In America, we have a very specific method for declaring war. While the lines have been blurred many times, there is still a written plan of declaring war in America.
Spiritual warfare is very different.
And, as Christians, I believe we do spiritual warfare wrong.
Too often, Christians in America go through their comfortable lives and, when something bad comes up, they claim spiritual warfare and start praying for God to remove the warfare from their lives.
Ephesians 6:12 – For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
I am fairly certain that I have lived this way for much of my life. But spiritual warfare is a daily event, not a single circumstance.
I’ve played the victim.
The Bible is clear, spiritual warfare is not singular event that becomes a speed bump in the road toward sanctification. Spiritual warfare is an every day mindset.
When life throws everything it can at you, it is very easy to stand up claim spiritual warfare and pray hard for about a week and then fall back into your life of Christian mediocrity.
So I believe we get spiritual warfare very wrong.
Those life events? Yea, they aren’t necessarily spiritual warfare. They are opportunities in this life to continue toward sanctification and grow in Christ.
They are an opportunity to heal.
But we have to accept it.
When we feel ourselves slipping into the victim mentality and half-heartedly claiming spiritual warfare, it is important to go to the book of John and go to chapter 5. Right there in the beginning is an account about Jesus at the Well of Bethesda, a place where healing would happen to a select few people.
John 5:1-9 – After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked. Now that day was the Sabbath.
You see, this pool was supernatural. Our modern day minds can’t wrap around this, but an angel would come down and stir the waters of this well. The first person to go into the well would be healed.
There was a man at this well who had been diseased for over 38 years. Each time he tried to get in the pool when the water was stirred, someone would beat him to it and obtain the healing before him.
When Jesus sees this man, he asks a strange question, “Do you want to be healed?”
In many of the cases of healing in the Bible that involve Jesus, we see that people seek Jesus out for healing.
This man was just sitting there in his illness and Jesus goes up to him and asks him if he wants to be healed.
Jesus realizes that this man had not been sick for a short amount of time. This disease had a hold of this man for a long period of his life. So much that it could have become his identity. What afflicts us, or comes against us, can easily become a part of our identity.
At first, Jesus’ initial comment to the man can look uncaring and cold. Jesus doesn’t ask for the man’s history. He doesn’t seem to care about why this man is in this position.
He simply asks him if he wants to be healed.
It is as if Jesus is saying to the man, “Do you really want to be healed or are you happy playing the victim?”
This is where we begin to see the reality of victimization.
The man doesn’t immediately answer Jesus by saying “yes.” As a matter of fact, in this account, the man never tells Jesus that he wants healing!
To anyone reading this, we would think that if we had Jesus standing in front of us asking if we want healing from a disease that has crippled us for 38 years that we would immediately break down and cry out “YES!”
And yet, this man doesn’t say “yes.”
This man answers as a victim.
“Sir, I have no one to put me in the pool when the waters are stirred, but while I am coming, another steps in before me.”
Jesus didn’t care about the man’s reasons. Jesus didn’t want the back story.
Jesus asked a yes or no question.
Very simple question.
Do you want to be healed, yes or no?
Being a victim rarely allows us to answer the easy questions easily.
It causes us to get caught up in our circumstances rather than the solutions. This man had the Creator of the universe standing in front of him and asking him if he wanted healing and yet all he could do is give Jesus an excuse!
If this man really wanted healing, he could have figured out a way to be healed. It might have involved bribing someone to throw him in the pool or making promises to someone to hold people back. Instead, this man was so caught up in his story that he couldn’t see the healing in front of him.
Lately, my wife and I have had a lot happen in our lives. And, while I say “lately,” it feels as if every step of the way since we were married that we have had something come up that knocks us off balance. The past couple months has involved several surgeries for my dad, all 3 of the vehicles in our family breaking down at the same time, loss of jobs, loss of insurance, loss of incomes from both her employment and mine. If you want, I can share the story of the past 3.5 years that kept us off balance.
Every time I have claimed “spiritual warfare” and blamed Satan.
Meanwhile, I wonder if God is simply standing before us saying, “Do you really want to be healed or do you like your story more than my power?”
That was painful to write.
It was painful to hear in my head over and over.
If we aren’t careful, we can hold a story within us that is not the story that God wants known. Our story can be filled with unhealed pain, distorted beliefs, and personal limitations. We can carry that story into every chapter of our lives and even write it into future chapters before they are even written.
This man at the pool had a chance to stop his story where it was and change it to the story that Jesus wanted to give him. The story Jesus wants to convey is becoming whole and healing.
Back in 2013 I started my ministry call. Over the years, I have asked people the same question Jesus asked this man at the pool.
Do you want healing?
Are you willing to give up the unemployment check if you can find a job. Are you willing to give up the disability check if you have a chance to be healed?
Many times I received silence at that question. They didn’t immediately tell me yes, and, in some cases, never gave me a yes or no at all, they just gave me their story again.
With healing comes a new way of thinking about life. With healing comes a new lifestyle. With healing comes a new perspective.
Many times people want to be healed, but they don’t want to change their lives to accept it.
That is a victim mentality.
Jesus does heal the man. Some texts say that Jesus made him whole.
God is more concerned with us becoming whole and being healed.
But the story doesn’t end with verse 9!
John 5:14 – Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.”
In verse 14 we are told that Jesus sees this man later in the temple and tells the man that he needs to sin no more so that nothing worse comes his way. Basically, Jesus is telling this man that if he isn’t careful, he can very easily slip back into his victim mentality and that would cause him to be sicker than before.
For most of Christendom, we find it hard to believe that our disease can be caused by sin. We try to preach grace only and try to sanitize the gospel message to be a happy go lucky, rub Jesus’ belly and all will be well story. We try to remove the guilt and condemnation from the gospel message.
But we can’t avoid the fact that Jesus warned this man that if he wasn’t careful he would lose what he gained.
This man played the victim all his life. For at least 38 years. He had no room for love or hope or faith. If we continue to live as a victim, we carry with us unbelief. That unbelief means that our situation cannot truly change until we get rid of the unbelief.
We lose hope and believe the lies that we are only what we see.
Jesus called us to live as victors, not victims. Living as a victim is a sin and needs to be repented of.
We can’t simply say “the devil made me do it” when we live a life of unbelief.