I have spent the last 15 months collaborating with Priscilla Shirer on The Prince Warriors Series, a trilogy of novels for middle grade readers about a group of kids who learn to use the Armor of God to fight battles in the unseen realm. The only way I can explain how I, an unknown writer from upstate New York, got to work with Priscilla Shirer is this: God did it. I’ll get into that whole story another time.
Before this project came along I had been working on a YA series about spiritual battle for some time, so I was familiar with the territory. I had also just done several of Priscilla’s bible studies, including Armor of God, which is truly brilliant. I picked up Fervent and read it in a day. Right after our first meeting to discuss the books, War Room came out.
Can you see a pattern here?
God had been preparing me for this journey even before I knew I was going. That’s one of those “way cool” things about God. I’ve always had a thing for war stories. I wrote a novel about the Battle of Tours (Hammer of God). I worked for the US Army in Germany and married a West Pointer. I’ve watched the battle scenes of Lord of the Rings a hundred times, easy. I have a serious obsession with King Arthur (doesn’t everyone?) I wasn’t always sure this was exactly healthy. I mean, as a Christian, shouldn’t I be more interested in peace and love and stuff like that?
But there’s lots of times in the Bible when God calls His people to war. Sometimes this can seem rather un-Godlike, as when He tells the Israelites to attack a city and kill everyone in it, even women and children. My 21st century brain has a bit of trouble wrapping itself around that. Yet even peace-loving Jesus said, “I come not to bring peace, but a sword.” Yikes. But here’s the thing: the enemy is not other people, but the “rulers…the powers… the world forces of this darkness… the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
So that’s the first thing I learned from Priscilla in working on these books: Know thy enemy. Know who you’re really fighting. The enemy may sometimes look like your teacher or best friend or boss or sister or the school bully or those girls who sit together at the lunch table whispering about you, but it isn’t. Fighting the wrong enemy is like bowling with a boomerang. The only thing you’ll end up knocking down is yourself.
The second thing, and maybe even more crucial, is this: put on your armor before you go into battle.
This may seem obvious—duh—but there are many times I find myself in the middle of a battle unprepared. Like when I’m ten minutes late for a meeting and I miss the green light because some–ahem–person is trying to make a left hand turn from the right hand lane. Or when I read a bad review of one of my books and think I am the worst writer on the planet (again). Or when I’m overcome by temptation or negative self-talk or impossible obstacles or debilitating anger or fear or doubt. One thing you can always count on: the battle you end up fighting is the one you didn’t expect.
Just imagine a real warrior finding himself under attack and saying, “Excuse me, can you wait just a minute until I put my armor on?” You think your real enemy would wait around for you to get prepared? (Other than Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride, of course. I knew you were going to mention that.)
The third thing is: The battle is real. This is the catchphrase of The Prince Warriors. And it’s true. Until we start taking it seriously and using all the defensive and offensive weapons God has given us, we will never have victory. The “ignore it and it will go away” approach never works.
The fourth thing is this: we don’t fight alone. God is our shield — a shield is something that not only protects us, it actually takes the blows meant for us. God not only does the protecting, He does the fighting too. When the Israelites had their backs to the Red Sea with the Egyptian army bearing down on them, Moses said, “God will do the fighting for you, you need only to be still.” I can tell you in a situation like that, being still would not be my first plan of action. Other translations say “keep silent” and “hold your peace.” But I like “Be still” because it reminds me of that illustration of the lifeguard who, when trying to save a person from drowning, has to wait for that person to stop thrashing around, trying to save himself.
Last but definitely not least: prayer. Jesus said even the worst demons have no power against prayer. (Matt 17:21) You could put on armor and go into a battle, but you’d still get killed if you don’t know how to fight. A sword in unskilled hands would be powerless against the enemy. Even Jesus, who was God and could, you know, walk on water, prayed constantly, sometimes all night.
Prayer is usually our last resort, but it should be our first. My small group has a saying: Stop, Drop and Pray. This is the first line of defense, especially in a crisis. Without prayer, we’ll be overrun. The battle will be over before it even starts. Certainly there are times when God says “Fight,” and other times when He says, “Be still.” But how will we know which way to go if we don’t pray?
Life is a battlefield. That’s the bad news. But here’s the good news: we already have victory. Jesus did that for us. Our problem is we don’t always claim it. We still let the enemy push us around. Paul says, “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”
Stand. Be still. Are we getting that yet?
“I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” (Psalm 16:8)
Let’s be unshakable.
Book 2 of the Prince Warriors series by Priscilla Shirer and Gina Detwiler, The Prince Warriors and the Unseen Invasion, and Unseen: The Prince Warriors 365-day Devotional by Priscilla Shirer, release October 15, 2016.