Last year our lives took a chaotic turn. After the initial frenzy over the lockdown waned, my wife Deepa fell sick with chronic pancreatitis issues. For the most part of 2021 she was in extreme pain. In the absence of church gatherings and community events, my heart lost a sense of purpose in ministry. It became clear that this was going to be a long arduous fight.

For the first time in my life, I battled anxiety for several months and eventually had to get the help of a professional christian counsellor. But as I look back at this exhausting year, I never considered a key biblical teaching as a framework for what was happening—the much neglected reality of spiritual warfare. In India we either over-estimate Satan’s power or completely disregard his role in our lives.

Growing up, I saw my parents associated with many ministries that fixated on spiritual warfare. Most of the prayers included naming and binding various spirits, from “the spirit of slumber” to “the spirit of cancer”.

In our culture we tend to move towards the extreme of unhealthy fear and obsession over the spiritual realm. The solutions to these fears often seem superstitious—nailing crosses on every wall or keeping a Bible under your pillow to protect yourself from the dark forces.

We are at peace with God but at war with Satan. And the Devil is seeking to steal, kill and destroy all who belong to God. Our enemy is real and the battle is real.

New India has moved to the other extreme—where I too found myself—rarely thinking about the role of the devil or his schemes. We dismiss Satan as a caricature, wearing a red cape and carrying a pitchfork. We not only find it amusing but absurd, with stubborn unbelief in the reality of spiritual warfare. Our instinctive solutions to problems are natural and logical.

The Bible warns us that Satan is actively working to destroy God’s plans and his people. It describes the Devil as our enemy who prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Pet. 5:8). As believers in the gospel of Jesus Christ, we should not be shocked or surprised by spiritual warfare.

The Battle is Real

Before our salvation, we were enemies of God, hostile to our creator and rebellious in nature. Through God’s grace and mercy revealed on the Cross, in the death and resurrection of Christ as our substitute, by faith we are forgiven—set free from the kingdom of darkness and adopted into the family of God.

Our hostility with God ends but our enmity with the devil begins. We are at peace with God but at war with Satan. And the Devil is seeking to steal, kill and destroy all who belong to God. Our enemy is real and the battle is real.

In the last couple of years we have seen people deal with intense anxiety, stress, fears, loneliness, hopelessness, sickness and death. In a complex world, we see the role of the world, sin and the Devil acting in coordinated effort against us.

During the spread of the virus in the pandemic, our weakening mental and physical health was aggravated by outcomes of futile policies and failed efforts by governments and organisations. The virus also created havoc by our personal negligence.

But we cannot rule out the role of the Evil One who uses all these factors to cause division among people, distress in people, deception on social media, disobedience in believers or even ultimate denial of faith in Christ.

Satan is using familiar strategies to actively attack God’s people and God’s world. But the question we must ask is, “Do I recognise how Satan is attacking me? Am I battle ready?”

Becoming Battle Ready

The apostle Paul urges the Ephesian Christians by saying, “Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Eph. 6:11). A key part of becoming battle ready is being able to recognise the schemes and strategies of the evil one.

Our own predisposition to Satan and his power plays a big part in the strategy of the devil. He is quite content to keep us dreading him in fear or laughing at him in unbelief.

How does Satan attack us? The Bible points us to his character to know his primary strategy. Satan is described as a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44). So his primary strategy is to lie and deceive. The word “schemes” can be translated tricks, traps, or tactics—meant to deceive us slowly and systematically.

Do you see how he is lying to you in order to destroy you? Do you hear his tempting and accusing voice? Can you feel his lies in your mind, whispering, “God does not care about you. God does not love you. Obeying God limits pleasure. It is not a big deal to give in to this temptation. Everyone does it. This person deserves your anger. Look how much you are struggling in your life. You ought to be ashamed of yourself.”

His lies are compelling and feel believable, “If you are suffering so much, something must be wrong with you. Can you see how your friends are so successful even though they don’t believe in Christ? Your spouse is not worthy of your love and respect. Your children are limiting your dreams and freedom. Never forgive and never forget what that person did to you. Nothing will ever change.”

Our own predisposition to Satan and his power plays a big part in the strategy of the devil. He is quite content to keep us dreading him in fear or laughing at him in unbelief.

Do you see how his lies are so tempting to believe? Last year I myself had Satan’s lies playing loudly in my heart in what felt like Dolby Atmos surround sound quality: “You will never make it in ministry. People are going to see what a failure you are.” Day after day, night after night, his lies kept ringing in my head.

Though your pain is real and your circumstances are awful, Satan can amplify your suffering by tempting you into futile coping mechanisms, lying to you about your self worth, deceiving you about the severity of your circumstances, and causing you to question the goodness of God.

He lies to make you feel sorry for yourself, to make you think more highly of yourself, to think the worst about others, to make you compare yourself with others, to make you forget God’s blessings in Christ, to exaggerate your suffering and to deepen your sense of entitlement.

We lose the battle the moment we believe his lies. When we give oxygen to his disinformation and make room in our hearts for his deception, like a virus they begin to work in our hearts and suddenly the Devil has a foothold in our lives, our marriage, and in all that God is doing in us.

The Weapons for Battle

How can you fight this battle? What resources has God given us? How can you withstand the attacks and lies of the evil one? What does it mean to “put on the whole armour of God?” This “armour” is nothing but the gospel itself in all its beauty and power.

God’s command to us is not to attack Satan but to resist Satan (James 4:7). We succumb to his attacks when we forget the truth of God’s lavish and rich love for us in Christ and instead believe Satan’s tempting and accusing lies. But we have the power to resist him when we adorn the armour.

To “armour up” and to be battle ready is to believe the gospel. It is to be found in Christ, strengthened by his grace, rooted in his word, humble in prayer and confident in hope. It is turning down the lies of Satan and turning up the truth of the gospel.

Remember, Satan is a patient and cunning enemy. He is formidable and fierce. But never forget Jesus is Christus Victor, the one who is victorious over sin, death, hell and Satan’s power (Col. 2:15). There is a certainty of victory that God promises when we put on his armour against Satan’s attacks.

You can win the battle because Christ has won the ultimate war. You will not be overcome by Satan because Christ in you has overcome this world. As the apostle Paul says, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Cor. 4).

When you live in light of this glorious victory and hope in Christ, letting the gospel warm your heart and allowing the Spirit to shine God’s truth on your soul, you are not just battle ready but on the path to victory.