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Sermon #91: How to Defeat the Devil

[Based on the NIV, except where specified]

“The seventy-two returned with joy and said, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.’ He replied, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you’” (Luke 10:17-19).

So we declare that the devil is a defeated foe. The question that begs an answer is: do we see the devil defeated in the life of every Christian? Don’t we see defeated Christians all around?

Indeed we see victory, sometimes total victory, in the lives of some Christians. On the other end we see Christians who are so defeated that they wish they were dead.

Before I got saved, I used to hang out with one young man who looked like he was on fire for God. Then he abandoned the way of the Lord.
“Why did you quit?” I asked him.
“I had realised that there was no God,” came the reply.

The reply satisfied me at the time, because it was consistent with what I believed. But looking back I now realize that Satan had thoroughly defeated the young man. The young man's is a destination we all need to avoid at all cost!

The devil is defeated. This however doesn't mean that the devil does not fight Christians. It doesn't necessarily mean that he just walks away. Neither does it mean that we should relax. What it really means is that if we put our focus on it, we will always emerge victorious over the devil. If we stay prepared, the devil will flee from us. The authority that we have in Christ Jesus is in actual fact potential or capacity, something that becomes useless unless put to use!

In the opening verse, we are told of our authority over the devil. We have to believe this; not only that, but we also need to exercise the authority. If we do not exercise our authority, then the devil will do as he pleases with us, to the extent that the words of Jesus would appear a lie.

An armed person could be defeated by an unarmed one if the armed does not appreciate his superior position. He could be apprehended using bare hands while holding a fully functional, state-of-the-art assault rifle, loaded with a thousand bullets!

The point is that we, as Christians, are superior to Satan. But we will not defeat Satan unless we exercise our superiority!

The question that I am going to address in this sermon is: How could one exercise superiority over Satan? How could they overcome the devil? 

I thank God, because His Word contains the answer(s) that we all need.

I want you to picture a biblical warrior. 

Imagine him getting ready for battle. I am sure you have seen some drawings or films that attempt to capture the images of such warriors. The warriors used to dress in a certain way and carried a specific kind of weaponry. They would, for example, have a helmet on, a covering for the chest and legs in place, a shield and of course a sword in hand!

Below, I am going to give the outlook that you need if you are to overcome the devil each time he comes stooping at your doorstep.

First“I want to remind you that your strength must come from the Lord's mighty power within you” (Eph 6:10, TLB). 

This is an important lesson. Your strength must come from the Lord’s mighty power within you. There is a mighty power within you and that power should be the source of your strength! But what we see in some Christians is that once the devil attacks, they run almost everywhere for solutions.

The Word is telling you that the source of your strength is inside you. So if you've to run anywhere, then you ought to run inside. Some Christians still visit witch-doctors for solutions to their problems; such Christians take the witch-doctor to be the source of their strength. This is unfortunate. 

Years ago, a Christian woman said to me, Mukuwasha, kana zviri zvekuti mwana arwara ini chero kun’anga ndinoenda,” meaning, “If it is about my child’s health, I will never hesitate to visit a witchdoctor. I will do whatever I can.” The question is: did the woman appreciate the ability that had been deposited in her?

Your strength must come from the Lord’s mighty power within you!

Second"Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes" (Eph 6:11). 

I have given you a picture of a warrior ready for battle; how the warrior should be dressed and how he should be equipped. Ephesians 6 v 11 is too important to underrate. The verse gives us the outlook that we should have if we are to overcome the devil.

Note that the verse does not instruct us to put on the armor of God; instead, it instructs us to put on the full armor of God. Only then would we be able to effectively stand against the devil’s schemes. Victory is not assured for somebody who puts on partial armor, for the devil will find in that person some weak points to exploit.

Why full armor? It’s because, for example, if the warrior does not have his helmet on, then his head would be exposed. Once Satan sees that the head is exposed, he will go for it! If the warrior does not have a shield in hand, then his entire body is exposed. If he doesn't have his shoes on then his mobility is limited, for his feet are exposed to thorns and other dangerous objects. If he doesn't have the sword in hand, then it becomes difficult to take him seriously! It has to be the full armor.

Third“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. 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” (Eph 6:12-13).

For a Christian to overcome the enemy, he needs to first be clear in his mind as to who the enemy is. One shouldn't waste time and resources fighting imaginary enemies; it must be the real enemy! 

If one fights against an imaginary enemy, all it means is that he is already defeated because he is doing nothing about the real enemy. He would be spending his ammunition on the wrong target.

People are never our enemies. Our enemies are never physical. Our battles are never physical. We are not physical beings, but spirit beings. So we have no business fighting in the physical!

Our battles are spiritual, because our enemies are spiritual. Every person who behaves like an enemy is actually being propelled by a spiritual force; so we target not the human being, but the force behind.

We will lose all our real battles if we think they are physical.

After defeating the devil, the Christian should be found standing. Glory to God! It’s only when you have the full armor of God that you will be able to achieve this.

Some Christians achieve shaky victories because they lack certain pieces of the armor of God. At the end of the battle, although having succeeded to drive the evil one away, some Christians appear as though they have passed through a fire; some are badly bruised and some are found not standing, but leaning against trees and rocks. This happens when one exposes part of their territory to the devil.

After defeating the devil, you should be found standing.

Let us now look at the means to victory:

First“With the belt of truth buckled around your waist” (Ephesians 6:14). 

