40 Days of Discipline


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40 Days of Discipline:  Day 9 – Spiritual Warfare

1To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.  In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.  10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11 To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 5:1–11, New International Version)

Theme:  The Local Church

Context:

Thank you very much for considering the questions about Spiritual Warfare posed yesterday, and as always, we are grateful to those who posted comments.  As we continue our focus on Spiritual Warfare, we will consider a Bible passage that reminds us, we have a prowling enemy.  If you have ever watched programs like National Geographic, you will certainly know that predators love to kill animals who stray from the herd.    

Bible Passage:

Please prayerfully read 1 Peter 5:1 – 11 (presented above).  Importantly, the passage is targeted at the church (“All of you”) and presents an ominous warning about our enemy and an encouraging reminder of who has ultimate power. 

Question:

Based on the passage, what are some of the practical ways that local churches can respond to the warning and the assurance?


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40 Days of Discipline:  Day 8 – Spiritual Warfare

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.  (2 Corinthians 10:3 – 5, New International Version)

Theme:  Local Church

Context:

I gained so much from the comments left during our consideration of the Discipline of Bible Study.  Thanks so much to everyone who left a comment.  We turn our attention today to the Discipline of Spiritual Warfare.  As we did for Bible Study, we will dedicate today to answering some questions about Spiritual Warfare and your local church. 

There is always a risk that local churches either underplay spiritual warfare (i.e., act as if it doesn’t exist or isn’t an issue to concentrate on), or overplay spiritual warfare (i.e., describe almost every negative occurrence as demonic).  The questions that follow are meant to promote explicit thinking about the local church’s response to spiritual warfare.  The questions recognize that the enemy often uses deception, greed, pride, indiscipline, and division as weapons against local churches.

Again, please note that you will not be expected to share your answers to the questions. 

Primary Questions:

  1. Does your local church teach about spiritual warfare, including the enemy’s desire to destroy local churches and God’s ultimate assured victory?
  2. Does your local church consistently pray for church leaders, recognizing that Satan likes to destroy leaders?
  3. Does your local church have grievance and disciplinary policies?
  4. Does your church have access to resources to deal with mental health challenges?

Optional Secondary Questions (if you have the time):

  1. Does your local church have a conflict resolution process?
  2. Does your church have policies targeted at protecting the vulnerable (e.g., vetting process for those interacting with children)?

Commentary

While you are not expected to share your answers to the questions above, we would still love to hear from you.  Based on your answers to the questions, what are your thoughts about the treatment of spiritual warfare in your local church?


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 9 – Spiritual Warfare

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. (1 Corinthians 9:24 – 27)

Theme:  If not You, then Who?

For those among us who are not sports fans, let me apologize at the outset for the sports analogies in this post.  I am blaming this on the Apostle Paul 😊. 

One of the sad outcomes of Spiritual warfare is unfruitful labour on the part of Christians.  As we saw yesterday, the devil doesn’t want to see believers win.  In our passage for today, the Apostle Paul offers a winning approach that is not always popular – self-discipline. 

We do not know exactly which games Paul was referring to in 1 Corinthians 9, but from historical records we know a lot about the games at the time of Paul’s writing.  Here is what one of the dignitaries of the day had to say about the games:  “If you have worked hard enough to render yourself worthy of going to Olympia, if you have not been idle or ill-disciplined, then go with confidence; but those who have not trained in this fashion, let them go where they will.” It appears that training hard and being disciplined was a part of the sports culture during Paul’s era.

This provides some context for Paul’s passionate statements and highlights the importance of self-discipline for success in spiritual warfare.  I must emphasize that being disciplined does not mean that you rely on your own strength.  Reliance on God is essential, and we also have our part to play.    

Please read the passage above and consider the question below.

Question

What is Paul’s motivation for being so disciplined and why is his motivation important?


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 8 – Spiritual Warfare

1The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”

But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord. (Jonah 1:1 – 3)

Theme:  If not You, then Who?

Yesterday’s commentaries related to the Discipline of Bible Study provided some superb testimonies.  I strongly encourage you to read them if you haven’t done so yet. Thank you very much to all who shared!

Today we turn our attention to the Discipline of Spiritual Warfare.   When we decide to work in God’s army the one thing we can be assured of is opposition.  Here are just a few Biblical examples:

  • Moses opposed by Jannes and Jambres (2 Timothy 3:8)
  • Nehemiah opposed by Sanballat and Tobiah (Nehemiah 4)
  • Jesus opposed by Satan (Matthew 4:1 – 11)
  • The Apostle Paul opposed by Satan (1 Thessalonians 2:18)

Sometimes spiritual warfare doesn’t show up as an external adversary.  There are also internal battles that have the potential to blow us off course.  The story of Jonah in our passage for the day is a good case in point.  God issued clear instructions to Jonah.  Yet, instead of heading to Nineveh as God instructed, Jonah heads to Tarshish, which is thousands of miles away from Nineveh.

Please read the passage above and consider the question below.

Question

What are some key pitfalls (external or internal) we should be mindful of that run counter to God’s direction?


