But behold he [Amalickiah] met with a disappointment by being repulsed by Teancum and his men, for they were great warriors; for every man of Teancum did exceed the Lamanites in their strength and in their skill of war, insomuch that they did gain advantage over the Lamanites. (Alma 51:31)
It is neat that the men of Teancum were pointed out to us as great warriors. Their greatness is shown to consist of 1) strength and 2) skill of war.
This makes me ponder how these principles might be applied to us today in the battle against Satan. In what ways do we have strength and skill of war against the devil? And if we feel like we don’t have these qualities, how might we acquire them?
Strength starts, I think, with our desires to do what’s right, to please the Lord, to serve Him. Being converted by the Spirit and changed is a significant step, since it causes us to abhore evil. But at some point, strength also has to have an element of endurance too because if the enemy outlasts you, you end up giving in.
I think on one hand, we are promised that God will not suffer us to be tempted above what we can bear, but we also can’t seek out temptation. Also, the grace of God is enabling power that we can access to push beyond our own limited powers.
So part of strength is from our desires and efforts, and part of it comes from the Lord. Part of it is what we muster in the moment to resist, but it has to have endurance if the struggle is prolonged.
What about skill of war? What skills do we have to have to resist temptation? How do we gain them?
I think these skills are one part knowledge and one part experience. We can learn in various places the different methods Satan uses to attack us. The scriptures help reveal to us Satan’s various designs and strategies before we encounter them so that we can recognize them and resist when they come. (Also, I think the war chapters of the Book of Mormon are very useful for pointing out a wide variety of these methods.) Prophets point out things to look out for, and revelation can reveal to us what Satan is doing to us. And this may sound odd, but I’ve noticed that sometimes cognitive-behavioral psychology books can reveal ways Satan might use our distorted thinking to enslave us (though they don’t necessarily take a spiritual angle. But they are great for pointing out faulty thinking patterns.)
That’s the knowledge part.
And then, we live life and we experience temptation of all sorts. Hopefully we pray for discernment and gain experience recognizing the devil’s attacks in the moment and resisting them. We also learn practical spiritual principles which dictate that in a particular situation, we should act a certain way, and living by those principles automatically builds our skills and resistance. (For example, if we are committed to living the principle of forgiveness, then any time we are wronged, we have an immediate weapon to use against Satan’s temptation to hold a grudge and resentment against others.) I suppose many commandments we are given help build our skills for war against the devil.
The nice thing is that both strength and skill can be increased. They are increased by prayer when we notice we need help, by purposeful study, by learning new principles, by increasing our obedience. Part of it is from our own efforts and desires, but the other part comes from God by revelation and grace. And of course, when we give in, there is repentance, which gives us a chance to start over and fight some more.
Perhaps Teancum’s men are not as well-noticed as Helaman’s stripling warriors, but the fact is, without them and their strength and skill, Amalickiah’s invasion would have been even more successful than it was. They turned the tide of the Lamanite advance. They were just as serviceable to the Nephites as the stripling warriors.
The stronger and more skilled we are at resisting temptation, the more we can help those around us resist the rising tide of sin in our world.
Beginning today, let’s pray for the skills and strength we need to resist temptation.