You need to keep the belt of truth buckled around your waist. You should never unbuckle. The moment you unbuckle, the ‘fasten your belt’ sign lights up. If you unbuckle, you expose yourself to the dangers of turbulence. As you travel, as you sleep, as you work, as you make merry, the belt of truth should always be around your waist!

But what is this ‘truth’ that Paul wrote about? Truth is what the Word of God says. Paul said if you are to defeat the devil, then you need the belt of truth. The devil might come in the manner of Goliath. You could see him towering over you, with you appearing like ‘just a boy’. 

But what is the truth? 

The truth is that Goliath is a defeated foe, glory to God! That’s what the Word of God says; that’s the truth. If you appreciate this, then you will defeat Goliath. He might even flee without a fight. But it only happens to those who keep the belt of truth around their waists.

If one does not keep the belt of truth in place, then you will find them defeated, lying down, in need of rescue. And if you ask them how the devil could have defeated them, they are likely to say, “I looked like a grasshopper against him.”

Second“The breastplate of righteousness in place” (Ephesians 6:14). Paul was addressing the saints at Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus. So his message is as relevant to us as it was to the Ephesians. We should keep the breastplate of righteousness in place if we are to live victorious lives. The Living Bible uses ‘God’s approval’ in place of ‘righteousness’.

We are the righteous ones of God. But do all Christians keep their righteousness in place? I think it’s not every Christian who does. But what does it mean to keep one’s righteousness in place? First it means that one should always be conscious of this status that has been bestowed on them. They should also understand its importance.

Some Christians actually believe that they are not righteous, and Satan feasts on them because of this. Ignorance is a big disadvantage.

Second, it also means that the righteous should live lives that are consistent with their righteousness. Some of those who appreciate their righteousness actually live like they are not aware of it.

Imagine you bathing a three year old and dressing her nicely. Imagine that you then go on to instruct her to sit on mud. Would she obey your instruction?

“What!” she would exclaim, “You want me to get dirty? Don’t you see how smart I am?” This should be the attitude of the saints of God! 

At one meeting we were taught that among the things that we teach the members of our groups, we should also teach them language. Which language? The language of righteousness of course! The kind that is consistent with our righteous nature. I am sure there are things that you now avoid because due to your righteous nature, they have become repulsive to you.

“Brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me - put it into practice” (Philippians 4:8-9).

ThirdYour feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15).

Paul is talking about the kind of shoes that you should wear. He says the readiness that comes from the gospel shall be your shoes. You go only because the gospel has prepared you for the journey. You overcome Satan only because the gospel has prepared you for it. You put on the readiness and run! The readiness is your shoes!

This demonstrates the importance of the gospel. Without the gospel we can never be ready for anything. Without the gospel Satan will find us unarmed.

How much time do you spend in the gospel, i.e. studying the Word? Remember the more time you spend in the gospel the more prepared you will be to face both the good and the bad.

Fourth“Take up the shield of faith” (Ephesians 6:16). 

Faith is one’s response to the Word of God. If the Word tells you that you are the dominant one and you believe and act on it, then you have faith. If the Word tells you that Goliath is actually at your mercy, then you should believe and act on that. Whatever the Word says, believe and act on it. Paul says it is by your faith that you could extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one. So you need faith; you also need to perpetually grow it and only through the Word could you do so.

Paul said “take up the shield of faith.” It’s within your means.

Fifth“Take the helmet of salvation” (Ephesians 6:17). 

Salvation is a process. It does not end at the point of receiving Christ. We are saved over and over and on various issues pertaining to our lives.

Salvation is our helmet. Without it our heads could be destroyed by the enemy’s sword. Paul says “take the helmet”. He does not say “receive the helmet”.

We have come to a point at which we have matured enough to take. The ball is in our court. If one where to go before God and say, “Lord, please give me the helmet,” God would answer, “I actually have been wondering all along why the helmet is still here. It has been available to you for ages but you've not collected it. If you want the helmet then go ahead and take it.”

As we stay in and meditate on the Word, as we shut out the many worldly voices that clamor for our attention, we get to a point at which we take. Glory to God!

Sixth“The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). 

Good God! The sword that we use! The weapons of our warfare! Mighty through God! 

The Word of God is our sword. 

The Spirit of God is the sword that we use. This is why we do not fight in the physical. Our weapons are not physical, but spiritual. Just take a moment to reflect on what the Word of God could do in and for your life.

Seventh“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests” (Ephesians 6:18). 

This also is a piece of armor. Prayer; glory to God! We overcome the devil by our prayers. And we do not just pray; instead, we pray ‘in the Spirit”. And we do not pray for just one thing; we pray for various things, we make various requests. 

Neither do we pray just for ourselves, but we also pray for others, whether in our country or abroad, whether we know them or not, whether they hate us or not; as long as there is a genuine cause, we pray. 

As we achieve victory for others, we also achieve victory for ourselves. Satan truly is a defeated foe!

Eighth"With this in mind, be alert" (Ephesians 6:18). 

As I walked through the plains one afternoon, a snake holed up nearby sensed danger. It raised its head so high that it could clearly see 360 degrees. It focused on me as I walked, making sure I kept my distance. The snake remained ready to strike, ready to destroy. I kept my distance. I appreciated the fact that the snake was on high alert. It was ready for the enemy; never to be found napping. That’s how alert we always should be!

There is a lot of noise in this world, but never allow any of it to blur your focus, your alertness. When the evil day comes, the devil should find you ready and alert. Otherwise you will be bruised!

Stay victorious, and God bless you!