The True Struggle of Life

January 7, 2020 • Life for Leaders

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 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.

Ephesians 6:10-12 (NIV)


All of us struggle in life, at least some of the time. Even folks whose life is filled with blessings face occasional struggles. Others struggle most of the time—whether with illness, poverty, injustice, prejudice, loneliness, or emotional wounds.

A man in darkness covering his eyesWhen we struggle, we naturally want to identify the cause, the perpetrator, the enemy. If I’m having a particularly hard time at work, for example, I might blame my boss, or my company’s financial woes, or a lack of support from my colleagues. If I have a bad self-image, I might blame the way my parents raised me. When it comes to larger societal struggles, we look for larger causes—perhaps historic or systemic injustices or maybe global or natural forces.

To be sure, many things contribute to the struggles of our world. But Ephesians 6 looks underneath the surface, even beneath systemic social issues, to identify the deepest struggle we face. Verse 12 reads, “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.” Behind and beneath the battles of our lives is a fundamental spiritual battle between God and the forces of evil. We are caught in this fight.

This may sound strange to many Life for Leaders readers; perhaps it feels antiquated or unscientific. Most of us in North America don’t readily think in terms of the devil and his “schemes” or the “spiritual forces of evil” (Ephesians 2:11-12). We seek to explain the world, including our struggles, in in terms of science, history, psychology, sociology, economics, and other academic disciplines. These modes of explanation are not necessarily wrong or irrelevant. But they miss a deeper dynamic, one that is real though it cannot be measured in ordinary human ways.

I will freely admit that I don’t naturally think of life in terms of spiritual warfare. In fact, sometimes the antics of Christians who engage in what they call spiritual warfare turn me off completely. But I also want to take Scripture seriously, to be guided, taught, corrected, and inspired by God’s Word. So I don’t dismiss Ephesians 6:10-20 because it doesn’t fit my natural worldview.

During this past year, I supervised a directed reading for an extremely bright Fuller Ph.D. student. Miguel grew up in the United States, graduated from a top law school, and spent the next twenty years of his life living and working in Brazil. In that country, Christians experience the spiritual dimensions of life more overtly. They think rather like Paul in Ephesians 6:10-20. Miguel ended up writing a fascinating paper on how the reality of spiritual warfare might affect our understanding and practice of faith and work. I appreciated Miguel’s thoughtful presentation and realized I have much more to learn here.

Soon we’ll get to the question of what difference the spiritual warfare dimension of life makes to how we live each day. For now, let me invite you to ponder the following questions.

Something to Think About:

How do you respond to the notion that our true battle is spiritual?

In what ways have you experienced (or not experienced) life as a spiritual battle?

If we are truly engaged in spiritual warfare, how might this affect our daily living, even in our workplaces?

Something to Do:

Talk with your small group or a Christian friend about Ephesians 6:10-20. Discover how others make sense of this passage and its implications.


Gracious God, sometimes I find Scripture to be reassuring, almost obvious in its teachings. And sometimes I am perplexed and unsure. I’ll confess to you that my response to Ephesians 6:10-20 is in the second category. I’m not quite sure how to think about the spiritual battle in which we fight. And I’m quite sure I don’t like the idea that there are spiritual forces of evil lined up against me.

So, Lord, I confess my ignorance and hesitation. I ask you to teach me what is true. Give me eyes to see what cannot be seen visibly. Give me an openness to learning and growing. Help me to know how I might live differently in light of the spiritual dimensions of life.

All praise be to you, King of kings and Lord of lords, sovereign over everything in creation. Amen.

Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online
Walking in Newness of Life (Romans 6)



8 thoughts on “The True Struggle of Life

  1. emoit patrick says:

    thank you father, am very aware that the devil my enemy who is roaring like alion is on my neck, so i thank God of this strength. Secondly, through being strong i have experienced love as Jesus told us to love each other the way he has loved us thank you lord

  2. James Erickson says:

    Good morning Mark … I have been reading life for leaders for a longtime here in Texas. Just wanted to share I appreciate your candor and humbleness I see in your message this morning. It reminds me of David asking God for a willing (enlarged heart) in Psalm 119:32.
    I trust you will receive wisdom that you will be able to share concerning this battle. Can’t wait to hear about what God will be sharing with you on this subject.

    Have a great day!

  3. DiAnne Krumm says:

    My spiritual battle lately is praying on how to weave in an answer to a previous question I didn’t have right on the top of my mind.

    The question thrown to me is if God created us how can he send people he’s created to hell.

    Of course I addressed the problem of sin and evil in our world. She also said also said God loves everyone and all we have to do is take care of his creation and if we do wrong he will give us in this life what we deserve but will receive everyone to heaven.

    I asked her if God would welcome Hitler into heaven with open arms to which she replied he received his just reward in life!

    Well I found a way to weave into another conversation after praying and asking God for help that we can’t know the mind of God until we ourselves can create a world, make people and everything else in creation (not to mention plants fish and animals).

    So our limited finite minds cannot know all there is to know of God and we need to allow for this in our thinking. The Bible says he’s also a God of justice and righteousness not a figment of our limited minds.

    His ways are not our ways but as high above us as the heavens are above the earth. Prayer helps us to know how to address the fallen world.

    • Hello, Dianne. (Oh, that is so ironic. Though I meant to type “Hello,” I accidentally typed “Hell.” Then I corrected it!) I think you have identified one of the hardest things for us to understand. We do our best and then we simply trust God, the God revealed in Jesus Christ.

  4. Margie Tomlinson says:

    I lead an adult Sunday school class and I often use a tidbit or two from Life for Leaders. I also appreciate your humble honesty Mark. We can never exhaust the depth revealed in God’s Word. We are just wrapping up a long slow study of I & II Corinthians. In 2 Cor. Chapter 10:4-5 Paul introduces us to the real War we are in. It has direct application to Paul’s instructions in Eph. 6. It generated a lively discussion as we looked at how different our Spiritual Weapons are from what we might weld in the natural. This battle is for our hearts and minds. One more reason we need to be in The Word. Thank you I appreciate having Life for Readers in my morning routine. God Bless Margie

  5. Thanks, Margie, for your comment. Oh, yes! 2 Cor 10 is very helpful here and quite relevant. Thanks for bringing this up!

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