I want to read a story for you. Before I do, I need to give it some context. The king of Syria was in a war with the king of Israel. Every time the king of Syria would try a surprise attack on the king of Israel, God would tell the prophet Elisha and he would warn the king of Israel. The king of Syria was furious and thought he had a traitor in his army. He couldn’t understand how Israel knew his every move.
The king discovered what was happening. It was God talking to the prophet Elisha. The king of Syria was so angry he sent his army to get Elisha where he lived. They surrounded the city of Dothan with chariots and horses. When the prophet Elisha’s servant got up early the next morning and went outside, there were troops, horses, and chariots everywhere. Let’s read what happens.
14 So one night the king of Syria sent a great army with many chariots and horses to surround the city. 15 When the prophet’s servant got up early the next morning and went outside, there were troops, horses, and chariots everywhere. “Alas, my master, what shall we do now?” he cried out to Elisha. 16 “Don’t be afraid!” Elisha told him. “For our army is bigger than theirs!”
17 Then Elisha prayed, “Lord, open his eyes and let him see!” And the Lord opened the young man’s eyes so that he could see horses of fire and chariots of fire everywhere upon the mountain! TLB 2 Kings 6:14-17
They wake up and see the Syrian army. The servant is terrified. Why? He can only see an army surrounding them, the practical. Elisha is relaxed. Why? God’s army of fire, out numbers the army of Syria. So, Elisha prays the prayer that I want to pray for us… “Lord, open his eyes and let him see.”
What is this called? Spiritual warfare. The servant was only able to see the practical, the army of Syria. Elisha prayed and the servant’s eyes were opened to see the spiritual, God’s army that surrounded the army of Syria. We would call this spiritual warfare and it’s real, very real.
Today, I want our eyes to be opened, to see things from God’s point of view. In our marriages, we live in and experience the practical. In our marriages we see the physical, and we need God to help us see the spiritual. Why? Without our eyes opened, we may misunderstand what is happening in our marriage. Today I want to share three facts with you.
Fact 1: You have an enemy and it’s not your spouse.
8 Be careful-watch out for attacks from Satan, your great enemy. He prowls around like a hungry, roaring lion, looking for some victim to tear apart. 9 Stand firm when he attacks. Trust the Lord; and remember that other Christians all around the world are going through these sufferings too. TLB 1 Peter 5:8-9
At times it can feel like your spouse is the enemy. You get tired and worn down. They don’t seem to understand you. Maybe they fail to come through for you the way you hoped. Every attempt you make to reach out to them, you probably will do it wrong. Over the years, hurts can build up and you wonder, how many times do I have to forgive? Even worse, what if your spouse checks out and it leaves you exhausted doing most of the work.
It’s true you have an enemy but it’s not your spouse. Satan is looking for you and he is looking for a chance to tear your marriage apart. And based on the divorce rate, I’d say he is good at what he does. And of the marriages that stay together, how many of them are filled with joy and passion?
Your marriage matters. It has the power to transform. It has the power to transform each other. It has the power to transform your children. It has the power to change a church. Your marriage matters. Your marriage can change a community. And Satan fears that. And Satan hates that. And Satan is coming to destroy that.
Let me ask you, have you ever thought, maybe there is something bigger going on? Have you ever thought, good grief, every time we try to work on our marriage, we get sick or the kids break something? Have you ever wondered why every time you take a step towards God, something terrible happens? Why do you think that is?
You have an enemy and it’s not your spouse. We need to open our eyes to see what is happening. This leads us to fact 2.
Fact 2: Your enemy will attack you, but chances are you may never see it.
Jesus tells His disciples,
43 Why can’t you understand what I am saying? It is because you are unable to do so! 44 For you are the children of your father the Devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning and has always hated the truth. There is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies. – Jesus NLT John 8:43-45
Satan can’t attack God. God is greater and stronger so that will never happen. Satan can’t attack what Jesus did for you when He died for you to redeem you. When the Holy Spirit brought life into Jesus, He defeated the curse of Satan. Satan can’t attack who you are in God. When you believe in God and ask God into your life, you are a child of God and you are filled with the righteousness of Jesus. Satan cannot destroy that. What does he do? Primarily, he goes after your mind.
Satan will give you a thought or feeling and hope that you agree with it. A thought like, ‘Oh, they don’t really care about me.’ And like the apple in the Garden of Eden, Satan waits for you to bite. All you need to do is agree with that thought or feeling and you are hooked. You made an agreement with that lie. And while you are battling the thoughts and emotions inside you, your spouse is battling thoughts inside them.
Here are a few examples. See if you connect with any of them.
It’s just not going to get better.
Don’t rock the boat – settle for what you’ve got.
