Spiritual Warfare in a Believer’s Life by Charles Spurgeon
“Behold your adversary. Though you cannot see his face and detect his form, believe that such a foe withstands you. He is not a myth, nor a dream, nor a superstitious imagination. He is as real a being as ourselves…I hate the devil worse and worse every day, and I have vowed, if it is possible by preaching the Word of God, to seek to shake the very pillars of Satan’s kingdom.”
Whatever the number of people is who don’t believe that there’s a God, I suspect the number who don’t believe the devil is real is even higher. The world in general doesn’t seem to take Satan too seriously, often lumping him into the same category as vampires and zombies. We see this evident in the growing number of TV programs and movies about the supernatural. On the other hand, amongst Christians, either the topic of demonic activity is almost ignored, or it’s given too much attention and credit. C. S. Lewis commented,
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.
We as Christians should have no doubt that Satan is real from the many references to him in the Bible. Jesus not only taught about the Evil One, but faced-off with him in the desert (Luke 4 & Matthew 4). The apostles warned and instructed about “the wiles of the devil.” Key passages that speak of Satan and his activity include Job 1 & 2, John 8:44, Ephesians 6:11, I Thess. 2:18, James 4:7, I Peter 5:8-9, along with several references to Satan in Revelation as well as other places in both the Old and New Testament. So this is a topic which we should not just brush aside but should become knowledgeable about.
Charles Spurgeon preached many sermons on the subject of spiritual warfare. He wrote,
Though a spirit, he has as much real power over hearts as we have over the hearts of others, nay, in many cases far more. This is not a vision of the night, no phantom of a disordered brain. That wicked one is as sternly real this day as when Christ met him in deadly conflict in the wilderness of temptation.
Spiritual Warfare in a Believer’s Life, compiled and edited by Robert Hall from various sermons preached by Spurgeon, is very helpful as the Prince of Preachers not only looks at the methods and activities of Satan, but emphasizes Christ’s victory over Satan, sin, and death and what that means to the believer. When Christ uttered His final words, “It is finished,” on the cross, He expressed the fact that He had completed the work that He was sent by His Father to do by accomplishing redemption for His people and defeating the enemy, Satan and death. Spurgeon reminds his readers that those who are in Christ share in His victory and can overcome Satan’s attacks as we become equipped and stay vigilant. Spurgeon knew what it was to be under attack, spiritually and emotionally, and these messages are grounded in the truths of scripture, and provide practical help and encouragement to the believer today.
In the chapter entitled, “An Antidote to Satan’s Devices,” Spurgeon considers the methods used by the Evil One to attack believers and what recourse we have. Satan is crafty and subtle, so we must be constantly alert. Spurgeon says,
I believe that Satan seldom attacks a man in a place of strength, but he generally looks for the weak point, the besetting sin…Unless the Lord should help us, this crafty foe might easily find enough joints in our armor and soon send the deadly arrow into our soul, so that we should fall down wounded before him.
The devil is clever with regard to the weapons and agents he uses, and even the timing at which he chooses to attack. Spurgeon points out that one of Satan’s most clever methods is to take the very words of scripture and twist them in order to cause guilt, doubt, or discouragement. This is essentially how he began the turmoil in the Garden of Eden, when he said to Eve, “Did God really say…?” He will sometimes bring to mind old sins, or previous doubts, or new temptations or unexpected troubles. He will seek to attack when we are vulnerable – weak, sick, distressed, grieving, distracted, overwhelmed. He at times will use someone you love, trust, or respect to bring hurt or discouragement into your life. This last point can serve as a warning not to allow Satan to use us as his agent of harm against others. No matter how or when it happens, our two resources for repelling and defeating Satan are the Living Word and the Written Word. We look to Christ to give help, wisdom, and strength, and we look to the Scriptures for reminders of the truths and promises of God.
In “Christ the Conqueror of Satan,” Spurgeon takes a close look at the “first gospel sermon ever delivered upon the face of the earth” – Genesis 3:15. Here we see God immediately step in to rescue man from the jaws of death, ie. eternal separation from Himself, with His promise to destroy Satan by means of a coming Conqueror. By putting enmity between the serpent and the seed of the woman, all her spiritual seed, (all those who are in Christ), from that time on would fight against this enemy Satan alongside and by the aid of their Champion, who would utterly defeat him. Do you not feel this utter hatred for the serpent? Do we not take joy in any little defeat over him that our Great Champion gives us the strength and grace to accomplish?
Spurgeon draws lessons about spiritual warfare from the account of Job, the incident of Christ’s temptations in the wilderness, and the passage on the armor of God. Here are some observations and exhortations that Spurgeon makes that I found particularly helpful:
- Those who serve in the gospel ministry or are spiritual leaders are likely to be especially targeted by Satan, as he views the Lord’s people, “especially the more eminent and excellent among them, as the great barriers to the progress of his kingdom.”
