Spiritual Warfare in Counseling

“Warfare” in Counseling?

Spiritual “Warfare,” as such, and Christian counseling are mostly synonymous. Spiritual warfare has at its core the intent to conquer the works of the enemy, and Christian counseling does very much the same by helping the client learn effective and practical Biblical ways to conquer the works of the enemy in their lives. Spiritual Warfare begins with obeying God. The Scriptures say, “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” James 4:7 (NASB95) While the statement seems so simple, yet it is the key to successful warfare against the enemy for the counselor. We are NOT called to fight the devil, we don’t need to. Fighting the devil is the work of Christ, and He has already won the war. Our job is to learn to obey the Lord.

The most obvious enemy we will face, as counselors, are the lies the clients believe. The enemy will lie to the clients and lie to us. His biggest lie is that there is no hope. The lie, though is not always a blatant one, mostly it comes in subtly, almost as an afterthought. The counselor who pays attention will still have to be wise in his or her searching of the truth regarding the situation the client is presenting. In Proverbs (25:2), the Scriptures say, “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter.” Counselors must learn to listen well, extrapolate, and even discern to get to the real (or root of the) problems or issues. The enemy will try to confuse and distract you, but the Spirit of God (which is the author of a “sound mind”) will help you (the counselor) focus and seek healthy answers. The verse from James (above) gives the Christian counselor the pattern of “spiritual warfare” he or she is to follow.

(1) Submit to God.
(2) Resist the devil.
(3) He will flee.

That’s it, the battle has been won.

That’s the pattern of success for the counselor and the client. To add more to this is to burden yourself with extra work and effort you just don’t need. Think about it this way, where in Scripture do we see the disciples (on their own) going out and looking for a “battle” with the enemy. They faced up to it and did their part when the situation presented itself, but they did not go out looking for a fight. For the purposes of clarification, we will take these two steps and review them, understand them, and then explain how to apply them.


What does this mean? The Greek word used here is “hupotasso” and is a military term meaning “to arrange in a military fashion under the command of a leader.” When used non militarily, it meant “a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden.” We get a hint in the book of Luke when the seventy-two (whom Jesus had sent out, had returned and were speaking with Him), they said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name” (Luke 10:17 (NIV). The obvious idea which is intended to be understood is that they had a type of authority (as agents of Jesus) which the demons recognized, and obeyed (submitted to). As long as the seventy-two acted in their capacity as representatives of Jesus, they had authority over the demons, who had to do as instructed.

What we are looking at here is an authority given, much like that given to a police officer. Just because a person wears a badge and a uniform, that does not make them authorized Peace Officers. They must go through a program of preestablished structure and procedure. They must pass exams and the such, and then participate in a government created “certification” and/or “licensing” process. Then they will become “authorized” to exercise specific and detailed powers given to them. It is only when they act within these clearly established and defined parameters that they can exercise their legally given powers of the law. If a police officer turns criminal, he or she loses their privilege to exercise police authority. See, it is not the badge or uniform, but the authority which come by acting within an establish parameter that makes the difference.

Likewise, we Christians, it is not that we call ourselves Christian, or that we go to church, or that we read the Bible, or that we pray, or even that we believe in Jesus, that gives us authority. It is when we act with the clearly defined parameters (Scripture), as agents of Christ, that we can depend on the benefits of specific results due to our efforts in spiritual warfare. Just because someone says the name of Jesus, it doesn’t mean the enemy will be impressed. Acts 19, 13-16 tells us of people who were doing just that.

The sevens sons of Sceva, a Jewish priest, thought it would be cool to exorcize a few demons. It was probably a Saturday night, and they did not have anything more important to do. They got hold of a man who was demon possessed and they threaten it by exclaiming, “I command you by Jesus, whom Paul preaches, to come out.” The demons checked them out for a moment and replied, “I know who Jesus is, I have heard of Paul, but who are you?” Then the demon attacked the seven brothers, stripped them naked, and ran them down the street.

Lets check this out a bit better. First of all, the demon said, “I know who Jesus is.” Now we have to assume something here (you know, extrapolate), the demons probably did not know Jesus personally. That is to say, that Jesus probably did not know all demons on a personal basis (like, that He met them all). So when the demon told the Sceva brothers that he knew who Jesus was, he was very likely saying that since he had heard of Him, and had been told who He actually was (the Son of God), he also recognized His authority, which was higher than his own. In other words, “I know about Him, and know that his authority is greater than mine, and so I would have to obey Him.”

Secondly, the demon referred to Paul. He said, “I have heard of Paul.” This tells us much as well. We can extrapolate from this that the demons have some sort of communication system, sort of like a demon newsletter, email, or the such, by which they share information with each other. Those Christians who come to recognize their authority in Christ, become “newsworthy” material. The demons speak with each other about these certain Christians. These Christians become persons that the demons recognize, if not due to personal encounters, then because or their (the Christians) impact on the demons themselves. Paul was well known for his preaching, the miraculous events in his life in many cases, and, even encounters with possessed persons. In his case, demons who would have heard of him would also have heard of his success in exercising his authority, thereby identifying what authority he actually has. In this case, the demon involved with the Sceva brothers could easily have extrapolated that according to all he had heard of Paul, he very liked had an authority higher than his own, and would very likely have to submit to, and obey, Paul.

