Prepare for Battle
Chapter 3 - Our Attitude Towards War
“…that we may please Him who has chosen us to be soldiers.”
2 Timothy 2:4
The Bible is a marvelous book of figurative language. Analogies, metaphors and similes fill its pages. There are analogies of relationship: We are the Body of Christ; He is the Head. We are the Family of God; He is our Father and Christ is our Elder Brother. Individually, our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Collectively, we are the “living stones” in the Building of God; Jesus is the Chief Cornerstone. When we first come to Christ, we are babies needing the “milk” of the Word. As we mature, we eat the “meat” of the Word. But we will always remain the children of God. We are the Bride of Christ; He is the Bridegroom! (Now—as a man—I do have a bit of a problem with that analogy. I just can’t picture myself as a “bride” to anyone! But I have confidence that He will work that whole thing out as we enjoy the marriage supper of the Lamb.) I am sure you can find more such analogies of relationship.
There are analogies of God’s care for us: We are the sheep of His pasture. He makes us lie down by still waters. We are safe and secure in the palm of His hand. The Name of the Lord is a strong tower. We are as little chicks safe under His wings. Certainly you can think of others.
There are analogies of our service for Him: We are ambassadors for Christ, representing the Kingdom of God to those who are held captive in the kingdom of darkness. We are to go out among them as wise as serpents, as harmless as doves, and as sheep among wolves. We are harvesters in His fields. We are fishers of men. We are to be servants who after a long day in the fields come in and fix the master’s meal, eat the left overs (if there are any) and then say, “I am your unprofitable servant; I have only done what I was supposed to.” (I better give you the Scripture reference for that one! We don’t hear it often. Luke 17:7-10) Then we are also to be a servant–leader, seeing things from God’s perspective and then ministering unto people from that perspective. John 13:1-17 The analogies of our work for the Lord are wildly creative!
But there is another analogy yet to be mentioned. There is a theme that marches through the pages of Scripture that many wish to avoid. The hymns of the Church of past generations that spoke of this parallel are today selectively ignored. The new Scripture choruses do not often sing of this theme.
This issue does not make most Christians “feel” good; it does not fit within their “comfort zones.” It does not allow them to pamper themselves. Some organizations lead young people out for a “summer of service” camouflaging this theme as a “bandwagon,” painted in competitively bright colors. They might even encourage, “Oh, yes, we’re going to have fun in the sun this summer. Be sure to bring your tanning cream along.”
The theme is war! The analogy is that we are Soldiers of the Cross. The figurative language is “Put on the whole armor of God. Fight the good fight of faith. Through God we will do valiantly!” Instead of using gaudily decorated “bandwagons” our teams should be going out to fight the enemy in well–camouflaged tanks—in armored cars. Instead of tanning cream, they should be sure they are taking with them the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.
As we pointed out in Chapter 2, Jude was wanting to write a “nice” letter—just talking about our common salvation (nothing inherently wrong with that, by the way). But the Spirit compelled him to exhort us to “earnestly contend (fight, grapple in hand–to–hand combat) for the faith.” Jude 1:3.
Within the Church of Jesus Christ at large, it often happens this way: A person comes to seek the ways of the Lord. You have whetted his appetite with the seasoning salt of your lifestyle. He has read you as a living epistle. Yes, he has seen that you have your problems. But somehow you also seem to have the answers to life’s questions—or are content to not know everything. As he begins asking the questions, you use all the “warm fuzzy” analogies. You withhold anything to do with spiritual warfare. You don’t tell him that as a Christian he might face greater conflict—experience more difficult struggles—than before he trusted in Christ as Savior. You don’t tell him that when he believes in Christ as Savior, he is conscripted into the Army of God!
And you don’t share these thoughts of war because you are afraid you might “lose” him. He might get scared and stay in the world. The whole business of spiritual warfare has become a very unpopular subject in the Church. Its unpopularity helps to form and perpetrate our attitudes of aversion to the subject. Our fear of turning them away prevents us from proposing so daring a prospect as going to war!
Further, our culture teaches us that we are a peace–loving people. We want to avoid war whenever possible. If we are forced into secular war, we are there to defend the rights of this group or that nation. Even the excuse, “He started it; not me!” was formed in us at a very early age. You see, we just don’t like war.
How does this, then, affect our attitude towards ourselves as soldiers? We will look at a number of categories that display a wrong attitude. Some may appear to be harmless; others will be seen as obviously destructive. Allow the Holy Spirit to question you on each to make sure satan is not messing with your mind.
Scripture after Scripture tumbles through my mind that refutes the ever–popular concept of volunteer. But so strong is our cultural belief in “I am in charge of my life; I know my rights; don’t mess with me!” that—cultural being that I am—I am struggling to write this section. I would rather not!
