Spiritual Warfare: Understanding the Enemy

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But He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.'”

– Matthew 16:23

In warfare, the key to winning the battle is understanding the enemy. Military strategists spend a significant amount of time researching the enemy in an effort to understand how they operate. What are their skills? What techniques do they use? Where do they like to hide? What motivates them? What are their weaknesses? You want to learn to think like them so you can anticipate their next move. You want to beat them to it. You want to be ready when the attack comes. You want to be prepared for anything they may bring against you.

The same is true in spiritual warfare.

So who is our enemy?

The easy answer is Satan, Lucifer, the Devil, the Prince of Darkness – and we’ll get to him, but less obvious answer is ourselves. We are often our own worst enemy. I once heard Pastor Steven Furtick say, “The enemy is the inner me.” If spiritual battles takes place most often in our minds, then we have to learn how our minds think. If spiritual battles are the flesh verses the spirit, then we have to learn where our flesh is weak. We have to learn to strengthen our areas of weakness, and we have to learn to build on our areas of strength. We have to learn where we are most prone to attack, and where we are most prone to be attacked.

We need to ask ourselves, how do I pose the biggest threat to Satan? Because whatever that threat is – that’s what Satan will seek to destroy.

We need to ask ourselves, where is my flesh weak? Because wherever that weakness is – that’s where the Satan will aim his weapon of attack.

Think about competitive sports. Athletes and coaches will often prepare for a game by watching, studying, and analyzing videos of past games. They’ll watch their opponent to understand how they play the game, what strengths they rely on, and what techniques they use. But they’ll also watch themselves. They’ll learn from their mistakes. They’ll see where they went wrong. They’ll see where they left themselves open to attack. They’ll see where they made a wrong step or turned a wrong way. They don’t focus on the mistakes to dwell on the mistakes and tear themselves down, but they focus on the mistakes to make improvements and better themselves for the sake of the team.

Obviously we can’t watch our lives on a highlight reel. We can’t rewind, press pause, and zoom in on certain areas of our lives. We can’t always see our mistakes right in front of our eyes – but with prayer, and reflection, we can ask God to reveal it to us. With repentance comes self-awareness and transformation.

We can mentally destroy ourselves from the inside out by the lies we tell ourselves – or we can be transformed from the inside out by renewing our minds (Romans 12:2). A strong and secure inner self, completely dependent on the strength and security of Christ, is fully capable of defeating Satan in his many methods of attack.

In Priscilla Shirer’s Bible Study The Armor of God she talks about the importance of “undisguising” our enemy. She says we tend to make one of two mistakes in our beliefs about Satan, we either 1) overestimate his impact on our lives and live in a constant state of fear and anxiety or we 2) underestimate his impact on our lives and don’t take seriously the spiritual battle that we can’t physically see with our eyes. When it comes to understanding the enemy, there’s a lot we can learn from the many names he is given throughout scripture. As Priscilla Shirer writes, “The names of the enemy reveal his character, intention, and activity.”

He is described as Satan, meaning he is our adversary (Job 1:6).

He is described as Devil, meaning he is slanderous.

Ephesians 4:25-27 says, “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.

He is described as Lucifer, meaning “day star” or “shining one.”

This name is perhaps the most telling. We often are blindsided by his attacks, because we’re looking for a red robe and horns – but Satan comes to us in light. We are drawn to his lures because it is attractive and appealing. Luke 10:18 describes his fall as resembling lighting – the light is beautiful, but the power is destructive.

Isaiah 14:12-14 says, “How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, You who have weakened the nations! ‘But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, And I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. ‘I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.'”

His fall came as our own fall came – with a desire to be like God. His pride was his downfall – and he tempts us to fall in the same way as he fell, the same way he tempted Jesus to fall.

He is described as a Tempter (1 Thessalonians 3:5), and an Accuser (Revelation 12:10).

Matthew 4:1-3 says, “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, ‘If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.'”

His tricks have not changed. In the Garden he tempted Eve by asking “Did God really say…” and with Jesus He asked, “If you really are…” He plants seeds of doubts with his questions. He promises the only power he has to give, the power of this present world.

He is described as a Ruler of the World (John 12:31), a Prince of the Power of Darkness (Ephesians 2:2), and a Father of Lies (John 8:44).

He is deceptive, and manipulative. 2 Corinthians 4:4 says, “In whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

Now that we have a better understanding of who he is, the next question we need to ask is how does he operate?

