Compiled by Shelly Esser
In an effort to give you a close up of what spiritual warfare looks like in modern-day life, four women – a couple of missionaries, a pastor’s wife, and a woman in leadership – candidly share very different personal experiences with spiritual warfare in their own lives, and how they have successfully battled against the attacks of their unseen enemy.
A Mission Field Encounter by Jean Robinson (Veteran Missionary)
It was one of those beautiful moonlit nights in the very center of Africa, when the stars shine so bright that you feel as if you could reach out and touch them. The girls in the mission boarding home were having a sleep-out in the middle of their compound; and like all young girls everywhere, they talked long into the hours of the night.
Nearby a very young, inexperienced missionary woman slept soundly in her house. Suddenly she was awakened by a voice calling for her to come quickly to deal with an emergency in the girls’ compound. Throwing on a robe, she followed the caretaker down the path to see what the problem was. She came upon a scene like one out of the Bible. A young girl was thrashing around on the ground with super-human strength, yelling out obscenities with a voice not her own. It took the combined strength of all of the other girls to pin her down and keep her from throwing herself into the fire.
I was that young missionary who had been called to help out in this situation. Never did I feel more helpless. I realized that this was a battle, not with flesh and blood but against the powers of darkness of this world, the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenlies. My heart cried out to the Lord for His help. He reminded me of something one of my professors at Bible school had said: “After you get out to the mission field, and when (not if) you encounter spiritual warfare in one form or another... remember that while you are weak and powerless, all authority in heaven and earth has been given to Christ. You can claim His authority and the power of His name and blood over the evil forces.”
So, that is what I did. I remember praying for that girl, and claiming the power of Christ’s name and blood for deliverance for her. As I did, she let out a horrible scream as the demon left her body, and then she fell into a deep, child-like sleep. Then, sometime later, that girl told me the history of her family. For many generations they had been Satan worshippers and had given themselves to demonic forces to be at work in and through them. The deliverance was a wonderful demonstration of the power of God that is always at our disposal. It was a good lesson for me to learn at the very beginning of my missionary career.
Later on, I worked among people who had been worshippers of the spirit-world. They were especially fearful of evil spirits. A large granite rock stood in the center of the area we lived in. This was the home of the much-feared “spirit of the rain.” It was next to this rock that the pioneer missionaries chose to build the mission station of Adi as the base for getting the gospel out among the Kakwa tribe.The Africans were appalled! Didn’t these white people know that if they desecrated that rock, the spirit of the rock would withhold the rains from all of the surrounding area, causing a widespread famine? It had been on that rock that the Kakwa people offered sacrifices to the rain-spirit, and even lacerated their own bodies, causing their blood to flow, to appease him. He was not one to be trifled with! They would watch the white people very closely and fearfully.
And so those pioneers of the gospel met on that rock, and prayed that the true God would break through the powers of darkness, and that the light of the gospel would someday shine brightly from that center to all the area around them. When I lived there at Adi, we would walk to that rock on Easter Sunday (together with hundreds of our Kakwa brothers and sisters in Christ) and praise Him for His resurrection power that had set us free from the power of sin and the fear of death.
But Satan didn’t give up his hold on that area or those people easily. During the ensuing years of my life in Africa, I was confronted with spiritual warfare in one form or another. While not quite as dramatic as my first encounter, the situations were nevertheless always very intense. I felt the onslaught of the evil one in many different ways. Always his goal was to hinder the spread of the gospel.
Some of the ways Satan attacked included:
- Continued spirit worship, practice and fears on the part of many of the people.
- Civil war, rebellion, slaughter, and evacuations, such as is going on in the Congo today.
- Many personal encounters with drunken soldiers and their guns along the roads and pathways.
- Border and travel difficulties through Idi Amin’s territory in Uganda at the height of his reign and power.
- Life-threatening illnesses that attacked my family members and myself with no medical help nearby.
