Spiritual Warfare on the Homestead

Spiritual Warfare on the Homestead

When it comes to farming, homesteading, and the goal to “live a quiet life, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands” (I Thessalonians 4:11-12), it’s possible for a family to develop a false sense of security in their efforts to make progress in that direction.

It may be true a person has become more self-reliant and has learned to function quite fruitfully on their farm with a cozy hedge of separation between them and the outside world—safe from becoming overly dependent on (or influenced by) that outside world.  In their view, they feel they’ve done a good thing since, with every passing day, the world seems to slide further and further into sin and confusion.  Amy and I share many of those thoughts.

But, honestly, the guarded, self-reliant family out on their little farm is hardly removed from the dangers of a sinful world.  Even if it were completely off-grid and isolated from having any contact with anyone, it would still be in the line of fire.  How is that?  Well because, as Ephesians 6:12 says,

“For [our fight] isn’t against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

The real battle being fought and, therefore, the place where the real threat to our families exists, isn’t just in the political arenas of Washington or the culture centers of Hollywood, but it’s creeping in the shadows on the front porch of the farmhouse too.  It’s hiding over in the tall grass at the edge of the field, waiting for an opportunity to pounce.  It’s already crossed the no-trespassing sign.  It’s already crossed the fence.  It’s already on the farm.

It’s already creeping in the garden and by the fruit trees, just as it was for Eve in the safe and peaceful confines of Paradise itself.  It’s already following our kids around the property as they’re doing their farm chores—as one feeds the animals, and the other picks the vegetables—just as it was for Cain and Able.

You remember the story.  Cain was making an offering from the fruit of the ground.  Able was making his offering from the firstborn of his flocks.  And, by the way, it’s worth mentioning all of that was in connection to the practice of Family Worship.  What can be more God glorifying than the wholesome practice of intentional family worship together?

But what happened out on the farm east of Eden?  Something went wrong.  For one reason or another, Cain’s offering was rejected, while Abel’s accepted.  And, in that seemingly God-glorifying act of worship together, Cain gets jealous.  He turns in anger against his brother with murderous intent.

To which, God sounds the alarm, right before Cain kills his brother, in Genesis 4:7, saying “…Sin is crouching at the door.  Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”

Anybody who lives out on a farm or a homestead, I’m sure, can relate to what it’s like when the chickens start to get picked off by the coyotes.  Or when the snakes slither into the coop and start eating the eggs.  Or when the kids are playing in the woods and that stray dog shows up again.

In the same way, sin is lying in wait.  “Sin is crouching at the door,” ready to pounce.  I Peter 5:8 says,

“Be sober-minded; be watchful.  Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

It’s the teaching of Scripture that sin and Satan—yes, I believe, in a literal spiritual realm made up of a literal devil and demons who, as Ephesians 6 said, is the real enemy pulling the puppet strings—but, the Bible tells us, both temptation and the tempter are closer than you think.   Like the predator hiding near the coop, a spiritual ambush awaits us.

In the book of Job, Satan is described as one who “wanders around the earth, going back and forth upon it.”  Going back and forth to do what?  Presumably to find people in vulnerable moments—and not just individuals, but entire family units—and to pick them off, virtue by virtue.  And sure enough, in an effort to take down Job, Satan goes after Job’s seemingly happy family out on the farm, with their 10 prosperous kids and all their acreage and all their many animals.

Job’s family and farm, as successful as it was, was anything but immune from spiritual attack.  Folks, the same is true for you and me.  Your homestead may feel far enough out, and self-reliant enough, that you can weather the next economic, political, or health crisis storm.  That may all be true.  But, I can tell you, you’re not far enough out, or self-reliant enough, to prevent  the next lustful thought, or the next outburst of anger, or the next lie your kid tells, or the next wave of depression, or the next bout of pride and self-righteousness you entertain as you think about how well off you are on your farm.  Oh, how the sin of pride is ready to take down an entire countryside of unsuspecting homesteaders!

If you’ve ever read the classic satire known as “The Screwtape Letters,” by C.S. Lewis, you may remember some of the strategies Lewis imagines the Devil uses to attack us.  If you’re unfamiliar, The Screwtape Letters is an imaginary exchange of messages between an older, senior demon named Screwtape whose writing to his younger, inexperienced nephew, Wormwood, about the best ways—the most deceptive tricks to use—in order to tempt man.  In one letter (again, speaking from the devil’s perspective), he writes,

“What we want, if men become Christians at all, is to keep them in the state of mind I call ‘Christianity And’.—Christianity and the Crisis, Christianity and the New Psychology, Christianity and the New Order, Christianity and Faith Healing, Christianity and Psychical Research, Christianity and Vegetarianism, Christianity and Spelling Reform. If they must be Christians let them at least be Christians with a difference. Substitute for the faith itself some Fashion [or fad] with a Christian colouring.”

In other words, one of the ways Satan tries to take down the committed Christian is by confusing their understanding as to what their Christianity really is.  Instead of believing the plain message of the Gospel that our salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, according to Scripture alone, for the glory of God alone, the strategy of the devil us for us to start believing the message of the Gospel plus something else.  It’s salvation, plus the campaign promises of the latest politician.  Or, the Gospel plus going to church.  Or, the Gospel plus a commitment to homeschooling.  Or, it’s the Gospel plus a quiet, self-reliant homesteading lifestyle.

Obviously, we need to look out for all different sins, but pride in one’s self-reliance, as commendable and well-intended as that is, can inadvertently lead a person away pure God-reliance, trusting in “self” above trusting in the Lord.  Folks, that’s the opposite of Christianity.

Satan wants us to put our faith in our 20 acres, and our new sustainable hoop houses, and our food pantries, and our well-stocked gun safes rather than a complete, 100% faith in God as our Provider and Protector.

Obviously, that’s not to say we don’t need to be about those other things—like the offerings of worship Cain and Able were participating in, they can be glorifying to God, but the moment we selfishly treat any one of them apart from a basic conviction that God alone is our Savior, we’ve become idolaters and all the fruits of our labor become an offense to God.

Again, our struggle is not against flesh and blood, ultimately speaking.  That is, it’s not against invading armies, or tyrannical governments, or lurking pandemics, or the potential of famines and food shortages.  The battle is in your own heart.  It’s in your spouses’ heart.  It’s in your kids’ hearts.  It’s already on the farm.

So, “be sober minded.  Be watchful.”  Know how to spot the prowling sins that threaten you, and take up arms against that.

I’m a Second Amendment guy like most other conservatives, but, listen, more important to me than the concealed carry under my belt, which is a part of getting dressed in the morning, and which I have had to use on some of those predators attacking my chickens, the more important thing I’ve got to remember to put on is the full armor of God that Ephesians 6 also talks about and all the spiritual preparation one must make in order to do something about the devil attacking my family.

If you know the passage, you know that armor is made up of virtue as a primary defense.  And lest we think all the Christian can do is hold a defensive posture and wait for the attack, the armor includes a sword by which we can even hunt down the enemy and regain any surrendered ground.  That sword, of course, is God’s Word.

Well, there’s a battle happening.  And, yes part of that battle is happening in the public arena in areas of government and culture, but it’s also happening out on the farm as well to a far greater degree than you probably realize.  Don’t be blind to it, but take up arms!

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