Life, Hope & Truth

From the January/February 2016 issue of Discern Magazine

Spiritual Warfare: How to Win and How to Lose

Spiritual warfare can be intimidating, but an 85-year-old warrior can show us the key to overcoming in the battle. Faith is the secret to facing your giants.

Eighty-five is not generally a good age to begin fighting giants. Most people would consider it reckless, foolish and ill-advised.

Caleb, however, was not most people.

At 85, Caleb was spry and determined and ready to do the impossible. He had wandered through the wilderness for 40 years, motivated by a promise from God—and now, as Caleb stood at the border of the Promised Land, the time had come to claim it.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The giants of spiritual warfare

You have to face giants too. Not physical ones like those Caleb was prepared to fight, but spiritual giants—huge, lumbering, intimidating obstacles that stand between you and the future God has planned for you.

To defeat these giants, there’s only one option—you’ll have to engage in spiritual warfare.

It’s something every Christian has to do. We all have giants standing in our way, and they can come in so many different shapes and guises:

Addictions. Flaws. Shortcomings. Temptations. Blind spots. Trials. Anything bigger than us, stronger than us, faster than us—anything more powerful than us, anything we don’t have the skill to face on our own, anything with the potential to knock us down and beat us senseless—these, too, are giants, often marshaled and commanded by Satan the devil, the eternal enemy of God’s people (Revelation 12:9-10).

Giants remind us of how small and helpless we are. On our own, we can’t beat them. They outclass us in every conceivable way. The safer bet is to run, to hide, to surrender before the battle even starts. Why bother trying? It’s easier to give up and give in before we get hurt, because winning is impossible.

That’s where Caleb’s story comes in. The 85-year-old man who wasn’t afraid to stand up to the giants in his own life can teach us a lot about engaging in spiritual warfare with ours.

(Read more about the goal of our spiritual warfare in “What Is Salvation?”)

Running from the giants of the Promised Land

Caleb had been at the border of the Promised Land once before. In fact, he’d even set foot inside it. Forty-five years earlier, Caleb was one of 12 spies sent to scout out Canaan—the Promised Land, a new home that God had promised to the nation of Israel, one that was “flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:8).

After 40 days of scouting, all 12 men returned and agreed that the land “truly flows with milk and honey” (Numbers 13:27), but not all of them were excited about it. The spies had discovered more than milk and honey in Canaan—they had found a land filled with strong people, fortified cities and, worst of all, “the descendants of Anak” (Numbers 13:28).

Giants.

The Anakim were giants.

Israel flew into hysterics. They had seen God perform countless miracles—water springing from rocks, bread falling from heaven, the mighty nation of Egypt brought to its knees by divine plagues—but none of those lessons stuck.

They accused God of dragging them out of slavery in Egypt and through the wilderness only to kill them all with giants.

Only two of the spies, Caleb and Joshua, made a case for entering the land. After quieting the people, Caleb insisted, “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it” (Numbers 13:30).

Israel didn’t want to hear it. The other 10 spies insisted it would be suicidal. The people started talking about returning to a life of slavery in Egypt (Numbers 14:3-4).

Caleb and Joshua pleaded with their fellow countrymen. Their recorded words are a rallying cry for anyone involved in spiritual warfare today: “Do not rebel against the LORD, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the LORD is with us. Do not fear them” (verse 9).

Rather than listen to reason, Israel cried out for Joshua and Caleb to be executed on the spot.

The Promised Land would have to wait

What happened was the exact opposite: God stepped in and sentenced an entire generation to death. Israel would wander the wilderness for 40 years, waiting until all those who had rejected the Promised Land were dead. The next generation would have its chance to claim God’s promises—and with them would be Joshua and Caleb.

Joshua would go on to lead the next generation into the Promised Land, while Caleb received a special promise from God: “My servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit in him and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land where he went, and his descendants shall inherit it” (Numbers 14:24).

And so the Israelites wandered. And wandered. And wandered. Days turned into weeks; weeks, into months; months, into years; and years, into decades. One by one, all of the generation that refused the Promised Land died off, while the next generation came into its own.

Under the leadership of Joshua, no one was able to stand before the armies of Israel. Territory by territory, God drove out the wicked inhabitants of Canaan, and the time soon came to divide up the land.

A key to waging (and winning) spiritual warfare

For Caleb, now 85, it was finally time to claim the promise God had made 45 years earlier.

He told Joshua: “I am as strong this day as on the day that Moses sent me; just as my strength was then, so now is my strength for war, both for going out and for coming in. Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the LORD spoke in that day; for you heard in that day how the Anakim were there, and that the cities were great and fortified. It may be that the LORD will be with me, and I shall be able to drive them out as the LORD said” (Joshua 14:11-12).

