The Spiral of Defeat

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, May 22, 2020 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

Whenever someone takes a fall, especially in their spiritual lives, very rarely does it happen suddenly. There are times where Satan comes in and steals everything, like with Job, but most of the time, when a fall comes, it is produced by a series of choices that set it up. My pastor has described what he calls the “Spiral of Defeat” in multiple sermons, yet last year, he revealed the opposite side of it: the “Spiral of Victory.” He has yet to formally teach on these spirals in a sermon (I’ve asked, but it hasn’t made the queue as far as I know yet), but I jotted down the steps from his notes for reference. Over the next two posts, I want to explore these two spirals from my perspective. While the structure is from my pastor given toward the end of this sermon (you can skim through the sermon notes to find it to make it easier), the explanations are mine.

My pastor gives seven steps in the Spiral of Defeat and seven steps in the Spiral of Victory. In his most recent teaching on it (cited above), he made a point that in the Spiral of Defeat, the steps we take and the choices we make are led by the lusts and cravings of our sinful flesh. In the Spiral of Victory, the steps we take and the choices we make are led by the born-again spirit in communion with the Holy Spirit. In between these two is our soul, mind, will, and emotions that will be led by one of these two. Whichever one the soul chooses is the path taken.

The Spiral of Defeat has seven steps: external trigger, thought, temptation, sin, habit, stronghold, and demon. I’m going to go through each one and explain how they work. One thing my pastor teaches about this sequence is that we can stop the sequence at any step, but to undo it, we often have to go back through each step one at a time to get back out. But if we accept it, we follow the principle of sowing and reaping.

An external trigger is something that operates through our senses. I’m amazed at how I drive down the road, a billboard catches my eye, and whatever I was thinking about suddenly changes. That’s an external trigger. It could be a smell or a sound or a touch or a taste. People who have experienced trauma and abuse often have memories triggered by a touch on a shoulder, the sight of a room, or a certain smell. These are external triggers that come from the outside and they trigger a response. Jesus was in the wilderness fasting and an external trigger showed up: He was hungry. King Saul also had an external trigger: the praises of David. There is nothing we can do about external triggers happening, but we do have a choice in the response: we can dismiss it or we can accept it. If we reject the trigger, anything that follows the trigger will have no effect. But if we listen to the trigger, we sow it, and what comes out is a thought.

Thoughts are not sinful in and of themselves; there are good thoughts and bad thoughts. However, in the Spiral of Defeat, the thoughts being discussed are negative ones, ones that are not from God, ones that appeal to and cater to the flesh. We all have things that enter our mind because we didn’t catch the trigger. Some people driving down the highways will see the boards for sex clubs and stores (especially here in El Paso). Those who have not won their battles against pornography can quickly start thinking about that stuff. It takes an act of the will to continue dwelling on the thoughts or to cut off the thoughts. And those who have been addicted to pornography know how difficult it is to get those thoughts out. The reason why is because they’ve sown those thoughts and reaped the results. Jesus’s trigger of being hungry gave him a thought: “I want to eat.” Saul also had a thought: “Why is David more popular than me?” When a bad thought is sown and dwelt upon, we reap a temptation.

A temptation is a desire to act upon a thought. Now, we have not entered the realm of sin yet. When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, He had been through the first two stages. His stomach growled (external trigger). That produced a thought: I’m hungry and I want to eat. Then Satan produced the temptation: “Make bread from the stones, you have the power.” Jesus cut the spiral right there using the Word of God, replacing the thought with a better thought: “Man does not live on bread alone…” Saul had a temptation from his thoughts: “I better get rid of David before he steals my throne.” The temptation is the desire to fulfill what your flesh wants in the time that it wants. The thing desired is often not a bad thing in itself, but it’s sought after in the wrong time, in the wrong fashion, and for the wrong use. If we refuse the temptation, we overcome sin. But if we give in, we sow the temptation and we reap the sin.

The sin in this part of the cycle is not the tendency or inclination towards sin, but an individual act that is in direct defiance of God’s commands, doing what He said not to do, or not doing what He said to do. This is the actual act. David was tempted when he saw Bathsheba on the roof. He acted on that temptation and it was sin. Having a lustful thought pop into your head from an external trigger that you immediately dismiss is not sinful. When you dwell on or act upon that thought, then it becomes sin. When you go look up those pictures or videos, that’s when it becomes sin. If we do it one time, we still must repent. Saul’s temptation was to kill David. The sin was when he actually threw the spear. But if we keep doing it, we sow the sin and reap a habit.

Habits are very difficult to break. It is said that it takes at least 30 days of doing (or not doing) something to break a habit. For some it takes more. God can do supernatural deliverances and do it instantly, but sinful habits are very difficult to break. We’ve all seen it: drunkenness, gluttony, lying, sexual immorality, pornography, theft, swearing, etc. By strength of will, we can subdue them for a short time, but they keep coming back. Saul didn’t merely throw a spear at David once; he threw it twice. One of the reasons habits are hard to break is because they’ve been sown and practiced for so long that they become a stronghold.

A habit is something we just instinctively do without thinking about it. A stronghold, however, is no longer something you do, it is something that has you. It controls you. The sins I mentioned in the habits above become very hard to break because they’ve gone beyond just a habit and now have become a stronghold. One thing my pastor has mentioned in teaching this spiral is that the cycle up to a habit can be broken by you. But if you get to a stronghold, you can no longer break it yourself. You need help. Saul didn’t stop trying to kill David. He chased after him, often ignoring his duties as king in doing so. If this is not bad enough, what makes strongholds so dangerous is that they become houses for demons.

Any person can be influenced by a demon, Christian or not. I’m not talking about outright possession. Christians cannot be possessed by demons where they actually take control of the body. However, they can certainly be demonized, where they are so intrenched into an area of sin that a demon can whisper anything and the person will believe it. At this stage, the person is only going to be successful as long as the demon finds the person useful. At that point, the demon will go for the kill – suicide, drunk driving, gang wars, abortions, murder, etc. The person will hit rock bottom, rejected, dejected, or will be dead. The Spiral of Defeat is fulfilled. King Saul carried out this Spiral of Defeat to the point where on the eve of the battle that would take his life, he sought demonic assistance. But also take note that this particular Spiral of Defeat, came on the heels of other Spirals of Defeat before David entered the picture. Remember how Saul was haunted by an evil spirit because of his rejection of God, needing David to come and play the harp for him? Saul had already gone through the Spiral of Defeat before. These Spirals can stockpile and that should scare us.

I did not come close to giving this the detail it deserves. I still would like my pastor to preach a whole sermon on this Spiral at some point. The last time he spoke about this Spiral of Defeat, he realized he had always talking about this, but not what to do to stop it. It was then that God began to show him the reverse process: the Spiral of Victory. I’ll share that one next week.

This forum is meant to foster discussion and allow for differing viewpoints to be explored with equal and respectful consideration.  All comments are moderated and any foul language or threatening/abusive comments will not be approved.  Users who engage in threatening or abusive comments which are physically harmful in nature will be reported to the authorities.