Next Steps

It could be a husband that doesn’t believe. It could be a daughter trapped in a deceptive relationship. It could be a friend in denial of their alcoholism. It could be a coworker crushed under the weight of depression. However it manifests, we all have people close to us that are imprisoned by the deceptions of the enemy. Whether they realize it or not, whether they ask for it or not, you have a responsibility as a follower of Jesus to fight for them and conduct spiritual warfare on their behalf. Here are seven things you can intentionally do to fight for those you love. All of this comes from Paul’s famous passage on spiritual warfare in Ephesians 6:10-18.

1. Pinpoint the attack (Ephesians 6:12). Our struggle is not flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of darkness. What is it that is driving your loved one’s alcoholism? What is feeding their depression? Don’t just look at the outward manifestation, but ask God for wisdom and discernment until you press through to what’s going on underneath (it could be something like loneliness, regret for past events, trauma, etc.)

2. Saturate the situation with truth (Ephesians 6:14). Your loved one has been shrouded in darkness by the enemy. Truth is a light that will pierce through the darkness, and when your loved one can see, they can begin to step out of the darkness. Speak truth to them (in love), surround them with Scripture, help them remove influences in their live (media or people) that are feeding them lies. As Jesus himself said: the truth will set you free.

3. Bring the herd to the them (Ephesians 6:13). Every verb tense in the passage on spiritual warfare is in the plural. We are not designed to fight our battles on our own. A lion will never attack a herd directly because the herd is too strong. A lion will attempt to pick off his prey one-by-one when they are isolated and alone. If your loved one is isolated, surround them with biblical community. If they aren’t within the safety of a herd, bring the herd to them.

4. Nimbly listen to the Spirit (Ephesians 6:15). There is an attentiveness and perseverance required when battling on behalf of your loved ones. You can’t get distracted or lose focus. When Paul talked about having your feet fitted with readiness, it spoke to an agility and ability to move quickly to be at the right place at the right time. With your loved one, you have small windows of opportunity to speak into them. When those opportunities present themselves, you need to be nimble and ready to act. Pray every day for opportunities and be ready to act when those opportunities come.

5. Start thanking God for the victory and tell Satan to shove it (Ephesians 6:13). The reason Paul tells Christians to “stand” is because we have the high ground. We have the victory through Jesus. Start thanking God in advance for the victory in your loved one’s life and verbally tell Satan to “shove it.” Jesus is more powerful than the enemy and you have his Spirit within you. The victory is yours! Remind yourself and the enemy of that fact regularly.

How do you raise up children in Christ in this difficult world?

That’s a really, good question for parents to ask today. The question is not just how do you raise up kids today? There are a million books out there from a million experts on how to do that. It’s the problem that there are many Christians who are raising their kids the best way they know how, they’re raising them in church, and the kids are still walking away from the faith. The next generation is walking away from the faith at a cataclysmic rate, even though many of them were raised in church. So, what are we doing wrong? What can we do differently? And, not just raise up children in Christ, but how can we raise them in this difficult world? It’s a nod to the fact that culture is rapidly changing from biblical principles, and it’s becoming even more difficult today than it was when we were growing up. So how do we do that?

It’s easy to assume that if culture were more godly then raising good Christian kids would be super easy, right? Well, think about the 1950s, what many people would look back to as the golden age when culture lined up with biblical values. Well, all those kids raised in the 1950s became teenagers in the 1960s, and how did that turn out? The solution has got to be more than just culture, which should give us hope, because culture isn’t going back to the Bible anytime soon.

I would argue a good comparison could be the first century. Think of trying to raise your kids in Christ in the first few decades after Jesus. If you were Jewish, you were considered an outcast from the faith for believing Jesus was the Messiah and you were effectively cut off from your family and community. If you were Greek, you were abandoning the Roman gods and were susceptible to outright persecution from society and eventually the government itself.