In The Armor of God, Priscilla Shirer lists 10 different strategies Satan tends to use against us:

  1. Our Passion
  2. Our Focus
  3. Our Identity
  4. Our Family
  5. Our Confidence
  6. Our Calling
  7. Our Purity
  8. Our Contentment
  9. Our Heart
  10. Our Relationships

These are the areas of our lives where we need to hold steady that shield of faith. We need to protect ourselves. These are the areas of our lives that God uses for His glory and the expansion of His kingdom. Therefore, these are the areas of our lives where we pose the greatest threat to Satan. We need to infuse the Word of God into every of aspect of our lives, so that Satan can gain no foothold. If Satan is attacking you, it’s because you’re doing something right. Satan knows he is powerless. He knows he’s been defeated.

Priscilla Shirer writes, “Satan knows that he cannot destroy you. Too late for that. The best he can do (and he intends to make full use of it) is to make your time on earth futile and unproductive, to suffocate you with sin, insecurity, fear, and discouragement until you are unable to live freely and fully. He can’t ‘unseat’ you, but he can intimidate you and render you ineffective and paralyzed.”

When we live fully in our calling, when we walk in the ways of Jesus, and give Him glory in all that we do – then we remind Satan of his rightful place, and it makes him angry. It reminds him that He lost the victory at the cross. He reminds Him that Jesus has defeated death, hell, and the grave – and is seated at the right hand of God.

As Priscilla Shirer writes, it reminds him that he has been disarmed (Colossians 2:15), overruled (Ephesians 1:20-22), mastered (Philippians 2:9-11), rendered powerless (Hebrews 2:14), and all his works destroyed (1 John 3:8).

We have the victory, so let’s live in the victory. Let’s operate from a mindset of victory. Let’s battle as if God is fighting for us and the victory has already been won.

 “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.”

– Romans 16:20

Spiritual Warfare: A Battle of the Mind


For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

– Ephesians 6:12

Our thoughts hold immense power. Proverbs 23:7 says, “As a man thinks, so he is.” Our thoughts contain all our decisions (good and bad), all our habits (good and bad), all our fears (good and bad), all our personality traits (good and bad). They hold all of our hopes and dreams, all of our anxiety and insecurity. Our thoughts contain everything we think about God, everything we think about other people, and everything we think about ourselves. Shame starts in the mind. When we’re worried about what other people will think about us – that starts with a thought. Stress starts in the mind. If we’re worried about the future – it’s because we’re thinking about all the things that could go wrong. The way we think about a situation can be what motivates us and pushes us forward with confidence, or what paralyzes us and holds us back in fear. In times of spiritual warfare, we need to be in control of our thoughts. It is essential to our survival.

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.”

– 2 Corinthians 10:3-6

Sin starts in the mind. We have to take our thoughts captive before they become actions. In Genesis, Eve first saw that the fruit was “good for food, and that it was a delight to eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise” (Genesis 2:6). She had already thought of three justifications for sinning before she ever reached out and touched the fruit. When she took it, she ate it. When she ate it, she gave it to her husband, and he ate it too. It created a ripple effect as all sin does. Satan tempted her. Satan asked the question, and planted the seed of doubt, but Eve reasoned within herself and she acted upon her reasoning.

2 Corinthians 10:3-4 tells us we walk in the flesh, but we war in the Spirit. Walking in the flesh is easy – it’s comfortable, and it comes naturally to us. But war is not easy – it requires preparation and training; it requires a willingness to sacrifice. The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh. According to Ephesians 6, the only offensive weapon we have in our Spiritual Armor is the Sword of the Spirit. This weapon is capable of destroying fortresses. A fortress is defined as “a castle, a stronghold, anything on which one relies” (Thayers Definition). Our sins become strongholds when we start to rely on them. They start to rule over us. They become kings and queens in the castles of our mind – and they must be overthrown. They must be replaced with the King of Kings, the Prince of Peace. Only the Spirit is capable of destroying such strongholds. When we wage war against strongholds with the Spirit fighting for us, we advance into enemy territory. We take the castle captive. We win the victory. We replace those sinful thoughts of the flesh with thoughts of the Spirit. In the Spirit, we find strength for the fight. Matthew 26:41 tells us the flesh is weak, but the Spirit is willing. Romans 8:5-6 says, “For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.”

“Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.”

– Colossians 3:2

We are living in a time of information overload. We have encyclopedias of knowledge at the end of our fingertips. We can google search and find the answer to just about any question we have. We can find opinions on topics ranging from every end of the spectrum. No matter where you stand on a subject, the odds are you can find someone who adamantly agrees and another who adamantly disagrees. Social media is often where Satan does his best work nowadays. From pop culture to political commentaries – there is always something in the headlines causing division. From Instagram influencers to Facebook’s advertising algorithms – there is always something trying to sway our thoughts and opinions. Technology is being designed to get into our minds and anticipate our behaviors, our needs, and our desires. They try to sway us to vote us a certain way, to spend our money a certain way, to look a certain way, to act a certain way, to believe a certain way. If we don’t have control of our thoughts, we can be swayed in any way the wind blows. We have to be firmly planted in the Word of God. We have to focus our thoughts and set our minds on things above.

