In late 2008, terrorists attacked India's most populous city, Mumbai, unleashing a cavalcade of murder and mayhem that struck fear in the hearts of the citizenry and resulted in a significant loss of human life. As reports of these attacks began to appear on cable news outlets here in the United States, I was riveted, and also deeply troubled. Four years earlier, I had spent two mostly sleepless nights in Mumbai on my way to and from Visakhapatnam, a bustling city on India's east coast.
India changed me. That trip literally catapulted me into a new understanding of the work of the Holy Spirit and the authority of Jesus Christ. In certain settings, Jesus's presence was palpable, sometimes overwhelmingly so. As we approached rural villages to preach, we sensed that God had already gone ahead of us and prepared the hearts of our hearers. We proclaimed the Gospel with great boldness and shook demons from their strongholds; some, enraged by our devotion, vividly displayed their disgust. I have never experienced a stronger evangelistic impulse than I did during that two-week stretch in 2004. Something inside of me was awakened that had previously been dormant or dead. As I returned to the United States by way of Mumbai, I knew I would never be the same.
Perhaps the most unusual thing about my trip is that it almost didn't happen. Complications with visas, ticketing, and immunizations nearly grounded it, not to mention the fact that in the weeks prior to my departure I was experiencing an inordinate amount of fear and anxiety related to the trip. For some reason, I was deathly afraid to go, and my mind and body were working overtime to prevent me from boarding that plane.
The whole ordeal was so outside the bounds of my normal experience that I decided to tell a friend. I didn't expect to be riddled with such angst in the lead-up to my first overseas mission. After assuring me that some of my concerns were valid, my friend suggested that what I might be encountering was spiritual warfare. Despite being a pastor, albeit a young and inexperienced one, it was something I had never even considered. It just wasn't on my radar.
My friend urged me to read Ephesians 6:12 in order to understand more about the malevolent forces that are at work in the world. He also encouraged me to read that verse in context, so that I could do my part to combat the principalities and powers that were seeking to undermine the important work that we were preparing to do in India. The Apostle Paul calls it putting on the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:11), and had I not begun doing just that in the days prior to what would become a life-changing trip to India, I would have never set foot on the plane.Take a moment now to read
Ephesians 6:10-20. As you think about your own life, what piece of the armor have you struggled to put on, leaving you vulnerable to spiritual attack?