Chapter 6

The Science of Spiritual Warfare

From the booklet How to Be an Overcomer
By Gerald Flurry

We are involved in a terrible spiritual war. We must fight against our own carnal nature and against evil influences of this world. We are even locked in direct combat with Satan himself. That is why we are instructed to “Put on the whole armour of God” and to “war a good warfare” (Ephesians 6:11; 1 Timothy 1:18). How successful are you at fighting this spiritual war?

Napoleon Bonaparte was a ruthless dictator. But he was also one of the most phenomenally successful military leaders in history. Many great military men have studied him in detail, including Winston Churchill. His life contains principles and examples we can emulate in order to better fight our spiritual war.

Napoleon wrote a lot about war. He was not a great innovator in warfare; instead, he scrupulously studied the great generals of the past and copied the habits that led to victories. One truth he discovered was that there is a science to waging war. He said all successful, victorious generals followed scientific rules and principles that produced success.

Do we approach our spiritual war as a science? Our war is far more important than any war in this world. Consider the importance of our war next to any that Napoleon fought. There is no comparison!

“Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:3). There is a hardness to our calling. Endure hardness means to suffer evil, or to sustain afflictions. We must expect afflictions and problems through which we have to sustain ourselves.

And not only must we endure hardness. God’s people today are also being trained to help others endure hardness. We must endure hardness ourselves and then—by our example, our encouragement, our words, our counsel or whatever God may require of us—help all those whom God calls to endure hardness.

Offensive Warfare

Napoleon’s aim in war was to destroy the will of his enemy. He criticized those military leaders who wasted time on secondary goals.

“Make war offensively,” Napoleon said. “It is the sole means to become a great captain and to fathom the secrets of the art.” That is a profound statement. If you are not fighting this war offensively, you will not be a great leader.

Napoleon advocated using “a well-reasoned and extremely circumspect defensive, followed by rapid and audacious attack.”

God gives us a tremendous amount of knowledge. But what good is it if we don’t apply it in offensive warfare? That is how we truly learn—through application. We must go on the offensive in God’s Work in every possible way with the knowledge we receive. That means serving God’s people, helping in the congregations, supporting the Work. Anything that gets in the way of that, we must try to destroy—particularly our carnal nature.

That is how we win battles. That is how we become outstanding soldiers and leaders for God.

In his book The Campaigns of Napoleon, David Chandler wrote, “Napoleon was extremely thorough in all his planning; as little as possible was left to chance.”

In your spiritual warfare, how much do you leave to chance? If you think, I won’t worry about that—hopefully it will work out ok, you may be setting yourself up for failure.

“As soon as the possibility of a war with a European power arose,” Chandler wrote, “the emperor would send for his librarian and demand a comprehensive series of books—historical, descriptive, geographical and topical—which he would read … building up a clear mental picture of his future opponent.”

How clear is your mental picture of your enemy and of your problems? Do you have a severe recurring problem? Certainly, a problem you have had all your life takes time to overcome, but if you don’t see it clearly, you can’t battle it! We each battle Satan, society and self—and all of that comes down to conquering our own human nature. You need to understand yourself—your own carnal nature—and then go on the offensive. How well do you understand that? Once you see your problem, you must wage offensive warfare on that problem.

Lessons for the Spring Holy Days

During the Days of Unleavened Bread, God challenges each one of us to see the leaven in our lives and get it out so we can replace it with unleaven. We all need to kill off the old man and build the new man. God drills that lesson into us year after year.

Think again about the example of King David. He was sorely tempted. A king has greater temptations than an ordinary individual without such power. And he gave in and committed the abominable sins of adultery and murder. But after he repented, David never committed those sins again—and there is a reason why. He learned some powerful lessons from that experience.

“Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions,” David prayed. “Wash me throughly from mine iniquity [lawlessness], and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me” (Psalm 51:1-3). From that point forward in his life, David kept that sin right before his eyes. He had a clear mental picture of his problem—kept it right before his eyes—and never let it happen again. And any time that old man—that carnal nature—began to rise up, David went on the offensive and smashed it! That is how he was able to avoid that sin and become a man after God’s own heart. He waged an “audacious attack,” as Napoleon would term it. With Christ living in him, he replaced his evil heart with God’s righteousness.

Replacing your human nature with God’s nature is the most magnificent victory you can ever achieve! It results in eternal glory!

What is your greatest enemy? How much do you think about that?

Is it laziness? Or lust? Resistance to government? Discouragement? Do you have to battle selfishness? Or an inferiority complex? How about intellectual vanity? Or all of the above?

We are all different. We all have different weaknesses and strengths. God wants to seize the potential in every last being He possibly can. He wants you to fulfill your potential. That means you must conquer your problems! You must see them clearly and pray regularly about them. Like David, you must ask God to show you even your secret faults (Psalm 19:12)—those that, perhaps, others see but that you don’t see.

