Friday, February 6, 2009

Spiritual Warfare, Part II: Supply Lines

(*sputter* You'd think I'd have at least a few extra minutes to update this poor blog, every week! I'll try to feed it a bit more often...)

Anyway... when last we talked, we spoke of the highest priority of Spiritual Warfare: namely, getting your own spiritual house in order, so as to remove any "footholds" that the enemy (i.e. Satan and the other fallen angels, as per Ephesians 6) might have in your soul. This time, we address the second priority:

GET YOUR SPIRITUAL SUPPLY LINES FIRMLY ESTABLISHED, OPEN AND PROTECTED.

In physical warfare, a military unit can't long survive without a supply of the basic necessities for life (food, water, medical supplies, etc.), and a supply of adequate weaponry and the "power" to use them (e.g. bullets, gasoline, gunpowder, various high-tech parts, etc.). These have direct analogues in the spiritual realm... but a few definitions are needed, in order to make sense of them:

  • Grace: "free gift" from our merciful God, given for our benefit
  • Actual Grace: grace designed to help with specific good "actions" we perform
  • Sanctifying Grace: the very life of God, poured into our souls, which "sanctifies" us (i.e. makes us "holy") and changes us (slowly or quickly) to conform to the Spirit of Christ. Baptism opens this "pipeline" of grace (cf. 1 Peter 3:21), venial sin clogs it, and mortal sin shuts it down completely (cf. 1 John 5:15-17)
...and now, for the concrete instructions.

In spiritual warfare, you cannot possibly win on your own strength; "human vs. fallen angel" is a losing set-up for the human, every time. The fallen angels have depraved natures, to be sure, but their natural abilities outstrip yours and mine to an almost ridiculous extent. (If you doubt, consider matching yourself up against a creature who hates God and hates you with an untiring, laser-like focus, who never needs to eat or sleep or rest, who has no bodily chemistry to distract its focus while it plans to destroy you, whose movements are completely unlimited by space and time, and who likely knows your weaknesses--through careful, sleepless observation over many years--better than you know them yourself. Not promising.) As such, you need a source of strength greater than your own, and greater than that of the fallen angels. That source is God, Himself, Who has already described (in His written and unwritten Word) how much He wants to give us that strength.

If my suspicions are correct (and if you, while reading this, are anything like me), I may need to offer a reminder, here: the battles of the spiritual realm do not look much like physical battles, at all, and though the principles used in both battle types are similar, they most certainly don't operate by the same specific rules! Here's the reminder:

Why did God make us? Why are we here? What's our purpose?

The classic answer still gets the point across most clearly: God created us to know Him, to Love Him, to serve Him, and to be forever happy with Him in Heaven. In short: our "job" on earth is to get to Heaven, and to take as many other people with us as possible! That's what spiritual warfare looks like... and every other concern is secondary to that, at best. "But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His justice, and all these things shall be added unto you." (Luke 12:31)

Now, back to the list:

How do we fulfill this step, and establish our "supply lines" of grace (i.e. life and strength from God)? Aside from Baptism (which is a prerequisite for all the rest), here are only a few of the many ways:
  • Pray! ASK for that grace! "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father from heaven give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him? (Luke 11:13)"

  • Get others to pray for you! The holier these "others" are, the better... but I strongly suggest consecrated religious (ministers, nuns, priests, monks, etc.--and can someone remind me to write a post about the prayers of the Saints in Heaven for us, someday?), children (their prayers are often far more pure and undiluted than ours!), and--in a class by themselves, no joke--praying grandmothers!

  • Get close to the sources of grace! The Sacraments are the seven most powerful (most especially Confession, by which strangled or broken "pipelines" of grace are reconnected and cleaned out; Holy Communion, by which Christ comes to dwell in us--Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity; and Confirmation, by which we receive the full equipment of a warrior), but get close to any source of grace that you can find. Immerse yourself in solid Christian spiritual reading (or music, or audio books, or whatever). Practice saying "no" to sin, even when the sin seems "minor and easy to hide or excuse". Fast (from unnecessary food, from certain "treats", from TV, etc.), and offer that sacrifice to God. Give alms (i.e. give of your substance to those who are more in need than you), whether it be monetary, donation of your talents (e.g. Habitat for Humanity, mission trips, etc.), or giving your time (to an elderly neighbour who has no visitors, to a homeless shelter or crisis pregnancy center, to a pro-life cause, etc.).

The list goes on, but you get the idea. Anything which gets us further away from sin and closer to God is a source of grace. Anything we can do to train and discipline ourselves toward protecting (with our physical lives, if necessary!) our access to those "sources of grace" will keep our supply of grace steady and secure. Anything we can do to train ourselves to avoid "near occasions of sin" (see earlier post) will keep those "supply lines" from being seriously threatened.

One last piece of advice, from one who's fallen in battle more times than he'd like to admit: threats to your supply lines will almost never be flamboyant and obvious. Threats to your state of grace will almost always start gradually, by subtle compromises--especially when you're feeling angry, tired, depressed, or some other "emotional low". If you're in a state of grace, the devil (almost always disguised as something subtle and innocuous) will offer *amazingly* good-looking "payoffs" for what seems to be a trivially small sin. One tiny lie might protect your good reputation and career from damage. One small bit of gossip might secure the affection and devotion of a new and advantageous acquaintance. One tiny prayer neglected (which you'd previously promised/resolved to pray) might feel *so-ooo* good when you're feeling sleepy and ready for an earlier nap. Don't be caught spiritually "napping".

"Be sober and watch: because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about seeking whom he may devour. (1 Peter 5:8)"

God love you all, and protect you as you resolve to fight for Him.


P.S. As a reminder: the holy season of Lent is coming up (3 weeks from this past Wednesday), which has proved to be one of the best possible times for "spiritual training"... and which offers extraordinary graces for spiritual warriors which aren't as accessible at other times. You might consider starting a new and serious "personal spiritual boot camp" during that blessed time.

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