Thirdly, he asked the brothers, “Who are you?” We can safely extrapolate that the demon was not wanting to know their names, where they lived, and which football teams they liked best. He was actually asking them, “What authority do you have, or represent, which is higher than my own? Why should I have to submit to you, and follow your orders?” From this we can also extrapolate that demons don’t automatically assume that just because someone claims to be a Christian (or says all the right words), that they just roll over and play dead. On the contrary, their most likely response will be to challenge the person. Keep in mind, that very likely in the ‘Demon Gazette Newsletter,” they probably reported the situation involving the Sceva brothers. We can be sure that the demons, who heard about that, had a great laugh at the expense of the Sceva brothers. Ask yourself a serious question, If you were to have a confrontation with a demon, would he have “heard” about you (and thereby know of your authority due to your prior actions and behavior), or would you be someone that the demon would have to ask you to prove your authority?

Exercising Real Authority

What is it that you have to do to be able to exercise this “authority of Christ?” Easy enough answer: “Submit to God.” Find out what He wants from you, and then do it. “I’m already doing that,” you may complain. “I read the Bible and follow it the best I can,” you may even add. Is this enough? Is something else required?

The definition above, from the Greek, includes this part: “to subordinate; reflexive to obey :  be under obedience.” What does this mean? Well lets look at the definition more carefully.

“To subordinate,” this means to consider yourself as having a lower or less authority than the person you are referring to (in this case, God). This is not just lip service, saying that something is true does not make it so. If you are truly subordinate to someone you never have to tell them that, they already know it because you follow all their instructions and orders. That’s what proves to them that you are subordinating yourself to them. Also, you don’t have to say it to others, because they too will be able to see in your actions and behavior. Right?

 Reflexive to obey” means to have such a response to someone that even as they are starting to ask you to do something (and sometimes even before they do), you are already starting to obey. Another way to say this is to give an example. Lets say that you are in the armed forces of the United States, and get to know your commanding officer so well, that in just about any situation you can guess what he would do or would want done. Now lets say that some big time officer is going to be coming to visit your section of soldiers. Lets also say that this will mean that your commander will have to notify all subordinate officers and squads of the situation, and have each of the respond in a way that proves they got the message. Finally, lets add, that this means that the information will have to be entered onto a computer for record keeping.

You have two courses of action.

 One, wait until you are ordered to do anything, and specifically wait to be told exactly what you will have to do so you don’t have to do more than what will be required of you. This could also mean that you would have more free time for yourself and personal projects.

Secondly, you could start preparing the announcements, making copies for all the necessary persons, clarifying who is to get what type of announcement, and how they will respond to them. And, you could start inputting as much information ahead of time to reduce the impact to yourself and your commanding officer. The first option, while a valid one, says that you are NOT “reflexive to obey.” The second choice PROVES that you are.

The question for you here is, “Are you reflexive to obey God?” Do you have such a relationship with God that you can guess at what He wants done, or would want done, in given situations? When you see a need, do you start working at meeting it, or do you “wait on the Lord,” “pray about it,” and “seek His guidance?” Both are valid options, but only one of them says you are “reflexive to obey,” in other words, submitted to God.


The word, “resist,” here is not intended to give the impression that you should be struggling against, fighting with, or in any way having to entangle yourself in some confrontation with the devil. The word, is: anthistemi (pronunciation: an-this-tay-mi). It speaks more of not giving in to something; choosing not to go along with something willingly; the conscious and deliberate act of not complying with something.

If a person is actually submitting, then he or she is, by definition, resisting the devil. Think about it, what is it that the “devil” wants that you should resist?

 • The enemy wants you to argue your “rights” and proclaim your “freedoms.”

• The enemy wants you to be motivated by your selfish desires and wants.

• The enemy wants you to take offense because people disagree with you.

• The enemy wants you to get angry because things are not working your way.

• The enemy wants you to define virtues in such a way as to make anything you do by just fine.

• The enemy wants you to have it your way.

• The enemy wants you to interpret Scripture in whatever way will justify your choice of actions and behavior.

As a counselor, the enemy wants you to trust in your own understanding, not to lean on God, to avoid acknowledging God in all your ways.

• The enemy wants you to avoid reading and studying books and materials which might make you a better counselor.

• The enemy wants you to make excuses for not praying or spending time with God.

• The enemy wants you to make counseling more important than your family.

• The enemy wants you to not allow God to decide the course of your life for you.

• The enemy wants you to be the one who runs your life.

• The enemy wants you to use the statement, “nobody’s perfect,” as an excuse for not doing your best.

If a person actually submitts, then he or she is, by definition, resisting the devil, because you cannot serve two masters. Otherwise, the Bible says (Matthew 6:24), “He will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other.” So in this case, choosing to submit to God is resisting the devil, and that will have the desired result: The devil must flee.


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