Spiritual Warfare Part II: Roles, Tactics, and Strategies

Introduction

In Spiritual Warfare Part 1,  we gave an overview of spiritual warfare, and we considered a model covering four stages of spiritual activity.

Here in Part II, we’ll cover some roles, tactics, and strategies (short and long-term events) for overcoming the work of Satan and evil spirits. None of these three areas will be covered comprehensively; but hopefully, the approach will initiate or help the process of spiritual discovery and development among the teachers. I have not delineated between offensive and defensive tactics and strategies. For example, the spoken command to a demon is an offensive tactic, and to pray during temptation is a defensive tactic. 

Roles

The Will

In my experience, the role of the will is one of the most crucial elements in spiritual freedom and victory. There are some exceptions to this in some of the biblical examples of possession cases, but in most pastoral works and ministry, a person must want to be free and participate.

My first lesson on the role of the will came very early. As a young leader in the charismatic renewal movement in the 1970s, I was invited to attend a small Western Pennsylvania leaders conference. We were just getting started when a pastor showed up with someone who had a spirit of suicide. The leader of the conference decided to act on the pastor’s request for help. A small set of us would minister deliverance while the others would remain in the conference room supporting in prayer. 

It soon became evident that the girl did not want deliverance and was determined to kill herself. Not to be deterred, we interceded, cast out and read Scripture verses aloud. Somewhere in the middle of the night, around 2:30 or 3:00 a.m. we gave up in defeat… some of us having learned some valuable lessons: 1) that people who do not want deliverance present a significant obstacle to freedom; 2) Satan can and will use people to block the Lord’s work; and 3) if we pay attention, each deliverance session can teach us something about the devil’s tactics or strategies.

Holy Seasons  

Judeo-Christian history has always respected the role of holy seasons in the spiritual life. For Christians, the weeks leading up to Christmas and Easter have been times for reflection and recommitment to the Lord and his work. There seems to be special graces available in these seasons and some of these are graces for spiritual warfare. 

My brother was an alcoholic. All through his early 20s he would come home drunk and create chaos in our family. In his late 20s, he decided that he wanted to get married; but his intended fiancé was determined that she would not marry an alcoholic. After repeated rejections he decided to give up drinking for Lent. He never drank again, and he lived into his 80s. They married and had three children. He never used a 12-step program; no specific prayers of deliverance were prayed; no medicine was taken. I was a young boy at the time, but I could not help but notice what worked: repentance and prayer in the holy season of Lent can deliver spiritual freedom.  

The Body of Christ

Fully engaged life in a Christian body can lead to self-knowledge, discernment, and ministry in the area of spiritual warfare. One of the gifts of maturity listed in Ephesians chapter 4 is the role of pastor. Being pastored is to be known, to be led, and to be fed. People who are deceived don’t know they are deceived. It’s one role of the pastor to confront deception as Jesus did with Peter (Mathew 16:23). But it’s not simply a role of authority; Christian brothers and sisters also play a role in bringing truth into our lives… and truth can bring deliverance.

Language

One of the ways that the devil hides his work among us is through language. For example, the New Testament mentions Satan 34 times, devil(s) 111 times, and enemy 5 times. We are so concerned to be modern or sensitive that we usually use the word “enemy” to describe demons or demonic. The world, the flesh, and the devil are all enemies, but by using the word “enemy” to describe demons it lessens the actual reality of demonic activity.

Sin is sin. It is not a mistake. A mistake is not an intentional wrongdoing. We have all kinds of new secular names for sins and wrongdoing. Demons are demons, gluttony is gluttony, and lust is lust.

Language is important because it conveys clearly (or hides) spiritual realities. 

Tactics and Strategies

In the tactics and strategies topics below, I’ll use a code for each element: “b” for believer, “d” for demon, “t” for tactic, and “s” for strategy – for example, (d,t) means a demonic tactic, and (b,t,s) means the topic is both a tactic and strategy for believers. 

Hiding (d, s)

Then he goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first.” 

Luke 11:26

One common strategy of evil spirits is to “hide” and then return with a vengeance. This is a common experience of folks with some sort of addiction: attending rehab with apparent success, and then later falling under an onslaught of demonic attacks. They “hide”, sometimes to allow the victim to gain confidence and let their guard down. IF we make progress over any addiction or sin pattern, we cannot become cavalier. We must remain vigilant and never turn our back on evil.

