Luke 12:49-51 – (see also Matthew 10:34-35) – “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50 But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed! 51 Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.” NIV
Jesus has just completed a discourse to the crowd and then in application to His closest disciples that Warren Wiersbe sums up as “waiting, watching, and working.” These are attitudes and actions that followers of Jesus need to have and exhibit for the long haul … to fulfill their purposes on this earth just as Jesus in this passage is waiting, watching, and working to accomplish His “baptism” or death on the cross and subsequent resurrection. To get through that last phase involved opposition or “warring” … spiritual warfare.
Jesus was saying that just as He had opposition, His followers would face opposition. It would take various forms from downright martyrdom to just ignoring the Gospel message or actively trying to discredit it and make believers into some sort of mentally unbalanced people (sound familiar?)
Just as He was encouraging His followers to be prepared to wait, watch, and work, they need to be prepared to face various types of opposition. Opposition will come in some form, so be prepared to deal with it. So the question is: “How do we prepare to face various types of opposition or spiritual warfare?” Well, we certainly don’t go to the world for our playbook! A few passages come to mind …
First the example of Jesus: The Gospels indicated that He offered no resistance, and stood silent before His accusers until He was asked directly if He was the Christ or Messiah. He then responded with the truth which He continued to speak even to Pilate at the appropriate times. He knew His purpose, and He knew He had to face the cross in order to conquer death.
Then the words of Paul to the Ephesian believers about preparing for spiritual warfare: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” (Ephesians 6:10-18 – NIV)
Then the words of Peter to followers of Jesus: “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17 It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.” (1 Peter 3:15-17 – NIV)
So as followers of Jesus today who are waiting, watching, and working for the Kingdom until Jesus returns, how do we face opposition or (spiritual warring) in light of Jesus’ example and Paul and Peter’s words to believers?
Some questions to consider: How do I react when confronted with spiritual opposition? Is the opposition to me and/or my personality or Jesus? Have I spiritually prepared myself for opposition by putting on spiritual armor? Am I prepared to respond with “gentleness and respect” in the face of opposition? Do I engage followers of the enemy to vanquish them or help convert them?