Passivity: Satan’s Secret Weapon
Passivity in our spiritual lives is a powerful, insidious, destructive enemy. The Spirit of God does not want us merely to tolerate oppression; He desires we conquer it. He has not called us to passivity; He has called us to war! God has anointed us with the power of His Holy Spirit and Jesus has given us His authority over all the power of the enemy (see Luke 10:19).
This authority of the Lord is not just for guard duty or defensive maneuvers. The Holy Spirit desires that, as we follow Christ, we take the battle to the enemy as well. When David sings in Psalm 18 that, under God’s anointing, he can “bend a bow of bronze,” he also states: “I pursued my enemies and overtook them, and I did not turn back until they were consumed” (Psalm 18:37).
Let’s make this clear: David was first a worshiper of God. He did not pursue his enemies without first pursuing God. But when the Lord led him into war, he thoroughly defeated his foes.
I will tell you a solemn truth: Either we pursue our enemies or our enemies will pursue us. We must develop Christ’s attitude toward evil. He came “to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3 8). The Bible says, “Hate evil, you who love the Lord” (Psalm 97:10). The Holy Spirit is looking for determination in us so that, like David, we will pursue our enemies until they are consumed. It is, in fact, this aggressive attitude of heart that causes us to grow into mature Christlikeness.
Jesus could live with and forgive human failure, but He never allowed evil spirits to oppress Him. He was aggressive toward His spiritual enemies. There is no neutral ground. There is no room for a passive spirit in God’s army.
Attack and Counterattack
Let’s take a classic example of our need to act aggressively against our enemy: the battle for the mind. If you are frustrated repeatedly by fear, self-pity, anger, immoral thoughts or fleshly lusts, you know that these ideas and feelings will not go away by themselves. Your mind must be renewed through repentance and the knowledge of God’s Word. And if there is demonic influence exploiting your sin nature, that enemy must be confronted in the authority of Jesus’ name. Whether you are fighting fear, lust, anger or any other sin, you are in a spiritual war.
Some people respond to this by saying: “I don’t have a problem with Satanic oppression; my battle is with the flesh.” I agree. Frequent failure in a particular area might genuinely be rooted in the carnal attitudes of our old nature. But if you have repented repeatedly and still cannot find lasting freedom, perhaps the issue is a combination of sin and the devil’s manipulation of that sin. The real power behind recurring failure may well be demonic.
Yet, even if you confront a demonic attack in the authority of Christ, your fight is not over. The enemy will wait until you relax your guard and try to harrass your life. Recall Jesus’ warning: “Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came’” (Matthew 12:43-44).
Jesus explains that even if you have experienced a genuine victory from the hand of God, a time may still come when that “unclean spirit” seeks to return to the “house from which” it came. The symbolic “house” it seeks to reenter is the darkness created in your soul by your unclean thought-life. The way Satan seeks to oppress you is to use his thoughts to masquerade as your own thoughts. Jesus warns that if the unclean spirit returns and finds your soul unguarded, it brings “seven other spirits more wicked than itself” (Matthew 12:45), which implies that the attack will be more aggressive because of your apathy and passivity.
You must discern this counterattack. The enemy will try to infiltrate your thought life, seeking to plant a thought or sow a sinful idea in your soul. Then he will attempt to water that seed with corresponding temptation. We must capture those initial, invasive thoughts. We must be vigilant to recognize and conquer the oppression before it leads us back into sin. We must take authority over it before it can multiply. If we fail to use our authority, though, the enemy will attempt a full-scale invasion. Jesus says that “the last state of that man becomes worse than the first” (verse 45).
Thus, we must be aggressive in our prayers and actions! Satan will attack and counterattack. To win, in the midst of everything else we do, we must guard our hearts and minds. To do this we must exercise spiritual authority aggressively.
Present Attitudes and Future Victories
An Old Testament story captures well my concern with the effects of a passivity. Elisha the prophet was about to die and Joash, king of Israel, in an unusual show of affection, wept over the man of God. Yet a test remained. After promising victory to the king over Aram, Elisha told Joash to take the arrows and “strike the ground,” but Joash struck the ground just three times and stopped. At this the prophet became angry and said, “You should have struck five or six times, then you would have struck Aram until you would have destroyed it. But now you shall strike Aram only three times” (2 Kings 13:18-19).
Elisha was angered by the passive spirit in King Joash. He saw that the king did not possess the perseverance to pursue his enemies until he fully conquered them.
What does this mean for us? The prophet’s anger actually mirrors the Lord’s displeasure toward the passiveness or laziness of His people today. Is it hard to believe that Jesus would actually be angry with His Church? Then consider the Lord’s word to the church in Laodicea, a church that was overly concerned with its own comfort and passive in its attitude toward spiritual realities. Jesus said, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were either cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth” (Revelation 3:15-16).
Jesus would rather we were hot or cold than lukewarm. Does He still love those He rebukes? Of course, but He calls us to change our attitudes. It is not that passivity or laziness is such terrible sin, like murder or adultery. It is simply that such attitudes create a psychological prison around believers that actually holds us hostage to our other sins.
The Lord is not pleased with the spiritual passivity and indifference so prevalent among His people. We are aware daily that our enemies could attack our country with massive destruction, or we watch the advance of perversion in our cultures, yet many Christians remain prayerless and inactive. This is in spite of the Lord’s promise that if we will come before Him, humbling ourselves in earnest prayer, He will empower us to pursue our enemies and defeat them. But instead of seeking God’s face on behalf of the lost, too many of us are immobilized by the grip of a passive spirit.
I am not talking about the level of energy in our bodies, but the level of fire in our obedience. Elisha could see that King Joash was a quitter by the passive way he struck the arrows. Beloved, God has given us authority and He has given us spiritual weapons of our warfare to help us, but we need to get up and fight. We need to repent of a passive spirit and stand with Christ’s authority in this day of battle. For if we fail to do either — pray or act — we might actually lose the soul of our nation. Our defeat might come, not because God’s help was not available but because we saw the advance of evil and did nothing.
For maximum benefit, pray this prayer out loud:
Lord God, I thank You that You have given me authority over all the power of the enemy. Forgive me for allowing my voice to remain silent and my will immobilized by a passive spirit. I realize that to be victorious in my spiritual life, I must face my spiritual temptations persistently. You have given me authority over the plans and works of evil. You have created me to be a minister of Your righteousness. You have filled me with Your Holy Spirit and with fire. This day I confront, renounce and take authority over the power of Satan’s work to destroy my spiritual life. I repent of a passivity. In Jesus’ name, Amen.