It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
Dan R. Crawford is senior professor of evangelism and missions, chair of prayer, emeritus, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, TX, and author/compiler of 18 books including, God’s Formula for Genuine Happiness and Giving Ourselves to Prayer. He and his wife, Joanne, are retired and living in Fort Worth.
List Price: $14.95
Paperback: 128 pages
Publisher: Hannibal Books (January 1, 2010)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Finally, my brethren . . . (Ephesians 6:10-20)
The New Testament church was birthed and commissioned to make disciples to the very ends of the earth. As soon as they began to fulfill this Great Commission, believers began to encounter spiritual warfare. Consider the following examples:
• Acts 5—Satan attacked the church from within through the prominent family of Ananias and
• Acts 8—God was moved to separate, through heavy persecution, the church in Jerusalem from its Jewish comfort zone.
• Acts 13—Satan’s representative was humiliated, defeated, and blinded through the ministry of Paul.
• Acts 16—Warfare was fought over the demonized slave girl of Philippi.
• Acts 19—Warfare was waged between the Spirit of God and the evil spirits associated with some Jewish exorcists in Ephesus.
Nor did these encounters with evil end in Acts. Consider what else Paul wrote concerning spiritual warfare:
• 1 Corinthians 9:26-27—Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.
• 2 Corinthians 10:3-5—For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.
• 1 Thessalonians 5:8—But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, as a helmet the hope of salvation.
• 1 Timothy 1:18—This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare . . .
• 1 Timothy 6:12—Fight the good fight of faith . . .
• 2 Timothy 2:3-4—You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.
• 2 Timothy 4:7—I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
These comments are from Paul, who, other than Jesus, is generally considered the most spirit-filled person in the New Testament. If he was so filled, why do so many passages on warfare appear? Here is the reality of his day—and ours: The greater the filling of the spirit, the more involvement in the mission of God; the more God’s mission expands, the greater the warfare. Besides Paul’s writings, other New Testament writers wrote of spiritual warfare:
• James 4:7: Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
• 1 Peter 5:8-9: Be sober, be vigilant: because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.
• Revelation 12:7-11: And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast out with him. Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.”
All of this reflected the earlier teaching of Jesus recorded in Luke 14:31-33:
“Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for conditions of peace. So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be my disciple.”
So, in what may well have been meant to be a summary statement, toward the end of his life, Paul wrote, Finally, my brethren . . . and proceeded to prioritize the spiritual preparation for prayer and proclamation.
TODAY’S WAR NEWS FROM THE BATTLEFIELDS
My childhood years were lived during the Korean conflict. Every Saturday morning several hundred of my friends and I would pay our nine cents and crowd into the nearby theater to watch a morning full of cartoons, cowboy movies, and to-be-continued serial thrillers. Somewhere in every Saturday morning’s offerings was a feature called, “Today’s News from the Battlefields.” Since the news was from Korea and few of us knew where that was, we had little interest. We used this time for a bathroom or refreshment break.
While yesterday’s battle news was from faraway places and seemed of little interest to 10-year olds on Saturday mornings, today’s battle news is closer and of much greater interest. Curtis Vaughan wrote, “It is a great mistake to think that in the happy hour of our conversion all trouble and strife cease. In reality, that hour marks the beginning of a lifelong warfare—not a war for our salvation, to be sure, but a war in Christian service.”1.
Like Paul we are called to be ambassadors—those who represent a King in another Kingdom. The kingdom of this world is not yet the kingdom of our God. Satan is called the ruler of this world (John 12:31). As we represent our God in this earthly kingdom, we encounter Satan. While I worked on this book, I sent emails to several friends and former students presently serving in cross-cultural settings. I asked them whether in recent days they had experienced any evidences of spiritual warfare.
From a missionary friend in Mexico I received the story of a spiritual conflict. The missionary wrote: We have encountered many conflicts in the spirit over the years. It does not fail when we are moving furiously in the Lord, also automatically a close friend will turn on us and speak evil or unkindly. It sets us back, but we realize that it is Satan attacking us. We get on our knees and cry out to God to protect us and help us to love this one whom Satan is using to deter the work.
From Nigeria we learned of a Christian educator whose home was burned in an apparent attempt to kill him. While students from another world religion claimed to be the instigators of the fire, it was clearly interpreted as an attack originating in the mind of Satan.
From Haiti we learned that a witch doctor was giving missionaries much trouble and hindering the advance of the gospel. Even though she sent her children to the Christian school, the witch doctor admitted that she loved her demonic powers more than she loved God.
From Kazakhstan we learned of another witch doctor placing demonic curses on anyone—usually a Christian—who would not give her money. Every time a Christian would get near her home, she would yell at the person to leave. After many attempts by a local pastor to share, she finally listened to the gospel, trusted, and changed Masters.
From a former student who now is a missionary in Brazil we learned of a demon-possessed woman who continually disrupted open-air evangelistic meetings. After intense prayer, she ceased to be disruptive. She was neither on drugs nor alcohol, nor was she mentally ill. Often she acted normal. Other times she seemed to be possessed.
