"The kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force." (Matthew 11:12)
Some spiritual battles are long - way longer than we ever anticipated when we first became engaged in them. It's possible that we question ourselves: are we on the right track, does this match God's heart, will we ever see results?
The first thing to realize in a long term spiritual battle is WHY it is long term. If it were going to be easy it would have been over long ago. Whatever your battleground is - the stakes are high. They are not just high for you but they are also high for the devil who wants you to give up or lose. Why? Because if you WIN, he loses territory that he is guarding tenaciously. Which of you is going to "take it (this territory) by force."?
Let's say you refuse to give up and losing is not an option you will entertain. You are holding fast but you are weary, stunned and numb. How much longer is this going to take? I can't pretend to understand or explain all the holdups we encounter. And we must always remember to mix God's timing and God's sovereignty into the equation. Still, there is a sign that I have noticed which usually precedes victory. It is this: things usually become much worse right before the end.
Lately I have been reading a small book about life in the South during the Civil War. There were many bloody battles during the war - most of them on southern soil, but in the beginning the day to day life of the people was somewhat undisturbed. For awhile they continued to plant and harvest crops and maintain their way of life. That was not to continue.
As time wore on, the fighting became more intense and everything and everybody was affected by the war. When the Confederate side began to fail they had to become more bold and daring in strategy and forcefulness. Toward the end, they launched some all-or-nothing campaigns hoping against hope to turn things their way. They lost and at an unbelievably great cost.
Satan and his demonic troops will likewise launch all-or-nothing campaigns when your victory is within reach. They can see how the battle is going - they see your prayers forcefully breaking through - they watch as angels protect you and aid your efforts. They scream every time you praise God in the midst of your circumstances or humble yourself to forgive an offense or overlook a fault.
All that hastens the time when their stranglehold on the situation is broken. They will do anything to prevent their loss of ground. So what are some of the things you will encounter that represents their last ditch efforts?
Areas of your life which have not been affected by the spiritual battle are now affected. Such as? Things start breaking; you inexplicably go through a series of flat tires or car repairs. There is minor vandalism around your house or property.
Relationships become strained. Your children start rebelling where they did not before. Maybe they start hanging out with the wrong kind of friends. Small petty irritability starts to pop up at home, at work, in the neighborhood.
Health issues surface. Suddenly you need a "procedure". Some routine tests come back suspicious and you have to have more tests or retakes. Your health or the health of a family member is a good strategy by the enemy because it distracts you and forces you to spend time and energy handling it. Maybe Satan can sideline you with sickness or disease.
Offense rears its ugly head. This is by far the most common and easy shot by the enemy. Most of us have at least some measure of flesh that has not yet died and Satan is well aware of it. If he can get us "Ouchie" with a close friend or our pastor or someone at church who might normally pray with us he is delighted.
If you have been praying and fighting for a long time and now things seem to be getting worse - perhaps you should rejoice. That may be a signal that things are close and you need to keep your eye on the ball all the more and press through. Usually we don't see it that way. When we are in the thick of battle and one more thing goes wrong we feel like it is the proverbial straw that breaks the camel's back.
But if we look at scripture, time and time again, a worsening situation signaled deliverance and victory. Remember Moses and the children of Israel right before the Red Sea parted. Their backs were up against the wall. Water was ahead of them and Pharaoh's army was behind them in hot pursuit.
As they cried in desperation to Moses he said; "Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever." (Exodus 14:13) That's exactly what happened.
Step back from the heat of the battle for a moment. What is going on in your life alongside the intense spiritual struggle you are in? Are things worsening? Is your life falling apart all around you? That may be your best sign. Remember once again: "The kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force." GO FOR IT!
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