- The sudden death of my husband.
But through it all, I found Christ’s grace, strength, power and victory to be sufficient.
Thank God we don’t have to fight these battles alone, but victory is ours through Jesus Christ, as we put on the whole armor of God, each part of which is really just a picture of Christ. I believe Rom. 13:14 sums it all up: “Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ.” In Him, we have all we need, and we can be victorious over the attacks of the enemy. I can testify to the truth of that during my 42 years in Africa!
Battling The Enemy Within by Vicki Fleming (Ministry Wife/Leader)
Because I have a vivid imagination, I like to think of my unseen enemies as sinister, creepy-looking villains like extras in a low-budget horror film. Imagine my surprise, then, when the Lord gave me a glimpse of one foul creature, and the face was mine!
Supernatural forces can work against anyone in ministry; but I make the job easier for those working against me by just being me. The Bible calls this “walking in the flesh.” The Lord’s road is long yet scenic, and is called “walking in the Spirit.” It’s long for me because, being rather fond of my flesh walk, I tend to let go of it slowly. It’s scenic because the view from the Spirit’s road is beautiful though rough, yet God says this way is the only one that leads to spiritual freedom.
As the Lord invites me to move up higher with Him, I see three places where I allow myself to be robbed of the joy of His Spirit: fear, which robs me of my peace; greed, which robs me of my contentment; and apathy, which robs me of my passion.
About facing fear, Isaiah 42:16 says, “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them. I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth.” When I hear those words, I nod and smile; but when the Lord allows me to walk with Him in the dark I want to tell Him that He’s taken the wrong road, as if He doesn’t know where we are! I’m afraid that He won’t turn the darkness into light and that I’ll fall head first down a steep embankment. It’s then that fear makes me want to return to something I know; and I freeze, unable to move on with the Lord. Slowly, however, He teaches me to stand, then walk, then even run a little over some very rough ground. Is the road getting smoother? Is He making me more sure-footed? I begin to notice the light that only He can provide, and I see things I couldn’t see without Him. Peace replaces fear and I experience real joy.
Then there is greed. People in ministry seldom look for greed in their lives. I mean – really? No one makes enough money to buy expensive cars, grand houses or designer clothes. So what is greed? Greed is simply wanting more than we need; and since Philippians 4:19 says that “my God will supply all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus,” I must be wanting that which God has not provided. Ouch!! I don’t think this means that we must never long to own a home, or that it’s wrong to pray that the Lord replaces our rusted-out car; but it is wrong when our desires rob us of contentment. It’s greed, then, that tells me I can’t be filled with joy because I don’t have what I desire.
Finally, it is my apathy that robs me of my passion for Jesus Christ. It’s not that I don’t care. I care a lot; but what I care about can be easily misdirected. When I first came to know Christ’s saving love, I wanted to live there forever, enjoying His presence and telling a lost world about Him. I wanted to lay my belongings and family and future on the line for the gospel. How did it become so easy to trade that passion in for programs? Oh, I still care, but I’ve calmed down and “matured” and begun a love affair with programs. I spend months planning them – and minutes praying about them. I’ve learned to perfect programs to meet the needs of the people, but sometimes the programs become the focus while the people become a blur. My love affair with programs is measured by how strongly I feel when someone tries to change them or interrupts the process.
So what am I to do? How do I shed this flesh walk when I’ve woven it so carefully into my Christianity? I believe that I must go to God’s Word, perhaps Psalm 51, and ask the Lord to meet me there. I must ask the Holy Spirit to cut those things out of my life that keep me from walking in the Spirit; and to do it, please, with love and compassion. I must ask Him to “Create in me a clean heart and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Only then will the Lord “restore the joy of my salvation;” enabling me to walk in peace, resting in contentment and finally restoring my passion for Him.
