When the Apostle Paul describes his Word-driven ministry for the sake of helping other believers mature in Christ as “striving according to His power” (Col. 1:29), he informs us that real-life ministry among real-life sinners can sometimes seem like a wrestling match. The Greek root beneath “striving” is agonizomai, from which we get “agony” and “agonize,” means to exert great effort.
Knowing this, we must recognize that a large part of this struggle is the reality of spiritual warfare. Though we may feel like we are fighting people (often the very ones we want to help the most), our actual struggle “is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). As we strive to come alongside others in order to help them overcome sin, respond to suffering biblically, and grow in their obedience to Christ we certainly don’t want to give Satan more credit than he deserves. However, we also want to guard against a shallow understanding of the conflict that is presently raging in the invisible world and thereby be tempted to find more humanly acceptable explanations for spiritual struggles. D. A. Carson challenges us with these words:
The shallowness of spiritual conflict in the West owes something, no doubt, to centuries of Christian influence and the relentless exposure of superstition. But, less honorably, it also owes something, nowadays, to raw secularism, and a pervasive world view that thinks of all reality on a naturalistic plane. In other words, our failure to perceive more of what is going on in the demonic realm may sometimes owe less to our Christian heritage than to our deep indebtedness to a culture that assigns sociological, psychological, and economic reasons for everything.
There is undoubtedly more spiritual warfare against those committed to biblical counseling than we realize. Our enemy has an agenda and it is not pretty: it is simply to devour disciples of Jesus (1 Peter 5:8). If we want to be used by God to make a difference in the lives of others for the sake of Christ, we must be prepared for active opposition from the devil and his demonic cohorts.
Let us be prepared for the war. Let us be strong in the Lord. Let us put on the full armor of God (Eph. 6:10-20). Let us fight the good fight of faith.