Saturday, September 10, 2005

Handling Adveristy - The Big Picture: What are we up against

The Big picture
What are we up against?

When an athlete or sports team is preparing for an event, they study many aspects in order to be prepared. A runner will study the route and pay careful attention to the environmental conditions. A football team will look at film of their opponent to study their strengths and weaknesses. A coach may even simulate the opponent’s stadium and crowd if they are playing away from home by setting up speakers during practice to allow players to become accustomed to the tremendous noise of the “home crowd.” We can easily see the value of understanding the opponent in sports and the same is true of our spiritual lives. The fact remains that suffering, troubles, and trials in life will all come our way. It is important to understand the forces, conditions, and sources for the troubles of life so that we can be prepared and ready with a strategy and plan of how to succeed.

Paul makes this basic observation about understanding what we’re up against in Ephesians:

Eph 6:11 Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
Eph 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Eph 6:13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

Notice what Paul says that a Christian will face in verse 12:

· principalities
· powers
· rulers of the darkness of this world
· spiritual wickedness in high places.

That’s quite an intimidating list especially if we don’t understand what this means as we wage this spiritual warfare. There is an important principle of warfare established by the Chinese General Sun Tzu in his text The Art of War: Know Your Enemy. This is exactly what Paul is trying to do for us by identifying who and what it is that is behind the spiritual battles in our life.

Sometimes we can be our own worst enemy. Peter writes in 1 Peter 2:20 about suffering because of the wrong that we commit. This can be especially hard when there are long-term consequences to our sinful actions. Another case that is very difficult for some to grasp is that God is directly in action for some very hard things in life. This does not make God our enemy as we will see further in our study but there are definitely some reasons why God creates some trials in our life. Consider again the context of John 9:1-5 and the exchange between Jesus and his disciples about the blind man. Remember Jesus answer to their question:

John 9:3 “Not this man or his parents but that the works of God might be manifest.”

We will explore all of these in much greater detail through the next few lessons. With this though we complete setting the stage of our lives on what will happen and who is involved as events unfold. As we see the broader picture laid out for us in the Bible, the information we have about the source and cause of life’s trouble is so much less than what the Bible tells us about what to do when presented with these challenges. This speaks enormously to the emphasis placed by God on what do during trouble than why it’s there.

Hint: You may want to do these definitions as you go through the questions

1) Principalities

2) Powers

3) Ruler

4) High place (heavenly places)


1) Paul makes reference to principalities earlier in the book of Ephesians 1:21. Read the context, provide a summary and then fill in the definition above.

2) The prince of power is referred to in the context of Ephesians 2:2. Read the context, provide a summary and then fill in the definition for powers and rulers.

3) Keep in mind that what Paul is discussing in Eph 6:12 is a spiritual setting. The phrase “high places” is also rendered as “heavenly places” in some versions and can be found in Eph 1:3, and 2:6. Examines those contexts, provide a summary and then fill in the definition above.

4) The book of Job provides us a glimpse into what occurs in the heavenly places. Read Job chapters 1 and 2 and make notes about what is happening, where, and who is noted as being present.

5) What does the insight provided by the book of Job tell us about the relationship between what happens in the heavenly places and then on earth?

6) This principle is also expanded on in the Lord’s prayer in a positive way found in Matt 6:9-15. What does this tell us about God’s will in the events of this world?

7) Looking back again at the book of Job, what can be seen about God and how He uses his power and authority with regards to Job?

8) What other passages can you find that talk of God’s care and protection of those that follow Him?

9) In considering ourselves as a potential source of our problems, read Romans 7:14-25. Paul describes a process of events using himself as the figure. Summarize the context and how dire the results are.