Do you ask yourself, “Why do I still struggle if I’m faithfully following God?” How can you discern whether you’re dealing with battles within yourself, resistance from God, or genuine fights with the devil? What did Jesus say about our spiritual authority and the certainty we have in him?
Bible Gateway interviewed Havilah Cunnington (@mrshavilah) about her book, Stronger than the Struggle: Uncomplicating Your Spiritual Battle (Thomas Nelson, 2018).
What is spiritual warfare and how does it show itself?
Havilah Cunnington: The battles we face in life are not what we think they are. The battles involve more than you and my life. In fact, the war began long before our feet ever touched the soil of this planet.
Let’s take a moment to go back to the beginning of the story.
Our enemy, the devil, once lived in heaven (Rev. 12:9; 20:2). He was a created being. The Bible says he was an angel, and his body contained musical instruments (Ezek. 28:13). He was beautiful and more glorious than all the other angels, but pride, jealousy, and self-exaltation contaminated his heart. He didn’t want to be merely a reflection of God; he wanted to dethrone God. He wanted the other angels’ worship all to himself. He wanted the glory.
But God does not share his glory—not because he’s selfish, but because he’s wise and all knowing. He knows the weight of his glory will destroy anyone who covets it. No one but God is capable of carrying such a high honor.
Still, Satan rallied one-third of the angels to join him in his doomed rebellion, and a war broke out in heaven. In the end, Satan and the fallen angels, now called demons, were cast out of heaven as punishment.
But the struggle continues on earth. This is where we come in.
Humans are God’s most precious creation; we alone have been given the opportunity to become his sons and daughters (2 Corinthians 6:18). Satan knows this, and his revenge—his plan to get back at God—is to destroy our souls.
Why do Christians still struggle if they’re faithfully following God?
Havilah Cunnington: Have you ever felt as if your faith life isn’t quite working for you the way it’s supposed to? Have you ever thought someone else got more God than you did? I know I have—but why? Our battles often come from inside once we accept our new identities in Christ.
Therefore if anyone is in Christ [that is, grafted in, joined to Him by faith in Him as Savior], he is a new creature [reborn and renewed by the Holy Spirit]; the old things [the previous moral and spiritual condition] have passed away. Behold, new things have come [because spiritual awakening brings a new life] (2 Cor. 5:17 AMP).
I love how this verse reads: “He is a new creature [reborn and renewed by the Holy Spirit].” As soon as we receive Jesus, we become completely new people. If invited, the Holy Spirit will live inside of us and affirm what God is saying to us through his Word.
But even with the Holy Spirit, the Christian life is not always smooth sailing. It’s because our minds, thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs must also be renewed (Romans 12:2). Yes! Our spirits want to agree with God, but our old lifestyles and habits of sin can trick us into believing we’re not yet free. They lie to us. Our quickest and most powerful weapon, then, is to agree with truth. We need to ask ourselves, “What does God say about me?” If you know what he says, then you’ll know how to do battle with what’s coming out of the old you.
What do you mean, “You are anointed to deal with the devil and win every time”?
Havilah Cunnington: The battle was won the day Jesus died on the cross (John 3:16), but we still have to deal with the devil as long as we live on the earth.
One of the most important things to remember as we face our everyday battles is that standing and resisting the devil doesn’t mean being weird. We don’t have to act spiritually creepy. God isn’t asking us to stir up all kinds of crazy forces or to go after realms we have no business going after. If you run into spiritual resistance in some area of your life, simply take authority and move on (James 4:7). The enemy loves chaos, fear-driven prayers, and an over-spiritualized atmosphere because he loves for us to waste our time focusing on him. Don’t give in to that.
Describe the devil and his objectives.
Havilah Cunnington: In John 10:10 it depicts our enemy’s exact character. It says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” The word steal in the Greek is the work klepto. It’s where we get the word kleptomaniac, which means, someone who steals for the thrill of taking.
When the enemy operates in our lives, he’s stealing from us as well. We may not realize it as it’s happening, but eventually, we feel the sense of loss and see that what’s rightfully ours has been taken from us. If we want to walk in daily victory, we must remember that the enemy comes into our lives as a thief.
What do you mean, “The devil may not have to steal very much from us—especially if we are already giving it away”?
Havilah Cunnington: In John 10:10 it also uses the word kill, but it doesn’t mean what you might assume. The word kill in the Greek is Thuo, which means to sacrifice. When the enemy comes to kill, he’s hoping you’ll sacrifice everything God has given you. He tells you that you’ve waited too long, believed for too much, and seen nothing happen. You might as well throw in the towel. The crazy thing is, we believe his lies. The devil may not have to steal very much from us—especially if we’re already giving it away.
How is “the choice between fear and courage set before us each day”?
Havilah Cunnington: Each of us has a personal invitation to live powerfully; to get our fight back. I believe when we find ourselves in a place of paralyzing fear—a place where we either agree with our new identity in Christ or stay the person we’ve always been, where we choose to walk in the plan God has for us or let Satan take our birthright (Genesis 25:29) from us—it’s critical to our spiritual health to face our fear head-on.
Fear doesn’t stay where it begins. Fear will infiltrate every area of your life, paralyzing you until you live a small, worry-filled, defeated life, having surrendered the plans God had for you from the beginning.
Your enemy isn’t messing around. He doesn’t allow little fears to stay little. He uses our little fears as an entry point for greater fears. His hope is to keep you in spiritual paralysis. He’s banking on you cozying up to worry, fear, and anxiety.
Explain your statement, “When we read the Bible and meditate on the Word of God, we fill our pantry.”
Havilah Cunnington: When we read the Bible and meditate on the Word of God—whether hearing Scripture, singing our theology, or thoughtfully considering God’s promises—we fill our pantry. We store up the ingredients we need to live a healthy and vibrant life.
What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?
Havilah Cunnington: “I can do all things [which He has called me to do] through Him who strengthens and empowers me [to fulfill His purpose—I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency; I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses me with inner strength and confident peace] Philippians 4:13 (NKJV).
I LOVE THIS! I don’t know about you but the reality of God infusing me with inner strength isn’t just a wish I have but a reality I’m living in each day.
What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App?
Havilah Cunnington: I use Bible Gateway on a daily basis. It’s been the single greatest tool in my life personally and professionally. Bible Gateway has done all the work. Gone are the days of running to the bookstore or bookcase for each Bible version, reference, or concordance. It’s all at our fingertips. I can’t say enough about this amazing ministry!
Bio: Havilah Cunnington has been in full-time ministry for 20 years, and serves as a pastor at Bethel Church. Havilah and her husband, Ben, lead a nonprofit and an online platform called Truth to Table, reaching the world with Bible studies, messages, and lifestyle leadership tools. Havilah and Ben live in Redding, California, with their four sons: Judah, Hudson, Grayson, and Beckham.
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