Thank God for the Blacksmiths!

I don’t know a lot about war, but I know this much: weaponless armies don’t win many battles. This is as true in spiritual warfare as it is in any other military endeavors.

God brought this to my attention the other day when I was reading in 1 Samuel. For decades, the Philistines had oppressed the Israelites. In spite of their boorish reputation, these Philistines were not stupid. They knew that if they kept the Israelites unarmed, they would have the upper hand. So the Philistines created a monopoly on blacksmithing. I’m not sure how they pulled this off, but they did—it says so in 1 Samuel 13:19: “There were no blacksmiths in the land of Israel in those days. The Philistines wouldn’t allow them for fear they would make swords and spears for the Hebrews.”

As I puzzled over this passage, the Holy Spirit made some connections for me. There’s a battle raging all around God’s people—but many of us are weaponless, or act is if we are. Just as he did in Samuel’s day, the enemy continues to work hard to keep God’s children unarmed and defenseless.

Our weapon, of course, is God’s Word. However, in spite of the fact that Bible ownership in the United States is at an all-time high, Bible literacy is in steep decline. The Christian Post reported that “Although approximately 88 percent of Americans reportedly own a Bible, less than half of those people read the Bible more than once a month.”*

Could this explain why many describe our culture as “post-Christian”?

If God’s people don’t read, study, and internalize His Word, we are easily taken in by the enemy’s subtle deceptions. We fall for his perversions of the truth. We embrace his twisted world view. We naively adopt his self-serving attitudes. We fall for his discouragement and intimidation. We stand helpless when he robs us blind of everything that matters. And our whole culture pays the price.

Sometimes we get the impression that spiritual warfare is as simple as knowing a few choice verses that we can lob at the enemy when he attacks. We might toss a few grenades, reminding the devil that we’re “the head, not the tail” and that “no weapon formed against [us] will prosper” (Deuteronomy 28:13; Isaiah 54:17).

But winning spiritual battles requires a lot more than knowing a few key verses. The whole counsel of God’s Word is our arsenal. Being effective in spiritual warfare is

  • having the right word for every occasion, as Jesus did when Satan tempted Him (see Matthew 4).
  • knowing Scripture so well that we are able to discern the subtle ways the enemy twists it.
  • finding strength and hope in God’s truth so that the enemy’s arrows of fear and defeat don’t take us out.
  • being grounded in God’s wisdom so we understand the times we live in and know how to respond to them.
  • Being trained—by God’s Word and His Spirit—in godliness (see 1 Timothy 4:8) so that we are in a constant state of battle-readiness.

Unlike ancient Israel, there are still blacksmiths in our land. Thank God for that! We have nearly limitless opportunities to purchase, study, enjoy, and be fortified by God’s Word. Oh, friends, let’s do it! Let’s be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power so that when the day of evil comes, we can stand our ground and keep standing! (Ephesians 6:10, 13).


Foul Play

The enemy plays unfair. He tempts you with a thought, and then condemns you for having it! I’ve been the target of that cruel strategy far too often—as most of us probably have. We know that God says, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” But somehow it’s seems easier to believe Satan’s accusation, “You are nothing but a sinner. Always have been always will be. You’ll never change, you’ll never overcome your sin. So why bother trying?”

When Satan goes after me like that, even if I don’t actually give in to the temptation, I usually spiral into a slump of defeat and disgrace. I feel so much shame that I can barely eke out much more of a prayer than, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.” If I’m not very careful, I can get stuck there.

However, contrary to what the deceiver tries to convince us of, temptation does not equal sin. Tempting thoughts do not equal sinful actions. They can lead there, obviously, but temptation on its own is not sin. So I am getting pretty fed up with the enemy raking God’s children over the coals for being tempted.

But here’s the thing: if it were up to us to overcome sin and temptation, we could never do it. The enemy’s temptations are powerful and cunning. He’s both smarter and stronger than we are. So when he says that we will never change (and a thousand variations on that theme), in a sense, he’s right. We won’t—certainly not on our own feeble steam. However, and this is a huge however—it is Christ’s resurrection power at work in us that transforms us. And it is Jesus’ blood that delivers us. We do not save ourselves, we do not heal ourselves, we do not change ourselves—God does it all.

Today, the Holy Spirit directed me to some Scriptures that I can take up as my shield of faith whenever the enemy lobs his arrows at me. They all have the same theme—it is God in me that does the work, not me. I belong to Him, He is invested in me, and He will not let me fall to the evil one. Here they are:

  • “The Lord will fulfill [his purpose] for me; your love, O Lord, endures forever–do not abandon the works of your hands” (Psalm 138:8).
  • “He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:8).
  • ” I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns” (Philippians 1:6).
  • “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (Philippians 2:13).

These verses help me to believe that when the enemy goes at me with those below-the-belt accusations, I don’t have to prove or justify anything. I don’t have to show him how much progress I’ve made in sanctification. Instead, I can stand up to him on the basis of what God’s Word says. I can remind myself—and him—that I’m counting on God to do for me what He says He will do.

What Scriptures do you pray and use when the enemy tries to take you out?