The Necessity of Conflict - The Warrior's Journey®

The Necessity of Conflict

Author: Chaplain, COL Scott McChrystal, USA (Ret.)

. Photo by is licensed under CC By 2.0

“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” (Matthew 4:1)

Back in the 1980s I toured a submarine at Norfolk Naval Base. The submariner who escorted me explained that for the three months during which the crew stays submerged, scrubbers purify the air they breathe, removing all pathogens and toxins.

“That’s great,” I replied. “You get to breathe germ-free air for three months.” He smiled. “But there’s a downside,” he said. “Because the first thing that happens when we return to our families is that the whole crew comes down with a cold.” He explained that, in the three months of not fighting off germs, the human immune system grows slack. And it takes a common cold to jerk it back to its feet.

This reminded me of something I once read from Dr. Larry Dossey. “Our own body,” he writes, “contains the wisdom derived from countless challenges to its integrity. Only through threats to its well-being does the body learn to respond and to be efficient at the business of health.”

In a similar way, spiritual conflict is essential to our spiritual growth and development. The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness for the express purpose being tempted by the devil. And, judging from passages like Ephesians 6:10-18, spiritual conflict is part of God’s plan for us as well.

We read in Judges 3:1-2 that God had a purpose for those nations which Israel had failed to drive from the land of Canaan. God used them “to teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who had not had previously experienced battle.” To forge His people into a nation, God had to “battle-harden” them. In the same way spiritual conflict and striving against sin are necessary to battle-harden us and make us fit for eternity with God in heaven.

But understand this. Spiritual conflict is not something we pursue. Jesus told us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the Evil One” (Matthew 6:13). God alone is in charge of our spiritual training and He alone knows which temptation and adversary to allow to cross our path. Our part is to arm ourselves with the Scripture – which proved so effective against the devil here – and to lean upon God’s strength rather than our own (Ephesians 6:10-12).


When did Satan time his attacks on Jesus? When He was most vulnerable?

What weapon did Jesus use against Satan in every single attack?

We must commit God’s word to memory that it may be like a sword at our side. We must put on the armor of God – the armor that consists of God.

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