In that statement is a key to winning spiritual warfare:

Faith.

After almost half a century of waiting, Caleb’s faith was still strong. When it came time to seize what God had promised him, Caleb didn’t hesitate for a second. There were still giants roaming on Caleb’s mountain, but that didn’t matter. He wasn’t far from 90 years old now, but that didn’t matter either.

In Caleb’s mind, if God had promised it, that was enough. The other factors were irrelevant. He, like many of the Bible’s heroes, “judged Him faithful who had promised” (Hebrews 11:11).

Modern-day spiritual warfare

The giants we face today are strong. It can be tempting to follow in Israel’s footsteps—to panic, to accuse God of setting us up to fail, to run away and hide.

But when we surrender to our giants, we give up more than just a fight. We give up control over our own lives, and we give Satan the upper hand.

When we decide beforehand that we can’t win this spiritual warfare, we forfeit any hope of growth—any hope of overcoming and of breaking free of our enemy’s influence. Choosing not to fight means embracing stagnancy and accepting defeat as a lifestyle.

Can you afford to live that way? Can anyone?

Israel’s 12 spies all walked the same land, all saw the same giants, but only two of them saw a battle they could win.

Why?

The role of faith in spiritual warfare

All the spies looked at the giants and saw wicked men standing in the way of God’s plan. The key difference isn’t what these men saw; it’s how they saw it.

Most of the spies saw the giants and told themselves there was no way they could win. Caleb and Joshua looked at the giants and told themselves there was no way God couldn’t win.

The giants in your life are standing in the way of God’s plan for you, and how you look at them is going to change how you deal with them. They’re bigger than you, yes. They’re stronger than you, absolutely. They could grind you under their feet like dust and not think twice.

But are they bigger than God? Are they stronger than God? Could they last even a moment in an arena with the Almighty?

Spiritual warfare isn’t about how strong you are—it’s about how strong your God is.Spiritual warfare isn’t about how strong you are—it’s about how strong your God is.

Caleb and Joshua knew the answer. They could both look back at the miracles God had performed in their lives—in the lives of all of Israel—and know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that God was able to give them every victory, no matter how improbable, unlikely or, yes, even impossible.

Faith is why Caleb could tell his brethren to go up and seize the land, “for we are well able to overcome it.” Faith is why he could wander for 40 years, trusting God to make good on His promise. Faith is why, at 85 years old, he was ready and willing to work with God and toss some giants out of his mountain.

Faith for facing your giants

I don’t know what miracles God has performed in your life. I don’t know what seas He’s parted for you or how often He’s rained down bread from heaven to give you exactly what you needed, exactly when you needed it—but I do know this:

God cares for you (1 Peter 5:7). He’s not some impartial observer with no vested interest in the battles you fight. He wants you to win the spiritual warfare.

He wants you to grow and overcome; and what’s more, He gives you the equipment and the strength to make it happen (2 Corinthians 10:4-5; Philippians 4:13). You are a potential son or daughter of God Most High (2 Corinthians 6:18), and He wants you to succeed.

You’re going to face giants. You’re going to have to take a stand against enemies far too powerful for you to handle on your own, but you’re not alone. That’s what Caleb understood and what Israel continually failed to grasp. By relying on God, you can win this spiritual warfare.

In your toughest battles, in the middle of fights where you find yourself out of your depth and over your head, you can be “confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it (Philippians 1:6, emphasis added).

You are a good work in progress. That is God’s plan. That has always been God’s plan; and no opponent, no enemy, no impossible giant is strong enough to stand in the way. Every giant is different, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution.

But the core, underlying principle never changes: If God led you to this fight, He can lead you to victory. If you’re willing in faith to put in the time and the effort and look to Him for guidance, God will get you where you need to be.

Right now, giants—temptations, trials and the like—are standing between you and the future God has in store for you. They’re intimidating, but when you go to God for help, they’re far from invincible. Can you see them? Do you understand what’s at stake?

Then what are you waiting for?

Go drive them out.

About the Author

Jeremy Lallier

Jeremy Lallier

Jeremy Lallier is a full-time writer working at the Life, Hope & Truth offices in McKinney, Texas. He has a degree in information technology, three years’ experience in the electrical field and even spent a few months upfitting police vehicles—but his passion has always been writing (a hobby he has had as long as he can remember). Now he gets to do it full-time for Life, Hope & Truth and loves it. He particularly enjoys writing on Christian living themes—especially exploring what it looks like when God’s Word is applied to day-to-day life. In addition to writing blog posts, he is also the producer of the Life, Hope & Truth Discover video series and regularly writes for Discern magazine.

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