Transformational Warfare

Large statue representing Shaka at Camden Market in London, England

The most repeatedly screened mini-series ever shown on television in the United States according to is the 1986 adaptation of Shaka Zulu. By 1992, over 350 million viewers had seen it.[1]   In 1997, during my first visit to South Africa, a friend who discovered my earnest desire to gain a better understanding of the historical backdrop of KwaZulu Natal, gave me a book entitled “Shaka Zulu: The Rise of the Zulu Empire”.

This book was written by a man who was immersed in oral traditions told by the son of one of Shaka’s fellow soldiers.[2] Unlike the movie which presented Shaka from the perspective of British native Dr. Henry Francis Finn, The Rise of the Zulu Empire portrays Shaka mainly as the Zulus viewed him.

Considered the greatest military leader in African History and possibly all of history, his military tactics and strategies afforded him the opportunity to transform a small clusters of villages into a national army consisting of approximately 20,000 fierce warriors within 12 short years.[3]

While he was considered by many as a fiercely brutal despot, I believe his success was tied into key Biblical principles that I’m convinced he had no idea existed. In studying warfare preparation instructions outlined by Apostle Paul (Ephesians 6:10-17), I was struck by just how many Shaka employed.

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  (Ephesians 6:10-11)

Transformational warfare is warfare not designed to transform the lands of the opposition.  It is designed to transform a weak, fearful unbeliever into a mighty conquerer.  Paul provided us with three key ingredients for transformational warfare. He instructs us to be strong, get dressed (prove our armor), and stand.  Let’s explore how he applied these ingredients.


Prov 14 26BE STRONG

Unlike kings of the past, who were at times considered more prosperous based on how overweight they were, Shaka was known to be a man of mass muscles. He was very well known for not his own physical strength, but also of that of his troops.  It has been said that he would lead his troops on 50-mile marches over hot, rough terrain to build up battle endurance.

His warriors, who had become lean, mean fighting machines, began to trust him implicitly.  Viewing him as if he were a god, they were convinced that with Shaka at the helm, they could conquer any territory in their sights.  The strength in this army lay at their confidence in him as a king and his ability to lead them into victory.

To be strong in the Lord is to tap into faith that the same God leading you into battle will bring you out victoriously.  This explains why time and time again, scripture issues this admonition, “fear not…be strong”.[4]

To build your spiritual strength you must have confidence and faith in the person charged with your care.  Our strength lies in our faith.  To be transformed into the warrior you were called to be, you must be strong (in faith) in the Lord and in the power of His might.



Getting dressed for battle requires preparation.

Recently I was on the phone with a friend who every couple of minutes was interrupted by her daughter who was seeking “fashion advice”.  Apparently she had picked up weight, so in an effort to prepare for Sunday service, she was trying to determine which outfit would fit comfortably so that she could enjoy service.  Had she not properly prepared her dress, she would have been ill prepared for service the following day.

As a young warrior, Shaka tried the traditional methods of warfare, including wearing the shoes that the warriors fought in.  He found that those shoes slowed him down so he discarded.  Instead, he felt it more effective to shod the bottom of his feet with callous so that he could withstand harsh conditions without the burden of ineffective shoes.  The calloused bottoms BECAME his shoes, the best for battle in this terrain.

Does this sound familiar?  His actions mirrored that of David when King Saul gave him his armor as he was about to approach Goliath in 1 Samuel 17.  David, who was small in stature found Saul’s armor too cumbersome, so he elected to discard it in favor of his staff and five smooth stones which was all he needed to defeat the giant standing before him.

Paul instructed us to shod our feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace.[5] We must have so much of the gospel of peace lodged in our spirit through the preparatory ingesting of the Word of God, so that anywhere our feet trod, we will be equipped to preach Christ and Him crucified.

The current weapon of choice prior to Shaka’s reign was a long spear that would be thrown at opponents.  Shaka concluded that this practice and spear was a complete waste and invented a short stabbing spear designed for close range combat.  It was called the “iklwa” which described the sucking, slurping sound one hears upon retrieving it from the body of an opponent. 

The only offensive weapon we were assigned Biblically to use in warfare is the sharp two-edged Sword of the Word of God which is designed to divide asunder spirit and soul, joints and marrow.[6]  When penetrated properly, removing the blade could simultaneously disembowel our defeated foe.  Likewise, our two-edged Sword is designed to cut so deep that it will “divide asunder spirit and soul”.  In turn, it will disembowel anything the enemy has implanted in you, transforming you into the mighty warrior God has equipped for His battlefield.


What I love the most about transformation warfare is that it’s about standing.  We are to stand still and see the salvation of God.[7] We are not talking about transforming the land or others.  It’s about transforming yourself.  You are being transformed into the warrior God called you to be so that you can go out to the enemy’s camp and take back what he stole from you. Then you can fulfill the scripture that says the kingdoms of this world have become the Kingdom of our Lord and His Christ.[8] You can’t do that if you are not prepared or able to stand.

Standing implies keeping your ground, or not wavering from the position you have been placed in.  Shaka was never known for turning his back on a fight. 

For years, I thought the scripture that says, “resist the devil and he will flee”[9] meant that we must ignore or turn our backs on the devil.  Eventually I realized that just like in resistance training, to resist is to stand against your opposing force.  In doing so, muscles are built and endurance is strengthened.

By standing against the “wiles of the devil”[10], we show the strength that God has fortified us with through His Spirit.  It isn’t by our might or power, but it is by His spirit that battles are won.[11]  If we stand in His will with our eyes fixed on Jesus and not circumstances,[12] we fortify ourselves against the onslaught of demonic forces.


Using the three key ingredients Paul provided us with, we are now equipped to become transformed warriors. Together we can become one united front standing strong against the schemes of the devil.  Strengthened by the Word of God and dressed for war, we can now stand as the transformed warriors God has called us to be.  So, be strong in the Lord and the power of HIS MIGHT!




[2] Ritter, E. A (1955). Shaka Zulu: The Rise of the Zulu Empire. London: Longmans Green


[4] Deuteronomy 31:6, Joshua 10:25, 1 Chronicles 28:20, Isaiah 35:4, Daniel 10:19, Zechariah 8:13

[5] Ephesians 6:15

[6] Hebrews 4:12

[7] Exodus 14:13, 2 Chronicles 10:17

[8] Revelation 11:15

[9] James 4:7

[10] Ephesians 6:11

[11] Zechariah 4:6

[12] Hebrews 12:2

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