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

– Romans 12:2

Changing our behavior doesn’t change the source of our problems. We have to renew our minds. We have to get to the root of the issue. If we don’t pull up a weed from it’s root, then it will just grow right back in a matter of time. If we don’t learn to think differently, nothing will ever change. Those strongholds will start to rise up again. Repentance is more than just asking God to forgive us of our sinfulness, it is actively turning away from our sins. To turn away from our sins, we often have to turn away from the things that cause us to sin. The people who tempt us. The situations that entangle us. Our thoughts become actions. Our actions become our habits. Our habits become our behaviors. When we start thinking about God’s truth, we start believing God’s truth, and eventually we start living in accordance to God’s truth. We can’t just accept something to be true because it’s what we’ve always heard. We have to study to show ourselves approved. We have to rightly divide the Word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). We have to take in the truth, reflect on it, think about it, apply it, and let it transform us from the inside out.

1 Corinthians 2:16 tells us we have the mind of Christ. We need to put Him in His rightful place of power and authority. We need to let His truth rule our thoughts. We need to put Him in control, and let Him fight for us. We need to trust Him. He has already won the victory. It’s ours to claim.

“The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You.”

– Isaiah 26:3

Spiritual Warfare: Equipped for Battle


“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 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,”

– Ephesians 6:10-17

The battle we are fighting is not a battle of the physical, but of the spiritual. It is not an earthly battle, but an eternal battle. It is a battle for our hearts, minds, and souls. It is a battle of our flesh verses our spirit. We are facing an unseen enemy – so we have to put our trust in our unseen God. We have to surrender to His power, His authority, and His control. We have to equip ourselves fully with the armor of God. We have to come to God in prayer – asking Him to make us strong, asking Him to help us stand firm, asking Him to equip us with the tools of the trade. Our calling is high. Our mission is clear. And we can do nothing apart from Him.

Every morning when our feet hit the ground, we are entering a battlefield. The enemy is ready and waiting to devour us – so let us hit our knees in prayer and prepare ourselves with spiritual armor. Let us prepare for battle.

Loins Girded with Truth

In spiritual warfare, our enemy is a liar and a deceiver. John 8:44 says, “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” When we understand this key aspect of our enemy, we understand why the first step in preparing our spiritual armor to fight against him is to “gird your loins with truth.” What does it mean to gird your loins? I’ve often seen this image to describe what it would look like in ancient times:


In this sense, the truth keeps us from tripping over our own feet. Is that not what happens we listen to and believe the lies of the enemy? Girding our loins gives us freedom to fully step into the truth of who we are in Christ. Where the lies of the enemy try to box us in and minimize our calling, the truth of God expands our stride and gives us the flexibility we need to progress into enemy territory and receive the victory that has already been won for us.

In more modern times, “girding your loins” is described more like a belt. In warfare, the belt can help provide protection for many of the vital organs in the lower part of the body. The belt is also important because holds the rest of our spiritual armor in place. It gives us a place to safely hold our sword of the spirit, so we can quickly access it when we need it. The belt of truth literally holds our pants up – keeping our vulnerabilities from being exposed to the enemy, keeping us from the shameful nakedness of our sin. The truth is that God is love (1 John 4:8) and love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). The truth is that His blood cleanses us of all unrighteousness (1 John 1:7) and He has nailed our sins to the cross once and for all (Colossians 2:14).

To gird our loins with truth is to wrap truth around us. God is truth. He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:16). We can’t come to the Father except through Him, we can’t overcome the enemy except through Him, and we can’t win the victory over the spiritual forces of evil in this world except through Him. We can’t just gird our loins with truth, we have to gird our loins with The Truth.

The Breastplate of Righteousness

The breastplate of righteousness protects the most vital of organs – the heart and the lungs. Proverbs 4:23 (NLT) tells us to guard our heart “above all else” because everything we do flows from it. Jeremiah 17:9-10 says, “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? But I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve.” We hide the word of God in our hearts so that we don’t sin against Him (Psalm 119:11). Our breastplate is made of righteousness. I’ve often heard righteousness described as “right living.” God’s standard of living is intended to keep our hearts pure. In Psalm 24:4-5, David wrote, “Only those whose hands and hearts are pure, who do not worship idols and never tell lies. They will receive the Lord’s blessing and have a right relationship with God their savior.” 

The heart is what keeps the blood pumping throughout our body. The blood is what keeps us alive, and gives us new life. Our lungs give us the ability to inhale and exhale. God breathed the breath of life into us, and it is His Spirit that keeps us alive. Righteousness hides His words in our heart. If ever we let our shield of faith fall short, our breastplate of righteousness is there to protect the weakness of our flesh from the fiery arrows of the enemy.