In one of these Roman cities, Ephesus, there was a strong Christian community in the city but there was such a backlash against this new movement that a riot started in the city against Christians and the Apostle Paul had to leave the city (Acts 19). After Paul left, the church remained, and there was still a city-wide hatred and resentment towards this new movement called Christianity. Try raising your kids in that environment. Try sending your kids to school in that culture. If they could figure out a way to raise their kids in a difficult environment, so can we.

In Matthew 5 and Matthew 19 Jesus made his thoughts on sexual morality clear, reaffirming the Old Testament view that adultery was a sin and out of line with God’s plan. So, how did Jesus respond when actually confronted with someone caught in sexual sin?

Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. John 8:1-3

What’s significant here? Jesus had already spoken on adultery (Matthew 5 and 19). Perhaps some of these religious leaders were present then and wanted to use his own words against him. Jesus has already made his position on sexual morality known. So what happens when he actually interacts with someone who was “caught in the act”?

By the way, two random things I’ve always wondered: how did the religious leaders catch her in adultery? Were there Pharisees hiding behind bushes? That’s not creepy! Secondly, where’s the guy? Doesn’t it take two to tango? Anyways, here’s what Jesus did:

They made her stand before the group  and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery.  In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”  They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.  When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”  Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

 “No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” John 8:3-11

The Pharisees wanted Jesus to either condone her actions, which would have branded him a heretic, or they wanted him to condemn her to death by the Mosaic Law, which by the way was outlawed by the Romans and would have gotten him in trouble with the Romans. They presented him with a false dichotomy, and instead of going with one of the two options he was presented with, he chose option three. When the world gives you two options, choose option three.

One of the reasons that Jesus shamed the religious leaders here is because in their rush to defend truth and declare what’s right and what the Old Testament Law says, do you know who got lost in all of it? The woman caught in adultery! They didn’t have any regard for her! Jesus didn’t condone her actions nor did he condemn her. In the end, he showed compassion and he cared for her, and he called her to leave her life of sin. When the world gives you two options, choose option three.

Because we live in a fallen world, pain and suffering are unavoidable for us as humans. If you’d like to wrestle with the question of why bad things happen to good people, read here. If you’d like to explore how the Apostle Peter reconciled a good God with pain and suffering, read here. For this post, I want to give you four next steps if you’re currently walking through painful trials:


1. Know that God grieves with you. When a child is hurt, you naturally grieve with them. Even when they do something to hurt themselves and it’s their fault, you still grieve with them. What about when you allow something to happen to your child that causes them pain? Don’t you still grieve with them? God is a good, loving Heavenly Father and God grieves with you when you hurt.


2. Seek the purpose behind the pain. Instead of assuming God can’t be good because there is pain and suffering in the world, a better question would be: what’s the purpose behind it all? I counseled with a father years ago who left his adult son in jail for weeks when he could have bailed him out because he needed his son to understand the full weight of the consequences of his poor life choices, or he would never change. The son couldn’t fully understand it at the time, but there was a greater purpose behind the pain his father was allowing him to go through.


3. Cling to the cross. My youngest son is at the age where he’s testing boundaries, and every once in a while he needs discipline and even a spanking. There are times when I intentionally inflict pain on him through a spanking for a greater purpose, to teach him, to correct him, to warn him against doing something worse that could bring him greater harm.

Whenever I have to spank him, it brings tears to his eyes, and his first instinct, without even thinking, is to hug me. Even though I seem to be the cause of his pain, he needs to know that I still love him. When we walk through trials, when we see evil all around us and we can’t compute, it shouldn’t drive us farther away, it should drive us closer to God. We need to embrace him and know that he still loves us. So, if you ever doubt God’s love for you, look to the cross. Don’t sanitize it. Don’t whitewash it. Allow yourself to be overwhelmed by the pain and suffering Jesus went through, and know that your sins are what caused it, and know that God loved you so much, he still sent Jesus to die on the cross for you. Any time you doubt God’s love for you, look to the cross.


4. Look ahead to the day when pain will cease. Sometimes life just stinks. That’s why the apostle Peter pointed Christians to heaven. There will be a day when pain will cease. As much pain and evil as we see in the world, it is temporary. This world is not our home. We’re going to a better place, and in that we can rejoice!