Pervert the Culture (d, s)

To pervert something is to alter its course or design; it is also to distort what we originally intended. When we think of perversions, we usually think of sexual standards and behaviors. Satan’s plan is to pervert the entire culture, not just its sexual mores. God has a design for civilization: marriage, sexuality, the roles of men and women, interpersonal relationships, government, etc. When cultures become thoroughly perverted life itself is endangered and justice is denied. Abortion and chaos in the mainstream are the result. By God’s design, marriage is between a man and a woman, men are men, women are women, and sex is for marriage.  

These kinds of topics really are spiritual warfare issues and to turn against God’s design is to predict or welcome increasing demonic activity. Some Christians have become so confused that fornication is no longer considered a serious sin. Interestingly, the statistics show that it’s the worst possible foundation for marriage… a whopping 80% failure rate.

When Christians stand in defense of God’s design, they are doing spiritual warfare… not against school boards, neighbors, and relatives, but against the “powers and principalities” determined to destroy us all. 

No Devil (d, s)

Sometimes ancient Christians saw devils everywhere; Most modern Christians see devils nowhere. This is one primary strategy of the devil: convince everyone, even Christian leaders, that demons were an ancient construct to explain the unexplainable. The result of that approach leaves us unaware and unable to spot the tricks and malevolence of the devil. No amount of medicine brings deliverance. When the medicine wears off… Surprise! They’re still right there! Giving the condition a name does not bring deliverance.

The devil benefits from either extreme: 1) If you see the devil nowhere, you are more vulnerable to his tricks and your guard is down; and 2) If you see devils everywhere you won’t take proper responsibility for the works of the flesh, and you’ll fall prey to the world. 

Fantasy (d, t, s)

The devil loves fantasy since fantasy isn’t truth or reality. The fantasies of pornography are destroying marriages and families. Raising a daughter to think she is a princess can leave her unprepared for the work and commitment of a healthy adult life. 

Now, I know that famous Christian writers have used fantasies to convey certain truths, and I appreciate that. What is not healthy is creating our own version of reality. One Christian leader told me that she didn’t believe in the devil and that hell doesn’t exist! The same word in the bible to describe the eternal nature of heaven is also used to describe hell. You can believe whatever you want, but you can’t change reality. Even in our personal lives, as the devil tries to load us down with guilt from our past, we can’t rewrite history and blame someone else for what happened to us. That would be to live a lie and that lie would take root and have destructive results in our lives. 

Sin is sin and to call it anything else is to deny its evil nature and to deny its power over us. There is a modern tendency to call sin by some other name. The most comical or adolescent one is to call it a mistake. By definition, mistakes are not intentional. If you have stolen something or slandered someone or lusted after someone… those are sins, not mistakes.

It is a strategy of the devil to rename sin and to convince us  that it would be harsh to correct a brother or sister in the Lord for their “mistake”.  

Hypersensitize the Culture (d, s)

We have all seen this in individuals, but when an entire culture is hypersensitive, it seems to have demonic benefits. 

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.

Proverbs 12:1

We need to be trainable to be a disciple. We need to be correctable; we need to be teachable. As a culture, we seem to have now in place great barriers to correction. Anyone who challenges us has crossed some mystical boundary and has become “toxic” to our wellbeing. 

Deliverance often requires some self-knowledge, and self-knowledge often comes from challenge or correction. These hypersensitive defenses have been constructed by the world, the flesh and the devil. 

Success in various endeavors requires challenge and correction, and in no endeavor is this truer than that of discipleship. 

Smashing the Likeness (d, s)      

We are all created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27) and that is the very first statement about mankind in the Bible. When Jesus was questioned about taxes, he asked for a coin and said, “Whose image is on this coin?” (Matthew 22:20) We are like the coin: we are struck and molded in God’s image. Satan wants to repeatedly smash that coin (us) until God’s image is unrecognizable. No matter how much we have been smashed, we still belong to God. Satan’s plan to remake God’s creation in his image, and to make individuals look like him. The beauty of it all is that an initial and repeated turning to Jesus brings deliverance

Fear (d, t, s)

Fear is both a tactic and a strategy of the devil. Fears, regularly entertained and yielded to, can become a long-term condition or obsession. At that point the therapist will have a clinical name for it, but it will often be a spirit of fear. 

This example might help: One day I was taking some neighborhood children for a walk. We turned to cross over a bridge, and one little girl stopped dead in her tracks and announced that she was afraid of heights. I asked, “Who told you to be afraid of heights?” I knew the answer since one of her parents had several limiting fears. I mustered up some spiritual authority and said, “You are not afraid of heights!” (The truth shall set you free). I then had the little girl take one step onto the bridge and then another. She got comfortable with each step until we were at the center of the bridge. She then got so excited with her newly found freedom that she began to climb the railing! I had to then explain there is a natural fear and respect for heights and an unnatural fear. 