Assault On The Physical by Debbie Fortnum (Pastor’s Wife/Worship Leader)
When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll,
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
Early in January 1980, I chose that hymn as my theme song for the new year. Little did I know how the Lord would use it as a means of comfort and as an incentive to trustful surrender for me and my family through the dark and difficult time we were about to face.
Later that month, what at first appeared to be a mere case of the flu turned out to be the beginning stages of an extremely painful and physically restricting illness that plagued me and perplexed doctors for the next three years. From the very beginning, my spine and muscles were affected. At times the pain was so intense that my family had to be careful when they hugged me. Within six months my vision deteriorated, and soon I had to use a magnifying glass to read.
Believers from several local congregations held a special time of fasting and prayer for me, but nothing happened. Elders and pastors from different local churches gathered for prayer and anointing. Still nothing. Much prayer was made on my behalf, but there was no physical improvement.
Various specialists and tests in two major hospitals brought us time and again to the same conclusion – nothing. The problem was obvious, but when it came to pinning down the cause we were batting zero.
I became totally dependent on God’s supply of strength and grace which He offered me daily. And then it happened. The songs of worship and praise started to flow out of me. Since I couldn’t physically do much more than sit at my piano and sing or read God’s Word, I began to develop an incredible intimate relationship with God. My love for Him grew deep as I would prop up my Bible on the piano and literally sing the Word and worship Him for hours.
Three years had passed and my condition was worsening. We were encouraged when we were able to enlist the services of a committed Christian doctor. For the very first time in our lives we experienced the support of a medical man who held our hands as he led us in prayer, seeking the wisdom and skill of the Great Physician.
On January 31, 1983, my eyes were tested again. The doctor declared me legally blind. My heart sank!
Shortly afterwards, I asked my mother to read to me from Psalm 91. No one knew at the time how beautifully God was preparing my heart for what was to take place later that night. “You will not be afraid of the terror by night, or of... the pestilence that stalks in the darkness... Because (she) has loved Me, therefore I will deliver (her)” (verses 5, 6, 14 NASB).
In the middle of the night, I awakened my mother in fear – something that I had never done before. We went back to my room together and prayed. Sometime later, unable to sleep, I began to sense the evil presence of the enemy, and then saw a dark, gray cloud in the corner of my bedroom. Suddenly, an overwhelming sense of faith welled up inside of me, and I sat up in bed and declared in a loud voice, “Satan, in the name of Jesus Christ, I command you to get off my back and stop plaguing me – I am a child of God!” The evil presence promptly left. I began to quietly and joyfully worship the Lord. Then, almost as if a plug was pulled out at the bottom of my feet, I felt the pain literally drain out of my body. For the first time in three years, there was no pain!
Looking back almost 18 years, I realize that this whole thing started just prior to the missions conference that marked the first anniversary of the call of God on my life to serve Him full time – a fire that continues to burn in my heart as the wife of a senior pastor and a minister of worship. I can well understand the enemy’s strategy in attempting to prevent me from following that call. Not only did this painful experience give me a keen sensitivity to the hurts and needs of others, but it also developed the kind of faith that always steers me to the truth that even though the enemy always means it for evil, God means it for good. He sees the entire jigsaw while we can only see the one little puzzle piece in our hands! Healing is not everyone’s experience, but it was mine. Some have been healed much sooner. Some have waited much longer. Some are still waiting, but through this God has taught me that I exist for His purpose.
If His purpose is facilitated by pain, then pain is a blessed thing. I am convinced that pain became His life-changing tool to sculpt me into the likeness of Jesus. I am also convinced that God used the soil of pain to cultivate lifestyle worship in me. My prayer for us all is that we would be able to accept the words of the hymn writer, “Whatever my lot... it is well with my soul!”
Bended Knees & Battle Scars by Elizabeth G. Musser (Missionary)
I stared at the thermometer. My two-year- old had a 104 fever. Just five minutes earlier, my four-year-old’s temperature also had registered 104. I was used to high fevers, and I knew what to do; but on this Friday morning in March, fevers didn’t fit into my schedule.
