Though most of us may not be engaged in physical warfare, God’s word tells us we are always battling “against the spiritual forces of evil” (Eph. 6:12). We sometimes forget this reality when day to day tasks consume us. We rarely take time to think about eternal things because we are caught up in the here and now. We are prone to forget that we are in the middle of a spiritual battle, but this doesn’t mean it isn’t real.
Our forgetfulness leaves us vulnerable to attack. We need to remember that a war is waging, and a real enemy seeks to destroy us. Spiritual warfare is our ongoing fight against sin—anything that opposes God and his purposes. Though this sounds dramatic and a little scary, we need not despair because God is with us in the battle.
Psalm 144:1-2 says,
Blessed be the LORD, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle; he is my steadfast love and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield and he in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me.
In physical warfare, a soldier must train well before he is ready to fight. And during battle, there are times when he must find rest in a safe place. This is also true for believers engaged in spiritual warfare. As Psalm 144:1-2 reminds us, we are called to both train for battle and to take refuge in God, our fortress.
Train for Battle
Throughout his Word, God has graciously warned us about the reality of spiritual warfare, and he has offered himself as the one who trains “[our] hands for war, and [our] fingers for battle” (Ps. 144:1). God also provides armor that will help us to “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might” and be able “to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Eph. 6:10). Putting it on means to practice using the tools that God has given: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of readiness from the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit, and prayer. Putting on the armor of God helps us to both train for and stand strong during attacks from our enemy.
In his first letter, Timothy reminds us of another kind of preparation for battle: training ourselves for godliness. We can do this by watching our teaching (1 Tim. 4:6-8). We must know what God’s Word says in order to determine if the teaching we receive is biblical. Listening to unbiblical teaching will not help us wage war on our sin. Since our hearts are naturally deceitful and wicked (Jer. 17:9), we can be easily overcome by the temptations of this world. Just as the powerful ocean currents cause the tides to shift, so our hearts can drift from the truth if we are not persistently training ourselves according to God’s Word.
Take Refuge in God
There are times when a soldier at war must take cover—find refuge in a safe place. Where do we go for refuge during spiritual attack? Psalm 144:2 says, “[the LORD] is my steadfast love and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield and he in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me.” God is our dependable refuge, unlike any other person or place on which we might be tempted to put our trust. He is steadfast, loving, strong, and able to save. This and many other Psalms proclaim God as a rock—a safe refuge. Here are just a few examples:
Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us (Ps. 62:8).
How do we take refuge in God? We do so by trusting him—putting our faith in him alone—and pouring out our hearts to him in prayer. Spending regular time in God’s Word and prayer will help us to trust him and will guard us from weariness. If we neglect these means of grace, over time our spiritual strength will diminish, and we will likely not stand strong under temptation. If we regularly hear from and call upon the Lord, we will be able to draw from a well of strength in the day of great battle.
This God—his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him (Ps. 18:30).
How do we take refuge in God? We do so by believing the truths of God’s word. Sin often begins when we listen to lies and believe the false promises that Satan makes to us. Instead, when we call to mind a promise of God, which is truth, it acts as a shield of refuge for us. God’s word always proves true. His word is dependable and strong to shield us.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Ps. 46:1).
How do we take refuge in God? We do so by remembering that the Lord is with us. When we who are in Christ were born again, we “were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13). The Lord, who is the Holy Spirit, is now with us at all times. In moments of temptation and attack, the Holy Spirit aids us in the battle by providing strength and refuge with his presence. We can take rest by drawing near to him, knowing that we are not alone in the fight against sin.
Win Some Battles
For those who are born again in Christ, a war wages within us, and the greatest struggle is with our own sinful nature. Though we will always be battling sin on earth, we can make progress. Though we will give in to temptation at times, our goal is to win some battles. Our ability to fight well doesn’t come from our own strength or skill. Instead, our success is rooted in the reality that Jesus Christ has already won the ultimate victory through his death and resurrection. Through his Spirit, the Lord Jesus is training us into his image and offering himself as an ever-present refuge. We can stand strong because this Savior is on our side!