Napoleon sought to destroy his enemy’s will to resist. That is what we must try to do with our “old man” (Ephesians 4:22). Our problems always try to come back. God instructs us to destroy that old man so completely that he doesn’t have the will to come back! If you deal with a problem lightly and return to your business, it will come right back. You will be dealing with the same problems year after year! And a big enough problem will destroy your successes—as we have seen happen in so many of God’s people.

But as Paul said, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13).

Napoleon wrote, “Nothing is attained in war except by calculation. During a campaign, whatever is not profoundly considered in all its details is without result. Every enterprise should be conducted according to a system. Chance alone can never bring success.”

War is serious business! Do you have a system to deal with your major problems? Chance will not cut it. What are you doing to ensure success in your war against them? How systematic are you in wiping them out of your life?

You must be calculated. You need some science to your war.

Here are four points on how to make your spiritual war a real science.

1. Morale in warfare is vitally important

“Napoleon was always aware of the vital importance of morale in warfare,” Chandler wrote, “and another of his best-known maxims declared that in war, the morale is to the physical as three is to one.” With high morale, a general will win three times as many battles!

If you really have the spirit God wants you to have, the high morale, you are going to win three battles where you would normally win one.

The morale that Napoleon prized is sometimes called esprit de corps—the spirit and enthusiasm of the group, loyalty to each other and to the cause. Webster’s defines morale, “The mental and emotional condition (as of enthusiasm, confidence or loyalty) of an individual or group with regard to the function or tasks at hand. A sense of common purpose with respect to a group: esprit de corps. The level of individual psychological well-being based on such factors as a sense of purpose and confidence in the future.”

That is what we need in our war: high morale! How is your morale in this war? How is your morale right now?

Napoleon would travel with his soldiers, and sometimes they would be away from home for months or years. At times he couldn’t pay them—couldn’t even feed them—yet he kept his armies intact. How did he do that? He would be a phenomenal success by today’s standards, with our modern soldiers. How does a man convince an army of men to live off the land much of the time, away from their families, with no pay—and yet, when it is time to fight, get those soldiers to fight with high morale? His speeches lit a fire in his men to fight. In that respect very few leaders have ever reached Napoleon’s level.

That is definitely an example we should seek to emulate in our spiritual warfare. The way for us to develop high morale is to get our hearts into God’s Work. The question is, what prevents you from doing that fully? What is holding you back? This is God’s Work!—what holds you back from absolutely throwing yourself into it? We should all have high morale—and inspire that in others. Do you inspire others to have high morale, or do you drag them down?

This is an issue that will be decided in your prayer closet. That is where you will get most of your power. In our warfare, we resolve the major issues on our knees, crying out to God.

Napoleon wrote, “A man does not have himself killed for a few halfpence a day or for a petty distinction. You must speak to the soul [the spirit in man] in order to electrify the man.” And that is exactly what Napoleon did.

Can you and I do that? Christ did. And He said that if He lives in us, we can too. Of course, we have to conquer our old man in order to show the kind of concern for other people we need to. But God’s Church is full of spiritual troops whose morale God wants us to lift up! When God’s people have high morale, they are a fearsome force!

“More than anything else, it was Bonaparte’s unequaled gift for binding men to his service, instilling in them a devotion to his person closely akin to worship, that made his successes feasible,” Chandler wrote. “… Bonaparte became an idol from Lodi [one battle in which he was very courageous in leading his men] onwards, creating those vital personal bonds which would cause his troops to march to almost certain death, crying, ‘Viva Bonaparte!’”

Again, humanly, Napoleon was an ugly, barbaric dictator—though he did know how to lead men. We should never worship a man—but we really do worship our Leader. Can we go around saying, “Viva Jesus Christ!” and have excitement and high morale over whatever God asks of us? What a difference that makes in battle!

Would your friends say of you, “That person really has high morale”? Are you known for being ready to do battle in this Work—doing all you can to finish the job?

Nehemiah 8:10 reads, “[T]he joy of the Lord is your strength.” How much joy of the Lord do you have, and how much strength do you have?

Are you close enough to Christ? Do you use your prayer closet enough—and powerfully enough—that you truly have high morale? Enough so that just your example helps others to have higher morale? We have all faltered in that respect. But it is exactly the areas where we have faltered that we need to attack! Know where you have faltered—and why you have faltered. If you fall down, get back up! Christ still lives in you. Failure is only temporary if you are letting Christ live in you and you have high morale! A problem is just something you are about to overcome.

Wellington remarked about Napoleon, some years after he had actually defeated Napoleon, that “his presence on the field made a difference of 40,000 men.” If Napoleon was with them, it was like the army was as powerful as if it had 40,000 more men!

