Spiritual Conflict – Play it Down and Pray it Up!

We live in a material world! God gave us physical bodies and called them “good.”  Science helps us measure things and make sense of this world.  There are some who put science against faith and tell us that they are mutually exclusive.  This is hard to say in a world that has elevated science so dramatically – “but science can’t tell us everything.” 

There is another dimension to reality that science can’t measure.  Scripture calls it the “unseen world” (Ephesians 6:12).  There are dynamics at play in the universe that we don’t fully grasp, but Scripture teaches that these dynamics are very real. 

Dr. Greg Boyd has said that we have two perspectives to choose from as it relates to our approach to life - we can approach life like it’s a vacation, or like it’s a battlefield. If we approach life like it’s a vacation, we will pursue comfort and pleasure at any cost with prosperity being our ultimate prize!  But if we consider that life is more like a battlefield, we will become aware of the real dynamics at play in the unseen world that are waging war against our souls and respond accordingly.

Martin Luther wrote; “The battle for the souls of men, is really a battle for the minds of men.” This spiritually charged world that we live in is fought in the mind.  Thoughts and ideas can carry us to places that can be virtuous and good, or opposing thoughts and ideas that can entice, intimidate, and tempt us to move in unhealthy and destructive directions. 

Spiritual conflict can occur in the mind and it plays out often in relationships.  The most well-known passage in the New Testament that talks about spiritual conflict in the unseen world is found in Ephesians chapter 6.  Right after Paul makes great effort to teach about healthy relationships between husbands and wives, parents and children and workplace relationships.  Then he writes these words …

A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.  For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
— Ephesians 6:10–12

There is often more going on than what we can immediately recognize!  This is not about looking for a dark spirit under every rock, or about spiritualizing all of our problems away.  The material world needs to be enjoyed and engaged while recognizing things in the material world can be significantly influenced by dynamics in the spiritual dimension of life.  Both are equally real!

One day Jesus turned to Peter and said; “Get behind me Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” (Matthew 16:23). Peter was suggesting to Jesus that dying in Jerusalem was not part of the mission.  The words Peter spoke words that were in direct opposition to the mission of Christ. This interaction Jesus had with Peter reminds me that the voices and messages we hear can be spiritually charged and can be oppositional to the ways and will of God.  

Let’s be discerning as we consider the “unseen” world that shows up in the “seen” reality of our day to day lives. A mentor of mine once said when encountering dynamics that are hard to discern; “Play it down and Pray it up!”  This is how we thrive in a world that is spiritually charged!! Don’t make more of it—make more of God!