Seeing Jesus, he cried out and fell before Him, and said in a loud voice, “ What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You, do not torment me.” For He had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For it had seized him many times; and he was bound with chains and shackles and kept under guard, and yet he would break his bonds and be driven by the demon into the desert. And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him. They were imploring Him not to command them to go away into the abyss. (Luke 8:28-31 NASB)
Previously I pointed out that this passage illustrates that there are spiritual forces which can resist even Jesus. In that entry I suggested some defensive measures to take to help protect ourselves against spiritual attack from the spiritual forces at war with us. But I believe Ephesians 6 can be understood to mean that Paul tells us the battle is also offensive in nature. So now I want to explore a protracted offense.
The military has several terms for the wide variety of offensive operations they conduct. I don’t know them all, nor am I familiar with all the different sorts of units used to conduct them. I will give you a brief list made up of the little I do know. Operation orders for offensive action against an enemy, known or potential, include reconnaissance, patrol (through enemy territory), maneuver (military speak for “move carefully”), and screening movement, just to name a few. In protracted engagements, these operations are conducted regularly, frequently, and with a strategic objective in mind. By the way there is an important difference between strategy and tactics. Strategy refers to actions taken by many larger units to meet overall objectives for the protracted engagement; big picture, 1000 foot view. Tactics refers to specific actions taken by smaller units in specific situations to achieve a short-term objective; little picture, in-your-face view (or in the weeds). It takes both to win a protracted engagement. It also takes the right mix of operations at the right time performed by the right units.
THE PROTRACTED OFFENSE
A successful protracted defense requires the following. This isn’t all it requires, or everything necessary to success. These are a few things in common to every engagement, regardless of level, strategy, or tactic employed.
1. Have an objective. In operation orders, the objective of the unit and the other units to either side and above are given (when appropriate). This ensures that anyone in the unit can take actions or make decisions consistent with the overall goals. It provides a degree of flexibility to the soldiers. In spiritual warfare, we need an objective or objectives. Sometimes we call these things “strongholds” and they can be individual or community, or on larger regional or national levels. But at other times the objective can be in support of another unit (person or ministry under attack). In such instances we’re providing fire support, and is another reason we are never to fight alone. Objectives change, and in a protracted engagement, they should. As the war progresses, ground is gained or lost, the objectives change to take advantage of gains or recover losses. Having a clear objective is necessary for the next offensive element.
2. Coordinate movement and fire. It is said that the best teams move in combat like fingers of the same hand. This only comes through relationship, trust and respect for one another on the team. Often it requires much time and conflict both within the team and from the outside. It’s hard to manufacture. But in spiritual warfare, this happens in teams of praying people. They meet together, pray together for specific things (objectives), and search Scripture together for insight, instruction, and direction. They learn each other’s quirks, strengths, weaknesses, and adapt to make the team stronger as each fills a specific roll, but all focused on the same objective. They become five fingers of the Mighty Hand of God. Before such objectives can be addressed by these teams, we first need intelligence of the enemy’s activities.
3. Gather intelligence. In the military, gathering intelligence about the enemy’s activities is huge. It has to be done. To accomplish this, units are tasked with reconnaissance missions, patrols in enemy territory, observation outposts, and more. Often, technology can provide much of this, but rarely offer the quality of human eyes , ears, and brains. As you can imagine, these operations can be extremely dangerous. Without them, the strategy is impossible or flawed. The quality of the information gathered will determine the quality of the strategy, and the success of the employed tactics. In spiritual warfare prayer needs to be focused. It needs to be focused on real issues from the mind and heart of God. This isn’t about gossip from the prayer-chain. This is about actively seeking to know what our determined enemy is up to, and what needs to be done to defeat him. The overall objective is much like the objective of some of our Special Forces, the “Liberation of the Oppressed”. The Kingdom of God wars against a rival kingdom and the prizes are the souls of our Master’s human creatures. Knowing our enemy is key in any offensive endeavor. To this end, information from community meetings at city hall, schools, community organizations, and so on are key. We need to know what our King thinks and desires within these groups to effectively engage our enemy and take or keep territory from him. People there, in each of these venues, whose goal is to recognize and report the perspective of God on what happens and what is said is necessary to conduct any protracted warfare on a spiritual level.
4. Train! It’s not just necessary to know your enemy, you also have to know yourself and your equipment. Tactical units train relentlessly. But they also train for specific missions whenever possible. Training in spiritual warfare is made up Bible study about prayer, and praying. Searching Scripture for God’s perspective on issues, and praying those words to Him about those issues trains us to engage the enemy, and to hear and distinguish the voice of our Shepherd. Since any effective offense requires us to hear from God, our Commander, knowing His voice is crucial. Searching Scripture for His thoughts helps us hear Him better. Then we can have confidence in the assault that we can do all the following:
5. Relentlessly engage the enemy. One truth of combat is that a small, determined unit can often defeat a larger, complacent foe. In combat, attitude is everything. Be determined to win. And be ready to fight as long as it takes. Sometimes a well-timed strike with the right strength, will make a battle quick and decisive. But rarely, once momentum has been lost, is this possible. Then it comes down to endurance. For spiritual warfare, we are out matched. But our King is not, not ever, not in any way. We need to remember that we are outmatched, that we need our Master. With the power of His Spirit, the battle is won. But it’s won as we out last our enemy. See, we can stand in confidence because we already know we win. We know we stand, not our ability and strength, but His. Without relentlessness on our part we bring little to the fight in ourselves. We have to determine beforehand to fight to the end, until we see the enemy fall. Keep fighting. In the face of setbacks, keep fighting. Don’t give territory cheaply, make the enemy pay dearly for it. When direct assault fails, lay in for siege, surround him and choke him out. The Kingdom of God will expand and we will see victory as we continue to stand and fight the enemy. Don’t fear your own limits because our King is limitless!
6. Adapt to the changing battlefield. Things change, and as they do, the ones able to adapt survive. Our King rarely gives us a complete picture up front. As His revelation changes, we need to be ready to adapt to what He reveals. A tactical unit can know a lot about an enemy, but rarely everything. Surprises happen, and the ability to respond appropriately to maintain initiative and momentum is crucial. The same is true with us. We can engage in a fight for a person or people only to find out that there are others about whom we were unaware. Perhaps we stumble upon a hidden enemy stronghold, and the tactic we had planned to use is no longer appropriate. Maybe the person we focused on initially is really not the focus of our King, but another we meet in the process. Adapt, modify, change, adjust, shift, keep our eyes moving, ears open, and mind active. Constantly seek the real objective of our King instead of the sneaky objectives we begin to cling to.
Victory belongs to Jesus. Victory is His eventual outcome. In the end we win with Him. We win because He defeats Satan. Our victory is experienced through faith. Our participation in victory is through prayer. As Paul says,
With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
(Ephesians 6:18-20 NASB)
As we continue in prayer, we will see the enemy fall. And yet, there’s more…
What’s your view through the knothole?