Chandler praised Napoleon’s “incontrovertible evidence of his power over men and his ability to inspire a high state of morale. … He fought a war of the mind as much as a war of cannon and bayonets …” (emphasis mine throughout).

You, too, can be a person who lifts others’ morale and excites them to be part of God’s Work! Perhaps that high morale is the best sign that you are winning your battles.

2. You must have maximum concentration

“One of the basic maxims of Napoleon stresses the all-importance of achieving maximum concentration of forces at the right place and time, in other words on the battlefield,” wrote Chandler. “Another striking feature of the First Italian Campaign is the way Bonaparte always contrived to bring the greatest possible number of his available men onto the field.”

When you have to tackle a problem, concentrate everything you have on that problem. Bring everything possible to bear on solving it.

“The principles of war are the same as those of a siege,” Napoleon said. “Fire must be concentrated on a single point, and as soon as the breach is made the equilibrium is broken and the rest is nothing ….”

He had a clear picture in his mind of the problem he faced. He would aim all of his attention on breaking through at one point just to get his enemy off balance.

Do you lay siege to your big problems? A siege is a military blockade of a city or a fortified place intended to compel it to surrender. It is a persistent attack. To lay siege means to pursue diligently or persistently. How about preparing a siege against your laziness? Or your lust, or sense of inferiority, or vanity, or whatever problem you face? Lay siege on it—go right at the heart of it with everything you can muster! Destroy its will! Decimate your old man’s will to rise back up—and you will conquer it. That is how we can win battles against our serious problems.

“In the words of General Camon, [Napoleon] was ‘a devourer of books,’” Chandler wrote. “Volume after volume was taken up, ruthlessly analyzed …. Bonaparte’s mathematical mind forged through the inessential to grasp the kernel of truth.”

Napoleon wrote, “In military, public or administrative affairs, there is a need for deep thought as well as deep analysis, and also for an ability to concentrate on subjects for a long time without fatigue.”

Can you do that? You must have deep thought, deep analysis, and long periods of concentration without fatigue in order to understand the enemy! Some of us have health problems that prevent intense concentration—but if you are fatigued, ask yourself why. Is it because you are losing battles? Is it because you’re not fighting with a system? What is the reason? Do you have trouble staying alert? Can you concentrate on subjects for a long time without fatigue?

Napoleon could get the books and study and think and deeply analyze, concentrating for a long time on a subject without fatigue. That is an amazing ability to have. We can do that too—because we have all the power in the world if Christ is living in us!

If you get fatigued too easily, you need to attack that problem! You have to get yourself in physical and mental shape to do that—and spiritual shape, most of all.

Napoleon wrote, “Read and meditate upon the wars of the greatest captains. This is the only means of rightly learning the science of war.”

Think about that spiritually. Look at all the captains we can study who knew how to win wars! God the Father, Jesus Christ, Abraham, Paul, Peter, John—and on and on! We have a whole library of material from Herbert W. Armstrong, a great spiritual captain. You could find a system for fighting almost anything just by studying what he wrote and what he lived through. Mr. Armstrong knew the science of this spiritual war. So did all the righteous men of the Bible. They knew how to fight! And we can learn not only from their strengths, but even from their weaknesses, if we analyze them deeply.

“There are in Europe many good generals,” Napoleon said, “but they see too many things at once. I see only one thing, namely the enemy’s main body. I try to crush it, confident that secondary matters will then settle themselves.”

Getting distracted by the secondary matters doesn’t bring down the enemy. It only wastes precious time! We must concentrate on the main body—the heart of the problem—and crush it! Then the secondary matters will fall into place.

Chandler explained, “Here lies the kernel, the central theme, of Napoleon’s concept of warfare: the blitzkrieg attack aimed at the main repository of the enemy’s military power—his army.” I wonder where the Nazis got their concept of blitzkrieg warfare!

Napoleon tried to destroy not only the field forces, but also the enemy’s will to resist. That is what we want to do with the old man, so there is nothing left to battle against.

One big weakness can drag you down and destroy you. Two of them certainly can do it even better. We have seen that many times with ministers and members of God’s Church. What you need in order to defeat that serious problem is maximum concentration in your battle.

3. Learn the value of time

“Strategy,” Napoleon said, “is the art of making use of time and space.” That is a wonderful definition. Napoleon was deeply convinced of “the vital significance of time and its accurate calculation in relation to space,” Chandler wrote.

Of those two commodities, Napoleon put the greater value on time. He said: “Space we can recover, time never. I may lose a battle, but I shall never lose a minute.”