We are proud of our all–volunteer army in peace–time. But when the threat of war looms, “individual rights” might be violated. And we have the potential of a worse threat—that of an army going on strike or over–throwing the government!
The church has fallen into this pattern: “We need five ‘volunteers’ to work in the Sunday school.” And week after week the leadership has to “beg” people to fill those positions. “It is interesting that when my church was suffering under Communistic persecution,” a Slovakian pastor recently told me, “we had a commitment among the people that found every responsibility cared for. But now that we are free, we can’t get anyone to work unless we pay them!”
The Body of Christ was not made to be supported by volunteers but by conscripted members. God intricately wove the Body of Christ together to function just like He made our physical body. See 1 Corinthians 12. When my body “decides” it is time to get up and move around, the control center in my brain doesn’t ask for a “volunteer” sentry to check that all the “volunteer” nerves and muscles are present and ready for action. No! They are instantly and automatically ready to respond to the head’s command. And if that body movement is a jog in the park, a swim in the pool or a particularly grueling tennis match, those nerves and muscles and sinews and sweat glands and heart will strain themselves to their maximum endurance. Other body systems will cooperate by slowing down (e.g. digestive system) during this time of vigorous activity.
Paul told the Christians at Ephesus that they “are His most finely crafted work of art, created in Christ Jesus, ‘to sit back and wait for the rapture.‘” No! That just doesn’t sound like God! Still many “living epistles” read that way by their lifestyle. What did God, the Holy Spirit say? “…created in Christ Jesus to walk in those good deeds that He beforehand determined for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10 We are to actively, automatically respond to the Head’s commands to us.
This sounds more like God’s Plan of the Ages and how I fit into it. It is much more Christ–like than the me–centered distortion of the Gospel that many walk in today. Fitting into His Plan is like Esther’s answer to Morticai’s question, “Who knows but for an hour such as this you have been called to the kingdom?” Her response was, “If I perish, I perish!” And she went in to the king. See Esther 4.
We are called to be servants, not called to offer service. A servant looks to His master’s hand for direction and obeys it. Psalm 123:2 One who offers his services reserves the “right” to choose what, when, where and for how long he will engage in that activity. “Do you love Me?” Jesus asks. “Then feed My sheep.” John 21:16 Again He said, “If you love Me you will keep My commandments.” John 14:15 Wherever we read of Jesus calling His true disciples (not just those looking for a sign), it is assumed that they will follow. The tone of response seems to center on the degree of willing obedience, not, “Should I or shouldn’t I ‘volunteer!’” See Matthew 4:19-22: Matthew 8:19-22: Matthew 9:9; Matthew 16:24; Matthew 19:16-22 for starters! And Paul appealed that the only reasonable response to the mercies of God was to give our entire being to Him as a living sacrifice. See Romans 12:1.
“What’s in it for me?” In a culture wallowing in self–indulgence, it is not surprising to find those with this attitude towards war and themselves as a soldier. “Are we having fun yet?” “Try it, you might like it!” “If it feels good, do it!”
Why do I pamper myself? Because I’m worth it! Why do I deserve a break today? Because I believe in me! And there is the automobile ad that tells us, “It just feels right!” Subtle and not–so–subtle media input has our culture focused on “me!” And the occult religious influences permeating our society dawn and brighten and explode into the “brilliance” of “I am god!”
“What’s in it for me?” is the guiding question. A good number of years ago when I was principal of a Christian school, I interviewed a woman for a teaching position. How she had gotten through all the preliminary steps, I don’t know. But within minutes of our introduction, I could see that this lady wasn’t even a Christian. In trying to kindly ease ourselves out of this interview, I said that we had a very thorough Bible curriculum. “Oh, that’s okay. Just tell me what you want me to teach. I’ll do it!” My response had to become a bit more firm as I saw in front of me a person who would teach anything—whether she believed it or not—just to have the job.
Mercenaries hire on to war for the wages or excitement or the thrill of it. The drama, the intrigue, the danger, the adrenalin rush…! What’s in it for me? In our fun–crazed culture, we might even get involved in the Lord’s work just for the fun we will have. “Everybody’s doing it. Yeah, let’s go to the beach today. Pass out tracts. The whole gang is going. It’ll be a lot of fun!”