It’s not worth the effort, don’t give it one more try.
Never let anyone hurt you again.
I’m just not going to trust her/him anymore.
You do your thing and I’ll do mine.
I shouldn’t have married him/her.
I’d be happier with someone else.
Can you see how that can play out in a marriage? You are both worn down. You struggle to feel close. The thought hits you, ‘It’s not going to get better.’ The thought hits your spouse, ‘It’s not worth the effort, don’t give it one more try.’ If you both believe the lies he planted, Satan just succeeded in planting division in your marriage. Communication breaks down. Romance, fun and passion seem impossible to get back.
Let me ask you, what lies have you agreed with? What agreements have you made about your spouse and your marriage? Does romance, fun and passion seem so far away you will never get it back?
Fact 1: You have an enemy and it’s not your spouse.
Fact 2: Your enemy will attack you, but chances are, you won’t even see it. This leads us to fact 3.
Fact 3: You can defeat every attack, but you must make three choices.
Growing up in church, I heard about spiritual war all my life. And it’s commonly taught that the solution to spiritual warfare, the way you overcome attacks from Satan, is spiritual. You pray. And that’s true. But the problem with that solution is, it’s partly true. In churches where spiritual warfare is taught, many times people use spiritual warfare as an excuse to not make right choices. Let me give you two examples I have heard.
“I am praying that God will help me with my busy life so I can prioritize my wife.”
“I am praying that God will give me the desire to have sex with my husband.”
Let me just say, God can do anything. But when I hear that, my response is, it will never happen. God will never magically free up your day so you can prioritize your wife. God will never magically give you an unending desire for you to have sex with your husband. Both are choices. But do you see how we can hide? We use spiritual warfare as an excuse to not make right choices. And in all if it, we sound so impressively spiritual – right?
I am going to share with you three choices you must make to defeat the attacks from Satan in your marriage. Two of the choices are practical. The practical choices have huge spiritual implications. One of them is spiritual.
Choice 1. You must communicate.
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but harsh words cause quarrels. TLB Proverbs 15:1
One of the greatest ways to ruin a marriage is to stop communicating. When you are hurt and you want to hurt your spouse, many people shut down. When you don’t communicate, you open your marriage up to misunderstandings that lead to deep divisions. This one choice has huge spiritual implications. It opens your marriage up for Satan to drop lies into your marriage.
When you do communicate, you are telling your spouse that you love them and trust them. It’s called intimacy. The more you communicate the less chance Satan has to drop lies into your marriage.
You might say, I don’t talk or share my opinions because that would just start drama. My spouse is controlling and it just starts a fight. Ya, we know, we met your spouse. I would rather you talk and argue than shut down.
If you want to defeat the attacks from your enemy, make the choice to talk.
Choice 2. You can’t withhold sex.
3 The husband should not deprive his wife of sexual intimacy, which is her right as a married woman, nor should the wife deprive her husband. 4 The wife gives authority over her body to her husband, and the husband also gives authority over his body to his wife. 5 So do not deprive each other of sexual relations. NLT 1 Corinthians 7:3-5
Another great way to ruin a marriage is withholding sex or using it has leverage. When you have sex with your spouse, you are telling them that you love and accept them. It’s deeply emotional and it has the power to bond you together. When you withhold sex or use it as leverage, it’s unbiblical and you are being selfish and manipulative. To make it worse, you are sending your spouse the message, you aren’t worth it and I don’t believe in you. That message over the years can create serious emotional damage inside your spouse. It has spiritual implications.
If you want to defeat the attacks from your enemy, make the choice to have sex.
Choice 3. You must pray for them and pray together.
12 This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels. 13 Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. 14 Truth, righteousness, 15 peace, 16 faith, 17 and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. 18 In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out. MSG Ephesians 6:12-18
Did you see that? Prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. When you wake up in the morning, do you view your marriage through the lens of a great battle? A life or death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels? Do you think that your spouse is about to go into a battle today? Maybe you should. It might change how you view your role in your marriage. It might change how you view your spouse. It might change your prayer life. It might change everything.
If you want to defeat the attacks from your enemy, make the choice to pray. When you do, you are inviting God to come and protect you.
To close this down, I want to ask you questions.
Please hear me, in your marriage, you are in a spiritual battle.
You have an enemy and it’s not your spouse.
Your enemy will attack you, but chances are, you won’t even see it.
You can defeat your enemy, but you will have to make choices.
Choice 1 is communicating. Are you communicating? Are you talking more? Are you honest?
Choice 2 is about sex. Are you having sex? Are you controlling, leveraging, manipulating? Are you saying yes?
Choice 3 is about prayer. Are you aware your spouse walks into a battle every day? Are you praying for your spouse? Are you praying together?