Napoleon’s ability to get the very most from his time contributed greatly to his success. “As [Commandant] Colin describes it, ‘Rapidity is an essential and primordial [or fundamental] factor in Napoleon’s warfare.’ This insistence on speed and mobility was a basic feature of the emperor’s campaigns from beginning to end, and was the feature of his warfare that most confused and unsettled the majority of his opponents, brought up in a tradition that taught a more leisurely type of warfare,” wrote Chandler.

Consider the difference! Napoleon put a premium on speed and mobility. His enemies wanted to wage war in a more leisurely fashion. That is a big reason they were so often his victims. Waging war casually will get you killed.

For the sake of victory, Napoleon really worked his soldiers. One of them made this comment: “The emperor has discovered a new way of waging war; he makes use of our legs instead of our bayonets.” He made them run. If they could arrive at the scene of the battle a day ahead of time, it would give them a tremendous advantage over an enemy that wasn’t expecting them. “[H]e would present his stunned enemy with no option but to accept a battle a full 24 hours ahead of the time he had expected,” Chandler wrote. Napoleon used the element of surprise whenever he could.

“[F]or Napoleon there is no doubt that speed was the element that could transform danger into opportunity, defeat into victory,” Chandler wrote.

Jesus Christ had the same sense of urgency. He had so little time on Earth, so His time was extremely critical. On occasion, He would miss meals in order to finish some work—to do what His Father wanted Him to do. He was so consumed by His responsibilities that He didn’t even think about eating.

Our lives are comprised of time—precious time. We don’t have much of it! Look at how quickly time is going by! The older I get, the more I realize how easy it is to waste time.

“The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away. … So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Psalm 90:10, 12).

To really wage effective spiritual warfare, we must learn the value of time.

4. Embrace unity of command

“It would be possible to continue almost indefinitely describing and analyzing different features of Napoleon’s military philosophy, but there is room here only to mention one further principle, perhaps the most important of all, namely that of unity of command,” David Chandler wrote. “The emperor was convinced from an early stage in his military career that ‘a house divided against itself cannot stand.’” Of course, that principle comes right from the Bible (Matthew 12:25; Luke 11:17).

We must have unity of command within God’s Church! Jesus Christ is the Head, and we are the Body. Christ commands the Body through the government structure He has put in place in the Church, and the Body does what the Head says to do.

“A split command was anathema to [Napoleon] from as early as 1796,” Chandler wrote. “When the Directory wished to divide his Italian command and make him share it with General Kellermann, Bonaparte threatened to resign: ‘Better one bad general than two good ones’ was the theme of his reply to Paris.” That is a good insight. At least one bad general who has authority can get something done; two generals, and you have gridlock. We see that everywhere in politics today.

“As soon as he was in a position to really impose his authority, Napoleon did away with the revolutionary system of operating a whole series of semiautonomous armies, and centralized all formations into one single army under a single head—himself,” Chandler wrote. Again, Napoleon was a dictator and an evil man—but the reality is, that unity of command is the way Christ wants to lead us!

Napoleon was convicted that unity of command was “the first necessity in war.” He’s talking about government. In order to wage an effective spiritual war, we must accept the unity of command by the Father and the Son and their government.

Those ministers and members who have left God’s Church generally would not embrace that unity of command. If we have a problem in this area, we must solve it! Do you resist the authority Christ has given to the leaders in His Church? Do you resist submitting to what Mr. Armstrong taught?

“Napoleon laid down five principles for opening a campaign …. First: An army must have only a single line of operations,” Chandler wrote; “that is to say, the target must be clearly defined and every possible formation directed toward it.” That is what makes God’s Work effective. Every department at headquarters, every student at our college, every minister, every member, is working toward the same objective. When we all have Jesus Christ living in us, that kind of unity becomes possible, and it gives us marvelous and wonderful power! The very power of God resides in the Body! That enables this Work to move ahead rapidly.

Often today, civilian leaders and military leaders work at cross-purposes with one another. Sometimes, civilian leaders will only use military men who are little more than yes-men. Napoleon avoided that conflict of purposes by taking both jobs: He was both president and general. There is an evil side to that kind of leadership when it is inspired by the devil—but with God’s government, it works beautifully.

Napoleon once said, “It is upon the field of battle that the fate of fortresses and empires is decided.” For us, in our spiritual warfare, it is in the prayer closet that the fate of God’s Church is decided. It is in our drawing on the power of God and using that power to overcome.

Christ has called each one of us to become a leader! And we can be great leaders if Jesus Christ lives in us, but we must learn the science of spiritual war.

Victory in this warfare produces the ultimate results. If we win, the universe is ours. Our future is so phenomenal that we simply cannot grasp it completely. When we are spirit beings in God’s Family, I don’t think we will ever look back and say, It was just so hard in those days. I’m sure we will look back instead and say, Wow—what a bargain that I was to be able to go through that—and receive all this!

Continue Reading: Chapter 7: Offensive Warfare