A couple of years ago, I did an organized road bike ride to Gettysburg and back with my friends. When we got back in Dillsburg, we picked up our t-shirts and headed home. I rode my bike home and a friend of mine was in his car. As I rode through the Dillsburg Square, the t-shirt in my hand got caught in the front brakes. My bike locked up and the next thing I remember, I was flat on my back, looking up and in pain.

The problem I had was my left shoulder. I didn’t move. The bruise around my elbow was growing and growing meaning I was bleeding from my shoulder down. I had no idea if I broke my shoulder or not. What I needed was a doctor to verify what was wrong. Someone to bring clarity to my life. Off to OIP we went. The doctor took X-Rays and confirmed that I was fine. I was so relieved. I needed that doctor to step into my life and tell me what I didn’t know.

A coach does that for a team. A good coach sees what the team can’t see. A parent does that for a child, helps them understand the big picture. A teacher does that for a student, they can inspire them to learn. A Pastor does that for people struggling and looking for spiritual answers. These leaders can step in and make what is confusing clear.

I think everyone here would agree, we would love it if God stepped into our lives to tell us what is going on. Doesn’t life seem unclear? It can be like driving a car with a dirty wind shield and turning into the sunlight. You are blinded and can’t see well. Maybe another analogy would be the feeling of trying to walk through mud up to our knees. You want to get to where you are going but it seems almost impossible. Is this your life experience? No matter who you are or where you are in life, life can feel like a struggle.

In the middle of our journey through the mud, through life, with slop up to our knees, what do we conclude about ourselves? We begin to doubt ourselves. We feel like we are failing and it would make sense to give up. Believe something inside us is broken. Whatever we are, we will never be good enough. All of this put together can lead us to be emotionally and physically tired. We don’t feel clear about life, our relationships or God.

Again, as you walk through life, wouldn’t it be nice if God would drop in, explain what is going on to make life clear again? I have great news for you, He did. Here it is.

We know that we are children of God and that the world around us is under the power and control of the evil one. NLT 1 John 5:19-20

If you invited God into your heart, you are a Godly person who is living in a world controlled by Satan. By the way, the two don’t mix. There is a continual battle with no time outs. It’s quite literally, like living behind enemy lines every day. In Ephesians, Paul tells us,

10 A final word: Be strong with the Lord’s mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies and tricks of the Devil. 12 For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms. NLT Ephesians 6:10-12

That thing you battle every day, the feeling that you are in the mud, the feeling that you are looking through a dirty windshield, you thought it was physical, actually it’s spiritual. You are battling against all the strategies and tricks of the Devil. In this series, we are going to expose four strategies your enemy uses to take you out and what to do about them.

For today, right now, let’s take a time out for a second. Think about the battles you are in right now. What are they? What struggles do you face right now? They are wearing you out aren’t they?   Over the months and years of your battles, what you have you concluded? Let me guess, you doubt yourself. You are blowing it – right? You feel like you are failing and you should just give up. You believe that something inside you is broken. You believe that you will never be good enough. Maybe you think that God has given up on you or holding out on you. Don’t you just want a time out from it all?

As a Pastor, it brings me enormous joy to tell you the truth from scripture. God can change everything for you. You are not in a physical battle. It looks like it, I know. You are actually in a spiritual battle. Let me read for you what Jesus has done for you.

1 Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. 2 A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death. MSG Romans 8:1-2

Please hear me. You are not a failure. You’re not a looser. God can heal and redeem every part of your life. God has not given up on you. In all the areas of your life that you don’t add up, God is there for you.

Let’s make this real. If my daughters, years ago, got off the school bus in tears, what would I do? I would go to them and ask what happened. They would tell me that they were hurt in school. Someone at the lunch table hurt them, they went to another lunch table and felt rejected. They felt hurt, sad and lonely. I felt the pain of rejection. They wouldn’t want to go back to school the next day. What would I do? I would tell them the truth. I would tell them I love them. I tell them that they are special. I would tell them to find new friends.

They come home from school shattered and I would love them and try to help them see the truth: they are special. That’s exactly what God is trying to do with us. Life is hard and we have come to some very wrong conclusions about ourselves. God is there telling us the truth: we are specail.

Now I must say, sometimes the battles we are in come from spiritual battles from within us. For example, if you choose to live a life of unforgiveness, you will live a life of pain. If you choose to live a life with pride and rebellion that is never broken, you will live a life of pain. If you choose to live a life as a victim, you will always walk in circles and five years from now, be the same wounded person. There are ramifications for our choices.

According to scripture, we are in a spiritual battle. So how do we live? If the battles we are facing seem overwhelmingly physical but they are actually spiritual, how do we live?

