Using words like witchcraft, demon possession, and spiritual warfare will cause some people to roll their intellectual eyes like they are talking to a mentally deficient hayseed. I’m glad the first followers of Jesus didn’t feel this way or leave those encounters out of the biblical text. They are real, no matter how they make us feel or how we choose to dismiss their reality. Perhaps one of hell’s most effective tactics is to have us dismiss these issues, maybe not in our theology placed somewhere on a distant bookshelf, but in how we choose to see and engage these battles in everyday life.
Just yesterday, I was reminded on a personal level about the reality of spiritual warfare. This morning I felt the freedom of God’s Spirit as a result of Spirit-directed prayer and communion with Jan last night. A subtle work of hell no longer has influence in an area of my thinking. I can feel the freedom. Yes, you can feel freedom.
If you are moving forward into relational or cultural strongholds held and protected by the enemy but destined to become part of God’s Kingdom, you will meet head-on the full force of hell. These are battles over spiritual territory, and they are not relinquished without a fight. For a person to have lived a life never contending over personal spiritual territory means some areas of that life are held in tolerable captivity, the kind of captivity a person learns to live with, in either ignorance or dismissal.
In the pursuit of a hipster, need-to-be-cool-at-all-costs kind of faith, we can end up not entertaining the possibility of an encounter with dark strongholds because they are considered outside the realm of natural thinking. These unchallenged spiritual realities will continue to influence our lives and the world in significant ways until their right to stand in our way is challenged. Unchallenged, they will ride across generations of families and cultures on the back of a powerless expression of faith. It is too easy to dismiss these dark realities and just move on, thinking everything will eventually work out. That thinking itself is evidence that hell has been at work. As a result of faith without engagement, we can end up walking around the very encounters that would have resulted in our personal freedom and the freedom of our families, friends, and the institutions of culture.