Is this a new tactic of the enemy? A new attitude towards war? No. At least two thousand years ago, a pair of brothers with their ambitious mother devised a plan. It was a plan to secure position of high honor in Christ’s Kingdom. It was obvious they were not going to make it as fishermen—spending all their time following this Nazarene. There was never going to be the sign, “Zebedee & Sons” over her husband’s fish market. Therefore, they came to Jesus with their request, “Let us sit one on either side of You in your Kingdom! We were some of your first followers, Jesus. Surely, we are deserving of these places of honor. This ‘little thing’ is all we want out of following You.”
Jesus displayed such love as He chided them, “Can you drink the cup of which I must drink?”
Whatever their growing feelings of embarrassment might have been under the gaze of not only Jesus, but the other disciples who were listening to this discourse, they pushed ahead, “Sure we can!”
“Yes, you will,” Jesus prophesied, “but it is still not for Me to assign those seats—they are reserved for whom they are intended.” See Mark 10:35-41.
There is no room for mercenaries in the Army of God!
If ever there was a group of guys ill–prepared for battle, it must have been the seven sons of Sceva! From a Jewish high–priestly family, exorcists they were—no doubt with some measure of success. But when they heard of this Jew named Paul, they perhaps thought to improve on their method, for “evil spirits went out of all who were possessed” when Paul prayed. The magical name is “Jesus,” they discovered. But obviously not knowing Him personally, the best they could say was, “We command you evil spirits to come out in the Name of Jesus whom Paul preaches!”
They’re ready to try it; sounds good. It works for Paul. They enter the house of one possessed of an evil spirit. Whether they laid hands on the man or not is not known, but here it is: “We adjure you in the Name of Jesus whom Paul preaches!” The evil spirit looks at them quizzically and answers them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who in the world are you?” (“Whoops! Brothers, this doesn’t look like it is working!”) The man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them and over–powered them… (Some manuscripts say “two of them;” some say “all of them.” But don’t let this “flesh and blood” battle deter you from the point of the story!) …and treated them with such violence that they fled out of the house wounded and naked.”
“Hey, guys! What did he say? ‘Jesus I know! Paul I know! But who are you?’ Doesn’t he know we are the seven sons of a Jewish Chief Priest?” As they bound up their wounds, they wondered what they had done wrong!
In the heat of battle we cannot minister in the Name of Jesus whom somebody else preaches. All who enter the arena of spiritual warfare must have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. We cannot minister in the name of our pastor. We cannot minister in the name of our church. We cannot minister in the name of this or that organization. We cannot minister in the name of this or that evangelistic tool or teaching method. We minister only in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ because of our personal, intimate relationship with Him. Anything less will have us running “naked and wounded” from the battle. See Acts 19:13-16.
Whatever message—however simple or extensive—that we take to the battlefield must first be worked deep into our own heart. There is no room for the ill–prepared in the Army of God! As has been said before, “No! We do not need to be theological geniuses before we go to battle.” But that which we plan to share must be real in our own personal life.
The Unfaithful Servant
Jesus illustrates a fourth category of warrior with an attitude problem. Using another analogy, He calls him an unfaithful servant. Luke 12:47 tells us that this person knew the master’s will. That’s great. He was a third of the way home! A lot of people get lost in the morose of not ever being able to know their master’s will. They act as if there is some cosmic hide ‘n’ seek game going on. And, of course, since God is a much better “hider” than we are a “seeker,” we will never be sure of His will. They just don’t know what God wants them to do. So, as they flounder around, they fall back on a Christian cliche: “Well, I’m just waiting on the Lord!” Or these people might jump from one ministry opportunity to another just hoping they will hit on the service to which their Master has called them.
But this unfaithful servant knew the master’s will. At least he had come that far. It is, however, in the next step that he crashed. He didn’t “prepare himself to do that ministry.” Today’s life is a busy life. “Why, after all, I work 123 days a year just to pay my taxes,” one could defend. For all of our time–saving conveniences, the world still seems to have less disposable time to even prepare for ministry and much less time to actually minister.
Or, others may fall into another dilemma: To know His will, yet never feel quite ready to do His will. They are sure they need one more class, one more area of study, a little more maturity. (And I am not saying any of those things might not be necessary.) But when these reasons become an excuse—when the soldier of the cross becomes a professional student, then he is in trouble.
The Scripture continues: “Neither did he the master’s will.” Today, lounging in a thousand “country club” churches, there are troops who know the Master’s will, “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every person. Then, when they have positively trusted in Me, teach them how to live by My commandments.” See Mark 16:15; Matthew 28:19. And while the ice clinks on the crystal of their beverage glasses, they look at the illuminated map of Acts 1:8 which tells them where to do that will. “Do it in Jerusalem—bloom where you’re planted. Go! Preach! Go! Teach! in Judea (your state, providence, district, country or whatever geographic area encompasses your Jerusalem). Do it in Samaria—a district next to Judea, but a “special” one to the Jews.
