Chapter 1 - We're in a Spiritual Battle
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 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.
God’s Word reveals that we are not wrestling against flesh and blood, but demonic powers. Our fight isn’t against people, but the spiritual forces influencing them. However, most of us simply don’t recognize the role that the spirit realm plays in what occurs in our daily life. We think it’s just human—natural—but the devil is busy influencing people every day.
It’s useless to debate whether or not an individual is possessed, oppressed, or just depressed. When the New Testament calls someone demon-possessed, the Greek word there literally means “demonized.” They are under the influence—and therefore, control—of the devil. This issue people make about whether someone is possessed, oppressed, or just depressed isn’t in the Scriptures. The truth is that people all around the world today are being influenced, controlled, and used—to whatever degree—by the devil.
Many westerners honestly believe that all the demons are over in some third-world country. But anyone who is spiritually perceptive knows that there is an abundance of demonic activity anywhere you go in the world, including the West. We just tend to look at things as being normal and natural for this day and age. We miss the fact that the origin of many things that happen in our day—things that tick us off and come against us—is spiritual. We fail to recognize the spiritual influence behind it.
If you were to adopt the biblical mindset, it would make a huge difference in the way you respond. You’d recognize that it’s not that person who sits next to you at work, it’s not your neighbor, your spouse, or your circumstances that are really what’s coming against you. They can be influenced, inspired, and used of Satan, but they themselves aren’t really the source. When you genuinely understand that this isn’t a physical battle, it changes the way you respond.
I get a lot of hate mail and criticism because of the things I say. There was a time when I took these things personally and thought, Why is this individual so upset with me? I just looked at their criticisms and always tried to deal with them on the human level. Since then, I’ve come to recognize that Satan is the one who’s trying to get my attention off of what God has told me to do. I recognize that the enemy is using some person to come against me. He’s trying to gain an inroad into my life so he can steal God’s Word from me. (Mark 4:16–17.) But because I look beyond the individual and don’t take their comments personally, I’m able to put things into proper perspective and deal with it differently.
I’ve actually had some good friends come against me. Even though they did some pretty mean things, I’ve been able to look past that and forgive them. I recognized that they had a sensitivity in some area that Satan took advantage of and used them against me. I haven’t been angry or bitter toward them because I understood what the devil was trying to do. Since then, they’ve turned around and realized what happened. We’ve been able to completely reestablish our friendship because I recognized that it wasn’t those people, but Satan trying to get at me.
Satan Uses People
Jesus exemplified this same perspective. He recognized when the devil was trying to get to Him through a person.
After Peter—under the influence of God—confessed Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt.16:16), the Lord started explaining to His disciples about His soon coming crucifix- ion, death, and resurrection. Immediately, Peter began to rebuke Him, saying:
Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.
Apparently, Peter had missed Jesus’ statement that He would rise again on the third day. Peter didn’t even want to consider the thought of his beloved Lord being taken and killed. This was the same man who just moments before had been inspired and con- trolled by the Holy Spirit. Yet now Jesus…
Turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.
The Lord recognized that Satan was speaking through Peter. This wasn’t something coming from God. Jesus knew it was inconsistent with what the Father had clearly revealed to Him of His will. So even though Peter had previously spoken forth a glorious revelation by the Holy Spirit, Christ knew that the inspiration for this rebuke was from hell.
There are times when the devil speaks to you through people. He’ll use people to get at you. Of course, they may be unaware of the fact that they’re being used of Satan. Peter was probably shocked, hurt, and offended when Jesus turned around and said, “Get behind me, Satan!”However, there are times when you need to rebuke the devil that way too.
Whose Voice Is It?
Now don’t misunderstand me and go around blasting people. I’m not saying you should rebuke everyone who disagrees with you, declaring, “You’re of the devil. Satan is using you in my life.” That’s not what I’m trying to get across. You just need to recognize that Satan—as well as God—can speak through and use the people in your life. Like Jesus, you need to discern whose voice is coming through.
More than thirty years ago, my mother wanted to take my wife, my oldest son (who was one at the time),and me to the Smoky Mountains. This was back during our “poverty days.”Jamie and I were struggling financially and didn’t have any money, but since Mother offered to pay for everything on the trip, we decided to go ahead and go.
At that time, my mother had just started believing God for healing. Since she hadn’t seen the manifestation yet in the specific areas she’d been believing for, basically she had suffered a defeat. Due to this, Mother was on the bubble about whether this “healing stuff” really worked or not. Since then, she’s turned around and received great healing, but this was way back in the beginning of our ministry when Mother still thought I was somewhere out on the lunatic fringe.
Anyway, as we began our trip, Mother was nursing a little bit of a cold. She started saying negative things about my son like, “Keep him away from me or he’ll catch this cold.”
I’d answer, “No, Mother. He’s not going to catch this cold.”
Then she’d complain about the money, saying, “I really shouldn’t be taking this trip. I don’t have the money to do it.”
So I just told her, “Hey, Mother. We have zippo, zilch, nada. If you don’t have the money to take this trip, we need to go home now because I can’t help you.”
She’d respond, “Oh no! I’ve got plenty of money.”Mother was just in a negative mindset, which made it a bad situation.
During the hot summer day, my son sat right in front of the air conditioner. Since I understood that we can have what we say (Mark 11:23),it really bothered me when she said things like, “Don’t put him there. He’ll catch a cold!”
I’d have to counter that with, “No, he’s not going to catch a cold.”
