Is it really a spiritual attack?
This may sound like a ridiculous question, but how we answer this question is vital to how we approach different situations in our lives, and how effective we are when we are engaged in spiritual warfare. Without an understanding of what constitutes spiritual attack, we have no way of knowing how to counter the attack, or even if there is anything to counter at all.
A simple definition of spiritual attack would be to say that spiritual attack is anything unexpected, unusual, or out of the ordinary, that causes us to question our faith, to have doubts about God, or anything that takes our focus off God and places it on worldly things. When either of these things happen, we become ineffective in our witness to others and in our relationship with the Lord. This is a very simplistic definition, and there are exceptions, but this will do for a start.
One thing all Christians need to keep in mind, is that if you've had a true soul-saving, born again experience, Satan cannot defeat you outright. Jesus told Peter that the gates of Hell would not prevail against His church. This applies in our lives as well. The Lord Jesus Christ defeated Satan at Calvary on the Cross. And when we come under spiritual attack, we have at our disposal the full force of that victory. The shed blood of Jesus gives us the power to resist the devil. We are under its protection as long as we keep our focus on Christ and submit our will to His.
So what does this mean to us? Simply this, Satan has NO power over us that we don't give to him. Once you became a born again child of God, you came under divine protection. Nothing Satan does can take you away from God. Jesus said, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand." So, since Satan knows he can't defeat us, what is his plan? To make us ineffective. He does this by placing unwanted thoughts in our minds, by placing doubt about our salvation and about God in our hearts, by placing desires for worldly things in us contrary to what we know is Godly, or by getting us into situations or circumstances that he knows will try our faith.
This is not to say that EVERY bad thing that happens to us is caused by the devil. Sometimes it's the actions of our fellow human beings, or even our own carelessness that cause bad things to happen. Here are some things that can cause situations that might be mistaken for spiritual attack:
DESIRES: Unfortunately, Satan doesn't always need to intervene directly. When people follow the desires of their flesh, bad results usually follow. With these people, while the devil may have placed the desires there initially, the results are due to the decisions made by the people experiencing those desires. Once the desires are planted, Satan can just sit back and watch. For example, suppose someone has an inordinate desire for alcohol, and one night has a little (or a lot) too much at the bar. This person gets into their car, and due to their intoxication, gets into an accident with another car. In this instance, even though Satan may, or may not, have originally placed the desire for alcohol into this person's heart, the resulting accident was caused by this person indulging himself at the bar. The other person(s) who was involved in the accident are not necessarily under spiritual attack. Although it is a possibility that Satan was using the drinker in order to attack the person(s) in the other car, it's equally possible that this was nothing more than an accident caused by a lack of willpower on the part of the drunk driver.
OUR LIMITED PERSPECTIVE: Sometimes things happen to us that may seem to be bad at the time, and yet end up strengthening our walk with the Lord, or helping us some other way. Imagine this situation: Suppose you were driving along, and just as you were going up a hill, you realized that you had a flat tire, and would have to stop and change it. This would seem to be a bad thing. But what you didn't know was that just over the crest of the hill, a cleanup of a major accident was underway which you would have run into had you continued driving. By the time you get the flat fixed and get underway, the accident has been taken care of and nothing remains to be seen. You continue on, possibly grumbling about the flat tire, never knowing that if the tire had not gone flat, you might have been seriously hurt or even killed. So in this case, what seemed bad from your perspective actually was necessary in order to save your life. Someone in a helicopter could have seen what was ahead of you on this imaginary road, and, likewise, God sees what lies ahead of us in our lives where we, with our limited perspective, can't.
WHEN GOD SAYS, "NO": Occasionally, the Lord will say "No." in answer to one of our prayers. This also seems like a bad thing. But what we may not realize is that God knows what will happen if your prayer were granted, and it might not be in your best interest for you to have that particular prayer. Whatever it is that you are praying for, might take your focus off Christ and cause you to take steps in the wrong direction. A prime example would be those people who pray to win the lottery. Perhaps they never win it because God knows that having that much money would take their focus away from God, and place it on worldly things. Or someone who really needs a means of transportation in order to go to work, or some other legitimate reason. They might pray for a NEW car, when a used one, or public transportation would serve the function just as well. It may be that a new car would cause this person to start experiencing pride, and start focusing on the car instead of God. God would know this, even if we don't think it would ever happen. James 4:3 says,"Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts." Yes, contrary to what some teach, God does sometimes answers prayers with "No," or "Not now, wait," because He knows what's best for us when we don't.
CHASTISEMENT: The Bible says that the Lord chastises those whom He loves. From the point of view of the one receiving the chastisement, this is not a good thing, but God knows that it's for our own good that He chastise us. This may be because we are deliberately not doing what we know the Lord wants us to do, as was the case with Jonah. Being swallowed by a whale was definitely NOT a good thing in Jonah's eyes, but the Lord caused it to happen in order to get Jonah back on the path that He had chosen for him.
CHOOSING OUR OWN PATH INSTEAD OF GOD'S: Sometimes we may make an important decision in our lives without praying for the Lord's guidance. Have you ever tried to do something and just had one thing after another go wrong, until you finally gave up and tried something else, only to have everything go right when you went the other direction? It may be that God wanted you on that other path all along.
So, as you can see, there are many instances where something bad, or something that we perceive as bad may happen without it being spiritual attack. So the question then becomes, who is most at-risk for spiritual attack?
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