My first introduction to spiritual warfare was really an "accident'. I grew up in church, and I learned all the stories. What I did not learn was how to link the concepts with my own life. I didn't learn how to interpret things. So I took them literally. When I read that demons were cast out of people, I believed it. I didn't understand what a demon was, but I knew that demons made people do bad things. I remember wondering when I was about 13 if demons were making my sister say hateful things to me.
Later, I was exposed to some rather immature teachings in the Assemblies of God, and it scared me. I steered clear of it, but I still maintained that Jesus was my friend and protector. That's an important concept because I think my recognition of him as protector was a type of spiritual warfare in itself.
When I went to AU, I started really exploring what I believed. That's a long story, and I'll save most of it for another post. But it got me started really thinking about spiritual warfare. A couple of experiences I had confirmed for me the reality of spiritual warfare as well as the concept of the filling of the Holy Spirit, which was another thing I tended to steer clear of because of my early exposure to showy spirituality. I had made sure to stay away from Assemblies of God so that I couldn't and wouldn't be brainwashed. But I came to some conclusions "on my own" that meshed with some of the concepts the AG tends to embrace. That's why I am adamant now about being open to the concept even if it has been abused.
After I transferred to SFA, I went to the Anderson-based Church of God for a year. I finally left because of some things that were and were not happening there. I honestly believe there was evil at work there. I did not return there even for a visit until they had a new pastor. In the meantime, I started going to an Assembly of God.
There were good, mature people there; and I learned a lot from them. There were also very immature people there, including some of the leadership. Eventually I left that church as well, but I don't regret most of my time there.
It's hard to balance everything out. Every bad thing that happens is not the direct result of a demon; but there ARE demons at work in the world and there is such a being as Satan, and he has a purpose in mind. And if we are not acting against him, we will be ensnared very easily.
For a long time I sort of balked at phrases like "claim the promise" and "pray the Word of God". I don't now. There is no better way to illustrate this than using the topic of fear. One of the things I've learned in therapy over the past three years is the concept of changing an emotion by acting in the opposite manner. That's essentially what these phrases mean: filling my mind up with what is true and making it a part of my prayer. I am confessing my trust in God by recognizing His promises!