Samaria represented to the Jews the most hated, despised people in the world—the unlovables. I believe Jesus wants us to take this Gospel and the teachings of Christ to the unlovables of the world today. And while some are fighting the good fight of faith in these areas, He also directs some to the uttermost parts of the earth. We know the Master’s will. Its clarity is written in His Word.
The Church is well–prepared to do that will. We have the personnel, the economics, the logistics, the resources—we have everything needed—to give the whole world the Good News. But through rose–tinted glasses those same “country club” loungers can so easily say, “Our God has everything under control!” And they ask the waiter (pastor) for another drink.
In 1793, a young, zealous Christian, filled with a passion for the lost, was given an opportunity to share his vision with a congregation of his country’s pastors. When he was halfway through his appeal for a unified thrust to the unreached of India, the moderator said, “Young man, sit down! If God wants to save the heathen, He’ll do it without your help or ours!” Fortunately for his generation and ours, he was not dissuaded.
I have not heard those words spoken from any modern day pulpit. However, this distorted theology is being shouted by the lifestyle of thousands in the Church! Because they are lounging around or hiding out in the busyness of “churchianity,” these unfaithful servants will be beaten with many stripes for their failure to prepare for and to do their Master’s will. See Luke 12:36-48 for a fuller understanding of this most difficult subject.
Bumper stickers abound: “I’d rather be sailing! I’d rather be…” (You fill in your own desire.) “When the going gets tough, the tough go fishing.” (Or, again, whatever it might be that would make you “feel good.”) The uncommitted. Today, commitment seems to be measured in micro–seconds! Someone might promise, “Yes, I will…” But before he gets the full expression of commitment out of his mouth, he is reconsidering, “How will this benefit me?”
Jesus’ reputation had spread throughout the whole region. Quite a number of people—several thousand, they believe—were following Him here and there. They were following His stories and His miracles. He had become quite popular. Then He preached a sermon: He said, “Unless you eat My body and drink My blood…” and what happened? They split. They all left Him. So dramatic was the exodus that Jesus turned to the twelve disciples and said, “Are you going to leave Me, too?” See John 6:22-71.
Uncommitted people are those who see a good thing and jump on the bandwagon. “Let’s go for it!” they shout! But then, when it gets to be a little work, they say, “Well, uh, I’m not so sure that that was the Lord’s will for me.” And they fall back on the “cosmic hide ‘n’ seek” excuse, “I think I’ll wait for the Lord’s direction.”
Or they might say, “The Lord closed that door.” In the Lord’s message to the church of brotherly love, He clarified that He holds the keys of David. What He opens no man can shut and what He shuts no man can open. Then He says, “Before you I have set an open door and no man can shut it.” Revelation 3:8 Even as Paul acknowledged in 1 Corinthians 16:9, “A great door that offers wide and effective ministry has been opened for me…” Then, as if he had come to expect it, he adds, “…and with many adversaries.”
Paul had come to understand that behind every door of opportunity, the enemy was standing with his foot out, trying to trip him up. On another occasion he said that the Spirit had warned him that he could expect persecution and imprisonment in every city he visited. Acts 20:23.
When we are walking in His will and things start getting tough, it could be the “big toe” of the adversary trying to trip us up—not the Lord “closing doors.” It takes commitment to persist through difficulties, instead of saying, “Oh well, I guess God closed that door.”
Wow! This is becoming quite a lengthy list of those with wrong attitudes. Hold on. There are just a few more to consider. And may we continue to allow the Holy Spirit to help us sort through them, making sure that these wrong attitudes are not “tripping around” in our mind. Later we will look at three simple words that describe the attitude God is looking for.
Beware when doubtful thoughts enter that secret place of your mind. Poor Thomas. His name will ever be associated with doubting. But let’s look at Barnabas. A lot of good things are said about Barnabas. He came from Cyprus. He moved to Jerusalem. He sold his farm. He laid the proceeds at the Apostles’ feet. He had become so well–known at Jerusalem as a peacemaker that they changed his name from Joseph (meaning increaser) to Barnabas, which means, son of consolation. A guy who could bring reconciliation between people who are not getting along; he was prominent in the church at Jerusalem. Remember, he brought Saul (Paul) to the Apostles when they were afraid of him. See Acts 9:27.
They hear about a revival going on in Antioch, so they send him up to check it out. He stays there. The revival continues. He realizes that it is growing. He goes over to Tarsus to get Saul and says, “Come work with us.” They go on that first missionary journey. So many things happen, and Barnabas is right there in the middle of them. They return and get back into the Antioch ministry.