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 9 – Spiritual Warfare

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.  10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.  (1 Peter 5:8 – 10)

 

As Christians, every day we have the tremendous opportunity to demonstrate spiritual victory through the power of God in our lives.  The enemy is on the prowl and we must be ready for the battle.  In this war, neutrality is not a Biblically proposed option.  People around us are crying out for evidence of victorious living, and if we are obedient to God’s word, we can demonstrate who is really victorious (God) and who is vanquished (Satan).  A victorious Christian is a potent witness to A World in Need.

Please prayerfully read the passage above and answer the following question.

Question

The admonition to “Be alert” in verse 8 above comes from a Greek phrase that means “with the waist of your mind being girded.”  This speaks to being prepared.  Why is this so important in Spiritual Warfare?

 

 

 


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 8 – Spiritual Warfare

1By the humility and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you—I, Paul, who am “timid” when face to face with you, but “bold” toward you when away!  I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world.  For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.  And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete. (2 Corinthians 10:1 – 6)

 

Over the last three days, we have certainly seen how the Discipline of Bible Study is key to providing what the world desperately needs – God.  Today, we switch our focus to the Discipline of Spiritual Warfare.  Will the relevance of this Discipline to A World in Need be as obvious?  Let’s consider this over the next two days.

When we speak of a world in need we are, of course, referring to people in need.  However, the world can also be defined as the kingdom ruled by Satan.  As Christians in Satan’s domain, we are by definition at war, whether we acknowledge it or not.

Please prayerfully read the passage above, and note the presumption that we are at war.  Also, note the power God provides and what it is capable of doing.

Questions

  • How conscious are you of the spiritual battles around you?
  • In what ways might unbelievers benefit from Christians practicing spiritual warfare?

 

 

 


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 9 – Spiritual Warfare

15Moses turned and went down the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands.  They were inscribed on both sides, front and back.  16The tablets were the work of God; the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets.  17When Joshua heard the noise of the people shouting, he said to Moses, “There is the sound of war in the camp.”  18Moses replied: “It is not the sound of victory, it is not the sound of defeat; it is the sound of singing that I hear.”  19When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain. (Exodus 32:15 – 19)

 

From the passage above we observe something that is very disturbing.  While God’s glory was clearly on exhibit on Mount Sinai, the Children of Israel who could see this exhibition still turned to an idol because Moses was “delayed” in returning to them.  How could things get so distorted?  We will not get into full blown explanation here, but one thing is very clear: if we are not vigilant we can turn from God’s glory to idols.  That is the nature of spiritual warfare.

Thankfully, God has provided all that we need to be vigilant and victorious.  The Holy Spirit desires to open our eyes to the resources documented in God’s word.  For example, The 40 Days of Discipline website provides the following three Biblically based suggestions for engaging in spiritual warfare: 1) Subdue your temptations; 2) Establish yourself in community; and 3) Put on the full armor of God.

 

Question

In the matter of spiritual warfare, on a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your Awareness Quotient (consciousness of the spiritual battle) and your Reliance Quotient (dependence on the weapons God provides)?


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 8 – Spiritual Warfare

5The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world.  6And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to.  7If you worship me, it will all be yours.”  8Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’ (Luke 4:5 – 8)

 

As we considered the Discipline of Bible Study over the past three days, many of us confessed that despite our deep desire to study the Bible, we often fall short of the mark.  We are clearly in a spiritual battle.  It is probably timely, therefore, that today we switch gears to the Discipline of Spiritual Warfare.  This Discipline addresses the fact that believers are engaged in a struggle every day, for “we wrestle not against flesh and blood.”  So, how do our struggles relate to God’s glory?  Well, the story of the temptation of Jesus demonstrates one clear way. The devil wants us to settle for counterfeit glory.

 

Please read the above passage carefully and answer the questions below.

 

Questions

  • What are some of the ways that we are tempted to pursue counterfeit glory?
  • What can we learn from Jesus’ response?


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 9 – Spiritual Warfare

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.  The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”   Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”   Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple.  “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”  Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”. (Matthew 4:1 – 7)

 

One of the classic Biblical passages on Spiritual Warfare is, of course, the temptation of Christ found in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke.  Interestingly, in the first two temptations there are clear references to identity (“If you are the Son of God”).

Please prayerfully read the passage above which captures two of the temptations and consider Jesus’ response to the devil.

 

Something to think about:

Recognizing that it is the devil’s strategy to attack the identity of God’s children, how does your response strategy stack up against the approach Jesus adopted?


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 8 – Spiritual Warfare

15 I do not understand what I do.  For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.  16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.  17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.  18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.  For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.  19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.  20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. (Romans 7:15 – 20)

 

Today we switch gears to the Discipline of Spiritual Warfare.  This Discipline highlights the reality of the struggle that believers engage in every day, for “we wrestle not against flesh and blood.” This is a struggle that many avoid thinking about but the Bible certainly doesn’t avoid the topic.

Please prayerfully reflect on the passage of scripture above.  It provides a powerful statement of Paul’s struggle, which can certainly be viewed as a struggle of identity.

 

Something to think about:

We are often encouraged to focus on victories in our Christian walk. That is, of course, appropriate encouragement because “greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world”.  However, in the passage above Paul exhibits clear vulnerability.  In the spiritual battle for our identity, how might the kind of vulnerability exhibited by Paul prove valuable?