All this griping and complaining was really out of character for my mother. She is a super lady and is usually very positive, but she was just stuck in this negative mindset. She talked doubt and unbelief all day long. It was a constant battle back and forth to counter what was being said. Since this was my mother, I tried to be as polite and kind as I possibly could.
The very first night of the trip, we all stayed in a hotel room together. Our son was sleeping in a little crib. Around eleven o’clock, he woke up with this croup in his throat that you could have heard in the next room. It was loud and he could hardly breathe, so I got up, prayed in tongues, rebuked the croup, and released my faith. He went back to sleep and everything was fine.
Thirty minutes later, the same thing happened. I got up, prayed over him, and he went back to sleep. Every thirty minutes, I was up and down like a yo-yo, praying over our son and trying to get him back to sleep. Finally, about three in the morning on one of my trips back to bed, my mother said, “Admit it, Andy. He’s sick!”
I got right down there, stuck my finger in her face, and said, “Satan, in the name of Jesus, I command you to shut up! I will not receive any of your criticism or any of your curses. My son is blessed and not cursed!” Then I started speaking the Word. Mother never said another word, and our son never got up again that night. He was just fine, but Mother didn’t say anything for two whole days— and we were together all the time in a car on vacation.
Finally, when she did speak, she cried, “Well, I’m sorry you think I’m the devil” and started into this self-pity party.
I said, “Mother, you know enough to know better. I’ve told you the Word of God. You knew that stuff you were saying was exactly opposite the Word. You’d just given yourself over to Satan. I’m not mad at you. I was just standing against the devil. He was trying to steal my faith for healing.”
To this day, Mother continues to be one of my very best friends. She’s over ninety five years old and enjoys the blessing of good health. My approach that night was pretty strong, but I knew Satan was behind this attack trying to steal my faith.
You can certainly take a stand against what people say with more tact than I displayed back then. I was young in the Lord and that’s just the way I responded, but the principle applies regardless of how you administer it.
Stretched to the Max
We are in a spiritual battle! Unfortunately, most of the time people don’t recognize it. They’re just looking at things from a natural, human perspective. They factor God, the devil, and the whole supernatural realm right out of the equation. The average person doesn’t realize the spiritual dynamics taking place. God doesn’t send bad things our way. It’s not just happenstance or fate. There’s a real enemy out there that we must learn to deal with.
The first time I tried to produce a book was about twenty years ago. It was my Life for Today—Gospels Edition study Bible and commentary, which is almost six hundred pages long. This was going to be a major expense. At that time, my ministry income was so low that to come up with $50,000 to print a book was two or three months’ worth of income for me. This project was really stretching me to the max!
A number of different publishers came and offered to help us with the project. One offered to reduce our cost to $27,000 if we would pay right away. They said, “We’re in a bind and need the money. If you pay right away, we’ll give you this discount.”So I went to my partners, raised the money—more than a month’s worth of income at the time—and gave it to them. This was a major deal for us.
Within a month, I learned that the salesman had run off with our money. In fact, he’d burned several other well-known preachers at the same time!
I remember when I heard this news. My employee said, “This salesman just took our $27,000.We’re going to have to come up with an additional $45,000 just in the next week or so to be able to make this project work. All together, we’re looking at about $70,000.”
My first reaction was shock. Is this really true? Then came a fleshly twinge of wanting to beat up this salesman. But I recognized who the real culprit was. Satan had come against me and was trying to steal from me.
Immediately, Proverbs 6:31 came to mind.
But if [a thief] be found, he shall restore sevenfold; he shall give all the substance of his house.
I recognized that this wasn’t just a person trying to steal from me. Obviously, there were demonic entities working behind the scenes. So within seconds of getting this news, I realized, This is the devil stealing from me, and I’ve caught him. Therefore, according to the Word of God, I demand it back seven times! Immediately, I took a piece of paper and figured out seven times $70,000.Instead of being angry, depressed, and hurt, I started dancing and praising God, saying, “Hallelujah, this is awesome. I’m getting $490,000 back this year!” As I continued praising God, that situation never did get me down or discouraged.
When that year was over, we had increased nearly to the penny $490,000—exactly seven times the amount of money that was taken from us. That was back during a period of time when our entire income was only about $500,000 a year. We nearly doubled our income that year!
What could have been a tragic scenario turned into a positive situation because I recognized that I’m not fighting flesh and blood. I’m fighting a spiritual battle, with spiritual weapons, against spiritual enemies. I realized that Satan was trying to come against me, and then acted on the Word.
Who’s Influencing Whom?
I’ve actually loaned people money before who have never paid me back. They said they would, but for whatever reason, they didn’t. Instead of taking an offense and getting mad at the person, I recognize that this is Satan. Of course, the person cooperated in some measure and allowed him to do it, but I recognize that the devil was trying to get me into unforgiveness. So I just forgive them. My attitude is, “Hey, just take it as a gift. I’m not going to sit here and harbor any animosity over this. It’s not worth it.”
You might think, Man, I’d never do something like that. But I recognize that there is a spiritual battle raging—and nobody is going to rent space in my mind! Nobody is going to occupy my heart except God. I refuse to harbor unforgiveness toward anyone. I will not allow bitterness even a toehold in my life. I’m aware that Satan uses such things as an inroad against me.
Like it or not, there’s a spiritual battle raging right now for your heart and mind. As you think in your heart is the way that you’ll be. (Prov.23:7.) Your thoughts become what you say and do, with your actions being the greatest expression of your authority. Therefore, you’ll be influenced, dominated, and ruled by whomever you yield yourself to—God or Satan.