And then, Peter comes up from Jerusalem to Antioch. Having had his “sheet of unclean animals” vision—three times—in Acts 10, he eats with the uncircumcised Gentile Christians. But when certain others of the circumcision “denomination” came from “General Superintendent” James in Jerusalem, Peter would no longer eat (have fellowship) with the Gentiles. So great was the confrontation over this ongoing controversy that Barnabas was “carried away” by it. It caused him to wonder, to doubt. See Galatians 2:11-14. Even veteran warriors are susceptible to doubts.
Another Biblical situation: The events of the past few weeks have been mind—boggling. The triumphal entry. The mock trial. The brutal crucifixion. The “robbed tomb.” The risen Lord. “No, I’m not going to overthrow Rome now. But you will receive power after the Holy Spirit has come upon you…” And when they saw Him, they worshipped Him but some doubted!” Matthew 28:17 The doubtful: “I think so…Maybe…I’m not so sure…How can I be sure…?” The doubtful greatly impede victory in battle.
Again, lest we think (or satan plants the seed thought in our minds) that we cannot do any work for the Lord unless all things are perfect, let’s look at a good Biblical attitude: A father has brought his son to Jesus’ disciples, believing that he can be cured of a demonic possession. They can’t drive it out. Jesus comes down the mountain. The story is told. Jesus asks the father, “Do you believe…?” And his answer is classic: “Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief!” Mark 9:24 I must admit that I have been in that position—too often! The son was delivered of a demon! And we can be delivered of unbelief. There is victory over doubt!
The Draft Dodger
Poor Jonah! His story makes for a whale of a tale! And he illustrates another category of “soldiers of the cross” that our Commander–in–Chief is not looking for. Draft dodgers do not even show up on the battlefield.
“Nineveh, Jonah!” God commands.
“Not me! Lord! I’m going to Tarsus.” Now, let’s give poor Jonah a break. It was not without reason that he wanted to avoid Nineveh. It wasn’t just that they might not like his message and ask him kindly to leave. You have probably said or heard the phrase, “I’m going to skin you alive!” That’s what they did in Nineveh—literally! That’s how they took care of their enemies! I believe it is God’s humor, then, that puts Jonah in the belly of a great fish for three days and nights. For, when one survives such an ordeal, he comes out completely hairless with his skin bleached white! So Jonah had to go around the rest of his life not being “skinned alive,” but with skin bleached by God!
Anyway, the fish has had his belly full and spits Jonah up on the shore. And now in God’s plan, He again says, “Jonah, I want you to go to Nineveh.”
“Uh! yes, Lord, You still talking to me? I think I’ll obey this time.”
My father died when I was eight. My mother never remarried, so an adult male role model was not easy to find. My church had many different pastors over the years. Several with whom I tried to get close held me at arm’s length, but I had a cousin who lived in a nearby town. When I was eight, he already was an adult and in business. He had come up through the ranks in a bank and was at that time bank president. So he sort of became my role model…from a distance. He was a good man, a family man. He attended church and was a Sunday school superintendent—all the good things expected of a Christian.
A number of years ago, he retired and was coming to California on a vacation. But he became deathly ill, and was flown back to Wisconsin. I am told that on his deathbed he was screaming and crying. Here was a man who had lived his whole life as an exemplary Christian. My role model—right! But on his deathbed—and I don’t want to get too theological here, I’m just saying this is how he perceived it—on his deathbed, he was screaming and crying:
“I can’t face God! I don’t want to see my Maker!”
His family couldn’t understand why he was saying that until he finally told them something he had never even told his wife:
When I was a young man, God called me to be a pastor. I have refused and resisted that call of God all of my life. Yes, you have seen me live an exemplary Christian life. Yet way down deep inside, I know that I have not done His will.
He had ignored and run away from God’s call on his life. And though I’m sure he went to heaven, and I’m sure there were rewards that were given him that he was able to lay at Jesus’ feet, at that moment in time, he realized that he had been a draft–dodger.
Allow the Holy Spirit to question your (possible) attempts to dodge His draft. Go ahead. He’s very gentle. But firm!
AWOL (Absent Without Leave)
John Mark went AWOL at a very crucial time. Barnabas and Saul were going out to battle. John Mark accompanied them as their minister (servant). When the battle got tough, Scripture says that John Mark left them and went back to Jerusalem. See Acts 13:13. It wasn’t until many, many years later that he was ready for the battle. Paul said to Timothy, “Bring Mark with you when you come, for he can be of great help to the ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:11.
David went AWOL, for the Scripture says, “At a time when the kings went out to battle, David sent Joab.” 2 Samuel 11:1 It wasn’t until Nathan confronted him with the “little lamb” story that David repented of this great evil. See 2 Samuel 12:1-7 and Psalm 51.
