The following is a post taken from the JCF blog archives. It was written by HACHIMENREIROU on MAY 20, 2014. I pray that these reflections can encourage you during these turbulent times.
THE week before the most recent JCF retreat in Kobe, three separate people emailed me reminding me to be aware of spiritual resistance in Japan. At the same time, Ive been reading a book that a friend randomly gave me: Warfare Prayer by C. Peter Wagner. Not surprisingly, the theme of the JCF retreat this past weekend just so happened to be “Overcomers Overcoming”.
In my small group we discussed a feeling of spiritual “disconnectedness” from the reality of God, which all three of us have encountered over the past year. Not only was it encouraging simply to hear that others are encountering similar challenges, but I felt convinced that God had brought us here in order to provide a chance for us to discover some practical solutions.
Whether or not you think that God brought each of us to Japan for a specific purpose, it is certainly clear that each Christian in Japan has a remarkable opportunity for expressing God’s love to the people who happen to be around us. This is an opportunity God would certainly like to make use of, and the devil would certainly like to limit as much as possible. Recently I have been thinking about the need to actively guard against, and resist, spiritual discouragement.
It is not God’s will for us to be slowly discouraged out of existence, as the devil would like. I would further suggest that it is also not God’s desire that we simply “weather the storm” of discouragement and spiritual resistance. I believe it is God’s will for each of us to acknowledge spiritual opposition and learn to live a lifestyle of victory over it! That way, by God’s grace and power, we might assist other to find victory in Christ as well.
So how do we do it?
I would like to highly recommend chapter six of Warfare Prayer for some very practical instruction on equipping yourself to survive spiritual resistance and be effective in proactive ministry. This chapter points to James 4:7-8 as an outline of how to prepare yourself to effectively resist the devil:
“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” James 4:7-8
- Submit to God as master as well as savior
- Draw near to God (this involves dedicated prayer and regular fasting)
- Purify your heart of conscious and/or habitual sin
Spiritual resistance doesn’t always take the form of outright attacks or of debilitating depression. I often find my greatest enemy is spiritual apathy, as well as continual busyness with exhausting distractions. In my own exploration of how to “keep the faith” while living in Japan, I have found certain practices to be greatly helpful in re-grounding me in my relationship with God whenever my spiritual motivation starts to lag.
- Have an “accountability” partner. Have another Christian who you commit to talk with regularly (I recommend once a week) by phone or in person. Ask each other about your current relationship with God and about spiritual goals for the coming week. Then pray together! You have no idea how motivational it is to follow through with my spiritual goals when I know someone is going to ask me about it Tuesday evening!
- Have people praying for you. This is similar to the accountability partner suggestion, but a little different. I recommend you have a small “team” of people who agree to intentionally pray for you and for your “ministry” as a Christian in Japan. In a way, these people are joining with you in ministry, backing you up and supporting you in prayer when you come to spiritual challenges.
- Fast. I hate fasting, but it is Biblical and you cant argue with the results. It doesn’t have to be super intense, but temporarily abstaining from food (or from something else you enjoy) has an incredible power to refocus your heart on God and demonstrate to yourself that you are physically submitting to God’s authority. Personally, I find it helpful (and painful!) to regularly “fast” from social activities and internet on occasion.
- Make time to pray. Set aside a specific amount of time to pray. Put it in your day-planner like an appointment with God and then show up! Prayer is often very low on the priority list, but it should be at the very top.
First of all, we are in a RELATIONSHIP with God. The quality of that relationship is very much impacted by how much time we spend together. (Imagine it like a dating/marriage relationship; what kind of relationship do you have if you don’t have “time” or motivation to talk with the other person beyond asking for things or thanking them for your food?)
Secondly, prayer is sort of like a muscle or skill, in that practice makes perfect. It is likely to be awkward and feel ineffective at first, but the only way to improve the quality of your prayer time is to spend time praying!
Finally, setting aside time to pray (by the clock) has a similar effect to fasting, in that it demonstrates a submission to God and a willingness to sacrifice for the sake of your relationship with God. This sacrifice of time and effort somehow has great power to bolster our faith! Personally, I set aside five minutes before bed and a half hour in the morning to pray and be with God. I see this as a “breakfast date” with God; I really enjoy our times together and I find that spending time “hanging out” with God, talking and listening, gives me a feeling of freshness and spiritual motivation for the rest of the day!
These are four practices that I have found helpful in my own journey. I encourage you to give them a try and find what works for you. Expect sacrifice and discomfort to be involved, especially at first, but with sacrifice also comes joy. Don’t be satisfied with a sleepy lifestyle spent merely enjoying constant entertainment, or merely keeping your head above the water spiritually. You have GREAT potential to be a mini Jesus in your town, showing the existence, power, and love of Jesus to those who might otherwise never know. The devil would like nothing better than to neutralize you. But we have the Spirit of God with us and in us, and thus we are more than conquerors. If you feel you are being conquered rather than walking in victory, courage, and joy, then please be proactive about seeking proactive solutions; don’t forget, we need to compensate for an enemy who is actively resisting us.
Let’s go forth and conquer!
– Michelle Noyes