Spiritual Versus Physical
There are two sides to the spiritual world: God's side; Satan's side. This is represented in of God's Keys to understanding life: The Spiritual War. It is important to be able to recognize the two sides of the spiritual war whenever they are manifest in physical world events, i.e., in our trials. A significant piece of our part in a relationship with God is being able to recognize which side is doing what within us during our trials. When we struggle with this we lack a strong sense of inner peace.
It is tough to fight a spiritual battle when we aren't at peace. Letting the Lord transform us becomes nearly impossible if we ever assume that certain kinds of discomforts, stresses, concerns, upsets, etc. are "normal" in the sense that they aren't really indicating we are in a spiritual battle!
Our physical eyes look out and away from us. Our spiritual eyes look in and toward Christ in us. Our spiritual eyes discern the flesh at work in us. Our spiritual eyes look toward who we are or can be in Christ. Seeing the spiritual in the midst of the physical involves responding to the Holy Spirit. He works to improve our spiritual vision and spiritual hearing. He tries to help us let Christ live through us by helping us discern the spiritual goings on in our lives, while at the same time living in the physical world.
Discerning the Spiritual in Midst of the Physical
Requires Connecting Biblical Concepts to Real-Life
Jesus Himself is represented by one of God's Keys to understanding life. Jesus' message describes and demonstrates how important it is to be able to interact with the invisible, spiritual world. Jesus' message also speaks to how important it is to be able to discern spiritual dynamics that affect us as they unfold and occur in the midst of real world situations and external circumstances.
There are many concepts that describe aspects of being able to live in the physical world and, at the same time, being able to interact in the spiritual world. For example "ask and it will be given to you (Matthew 7:7)," "he who has ears let him hear (Matthew 13:9)," "I will write my laws upon their hearts (Hebrews 10:15-16)," "the first will be last and the last will be first (Matthew 20:16)," and believing without seeing (John 20:29).
"Knock and the door will be opened" is another example (Matthew 7:7). Many believers assume this Bible verse (and others like it) refers strictly to a salvation experience. So, the concept of "knocking" is often described as the process by which a person enters into a personal relationship with God. When we "believe in Jesus," the "door" would then represent the concept of eternal salvation. But Matthew 7:7 also extends to the concept of being able to see and participate in the spiritual world that exists behind our own trials.
If our walk with Christ can change how we experience trials, several reasonable questions may come to mind. How do we knock on "the door" such that it might open? What is the door? How do we know when "the door" is open or closed? How does the Lord knock on the door of our hearts as believers (Revelation 3:20)? How do we "open" the door? How do we hear His voice?
One way of spiritually "knocking" is in how we act or don't act in a trial. We often knock on certain kinds of "doors" in order to try to feel better, to deal with stress, or even to forget our problems (trials). While some stress and tension relievers aren't necessarily bad, we don't want to rely on distractions as a replacement for letting Christ transform us or as a replacement for resting in Him and receiving His peace. The challenge is using the spiritual heart as God designed it to be used.
other issues and challenges to seeing the spiritual in the physical
When things don't turn out the way we want or believe they should, many times we are not at peace. It's often as if we are looking at the RESULTS of the steps of faith the Lord asked us to take as the measure of whether we heard the Spirit correctly. This indicates we are still facing a spiritual battle.
Sometimes we lack the peace of Christ during situations involving others. We might even assume God is happy with us and not the other guy. We might forget that the Lord loves that person, and we will too if we let Christ live through us. Regardless, we believe we found "the door" (the action God is calling us to). We think it's the other guy who hasn't found "the door." We feel like they are just causing problems for us, and that the issue isn't actually a spiritual battle for us personally. When these things are the attitudes and perspectives we have, those very attitudes and perspectives are obstacles to hearing the Spirit of God and His counsel to us personally.
Associating inner disturbances (what we feel) to external situations is not always what spiritual battles are about. Doing so causes us to think that having a sense of the peace of Christ is related to what goes on outside us. This is not how we go about seeing the spiritual world in the midst of the physical world. Fighting the spiritual war within us involves being aware of how our inner disturbances are associated to our own internal, spiritual situations. When we let the Lord transform and change something in us, we can experience a sense of His peace regardless of what is happening outside of us.
Our hearts reflect where our focus is during a given trial. When our hearts are disturbed, this influences our perceptions of what the "spiritual doors" are for us in a trial. It influences on which "doors we knock" in a trial. Discerning how the Lord seeks to transform us and submitting to that is foundational to experiencing His peace during a trial.
Discerning the Spiritual in Midst of the Physical Involves
Discerning Between Our Old and New Selves in Trials
This verse is from Paul's 2nd letter is to the Corinthians, who are already Christians. This is not written to non-believers.
Notice that the second word in this verse is "if." The verse says, "...IF any man is in Christ, (then) he is a new creature..." the word "then" is implied. In his 1st letter to the Corinthians Paul was telling the Corinthians to get themselves back on track in living as God would have them to live. In his 2nd letter, Paul knew that the Corinthians had begun submitting to the Lord and letting Him change them. For this reason, in 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul expresses the concept that if we are living for the Lord in a given situation, then we are being the new self in Christ.
If, in a trial, we are NOT letting Christ live through us, then we are NOT living according to our true identity in Christ. Instead, we are conducting ourselves as if we are of the flesh, which we no longer are.
When we (as believers) fall to sin, from the Father's point of view, we are "clean," we are the "new selves." This is because the Father sees us through the sacrifice of Christ. That doesn't mean that we living as the "new" when we act in sin. It doesn't mean that we do not or will not sin. It just means the Father chooses to see us in relationship with the perfection of Jesus, and we are forgiven when we pick the wrong door in a trial. This doesn't mean that we will necessarily be able to avoid the consequences which might arise as a result of our choice independent of Jesus.
Practically speaking, we do err in our Christian living. We do have tendencies towards the "fleshly self." Paul's words in the verse above are talking about a continual action. When we are in a trial... IF we act in Christ, then we have "passed" the old and have embraced the new. Again, practically speaking, IF we do NOT act in Christ, then in that trial, the old wasn't passed, and we did not live the new self we actually have in Christ during that trial.
It means we did not discern the "door" through which the Lord wanted us to pass. It also means that we did not discern the spiritual behind the physical world issues we faced.
While as a believer you are an individual person, spiritually there two selves you have the potential to act in: the old self or the new self - the fleshly self or the Christ-centered self. If someone calls out to you from another room in your house saying, "Where are you?" you say, "Here I am." You don't say, "Here we are!" That would be crazy. Someone might think you have a split personality. But in a spiritual sense in trials, each of us does ... kind of. The Holy Spirit works to reveal to us what the fleshly parts are up to in a given trial. The studies and training Keys offers can help you to grow in your sensitivity to the Spirit's guidance on this.
Both the Bible and the Holy Spirit, Who authored the Bible, are among God's "Keys" to understanding life. If there are some trials where it is hard to figure out what God is saying to you, then you have room to grow in discernment.
If you have found this page of interest, you ought to take a look at our self-paced study on Hearing God's Voice. It specifically focuses on walking you through how to experience the Bible's principles for growing in discernment. It will help you receive the peace of Christ during trials. It will show you how to double-check yourself before the Lord when you are trying to surrender your decision-making concerning on which "door to knock on." It is oriented (100%) on seeing and participating in the spiritual world behind the physical world events you experience.