From Taiwan we learned from a missionary who often felt that an evil spirit was in the room at night while she was attempting to sleep. She wrote, “I felt the hate and evil so much I thought I was going to die. All I could do was appeal to Jesus. Every time I did so, the evil spirit left immediately.”
From a church planter in Canada we learned of a woman believed by many to be demon-possessed. Since she was married to a church member, she often attended church functions. Once during a Bible study she appeared in all black. After a few moments she left. The church planter said a sudden gloom seemed to be over the group. Since her presence had caused him to lose his place in this notes, he looked again at his Bible. All he saw was a blank page. After a momentary setback he called on someone else to read. As the person read, the print reappeared in his Bible.
While serving as interim pastor in a Houston church I personally experienced a disruption during a Sunday morning sermon. As I was concluding my sermon, two young men stood in the middle of the center section about half of the way back. Each was dressed in black. Turning their backs on each other, they walked toward the aisles on either side of their section and climbed over people as they went. When they reached the two aisles, they started toward the front of the worship center and marched in military style. Arriving at the first row simultaneously, they turned and walked toward me and then abruptly clicked the heels of their black boots and turned away. They departed the worship center through side doors. Later, as the invitation time ended and people were seated, these two young men returned to the worship center through the same side doors and repeated their steps, complete with the clicking of their heels, until they were seated again in their original seats. I discovered they were devil worshipers and had been visiting some of the youth activities. They had been observed prayerwalking (to Satan, obviously) the church facilities. Their purpose was to disrupt activities and divert the focus of those present.
Did you notice the presence of prayer and proclamation in these reports?
As reports of these incidents intensify, Ephesians 6:10-20 will help us to be better prepared for these attacks. Half of Ephesians is about grace; half is about relationships. This passage on warfare follows a teaching on the family—one of Satan’s primary targets. Spiritual warfare is not about our salvation.
We are not fighting to be saved or to inherit heaven. Spiritual warfare is about service and ministry, prayer and proclamation. Therefore, we must give attention to our preparation. Earlier in this letter Paul discussed the wonderful privileges and blessings of the one who follows Jesus. He wrote about his own calling and fellowship with other believers. He wrote about relationships—husbands and wives, parents and children, servants and masters. All of these involve degrees of difficulty. If such relationships are done well, they invite serious opposition. Thus Paul closes this letter with a discussion of spiritual warfare.
AN ONGOING PERSONAL BATTLE
Before we go further, a brief personal parenthesis may be helpful. I arrive at this subject of spiritual warfare out of an experience that began at the age of 15. As an active high-school athlete and hyperactive church youth-group member, I was on my way to a church-sponsored youth activity when the car in which I rode was hit by a speeding driver who was heavily under the influence of alcohol. My neck was broken at the second vertebra. I spent the next nine months in a hospital bed engaged in among other things, learning how to pray. Little did I know that was only a prelude to later mission—and to spiritual warfare.
Out of that experience I understood God’s call on my life to vocational ministry—to be on mission with a divine purpose, a purpose that would weigh heavily in the areas of prayer and proclamation. Also out of that experience was laid a foundation for understanding and withstanding later spiritual warfare.
In the midst of the 1999 shooting crisis at Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, TX—my home church—I experienced an amazing revelation. I had been commissioned by the church to write a book on the shooting and its aftermath.2 As I was interviewing other people who were present the night of the shooting, I became aware of two things:
• Many of those present described the scene as one of spiritual attack. Some used the term spiritual warfare. After more than 100 interviews I concluded they were correct. Whatever else happened that night, spiritual warfare was occurring.
• Many others who were present seemed to be in denial of the tragic events. One of the counselors explained why people were having such a tough time accepting the facts. He said the human mind is like a computer. When you ask your office computer to search for a file, it hums and hums. If it finds no file, it tells you so. When we asked our minds to compute a violent shooting in our church, during which seven precious lives were taken and hundreds were traumatized, no file existed for it. So our minds just hummed and hummed and kept rejecting our request for understanding.
With this analogy I realized that my broken-neck experience at age 15 had prepared a file in my mind that would later help me understand some of the later crises I encountered. These included the shooting at our church and many other additional crises.
Allow me to describe some of the others. On a prayer journey to the former Soviet Union I was on a Russian-built Aeroflot airliner that lost power at 30,000 feet in the air. While the problem was mechanical and was corrected in a matter of a few seconds, I felt as if Satan were using the experience to gently remind me that I was on his turf.
The next experience occurred on a trip to West Africa to speak on the subject of prayer at the missionary meetings in the Gambia and Burkina Faso. Ten days before I departed, I was at the 18th hole of the Colonial Golf Tournament in Fort Worth. Seated four rows up, I jumped off the side of the bleachers. My foot caught in the metal construction; this caused me to fall head-first to the concrete below. Extending my right hand to break the fall, I sustained a broken and dislocated right shoulder, a torn rotator cuff, and nerve damage in my right arm as well as facial cuts. I received permission to make the trip to West Africa only because my doctor had no idea what riding on African roads in a Mitsubishi pickup with no shock absorbers would be like. But I made it with my right arm in a sling. You might say that trip was made on a sling and a prayer. Did Satan cause me to fall off the bleachers? I don’t know, but if not, I do know he got involved shortly thereafter.
