The Celtic Revival: Age of the Peregrini (8)
He, one man alone, with God’s aid repulsed innumerable hostile bands of demons making war against him, visible to his bodily eyes, and preparing to inflict deadly diseases upon his community of monks; and they were thrust back from this our principal island.
- Admomnán, Vita Columbae, Irish, 7th century
And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.
- Revelation 12.17
Spiritual warfare is very real. It’s just that it’s not always very obvious.
Colum Cille had the benefit of what Admomnán called second sight. Like Elisha (2 Kgs. 6.8-18), he could see spiritual realities more clearly than most of us by looking at ordinary circumstances through the eyes of the body as well as the eye of the heart (Eph. 1.15ff.). A threat of plague to the island of Iona, for example, was to Colum, not merely an inconvenient circumstance. He saw anything and everything that threatened the progress of the Gospel as a demonic strategy to thwart the Kingdom of Christ. And, whenever he sensed such threats, he turned to fervent prayer and other spiritual practices to protect his monks and their work from the ravages of the devil.
In the book of Job we see how Satan used a wide range of material, personal, and economic circumstances to wage war against God and His servant. Granted, Job never gained the full insight we the readers of that account can have, but then, isn’t that just the point? We are to learn from Job’s experience that the devil, who hates God and us His people, will use whatever he can to rob us of our joy and hinder our progress toward the promises of God.
Satan hated the work of the Irish peregrini, and he hates it when you and I take seriously our calling to seek and advance Christ’s Kingdom in our Personal Mission Fields. He hates it when we are rejoicing in the Lord or doing our work fervently and at peace. We need to be mindful of this, so that we can recognize every word of discouragement, every tinge of fear, every wave of discontent, or every form of temptation to minimize our witness for Christ as coming not from the Lord, but from the enemy of our soul.
Sadly, many Christians mistakenly consider that we live in two separate and barely-interfacing worlds. The world they live in most consistently is the same one they share with their unbelieving neighbors – the world of getting and spending, making a living, and trying to find some happiness in life. At the same time, such Christians consider that there is another world, a spiritual world that doesn’t really have anything to do with the real world. They occupy that world when they’re at church, having their devotions, or participating in some activity with other Christians. When they go out into the other world with their neighbors and co-workers, most Christians leave that spiritual world behind. Much to the devil’s delight.
And this is a serious misunderstanding of our calling as followers of Christ.
Colum Cille and all the other Irish peregrini understood that we live in one world, a world comprised of both material and spiritual realities. Most of us don’t see sickness, deprivation, everyday trials, discouragement, and so forth as anything other than a nuisance or an inconvenience. I wonder: If we believed these were stratagems of the devil, would we apply ourselves more earnestly in prayer and other spiritual exertions to overcome them?
Be sure of this: when we begin living like true followers of Christ – loving Jesus, professing and proclaiming His Kingdom, working to restore all things to God, and living according to His Word – spiritual opposition will rise against us like never before. When that happens, we’d better know how to pray and how to persevere in obedience and witness, and we’d better have mastered the use of all the weapons of our warfare (Eph. 6.10-20).
Otherwise, we’ll just be one more casualty among many whom the devil renders ineffectual in seeking the Kingdom because we have failed to recognize his wiles.
The gift of second sight is available to all who see, as Jesus and Colum did, that life is one, the world is one, and the spiritual world is more present and active than we normally suppose. Whatever does not encourage or aid us in fulfilling our calling to Christ’s Kingdom and glory may well be some obstacle of the devil, designed to trip or divert or dissuade us from those things that matter most.
1. What do we mean by “second sight”? How can having second sight help us?
2. What attitudes typically characterize you when you are aware of the Presence of the Lord? What causes those attitudes to abate, and to be replaced by other, perhaps more negative attitudes? What should we do when that happens?
Psalm 46.6, 7 (St. Chrysostom: We Have not Known The As We Ought)
Kingdoms arise and rage and roar, threat’ning the earth with sore distress.
Nations may fall, earth melt away, His Word is yet our hope and stay.
God is among us, ever to bless; He is our stronghold evermore.
Lord, give us eyes of faith to see the larger picture at all times, so that, when the devil or his henchmen would thwart our witness…
The Landscape of Unseen Things
Perhaps you need to become more familiar with that other world – or rather, that unseen dimension of God’s one world. Our workbook, The Landscape of Unseen Things, provides a tour de force of the spiritual realm, helping you to understand what it consists of, how we relate to it, and how we can all improve in what second sight living in one world requires. Order your free copy of The Landscape of Unseen Things by clicking here.
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T. M. Moore, Principal
All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.