We read of Peter’s strong declaration: “God forbid, Lord! This (His imminent suffering and death) shall never happen to You!” Matthew 16:22 Just before his betrayal, when Jesus assured him that He was going to die, Peter said, “I will die with You.” Matthew 26:35 However, just hours later…AWOL time…for he is cursing and swearing that he never knew the Man!” Matthew 26:74.
Paul wrote a warning to Timothy: There are two men, Hymenaeus and Alexander, who have suffered shipwreck as far as their faith is concerned. They had gone AWOL, and left the faith. “Watch out for them,” Paul advised. “They are trying to do us evil now.” See 1 Timothy 1:19-20.
In Paul’s second letter to Timothy, another warning is given against Hymenaeus who is now disrupting the church with false doctrine. See 2 Timothy 2:16-18. If the Alexander in 2 Timothy 4:14 is the same one, no good is being said of him, either. Those who once put their hand to the plow and then turn (even look) back are not useful to God as warriors. See Luke 9:62.
In each of the foregoing illustrations, even with an attitude problem revealed, the warrior could be considered a soldier. However, there is one more category to consider. One who has fallen to such depths cannot be even remotely regarded as a Soldier of the Cross.
Judas! That very name communicates traitor! It has become synonymous with the most despicable deeds of war: To turn your back on your allies and join the enemy. In Luke 22:3 we read, “Then satan entered into Judas…”—an awful, awful, awful thought…and he became that traitorous betrayer of Jesus. Of him, Jesus said, “It would have been good for him if he had not been born.” Matthew 26:24.
Lucifer himself—the Luminous One—became a traitor. “Wherefore art thou fallen, 0 Lucifer, Star of the Morning!” But, in pride, he lifted himself up and said, “I will be like the Most High!” See Isaiah 14:12-14. And in his rebellion, he took a third of the angels of heaven with him. A traitorous lot they became, as well. They still “believe in one God and tremble in fear at such knowledge.” James 2:9 But for their deeds “they are bound in chains of everlasting darkness until the great judgment.” Jude 1:6.
In Hebrews 6:4-6, the writer talks about those “who have been enlightened, who have experienced salvation and received the Holy Spirit, who have known the wholesome nourishment of the Word of God and touched the spiritual resources of the eternal world and have then fallen away. It is impossible to bring them again into repentance.” Whatever theological stance you wish to take on that one, the state of those people is not enviable, in the least!
Lastly, the whole tenor of the New Age Movement is the age–old lie of satan: “You shall be as gods.” Genesis 3:5 No more traitorous attitude can fill a person’s mind than to “know all the time that there is a God, yet refuse to acknowledge Him as such…” (Romans 1:21) …and try to fill that role, himself.
Heavy stuff! All of it! At this transition point, we need to review each attitude. And allow the Holy Spirit to “…search me and test me and know my thoughts; and see if there is any wicked way in me and lead me in the way of everlasting life.” Psalm 139:23-24 May His Word delicately divide between our soul and spirit; between the thoughts (of our mind) and the intent (motivation) of our hearts. See Hebrews 4:12. These attitudes of the world must be put behind us as we look forward to consider His design for our attitude towards war.
Called, Commanded, Commissioned
Yes, He has called us into the Family of God. Yes, He has called us the Body of Christ. Yes, He has called us the Bride of Christ. Yes, He has called us to be the “living stones” in the building of God. And, yes, He has called, commanded and commissioned us to be Soldiers of the Cross. Paul’s strong admonition to Timothy, “Endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ…that (we) may please the One who has chosen (us) to be a soldier.” 2 Timothy 2:3-4 As clearly as the Word declares that it is His good pleasure for us to be His children, it unquestionably states that we are Soldiers of the Cross.
The men and women that God is looking for to serve in His army are called, commanded and commissioned.
In Luke 10:1, Jesus appointed 70. He didn’t say, “Okay, I’m looking for some volunteers. Who will raise their hands?” He said: You! you! and you! And He appointed 35 teams of 2. He appointed 70 to go out.
In Matthew 9, He tells the disciples to pray. He laments that the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. “Pray, therefore, to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers.” In Matthew 10, just a few verses later, He says, “Okay, guys, get going!” He didn’t say, “Oh, did you fellows pray about it? Did you discern that it was the Lord’s will for you to go?” He said, “Get going! I send you!”
In Matthew 10:16, He says, “I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves.” In the calling of the disciples, it was a command. He simply said, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew 4:19 And on the Mount of Ascension, in His final commissioning, He simply said, “Go! Preach! Go! Teach!” See Mark 16:15; Matthew 28:19.