For months we had been planning and praying for the Billy Graham Crusade that was to take place in Germany. Twelve other European countries would air the event each night via satellite, and our small church in Montpellier, France had worked hard to have all the right equipment.
This weekend was already overflowing with ministry. After each broadcast, my husband and I would be involved in counseling individuals who expressed interest in spiritual matters. Additionally, we had invited different friends throughout the weekend to eat with us and then attend the meetings. These were friends who did not know Jesus; friends for whom we had prayed for years. I thought of all the food I had fixed ahead of time just to be ready for this weekend. Six people were to be at our house tonight and now both boys had high fevers. “What do I do, Lord?”
If you’ve ever found yourself in the middle of a spiritual battle, you’ll know I felt the powers of darkness aligned against me. I don’t cry “Satan’” every time my kids are sick. But that day, with so many prayers and hopes focused on these few nights, I knew the battle was raging around us. The enemy did not want our friends to hear the gospel. Relief surged through me as I recalled David facing Goliath against formidable odds, yet remaining steadfast in his faith in God as he proclaimed to the Philistine, “the battle is the Lord’s” (1 Sam. 17:47). Then the Lord reminded me of the hundreds of people who were praying for us, specifically interceding for this Crusade. I was greatly encouraged.
Often we are totally unaware of the spiritual warfare that surrounds us. I rarely thought about the spiritual battle affecting me until I became a missionary in France as a young, single woman. But once there, the atmosphere around me and my teammates seemed oppressive and dark. Unexplained occurrences frightened us. Just before we expected six young women for our first Bible study, a window in our apartment broke for no apparent reason. Another time, we screamed in fear as we were awakened in the night by an unearthly, satanic presence hanging over us; and the believers in our tiny church seemed constantly plagued by profound, disturbing problems. We felt homesick and lonely, and depression threatened us. Being new, young missionaries, we felt unprepared for these frightening events.
Then, remembering that the battle was the Lord’s, we stood in a circle in each room of each of our apartments and prayed that Jesus’ blood would cover our homes and protect us from evil. We prayed every time before we stepped into the open markets to tell of our faith, and we prayed beside the heartbroken brothers and sisters in Christ whose loved ones had been snatched away without warning. When I’d be tempted to think that all we did was pray, the Lord reminded me again and again that prayer was our best defense against the enemy’s weapons.
The passage in Ephesians 6 concerning spiritual warfare not only reminds us to put on the full armor of God, but “with all prayer and petition, pray at all times in the Spirit and...be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints” (Eph. 6:18).
It has been said that the best defense is a good offense. When Paul exhorts us to pray at all times in the Spirit, he’s reminding me to do likewise as I prepare for whatever ministry I’m involved in. When we pray, we acknowledge our weakness and our dependence on God, realizing that He sees all, knows all and controls all is never overwhelmed or taken by surprise. What freedom this brings!
Next, we must be aware of the spiritual battle around us. Scripture tells us to be on the alert against Satan’s attacks because he knows only too well where our weak spot lies. If we’re busy about the Lord’s work, perhaps especially in leadership positions, Scripture assures us that he’ll take aim and the battle will rage. During those times, however, we should not feel alone, remembering that Jesus is interceding for and along with us, as well as others whom He has prompted also to intercede.
How many times have I stumbled along in the battle, on my own, forgetting to arm myself through prayer? Even now, years after I first stepped onto foreign soil, I sometimes catch myself feeling totally overwhelmed by circumstances, problems and evil in this world. That’s when the Spirit nudges me again to pray. And peace comes back. I remember who is in control. The battle is the Lord’s.
I survived that weekend in March. Yes, I was a bit battle-weary and exhausted; but spiritually, God had renewed my strength. We were praying; others were praying; Jesus was interceding. And I remembered who was in control. The battle was indeed, the Lord’s!