This Is a Spiritual War
Dr. Jim Denison
America faces a war unlike any we have ever fought. This war is not for land, money, or power, though all will be involved. This war is not with a nation, though nations will be sorely affected. This conflict pits us against a spiritual opponent who fights for spiritual reasons. His aims and methods are spiritual in nature, and his irrational zeal is inspired by his spiritual fervor.
This is a spiritual war. We need spiritual help, the power of the Spirit himself. We have begun already to sense this, with more people crowding into more churches for prayer and worship than we have seen in a generation. We are right. We need the Spirit’s power for our lives, our future, our leaders, and our nation. Today I must show you why this is so, and how the Holy Spirit can empower each of us for the days ahead.
The spiritual enemy we face
First I must talk about the spiritual enemy we face. To no one’s surprise, on September 13 Secretary of State Colin Powell named Osama bin Laden as a prime suspect in Tuesday’s attacks. Who is he, and what does he want?
The US indicted him for masterminding the 1998 bombings of our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania; he has been connected to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the 1993 killing of American soldiers in Somalia, the mid-90’s bombings of US facilities in Saudi Arabia, and the 2000 attack on the US Cole.
Authorities have prevented his associates from launching attacks during the millennium celebrations, from bombing a dozen trans-Pacific flights in 1995, and from assassinating the pope and President Clinton in the Philippines.
So we know what he has done. Why does he do it?
Osama bin Laden is the most notorious leader of a strain of militant Islam that has been growing in the Muslim world for 30 years. Its fundamental belief is that the Muslim world is being poisoned and desecrated by “infidels.”
These “infidels” include both the US and Israel and governments of Muslim states such as Egypt and Jordan which have relationships with them.
These “infidels” must be driven out of the Muslim world by a jihad, the Arabic word for “struggle” often identified with holy war. Then strict Islamic rule must be established everywhere Muslims live. These extremists want to reestablish the golden age of Muslim domination which followed the death of Muhammad. The Taliban’s Afghanistan rule is their model for such a state.
Why has he attacked America?
Bin Laden is especially angry with the United States because of our military presence in Saudi Arabia. When the Saudis invited our troops to their defense after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, bin Laden and others were repulsed at this desecration of their holy land. And so he has bombed American military facilities in Saudi Arabia, and attacked our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania eight years to the day after our first troops were dispatched to Saudi Arabia.
He is furious about our support for Israel, and cannot tolerate our alliances with moderate Arab governments in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait (see David Plotz, “What Does Osama Bin Laden Want?” Slate, 9-13-01).
In brief, he wants to drive America out of Muslim nations, annihilate Israel, and establish the strictest Muslim rule over the Muslim world.
It is highly significant that most of that world has denounced both his aims and his tactics.
“Islam” means “peace” or “surrender” to Allah. It focuses upon the Koran as Allah’s revelation of himself to mankind through the prophet Mohammed.
Strict morality and obedience to the Koran, five daily prayers, almsgiving for the poor, fasting during the month of Ramadan, and pilgrimage to Mecca characterize its basic tenets. Nowhere does the Koran link “holy” and “war.”
It is wrong to speak of bin Laden and his movement as Muslim, just as it is wrong to speak of David Koresh or Jim Jones or the KKK as Christian.
The enemy we now face is unlike any we have seen in military terms. Bin Laden’s organization, called al-Qaida (Arabic for “The Base”), has mobilized perhaps hundreds of cells across the nations affected by its strategies. These underground movements are very difficult to define and attack. While they have been supported by Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Algeria, Libya and Syria, among other nations, attacking these nations would not destroy the movement. Killing bin Laden would not by itself destroy the movement. This is why our president warns us that the war ahead will be long and hard.
And so we must have God’s power and God’s strength. We are facing a spiritual enemy, one which seeks not more money, power, or land, but spiritual goals through spiritual fervor. We are facing a military struggle which will require spiritual strength. The wonderful news is that this power is available to every one of us and to our nation, today.
The spiritual power God will give us
This is by no means the first time God’s people have been tested by their enemies. Let me take you to a place and time amazingly like our own, and offer you the help which gave that people the hope and victory they desperately needed.
The year is 538 B.C. Cyrus, king of Persia, has just conquered Babylon and freed the Jewish people to return from their Babylonian captivity to their homeland in Israel (Ezra 1:2-4; 6.3-5).
Led by Zerubbabel, about 50,000 Jews journeyed home and began work on their temple. Two years later they finished its foundations amid great celebration (Ezra 3:8-10).
But their success aroused the wrath of neighboring nations. These people didn’t want Israel back in the land at all, and feared their renewed spiritual and military power. They opposed this project vigorously, threatening the Jewish people with war and lying about them to the Persian government. For 14 years the temple’s foundations lay untouched, the nation fearful, their walls and city little more than rubble and ruins.