The first time I was old enough to understand that there was an unseen realm was the summer I was ten. There was a huge summer tent revival in our town. Nothing is more southern than a tent revival. It was hot and muggy, choirs took turns trying to outdo each other every night. The evangelist was a short stout man who could “preach the strips off a zebra”. He was the kind that would stomp. and sweat and yell. He was what some would call a “Bible Thumper”. His voice echoed a few decibels louder than the “amen” and “Yes Lord’s” and the invitations lasted for what seemed like eternity itself as he called the lost to repentance. If you have never experienced a southern tenet revival as a ten-year old kid, well all I can say is, You may want to double-check your ticket to heaven to make sure its valid.
One night in revival the old-time evangelist preached on the spirit world. He told us all about the demons of Satan that were at work in this realm, blinding the eyes of the lost and causing mayhem for believers. He went on to tell us about the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit that is alive and well and living in us…..only, I didn’t get that part. I sat there completely terrified of the thoughts of demons. I slept with my sister for weeks after that. I carefully avoided all movies with inferences of anything satanic, and to be double sure, I brought some water over from the baptismal pool after a Sunday service and sprinkled it along the edges of my room. I wasn’t taking any chances.
As I grew up in church, I learned concepts like sanctification and being “Sealed with the Spirit”. I learned to trust that God was my Father and was bound by His promises to protect me from evil. I stopped looking over my shoulder.
And I learned what it means to hear The Spirit whisper into the depths of my soul. I have felt the stirring of angel wings as the presence of God was there, right there. I have knelt in prayer with other believers and felt the intense bond that formed when we rise above prayer and really “storm heaven” begging God to make Himself known. I have heard Him speak into my spirit as I am driving down the road. I have pulled over and wept as the weight of Him was so strong it made me shake. He has literally put words in my mouth, usually actual Scripture in fact…. His words and I have spoken them with authority.
I know The Struggle is real.
There is an unseen world that plays out all around us. Forces of God and evil battle for the souls of men and women. They struggle for the attention and desires of believers. The Struggle is real.
If you are follower of Jesus, you know The Struggle is real. My friend tells me yesterday, “The Struggle is real. I want to tell a friend that God is good, but it doesn’t seem that way to her and she doesn’t get it. She does not see how he uses Satan’s plans for good.” And we talk about The Struggle for this woman’s soul. We pray and call on the Holy Spirit to prevail over Satan’s tactics. The Struggle is so real.
Another friend text me to say she is simplifying her life, leaving Facebook to open more time for God. She says,” I need more of God and less of this world and it’s hard. The Struggle is real”, she says and I agree. Our affections and desires are a sought after gem that so easily handed over to the Enemy.
I talk with an old friend who tells me how her husband is not in love with her anymore, how it breaks her heart. This happens to other people, not her. He is a man of God…..or was and somehow stopped fighting in The Great Struggle. She knows, The Struggle is real.
It’s the summer of 2010 in Kenya. We walk into the house of a mama and her three-day old baby. She rushes to place the baby in our arms and asks us to pray a blessing over her baby. She tells us how she prayed for God to send her a sign while she carried this baby that she would be safe from the evils that abound there in that village. She is desperate for her daughter to have a chance at a life that without sexual exploitation or starvation. She doesn’t understand yet workings of the Holy Spirit in its deepest sense, but she knows full well the works brought by evil. She knows. She sees. She has experienced The Struggle. It’s real to her.
There is a cosmic battle going on this morning in the sanctuary where we worship. I don’t see it and I am thankful that my human eyes are curtained from the spirit world that is alive around me there in that church. I sit and listen to a preacher tell me that the early Christians prayed for days before The Holy Spirit came and filled them. He tells me that the very same Spirit is available to me. He invites me to come and allow this Spirit to fight for me. He tells me that the way to fullness of The Spirit is found in surrender and in prayer. Not wanting to disturb anyone near me, I just bow my head.
“God, The Struggle is real. I’m weak. I’m tired. I need You, oh I need you.” I whisper to Him.
And in that moment, The Spirit in His power comes and settles over a place where Satan is now not allowed entrance. For a small moment in this war-weary life, all chaos is stilled. Silence envelops me and it is then that I hear the still small Voice of The Mighty One whisper into me, “I am GOD, there is no other.”
I have to sit down for a minute. It’s too much. He is too much. The struggle is real. He is real. And in the end? He wins. And in Him, I win.