At this point some might reason, “See—He has put out a challenge to us. We must rise to the occasion—and volunteer!”
No! A thousand times—No! A challenge is one of the ways of the world—even in a Christian context. Pictures of great needs are painted in vivid, living color. The opportunities for ministering to those needs are presented with glowing expressions of reward if we will accept the challenge and say—Yes! (The most extreme “reward” I have heard of is “We will bring back the Kingdom!”)
As we think about the challenge, the tenor of our musings will likely begin to focus—on me! And how my decision will affect me and my plans. Or even how my decision will impact His Plan! (We would never say, “I wonder how my decisions will help God out!” Or would we?)
On the other hand, God does not challenge us. In our dealings with the Lord, He simply says, “This is the way, walk ye in it…” Isaiah 30:21 Or even more simply, “Follow Me!” Matthew 9:9.
The choice is still ours. But the focus has changed. We are now centered in God and His Plan. We ponder the privilege to walk in those good deeds that He beforehand ordained for us. For we are His most finely crafted work of art, created in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:10.
The difference is subtle—so subtle. But it is a difference of great consequence. Simply said, the contrast is: We accept a challenge; we obey a command. Our acceptance becomes the focal point in the former. Our friends will say, “Wow! That’s quite a challenge you have taken on!” Conversely, the One we obey becomes the focal point in the latter. The Word of God says, “You belong to the power you choose to obey…” Romans 6:16 When we respond to fulfill His calling on our lives, He becomes glorified by our obedience.
As we look at the “vast cloud of witnesses”—those who have walked in His ways before us—we see that the choices they made are always shown in the light of the degree of obedience.
Jonah had a choice. At first he didn’t obey. Then he did. Esther had a choice. At first she didn’t obey. Then she did. Note with keen perception what persuaded her to obey. “Esther, Esther, my dear cousin,” Mort reasons. “Salvation will come. God will save His people. God’s Plan is not contingent upon you. Somebody will come along to be His instrument of deliverance. Of course, do consider that you and your father’s house will be destroyed. So, Esther, in light of that perspective, let’s talk a bit more. Remember when we were wondering if you should try out for the Miss Universe contest? The doubts; the excitement! And you won! Who knows whether you have been brought to the kingdom for a time such as this? God’s Plan moves forward. Will you be a part of it?”
Her response: “I will go in to the king. If I perish, I perish!” (See Esther 4 for a less paraphrased version of this story!).
As we look at characters in the Bible, we do see varying degrees of availability and willingness to obey His commands. To help us think about where we fit on the continuum of obedience, it might be good to examine two extremes:
1) Once we look beyond the Hollywood image of Moses and read Scripture as Scripture, we see that he was an ordinary human being.
In fact, as we look at him fitting into God’s Plan of the Ages for his generation, we find a very reluctant soldier in God’s army. First of all, he tries it on his own, and having killed the Egyptian, he flees to the back side of the desert for 40 years. But as we read in Exodus 3 and Exodus 4, God starts talking to him from the burning bush. “I’ve seen the sorrow and anguish of My people. It is now My time and I will show you My way for you to go and deliver them from the hand of the oppressor.”
Moses is not tripping over himself to get going. He comes up with five excuses! He says, “Who me? I’m not good enough!” God answers that excuse. He comes up with a second excuse. “By whose authority do I speak?” God answers that excuse. The third excuse: “They won’t believe me.” God answers that excuse. He comes up with a fourth excuse, which, by the way, is an outright lie. He said, “I am slow of speech,” whereas Stephen rehearsed that he was “learned in all the ways of Egypt and was eloquent in speech.” Acts 7:22 But God still answers that excuse.
(It might be more than just curious here to note that God’s answer to each of Moses’ excuses centered in God, not in Moses. In each case God said, “I’ll be with you.” How different are the ways of the world—even the Christian world!)
Having failed to sidestep God’s call with reason, Moses now sidesteps all reason and comes up with his fifth excuse. It is an excuse that every one of us has used at one time or another; it is common to all. In modem English, he said, “Let George do it!”
And then what? The anger of the Lord is kindled against him. God gets angry with Moses! Now, finally he gives a positive response, “Okay, okay; I’ll go!”
As God’s anger and the fire of the burning bush cooled, Moses might have even said, “Now why did I promise that?” At the least we see a very reluctant called, commanded and commissioned leader. In the final analysis it was his obedience—however reluctant—that put Moses into the Hall of Faith as he became one of the greats in God’s Kingdom.
