The Necessity of War
The enemy is incredibly real and sinisterly powerful. He walks about like a roaring lion, is the prince of the power of the air, and is even called the son of the morning. He was created gloriously majestic but in the pride of his heart he wanted to ascend to the throne of the Most High and become like his Maker. As a result God scattered him in the imagination of his heart and has put him down from his throne. He and his fallen angels now await the everlasting fire that has been prepared for them.
How does this have to do with you and me, you ask?
Well Satan hates God and everything that has to do with Him, including us. Because we were made in the image of God, Satan loathes us and will do anything and everything in his power to destroy us with himself by keeping us disconnected from the Bridegroom of our soul.
This would be a cause for great fear if it were not for Him who is for us, who holds the world in His loving hands.
Satan may roar like a lion but he is nothing compared to the Lion of Judah. He may be the prince of this world, but he has to ask permission from the King of Kings and Lord of Lords before doing anything. Satan may even be able to transform himself into an angel of light to confuse some, but our God is the Unapproachable Light who enlightens those who seek after Him.
Satan is an expert at waging war against mankind and his tactics are ruthless. He has had many thousands of years of experience and the war against him should not be taken lightly. However, God has not left us alone and has even allowed this warfare for our salvation. What follows are four tactics essential in fighting the enemy:
1. Never Rely on Yourself
“Not to rely on oneself is so necessary in our struggle, my beloved, that without this, be assured, not only will you fail to gain the desired victory, but you will be unable to resist the smallest attack of the enemy. Engrave this deeply in your mind and heart”
The first step is to realize that your enemy is just too strong for you. Never ever think you are safe but always expect temptation until your last breath. One of the crafty wiles of the devil is to withdraw for a time giving you the false sense that you have overcome some sin after much struggle. Then, when you have let down your guard he attacks with such fierceness that your fall is so great you cannot fathom how it happened.
It is important to remember the words spoken to St. Anthony when he asked who could overcome the snares and traps laid by the enemy. “The humble” came the gentle reply. Pride is detestable to God so He will withdraw His grace if He sees our hearts lifted up in pride when we think it is we who have overcome in our own strength. We need accountability and vulnerability with those we are fighting alongside and those who are leading us if we are to advance on the battlefield.
2. Have a Perfect Trust in God
“Together with complete renunciation of ourselves, we should plant in our heart a perfect trust in God and a complete confidence in Him”
In addition to understanding we can do nothing of ourselves we have to remember the power, wisdom, and love of God. If we hold fast to the following three truths we can establish an unwavering trust in Him:
God is Omnipotent, or all-powerful, and can do all that He chooses. Therefore He has all the power to help us in absolutely anything.
God is Omniscient, or all-wise, and knows all in the most perfect manner. He knows fully what is best for the salvation of each of us.
God is infinitely Good and comes to us with ineffable love. He, as a Good Shepherd and True Father, is always ready to help us as soon as we run to Him with firm trust in the protection of His arms. Because He loves us with an incomprehensible love, we have to know and trust that He will lead us in all things for our good and for His glory.
3. Strive without ceasing
“War should be waged ceaselessly and courageously”
There is no rest on this side of eternity. To ‘take a break from God’ is to surrender to the enemy.
“So this spiritual warfare of ours must be constant and never ceasing, and should be conducted with alertness and courage in the soul”
Never stop crying out to God saying:
“rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me.” (Psalm 142:6)
Continue using weapons proven to work:
“Flog the foes with the name of Jesus for there is no stronger weapon in heaven or on earth”
Get up every time you fall with hatred for those things which ensnare you and for the love of sin which lingers in your heart. Never give up. Never surrender. Your General, your King, your Father looks with joy at your efforts. Your struggle for His Name brings sweet pleasure to His heart, and that’s worth fighting for.
4. Remain constantly in prayer
Prayer doesn’t come in one shape or size.
There was actually a heresy in the 4th century that was condemned because it taught, among other things, that the only way to salvation was solely by praying.
Prayer’s ultimate goal is union with God and there is no formula for that. There is only relationship. Here are a couple of points to drive the point home:
St. Peter of Damascus says:The Apostle says, “Pray without ceasing.” That is, he teaches men to have the remembrance of God in all times and places and circumstances. If you are making something, you must call to mind the Creator of all things; if you see the light, remember the Giver of it… If you put on your clothes, recall Whose gift they are and thank Him Who provides for your life. In short, let every action be a cause of your remembering and praising God, and lo! you will be praying without ceasing and therein your soul will always rejoice.
We can indeed pray unceasingly if, in addition to saying prayers we become prayer. Paul Evdokimov writes, It is not enough to say prayers; one must become, be prayer, prayer incarnate. It is not enough to have moments of praise. All of life, each act, every gesture, even the smile of the human face, must become a hymn of adoration, an offering, a prayer. One should offer not what one has, but what one is.
You can practice the presence of God, sing and make melody with your heart to the Lord, serve the poor and sick for the sake of Christ, stand or even sit in silent awe at the excellence of His beauty, meditate on how great are all things that His hands have made, write or type out prayers, and talk with family and friends about His goodness.
These are all forms of prayer.
Do all things with the intention to please and love Him more, and not to please yourself. Do not approach Him out of a feeling of guilt as if you must talk to Him in order to relieve yourself of some burden. Let your heart yearn for Him! Be consistent and faithful in coming to Him because you want to.. because you get to.. not because you have to.
Let us ask Him to give us this beautiful and blessed desire to love Him and yearn for Him all the days of our lives.
So to review, the four things we can do the wage war against and overcome the enemy are:
1.) Never rely on yourself
2.) Have a perfect trust in God
3.) Strive without ceasing
4.) Remain constantly in prayer
With that being said though, let us remember the point of all of this: to grow in virtue, holiness and in the love of God. Fighting the enemy is not the goal; it is just a means to the goal, which is to grow in the knowledge of the love of God until we mature to the full measure of the stature of Christ.
“You don’t become holy by fighting evil. Let evil be. Look towards Christ and that will save you. What makes a person saintly is love.”
— St. Porphyrios
This post was inspired by reading Unseen Warfare. I highly recommend it!
(The photo is courtesy of Wildo Cagliani)