- Unlike God, Satan is not all-knowing or everywhere present. Therefore he must depend on his servants to do much of his work. Spurgeon observes, “We may not be notable enough among men to be worth his trouble, but he has a whole host of inferior spirits under his supremacy and control.”
- If he cannot destroy a believer, Satan desires at least to weaken or lessen his or her usefulness and effectiveness in God’s kingdom.
- God has given Satan freedom and power to tempt and afflict His people in order to humble, sharpen and awaken them.
- Some of the things Satan observes and uses to his advantage in attacking the people of God include: our personal weaknesses, our attitudes, our relationships, our living conditions or status, and our affections (the things we value and love).
- Satan is very cunning in his methods of temptation. He looks for opportunities when we are in a weakened or vulnerable state to tempt us to doubt who we are in Christ or to tempt us to try to deal with our troubles in our own way instead of God’s.
We can see examples of this last point in the devil’s temptations of Jesus. We can also learn from this account the best way to defend ourselves against his attacks. Spurgeon repeatedly reminds the reader that God’s Word, the Scriptures, is our main weapon for defeating our foe. When Jesus confronted the devil, “He had a great choice of weapons with which to fight Satan, but He took none but this sword of the Spirit…Jesus selected the best weapon. What was best for Him is best for you.” Using the Word of God as His only tool of defense, Jesus was able to defeat doubt, resist temptation, avoid compromise, all the while remaining calm and eventually chasing away the enemy. He knew its power and always had it ready for use. For as Spurgeon points out,
This weapon is good at all points, good for defense and for attack…You cannot be in a condition that the Word of God has not provided. The Word has as many faces and eyes as providence itself. You will find it unfailing in all periods of your life, in all circumstances, in all companies, in all trials, and under all difficulties. Were it fallible, it would be useless in emergencies, but its unerring truth renders it precious beyond all price to the soldiers of the cross…Nothing makes a man self-contained, cool, and equal to every emergency like always falling back upon the infallible Book and remembering the declaration of Jehovah, who cannot lie.
If he can, Satan will even try to twist the words of Scripture in our mind so we might use it to justify or validate sinful or harmful choices. He did this with Eve, he tried it with Jesus, and he will try it with you, believer. This is why it is so important to know the Word well. Value, revere, and treasure it; study and memorize it; understand and apply it.
Spurgeon discusses the ways in which the devil is a “roaring lion seeking whom he may devour” (I Pet. 5:8). He reminds us that Satan is always on the move and active; certainly we observe signs of his presence and activity everywhere we look around us. But we need not look far to know that he finds opportunities in our own individual lives and hearts, when we are distracted or overwhelmed by worldly matters, or spiritually inattentive, to pounce by means of temptation, evil thoughts, persecution, fear or doubt. In spite of the fact that Jesus assured that the gates of hell would never prevail over His church, Satan has always and is constantly looking for ways to hinder believers and the progress of Christ’s kingdom.
The history of the Old Testament is a history of Satan endeavoring to hinder the work of the Lord. It has been the same since the days of the Lord Jesus Christ, When Jesus was on earth, Satan hindered Him…When the apostles began their ministry, Herod and the Jews sought to hinder them; and when persecution failed, all sorts of heresies and schisms broke out in the church: Satan still hindered them…If we toil in the field, he seeks to break the plow; if we build the walls, he labors to cast down the stones; if we would serve God in suffering or in conflict – everywhere Satan hinders us.
With this thought in mind, Spurgeon reminds his readers that we are soldiers, and that we cannot be both the friend of God and the friend of the world. Although children and servants of the King, we are temporarily living in enemy territory. This Enemy is one that will never offer a truce, one with whom we can never come to terms of peace. There can be no negotiating or compromise. Yet, we are not left alone or unequipped to navigate this territory. Spurgeon describes the spiritual armory that is available to us as outlined in Ephesians 6 and provides some insight into their importance and use to us on the battlefield. Before he left them, Jesus reminded His followers, “In the world you will have tribulation: but be of good cheer (take heart, have courage); I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). We are soldiers, but we have a Champion who has already won the war. With boldness we can move onward, in the power of His might, and armed with the Sword of the Spirit!
Other books in the Christian Living Classics series taken from Spurgeon’s sermons and compiled and edited by Robert Hall include:
Related sites and articles
- The Spurgeon Center (center.spurgeon.org)
- A Sneak Peek Behind Enemy Lines (www.imallbooked.com)
- One Great Question to ask a Friend (www.challies.com)
- Daily Readings from the Prince of Preachers (www.imallbooked.com)