I would not say that all phobias are from the devil, but the ones that incapacitate us or interfere with life in the body of Christ certainly should be treated as likely to be demonic.  

Lingering Guilt (d, t, s)

Perhaps the devil’s favorite trick is to keep playing reruns of our past sins which have been confessed and forgiven. The “old me” is like a zombie that the devil wants to prop up and get me into the bondage of guilt. If you are guilty, you should feel guilt (said the Christian psychologist); but if you have repented and received the Lord’s forgiveness, you are unbound and free indeed. You can say to the tempter, “Stop it you little weasel! That sin has been washed clean by the blood of Christ!”

If we spend too much time in the devil’s introspective guilt machine we can develop an approach to our interior life that’s trapped in the past, doesn’t enjoy the present, and does not look to the future with hope.

Christ has redeemed our past. We are victors, not victims. If we let our past define us we become in bondage to past sins. Christ has redeemed our past and enables us to serve him in the present with a life lived in hope for the future. 

It’s good to be free!

Spirits of Infirmity (d, s) 

Evil spirits can be a cause of behavioral problems and a cause of physical sickness as well. We see examples of this in both the Old Testament (Job) and the New Testament. 

And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You dumb and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again.”  

Mark 9:25

We are so therapeutic these days, that we would dismiss the fact that an evil spirit could be the cause of a deaf mute. And similarly, no one questions whether an epileptic or a cancer patient might be under spiritual attack. For us, it’s just a condition that needs a doctor or a counselor. I would say, if that works, fine. If that fails, can we at least consider spiritual causes?

I believe that many of the healings in the crowds that followed Jesus were actually deliverances from the work of evil spirits. Medical science is increasingly connecting physical problems with underlying causes. Some can be purely emotional or situational; some can be purely spiritual; some, many, or most can be a mixture of both.

When several or many spirits of infirmity attack a person, it’s often meant to drain faith and usher in despair… possibly leading to suicide. The devil is a murderer, and he is not playing around. The body of Christ is and has been under attack and we, of all people, should know that the attacker needs to be bound and cast out.

Resist (b, t, s)

Resist the devil and he will flee from you.   

 James 4:7

“Resist” as a direction of Scripture is both a strategy and a tactic for the believer. In my mind, it is one of the most important scriptural instructions for the believer’s spiritual warfare. When all the evil spirits have been told where to go, when all the praying has been done, when fasting is done, etc., the believer will still need to resist over the long haul for lasting freedom. 

James 4:7 is a Scripture with a promise: resist and he will flee. A lot can be learned from these few verses: 1) the devil is real; 2) he is malevolent; 3) he causes problems and divisions (read the full context of James 4:1-12); he CAN BE DEFEATED!

There is a caveat: the Scripture is often quoted without mention of James 4:7a… “Submit yourselves to God.” The true posture for success in spiritual warfare depends very much on souls being “submitted to God”. Our life, our strength, our hope is in the Lord, and we resist evil by the strength of the Lord.

Worship (b, t, s)

A Christian body is strengthened and even delivered by its worship of the Lord. Nothing drives back evil like worship, singing, singing in the Spirit, the recitation of Scripture, and the fellowship of believers. Many of us have experienced a lifting of weight off of our shoulders as worship gets more fervent. 

Commitment (b, s)

The devil hates commitment of the Christian sort. He is a divider and commitment is in the bond of unity. He hates marriage and he would like to eliminate marriage from the face of the earth. He hates peoples’ anniversaries as they are celebrations of commitments they have made. In John 17, Jesus prays for unity. The devil works desperately to block that prayer with his lies, liars, and gossips who create division. Keeping the commitments that we make is a sign of the strength and the presence of God. It reflects his nature.

The Armor of God (b, t, s)

There is an excellent spiritual warfare section in the Scriptures in Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, chapter 6, which describes the armor of God. Paul reminds us that we are contending against powers and principalities, and then he calls us to stand and to put on the armor of God:

            …girded with truth, Ephesians 6:14

            …the breastplate of righteousness, verse 14

            …feet shod with the gospel, verse 15

            …taking the shield of faith, verse16

            …the helmet of salvation, verse 17

            …and the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God, verse 17

He then warns us to “keep alert…” verse 19

The Spoken Command (b, t)

The spoken command is often used both against personal temptation and in deliverance ministry. A personal example for me might be something such as, “Get away from me you weasel. You know that I am happily married.” In this world, the way people dress, speak, act, advertise, etc., there will be many moral temptations and we need to “take every thought captive” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

In deliverance ministry, one spoken command example might be: “Satan, I bind you and all of your hosts in the name of Jesus Christ. You have no authority over Louis (name) and you have no right to harass or oppress him. I command you to leave in the name of Jesus! Louis is covered by the blood of Jesus and is free from anger!” 

