A Spiritual Battle Plan for Couples in MinistryBy Garrett Higbee
February 15, 2021
All Christians will go through seasons of spiritual attack according to Scripture (John 15:19-20; 16:2; 1 Peter 2:21; 2 Tim 3:12). However, ministry couples and particularly pastors and their wives will quickly find that the warfare is magnified as you preach God’s word, lead with a kingdom mindset, and shepherd the flock. This battle is real and does not just impact the senior pastor. The enemy wants to isolate and divide families, church leaders, and the church family. This battle will have a direct impact on those you love the most. That is why if you are married the battle plan is best developed and implemented as a couple. Ideally, this plan is shared with trusted confidants who will stand with you and pray for you.
To be most effective in preparing for ministry I want to suggest a 5-step battle plan that includes:
- Identifying your true enemies
- Understanding your spiritual weapons
- Actively stand firm in the gospel
- Walking in step with the Spirit
- Surrendering what you can’t control to God
In this post, we’ll cover the first 3 parts, and then in part 2 we will cover the last two steps. In each part I have included a MAP to do battle with: Meditate, Apply, and Practice.
1. Identify Your True Enemies
In ministry, you will be tempted to think your enemies are those who slander you, critique you, leave disgruntled, or make trouble in the congregation. While they can clearly do damage, my experience is that the biggest battles will be within, with leaders, and with forces that you cannot see. The Bible makes it clear that our most formidable enemies are not really other people (Eph 6:12). There is a time to rebuke or discipline the unruly. In most cases, however, our best response is to learn to pray, return good for evil, and love those who are adversarial (Rom 12:9-21). While we should not look for a demon behind every issue, Satan should not be ignored in making and praying through our plans (John 10:10). Likewise, we should not forget our sinful flesh and the temptations of the world (1 John 2:15-16). I would suggest that your plan includes specific ways to mortify the flesh, fight the world’s temptations, resist the devil and recognize spiritual warfare. Be honest about your stronghold sins, your stage of life, and your ministry context as you consider these steps.
“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me,” (Psalm 23:4)
Your MAP to Fight Your True Enemies:
- Meditate on God’s Character and Promises: seek out battle verses reminding you that God is just, revenge is His; He redeems; He does not stay angry, nor does He willingly afflict man.
- Apply Healthy Rhythms: Get into rhythms of daily personal prayer that include a confession to keep a clear conscience. Take weekly times praying with your spouse and monthly prayer with staff/elders. Yearly review your members, asking God for discernment and protection.
- Practice Spiritual Disciplines: Go to others quickly to lovingly confront issues or to confess. Pray for your earthly enemies and for protection against demonic forces. Be transparent with elders. Exercise delayed gratification/self-control. Increase self-awareness. Practice waiting upon the Lord when you are unsure of the next steps. Teach your leaders biblical discipline toward restoration.
2. Understand Your Spiritual Weapons
We have divine weapons according to Scripture (2 Cor 10:4-5), but do we know what they are and how to use them? Ephesians 6 is the clearest picture of preparing for spiritual warfare in the Scriptures. Pray through the armor of God regularly. Consider how you can use prayer, Scripture meditation, biblical self-counsel, and regular encouragement to one another to get on the offensive side of the battle where Christ is. Take proper steps to practice peacemaking and to win your brother who has sinned against you, if possible (Matt 18; Romans 12; Matt 5:44; Luke 6).
“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” (2 Cor 10:3-5)
Your MAP to Understand Your Spiritual Weapons:
- Meditate on God’s Character and Promises: Look up and memorize battle verses reminding you He is almighty, our strong tower, our shield, our provider, protector, and portion.
- Apply Healthy Rhythms: Get into rhythms of gospel-centered individual prayer daily. Rehearse battle verses 3 times a week. Pray prayers of protection weekly. Check your self-counsel against lies and counter with specific Scripture. Ask others to pray, teach, and practice biblical conflict resolution to avoid division, bitterness, anger, or slander.
- Practice Disciplines: Prayers of discernment and protection, meditation, memorization, identifying lies and the Scriptures that confront them best, focus on Christ’s overcoming power.
3. Stand Firm in the Gospel
It is no easy task to stay gospel-centered in ministry. Make it a habit to thank God and to rehearse the gospel reality that not only saved you but is sanctifying and sustaining you daily. The ultimate battle is the Lord’s, but we fight by standing firm in the application of the gospel in everyday life. Many times in Scripture we see the command to stand firm (1 Cor 16:13; 2 Cor 1:24; Gal 5:1; Eph 6:13; Phil 1:27; 2 Thess 2:15) to resist the devil (James 4: 7), to pray (Matt 26:14; Mark 9:29; Luke 6:28; Luke 21:36; Acts 6:4; Romans 8:26; Eph 1:16; 6:18; Phil 1:9; 4:6; Col 4:2-3; 1 Thess 5:17 ) to flee temptation and mortify the flesh (Rom 6:6; Eph 4:22-24). To count it all joy when facing various trials (James 1:2). Consider the disciplines you will commit to together to live in light of the gospel and stand firm.
“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel…” (Phil 1:27).
Your MAP to Stand Firm:
- Meditate on God’s Character and Promises: He is faithful: the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is with us to the end of the age. He came to save us not to condemn us.
- Apply Healthy Rhythms: Wait upon God in a prayerful stance. Flee temptations daily and stay under trials. Rehearse the gospel in your mind daily. Find a confidant who will stand with you.
- Practice Disciplines: Rehearse the gospel truths, prayers of surrender and dependence, and worship with thanksgiving. Fellowship deeply. Partner with like-minded leaders. Have regular times of rest and reflection on Christ’s courage in facing adversity.
I hope these three steps will assist you in your spiritual battle together in ministry. If you want to get where you’re going, you’ll need a MAP. Next week, I’ll share Part 2, with more ways to fight the spiritual attacks that come in a life of ministry.