but rather an equipping for battles. The sovereign working of God in revival will prepare us for the sovereignly approved visitation of trials. That’s why stewardship of adversity is so important. God is not protecting us from all warfare but rather providing us with mighty weapons for warfare.
This same pattern is seen in the Apostle Paul’s first missionary journey. (Acts 13, 14). In Cyprus, Antioch, and Iconium, the same sequence appears.
It should be comforting to us to know that this great steward of the mysteries of God (I Corinthians 4:1) also faced great opposition in the process of being faithful. The writer of Hebrews reminds us that, if we find ourselves wearied and faint in our minds, we must fix our eyes on Jesus who endured the contradiction of sinners like no one else. Through perfect obedience He earned the right to be set down at the right hand of the Throne of God (Hebrews 12:2).
We need to be reminded that attacks and adversity is par for the course, especially when God is up to something great. Satan’s devices are varied, and we must not be ignorant of them (II Corinthians 2:11).
Many good books have been written on warfare. I highly recommend Tom Harmon’s book simply entitled, Spiritual Warfare.
God is working through adversity in order to do you, as a leader, a favor. Listen to this from Paul, “For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you” (I Corinthians 11:18,19).
Factions and adversity often reveal those who have passed the test of spiritual genuineness and purity. We will not be able to take the mixed multitude to maturity. “Curious onlookers” and “bread and fish” followers do not make the cut during adversity. Through trials, the “cream” rises to the top and the faithful remnant will appear. Honestly, I have often been surprised at who endures through hard times. Again, in the ministry of Jesus, “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him” (John 6:66). The residual effect of a faithful stewardship during adversity will leave you with a committed remnant who will then follow Jesus.