A deliverance session would consist of opening prayer, prayer for discernment, casting out evil, strengthening prayer, and anointing. 

There is no specific formula for the spoken command. Sometimes it is general, as in the first example; sometimes it is specific as in the second. The period of discernment and/or the awareness of the problem encountered can guide the spoken command.

It is worth studying the deliverance ministry of Jesus and the different spirits that he encountered, named, and cast out – sometimes using a general term such as “unclean spirits”. 

Scripture (b, t, s) or (d, b, t, s)

One of the most important decisions that a disciple can ever make is the decision to live according to the word of God in Scripture. The devil hates Scripture since it leads us to freedom and reveals God’s plan. The more we know of it, the more that we can use it to thwart temptations. Jesus used it when he was tempted in the desert. So, it is a tactic for the believer. It is also a strategy since as we study it on a regular basis, it forms us and reveals to us the elements of protection against temptation. (See Ephesians 6:10-18). 

The long-term study of Scripture is a major strategy for believers. As we study Scripture the truth of God’s design becomes a part of our fabric: More truth, more freedom! As we study and apply the Scripture to our lives, we become a living bulwark and a prophetic fortress. 

The study and use of Scripture is also a tactic for the believer in the face of temptation or oppression. We see this application by Jesus when tempted in the desert. 

Then Jesus said to him, “Begone, Satan! for it is written,‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”
Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and ministered to him.  

Matthew.4:10-1

Summary and Conclusion

Most Christian bodies have not paid enough attention to the reality of Satan and to the need for spiritual warfare. Scripture on the other hand is loaded with teaching and with warnings about the devil’s activities. This article was intended to “open the discussion” and to motivate our Christian teachers to develop our teaching on spiritual warfare, and to grow our deliverance ministry in leadership groups and small groups. 

This has been an opening discussion of roles, tactics, and strategies, but much more can be developed. We will never be as quick to spot a demon as Jesus was. We will never be as powerful as Jesus was. But I know that we can be a lot more discerning and powerful than we are right now. 

In Part III we will examine a selection of pertinent Scripture passages along with instructions about how to apply the above information in a practical way.  


See related article: Spiritual Warfare Part 1: An Overview 

 Top image of spiritual warfare and man reading the bible, from ChristianPhotoshops.com, © illustration by Kevin Carden. Used with permission.

2 thoughts on “Spiritual Warfare Part II: Roles, Tactics, and Strategies”

  1. Thank you for these 2 articles on spiritual warfare which provide a comprehensive overview of this area. However, as a psychiatrist/psychotherapist, and with many years of experience in prayer ministry also, I think that some of the points relating to mental health issues require more caution.
    First, I have a number of concerns about the example of the girl with “a spirit of suicide”, which I’m afraid may give a misleading impression about the complex issues involved both in suicidality and also in “resistance” (ie when someone appears not to want to change). I do not deny the potential part played by evil spirits and the fact that some people, sometimes, do intend to block the work of God. But we need to recognize that in the vast majority of cases, the reason why people struggle with thoughts of suicide or “resist” change has a lot to do with the overwhelming suffering they experience, not a deliberate intention to make poor choices. Our first step should therefore be to try and understand the reasons for the way the person presents (which in the case of suicidality are likely to be complex) and see their “resistance” as an intrinsic factor to their suffering that needs help in its own right, not merely a moral/spiritual issue requiring confrontation or even blame.
    Secondly, I would query the statement that “the [phobias] that incapacitate us or interfere with life in the body of Christ certainly should be treated as likely to be demonic”. Again, I do agree that evil spirits can often interfere and take advantage of our vulnerabilities. But I am not sure what “to be demonic” in this case means. If it means that demons are the cause, rather than an additional worsening factor, of phobias, then I would hesitate to say that it is “likely” to be the case. Phobias can cause a significant impairment of the person’s functioning, in a way that will appear very irrational or even bizarre to the lay person. Without medical training, people do not realise that many conditions (physical and/or mental) include symptoms which will look very strange in their eyes, but are a standard part of how the illness presents. It can seem rather bizarre or even “freaky”, with the risk of it being labelled as “demonic” in an attempt to make sense of the unfamiliar.

    I really appreciate seeing these articles in Living Bulwark, as I do believe that the whole area of spiritual warfare is indeed a very important one in our lives and outreaches. But discerning its interactions with (mental) health issues is not always straightforward, and I hope a balanced, integrated understanding can continue to be fostered in our circles.
    Blessings, Volodimir

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