To be prepared for war is the most effectual means of preserving peace. — George Washington
My guess is that you are facing a situation right now for which you don’t have the answers. Something that is making you feel terrified, trapped, or lonely. You feel as if you are a victim of your circumstances… and you don’t know where to turn for help.
Perhaps it’s a cycle of retaliation with your spouse that is leading to a vicious silence that no one is willing to break. You know that if something doesn’t change, your marriage isn’t going to last. Or maybe you’re ready to quit your job because it seems your coworkers are all against you. Or it could be a struggle with your temper. You haven’t crossed the line yet, but you’ve come close. Or the problem might be a crippling anxiety that you just can’t seem to shake. You feel as if your life is spinning out of control.
The worst thing about feeling victimized in this way is that it’s impossible to be a victim and a victor at the same time. It’s time for something better in your life. In fact, as we will discuss throughout this study, God wants something much better for you. He wants to lead you and guide you through the problems you are facing. But the first step in this journey requires a conscious action on your part. You have to admit the conflict is real.
As any soldier will tell you, you can’t win a war if you are unwilling to admit a conflict exists in the first place. This is why making your declaration is so important. I declare war… against the cycle of retaliation… against my bad behaviors… against anxiety and depression… against the darkness and my self-sabotaging tendencies.
When you declare war in this way, you are refusing to go gently into the night or to be taken without a fight. You are waging war on the version of yourself that you don’t want to be. And, as you will find, there is freedom and power in making such a declaration.
If you or any of your group members are just getting to know one another, take a few minutes to introduce yourselves. Then, to kick things off, discuss one of the following questions:
How many people in the group have played the card game War? How does one win or lose the game? How might that apply to this study?
Why did you choose to be a part of this study? What are you hoping to learn from this experience?
Invite someone to read aloud the following passage. Listen for fresh insights as you hear the verses being read, and then discuss the questions that follow.
I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. — John 10:9–10 NKJV
What is one key insight that stands out to you in this passage?
What desire does Jesus have for your life? What desire does the enemy have for you?
What promise does Jesus make to you? What is required on your part?
Watch the Video for Session One: I Declare War
Play the video for session one. As you and your group watch, use the following outline to record any thoughts or key points that stand out to you.
All of us have a war we are fighting, and it’s a war we’re facing within. We are in a battle involving the thoughts we think, the words we speak, and the actions we take.
The Bible makes it clear that both God and the enemy have an agenda for our lives. Jesus wants us to experience life to the full, but the devil seeks only to steal, kill, and destroy.
Every choice we make is a door we’re deciding to walk through. And we have to choose carefully, because some doors lead to life and others lead to death.
We have to discover how to stop creating problems for ourselves — to get out of our own way. It starts with us making this statement: “I declare war on my tendency to sabotage myself.”
In the words of President Teddy Roosevelt, when we choose to fight the battle rather than simply talk or think about it, a “wolf rises up in our heart.” Once we commit ourselves to the conflict, a new courage and resolve surfaces within us.
The first three “cards” in our declaration of war involve our words, our thoughts, and our actions. The fourth represents the all-important power of the Holy Spirit.
The fourth card is critical, because we cannot win this war in our own strength. We need God to give us power, tell us who we are, and supercharge all our efforts.
Take a few minutes with your group members to discuss what you just watched and explore these concepts together.
- We often think of a battle as something going on around us, yet the most important war we face is the one within us. How does this struggle tend to play out in our lives?
- Read aloud 2 Corinthians 2:9–11. What strategies does Paul put forward in this passage on how to outwit the enemy?
- Notice that Paul says, “We are not unaware of his schemes” (verse 11 NIV). Why is it often so hard to detect the enemy’s schemes? What can help us in this regard?
- What is your favorite part of Teddy Roosevelt’s story about the “wolf rising up in his heart”? Why?
- How does our commitment to declare war and engage in a conflict cause a positive shift to occur within us?
- The first three cards we will lay down in our declaration of war deal with our words, thoughts, and actions. Of these three, which do you struggle with the most? Why?
Wrap up your time together with prayer — simply taking a few minutes to talk with God. Here are a few ideas of what you could pray about based on what you discussed in this session:
- Ask God to bring clarity to the specific areas he wants to transform in your lives.
- Pray for God to strengthen you as you rise up against what’s been holding you back.
- Declare that the way things have been are not the way things will be going forward.
- Ask for greater understanding on how your words, your thoughts, and your actions have been leading to life — or destruction — for you and those around you.
- Declare war on your tendency to sabotage yourself.
This week, set aside some time to evaluate what you discussed with your group in this session and how you’ll apply it to your life. A good place to start is to identify your primary struggles. Write them down below. Declare war on them. Remember… this isn’t just about making a list so you can just think about or talk about the struggles. Naming your struggles is a concrete way of declaring war on the version of yourself that you don’t want to be.