I was on a return trip from Senegal, West Africa, having spoken on prayer to a group of missionaries, and became so ill I had to sit on the back seat of the airplane. I sat near the restroom for the 10-hour flight back to Texas. Need I say more? I felt as though Satan was saying, “You tried to encourage people who are working in my territory. I’ll get even with you.”
I took eight student-preachers to Guatemala to preach in evangelistic crusades as a part of the 50th anniversary of Southern Baptist work in that country. On the night before my return flight to the U.S. I became very ill. I wasn’t sure I could even make the flight back. I was sick throughout the flight and the remainder of the day. I lost 11 pounds in 24 hours and was almost dehydrated. Again, I felt as though Satan was paying me back for facilitating evangelistic ministry in a place in which he was strong.
During a major prayer journey to China, India, and the Islamic world, toward the end of the three-week trip I developed stomach problems. Satan? Possibly.
Before the first half of a six-month sabbatical leave to China I was discovered to have a rare form of skin cancer—morphia basil cell carcinoma—which required four surgeries in 36 days. These were completed within days of my departure for Hong Kong. In fact, a few days before my departure, while I was leading a prayer conference in a Nashville, TN, church, a local doctor removed the final stitches from my nose. Was this Satan trying to block a ministry that not only would encourage missionaries in China but would result in a prayer-walking orientation manual that would be translated into many languages and used in many parts of the world? Probably so.
During a prayer journey to Japan I began to suffer from what was later diagnosed as degenerative disk problems in my lower back. Satan loves to get involved in back problems.
During a prayer journey to Macau I experienced debilitating swelling in a joint of my left foot. Fortunately, a missionary pharmacist was able to provide me with some anti-inflammatory medication. Was Satan trying to divert my focus from ministry? I think so.
During a prayer journey to Costa Rica I experienced pain in my neck and left shoulder. On return to Fort Worth the problem was diagnosed as a degenerative disk problem in my neck. Satan really can be a pain in the neck!
During a prayer journey to Hong Kong I experienced dizzy spells in the intense heat and high humidity. Was this Satan using the weather conditions to discourage me? Maybe.
During a six-month sabbatical leave to Germany, on which I was teaching prayer and discipleship in a seminary, I incurred a hernia, had floaters and flashes in my right eye (initially thought to be a detached or torn retina), and observed a recurrence of what was feared to be the earlier skin cancer. Satan? Likely.
Less than two weeks before departure for Kosovo I injured my lower back. The next 10 days included an emergency-room visit, a doctor’s-office call, a steroid shot, and various drugs. In spite of this the doctor recommended that I not make the trip because of the back-to-back flight segments of several hours’ duration and the condition of the roads in Kosovo. The missionaries concurred that this was the best decision. Did Satan use a back problem to block this trip? I believe he did.
Three weeks before we were to leave on a trip to Italy to lead conferences on prayer and spiritual conflict, my wife was admitted to the hospital with symptoms of a heart attack. After several tests the problem was diagnosed as acid reflux, but in the process she became dehydrated and suffered an internal infection. The timing was such that we wondered whether Satan was using the episode to discourage the trip to Italy.
While I cannot prove beyond a doubt that Satan was involved in any of these circumstances, I do know that while I was attempting as a faithful disciple to be on mission for God, I experienced the kinds of attacks Satan excels in—diverting attention, distorting focus, weakening witness. In every case the ministry assignment continued, either with me or without me. The one personal cancellation was only because of doctors’ orders and then only after a brief but intense argument on my part.
Charles Kettering was an inventor of the electric cash register, electric auto ignition, spark plugs, freon, leaded gasoline, safety glass, four-wheel brakes, and automatic transmission. At his death he was a holder or co-holder of more than 140 patents. On an occasion Kettering said, “No one would ever have crossed the ocean if he could have gotten off the ship in a storm.”
We must never let Satan think he can stop us in our intercessory prayer for the proclamation of the gospel, even when the storms grow intense.
What to Do When Spiritual Warfare Threatens Prayer and Proclamation
1. Acknowledge that the conflict is real and that you are personally involved in it.
2. Recognize personal battles in your life and seek to correct them.
3. Determine to never forsake your commitment to follow God’s leadership in your life regardless of Satan’s attempts to influence you otherwise.
Questions for Reflection and/or Discussion
1. What evidences do you find that inform you that you or friends you know are personally involved in spiritual warfare?
2. What personal battles do you discern in your life or in the lives of friends?
3. What can you determine to do ahead of time so you will be able to stand against Satan’s attacks?
1Curtis Vaughan, Ephesians in the Bible Study Commentary. Grand Rapids:
Zondervan Publishing House, 1977, 125.
2Dan R. Crawford, Night of Tragedy Dawning of Light. Colorado Springs: Shaw