4 Every God-begotten person conquers the world’s ways. The power that brings the world to its knees is our faith. 5 The person who wins out over the world’s ways is simply the one who believes Jesus is the Son of God. MSG 1 John 5:4-5

…6 It’s impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that he exists and that he cares enough to respond to those who seek him. MSG Hebrews 11:6

How do we live? We live by faith. We will win and lose based on faith. To be more specific, as we walk through the mud, we believe God is alive and that every time I seek Him, He will care enough to respond to me. Do you believe that? Or do you face a physical challenge and think; I have to suck it up and muscle through it.

Do you see how naïve, how silly it is to take your physical strength into a spiritual war? It’s like bringing a knife to a gun fight. You will be taken out.

Here is the big question: What do you do the next time you face a battle that seems overwhelmingly …physical? Your marriage. Your finances. Your job. Your family. Your health. We could go on.

Let me share a story with you. It’s a story about Elisha and his young apprentice surrounded by an army.

14 Then he dispatched horses and chariots, an impressive fighting force. They came by night and surrounded the city. 15 Early in the morning a servant of the Holy Man got up and went out. Surprise! Horses and chariots surrounding the city! The young man exclaimed, “Oh, master! What shall we do?” 16 He said, “Don’t worry about it – there are more on our side than on their side.” 17 Then Elisha prayed, “O GOD, open his eyes and let him see.” The eyes of the young man were opened and he saw. A wonder! The whole mountainside full of horses and chariots of fire surrounding Elisha! MSG 2 Kings 6:14-17

A physical army you could feel and touch surrounded them. But a spiritual army of fire was even bigger.

When you begin to believe what scripture tells us; life is a spiritual battle, all the scriptures we read begin to explode with new meaning.

29 He energizes those who get tired, gives fresh strength to dropouts. 30 For even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall. 31 But those who wait upon GOD get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles, they run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind. MSG Isaiah 40:29-31

There it is. God is alive and when I go after God, He cares enough to respond to me.

11 I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out – plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. 12 “When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen. 13 “When you come looking for me, you’ll find me. “Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, 14 I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.” GOD’s Decree. “I’ll turn things around for you. ” MSG Jeremiah 29:11-14

There it is. God is alive and when I go after God, He cares enough to respond to me.

1 I waited and waited and waited for GOD. At last he looked; finally he listened. 2 He lifted me out of the ditch, pulled me from deep mud. He stood me up on a solid rock to make sure I wouldn’t slip. MSG Psalms 40:1-2

There it is. God is alive and when I go after God, He cares enough to respond to me.

Listen, you are a child of God. You live in enemy territory and are in a battle. The only way you will survive, is through faith. That means I believe God is alive and when I go after God, He will take care of me.

What do you do the next time you face a battle that is overwhelmingly …physical?

I want to talk to people who are Christians and who consider themselves as mature followers of Christ.   Maybe you are like me and grew up in this stuff. I want you to know, I love you and I want what is best for you. So I want to challenge you with a few questions. What do you do when life gets hard? What do you do when the battle gets intense? What do you do when your emotions are more ‘depressed’ than ‘joyful’? What do you do when your marriage or relationships begin failing? What do you do in the heat of battle or the boredom of life? What do you do?

Most Christians, in North America, ignore God and work harder. We just muscle through another miserable day without God. Now what is interesting, we make sure we follow the rules, right? We don’t steal. We don’t cheat on our spouses. We know we are supposed to show up early for church and serve. We know about the giving 10% thing – what a pain that is. We know all the scriptures around forgiveness.

We jump into our days without God. We fail to declare our dependency on Him. We do the right things and follow the rules and we muscle through life on our strength. We even know what the scriptures say. We listen to a sermon like today’s and think, “Yep, we are in a spiritual battle.” If someone asks us what to do, we know the answers. The problem, we just don’t apply them to our lives.

It’s weird because we know the information but we aren’t living it out. So we appear like we are mature disciples of Christ when in reality, we are a mess. We are doing life without God. We have failed to live a life of faith. A life of dependence on God.

6 It’s impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that he exists and that he cares enough to respond to those who seek him. MSG Hebrews 11:6

Are you trying to bring your physical strength into a spiritual battle? You’re going to get mowed over ten different ways.

What do you do when you face a battle that is overwhelmingly …physical?

I have to tell you what my natural default setting is. When a problem hits, it’s normal for me to ignore God, take responsibility for the problem and muscle through it. Why? I’m a leader and a leader must lead. Must get people’s thoughts. Must learn leadership principles. Must communicate with clarity.

What do you think happens? I get worn down, exhausted and can feel beaten up. Whose fault is that? Mine. Think about how stupid that decision is. I am fighting a spiritual battle with my own physical strength and with no hope of winning, ever.

What is God teaching me over the past 15 years? When I don’t turn to God, I am living a life of no faith. I must believe that God is alive and that every time I go after Him, He will care enough to respond to me. I must have God to fight my spiritual battles for me. Then I can relax and feel His strength. I can lead and learn about leadership. I can take care of all the practical things. But I must have God fight my spiritual battles.

What do you do, the next time you face a battle that obviously, is practical or physical?