Feet Shod with Preparation of Gospel of Peace

The Gospel is good news. The Gospel brings peace. Isaiah 52:7 says, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger who brings good news, the good news of peace and salvation, the news that the God of Israel reigns!” 1 Peter 3:15 tells us to always be ready to give an answer to anyone that asks us about the hope we have as believers. We have to be prepared. We have to be ready to share the good news. The Gospel is good news for all people (Luke 2:10) and Jesus commissions us to go into the world and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). Having our feet shod with the Gospel of peace prepares us for that journey. It protects the soles of our feet from the rocky terrain we may encounter along the way.

When I think about the relationship between feet and the Gospel, I think about the story of Jesus kneeling to wash the feet of his disciples during the last supper on the night He was arrested. He was preparing them for the journey ahead. He knew the warfare they would be coming up against. John 13:4 -5 says, “He got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” When Jesus wrapped that towel around His waist, He was girding His loins. He was preparing for His own spiritual warfare. He knew He would be betrayed. He knew He would be denied. He knew He would be killed for their sins, and for our sins. But He still humbled Himself. He still served. He still sacrificed. When He had finished washing their feet, He said to them, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” He washed their feet and sent them out to the battleground to be messengers of the Good News.

The Shield of Faith

When we are covered head to foot in spiritual armor, the shield of faith provides an extra layer of protection. To use a shield in warfare requires faith. We hold the shield out in front of us with confidence that the fiery arrows coming against us will hit against it and fall to the ground. We trust the shield to take the hits for us. We trust the shield to withstand the impact for us.

In battle, we try to anticipate where our next attack will be coming from. The benefit of the shield is we can move it from one area to another. We move the shield of faith to the areas where we need coverage the most. We need that extra layer of protection in the areas where we feel the weakest. We need a shield of faith in the areas where our doubt is the most present. Satan will take advantage of any inch, any opening, where He could sneak in and cause us to doubt. We have to keep ourselves covered by continuing to trust in God to be our defense against those fiery arrows.

Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” We walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). The greatest strategy of our spiritual warfare, is that we are trusting in a commander with a different perspective than our own. Our God is seated on high. We don’t know when or where Satan may choose to attack. Our vision is limited – but when we put our trust in God then He provides clear instruction to us. Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” We hear His Word, we trust His Word, and we move in accordance to His Word. We put our faith into action, and we watch what He does through our obedience. We watch His faithfulness unfold morning after morning.

The Helmet of Salvation

The helmet of salvation protects our head, our brain – the seat of all our wisdom, thought, knowledge, and understanding. This is a vital piece of armor. We learn through the story of David and Goliath that one single blow to the head can send even the most intimidating of giant warriors crashing to the ground. Salvation guards our thoughts. Romans 10:17 tells us faith comes through hearing the Word of God. We believe with our heart, but Romans 10:9-10 tells us it is made into salvation with a mouth confession. We use our minds to process what we hear, and to formulate what we speak. 2 Corinthians 2:16 tells us we have the mind of Christ. The battle we are fighting is a battle of the mind, and a battle for the mind. If Satan can influence our thoughts, he can influence our actions. That’s why Colossians 3:2 tells us to set our minds on things above and 2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us to take our thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ.

The Sword of the Spirit

As we equip ourselves for battle, the only offensive weapon we’re instructed to carry is a sword – the sword of the Spirit. We are equipped with the Word of God. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Truth. Righteousness. The Gospel of Peace. Faith. Salvation. These are all aspects of our spiritual warfare that we find in the Word of God. His Spirit unites them all. 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” In the NIV, this verse says “all scripture is God-breathed.” That’s what the Spirit does – He breaths and brings life.

When we carry such a powerful weapon into the battlefield, we have to be careful not to abuse that power. We are quick to draw the sword, and we’re often tempted to use it in a way that causes more harm than good. Do you remember what happened on the night Jesus was arrested? When the disciples saw that Jesus had been betrayed, they asked, “Lord shall we strike with the sword?” (Luke 22:49) but they didn’t wait for His response. Scripture says Peter drew his sword and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. But Jesus responded saying, “‘Stop! No more of this.’ And He touched his ear and healed him” (Luke 22:50). 

Jesus doesn’t need us to defend Him. He is more than capable of defending Himself. He is the one defending us. He is the one fighting for us. When we ask for His guidance, we need to wait and listen for His response. When He instructs us to move, we move. When He instructs us to stay, we stay. That’s why prayer is such an important part of our spiritual warfare – prayer is how we communicate with Him. Prayer is how we open our ears, open our minds, and open our hearts. Prayer is how we tune in to His still small voice. Prayer is how we receive our commands to advance, and our commands to withdraw. Prayer is the guiding force of our spiritual warfare. We need only be strong, stand still, and resist the enemy. Our God is fighting for us.

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

– Exodus 14:14 NIV