How Do I Overcome My Spiritual Enemy?

how do i overcome my spiritual enemy


In my last post, we discussed the strategies of our spiritual enemy against us. Now you might be asking, "how do I overcome my spiritual enemy?" First, you have to understand that even believers can have demons. Don't believe me? 

Paul wrote about the thorn in his flesh in several letters, and many believers have speculated what it could be. But there’s really no mystery here. He told us very clearly that the thorn in his flesh was an evil spirit:
“Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Possession vs. Oppression

If even the mighty Apostle Paul can have a demon, how much more can disciples following in his footsteps! You might find this a bit unsettling. Some believers have found comfort by calling spiritual attack against a believer demonic oppression, not possession. They claim anyone can be oppressed by a demon, but only unbelievers can truly be possessed. The logic is that possession implies ownership, and since a believer is possessed by Jesus, he can’t be owned by a demon. But this is a misunderstanding. If a thief steals your wallet, who owns it? You, of course. But who possesses it? Unfortunately, the thief. Therefore, possession is not the same thing as ownership.

But oppression is really just the same thing as being possessed. That's because it's not about who owns someone, but who is in control. To see this, consider the words the Bible uses. The Bible uses the word "oppressed" only once when referring to demons, and it only refers to someone being "possessed" by a demon a handful of times. Far more frequently, people controlled by demons are referred to in Greek as being “demonized”. That means being under the power of a demon.

Oppression, possession, and demonization are really just different words for the same thing. Consider a person who is tempted with an unholy thought by a demon but doesn’t recognize the thought as coming from an evil spirit. Many would say it's just spiritual warfare or spiritual oppression. But if he dwells on that thought, eventually that thought will influence his actions. Without even realizing it, that person has come under the influence of the demon. That action will only bring on more spiritual attack, and the demon's power over him will grow. Being under the power of a demon in that way is the definition of being demonized. Eventually, that person may lose all ability to resist the devils inside him. His only hope is to be delivered by someone else who can step in resist the demons on his behalf.

All demonic possession starts with just a simple thought or temptation. How far it goes from there depends on how strongly the scheme of the enemy is resisted. It could be nothing, or it could turn into complete loss of control.

Overcoming Your Spiritual Enemy

Fortunately for believers, we don’t ever have to get to that point. Jesus’ words give us great insights into how we can overcome our spiritual enemy:
“Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came’; and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first.”
What are waterless places? It's a place where there is no life (John 4:14). It's where Jesus came to save us from (Zechariah 9:11). It's places where you won't find anyone who has been through the waters of baptism and filled with God’s spirit (see John 3:5). More directly, it's Hades (see Luke 16:19-31). Hades is a place demons don’t want to be (Luke 8:31).

Jesus says demons are simply looking for rest. They will not find this in Hades! This is why demons are so stubborn and don’t want to leave a person who gives them rest. If we want to be free from demons, we must make them uncomfortable and restless. We must resist them. James shared this same thought:
“Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”
So we resist by avoiding sin. Paul gave us further insight as to how we can resist the devil:
“Do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.”
Forgiveness provides an opportunity for the devil. Rather than being angry, we must quickly forgive the same day. Peter told us what we can expect when we resist:
“Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.”
Notice Peter emphasizes that this battle against the devil causes suffering and takes a little while. It's not easy and it's not immediate. So don't get discouraged if your resistance doesn't bring immediate relief. Persevere and have faith that God will deliver you in his time. Peter doesn't assume this is automatic either. We must be alert to understand which thoughts in our minds and feelings in our hearts are from ourselves, and which thoughts are from our enemy. Once recognized, we must dismiss them, and replace them with holy thoughts.

Spiritual Battle

We began this discussion in my last post with Paul's analogy of how resisting the devil is like warfare. He finished his thoughts about spiritual warfare by writing about the tools we use to fight our enemy and defend ourselves. He wrote:
“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.”
Some believers pray through this list and even go through the motions of putting imaginary battle equipment on. That does about as much good as a soldier on the battlefield imagining a sword. To be effective, we have to actually use the armor. The enemy will lie, but we fight with truth. The enemy will tempt us to sin, but we must be righteous. The enemy will make us anxious, but we must remember the gospel of peace. The enemy will make us doubt, but we must have faith. The enemy will try to hide, but the Spirit of God will reveal him. We must pray at all times in the Spirit, which is speaking in tongues.

An Ongoing Battle

Paul didn't just say this; he lived it. Look at how he described his life:
"I propose to be courageous against some, who regard us as if we walked according to the flesh. 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. You are looking at things as they are outwardly."
Battle wasn't a one-time event for Paul. It was an ongoing walk. He didn't take some thoughts captive, he took every thought captive. He walked righteously in obedience to Christ. He walked in the Holy Spirit. He didn't just barely survive the battle, he destroyed fortresses. This is how you can live too.

Practice forgiveness, stay free from sin, and don’t give demons a foothold. Always be alert to the schemes of the devil. Discern your thoughts and feelings. When you recognize a demon’s voice, don’t reason with it and don’t dwell on it. Instead, simply dismiss it and focus on Jesus. When you resist in this way, the devil will flee from you. If you don’t, you are giving the enemy more and more power over your life. But if you do, you will learn to discern spirits in other people and gain authority over them to resist devils even on behalf of others.


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