2) Way to the other extreme, we have an example of what I believe was the most willing obedience to God’s calling. I am speaking of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Now, it is a little bit difficult for us in this generation to picture her situation, but in those days, unmarried girls just didn’t get pregnant. Or if they did, they got stoned. And by stoned, I don’t mean “high on drugs.” I mean, literally, stoned to death. See Deuteronomy 22:13-21.
When Joseph was pondering in his heart how to put Mary away “privately,” he wasn’t just thinking about, “Well, if I have her go live with Aunt Elizabeth until the baby comes and then we can give the baby up for adoption and then Mary can come back and we can get married and nobody will know…” No! He was pondering in his heart how to have a private stoning instead of a public one, which was the way it was supposed to be done. Mary knew all of this, too. I am sure this was only one of many things that Mary was “pondering in her heart” the night the angel came into her bedroom.
Another thing to consider is that Mary was waiting for Joseph to come. It would be any day or night now, she was sure. The tradition of those days was being followed. The betrothal had taken place about a year before. Joseph was building a house. (Usually it was just a room addition on his father’s house.) The father would test his son’s patience by saying, “I think you need to redo this trim. The miter is not neat enough.” So both the bride and bridegroom are waiting for the him to say, “OK! Now you may go get your bride!”
Further, it was the custom for the men to play a little trick on the women. They would come at the most unexpected time to see if the bride and the bridesmaids would be ready. The bridegroom and his troop of men would come running down the streets of the bride’s village. His men would come first, shouting, “The bridegroom cometh!” And of course, the bride would be caught up by the groom, they would have their seven days of festivities, and they would be married.
Okay, Mary is waiting for that. Night and day she wonders, “When is Joseph going to come?” And then this angel shows up in her bedroom and messes up all of her wedding plans. I mean, face it, here’s a little Jewish girl wanting to get married, and the angel comes and says, “Mary, the Spirit of the Lord is going to hover over you and you’re going to get pregnant.”
“How can this be, since no man has been with me?”
“It’s going to be unique, I assure you.”
And this young girl in her willing obedience to the call, command and commission of God in her life simply says, “Be it unto me as you have spoken.” No more pure words of obedience could be spoken! Luke 1:26-38.
I believe everybody else in the Bible (and all of us) fit somewhere in between these two illustrations. It is our willingness, it is our availability to fit into God’s Plan of the Ages for our life that becomes the issue.
We could do biographical sketches of many other Soldiers of the Cross. And God can speak to us through the experiences of others, whether they are Bible characters, men and women down through the ages of time or people who are currently out on the battlefield for the Lord.
But far more important than how my cousin responded to God’s call on his life, far more important than how Moses or even Mary responded, is how I respond to God’s call on my life.
This very real analogy marches through the pages of Scripture: A war was declared in heaven. From the day Lucifer lifted himself up in prideful rebellion against God until today a war rages for the souls of all people. It is a war in which our Commander–in–Chief, Jehovah–Sabaoth calls, commands and commissions His Church to active duty.
Thus, all Christians are Soldiers of the Cross. Whether or not we knew it at the time of our conversion, part of the “package deal” was our conscription into the Army of God.
Every human being is a target of the enemy. Toward Christians—at the least—he will attempt to rob us of the joy of our salvation. At the most, he would “deceive the elect if it were possible.” Matthew 24:24 Towards non–Christans, “the god of this age has blinded their minds.” 2 Corinthians 4:4
Though we are not expected to love war, our hatred for the enemy compels us to examine our attitudes toward war and ourselves as soldiers. For our attitude will to a large part determine our effectiveness.
Volunteers, mercenaries, draft–dodgers, the ill–prepared and unfaithful do not have what it takes to overcome the enemy. Neither can the uncommitted and doubtful soldiers fight victoriously. Those warriors who have gone AWOL are no longer a useful part of the army! And traitors have joined the enemy’s camp.
As willing as Mary or as reluctant as Moses, in the final analysis, yielding to His will is the important factor. May we allow the Holy Spirit to work in us. Each one of us needs to say, “He has called me, He has commanded me, He has commissioned me. May we willingly declare, “I am a Soldier of the Cross!”
WHEN SATAN HASSLES CHRISTIANS
As we continue to unravel the subtle attempts of satan to hassle us in our daily walk, let’s be sure to allow the Holy Spirit to ask this question in each of these problem areas: Is this a problem in my life?
Problem The enemy tries to hassle me when I am not in the Word and prayer. When we haven’t eaten for five or six hours, our “stomachs” are screaming, “I’m starving to death!” When we neglect spiritual food we become weak spiritually. Often the cause of this neglect is that we have become so busy working for the Lord that we neglect our fellowship with the Lord. Or, we become malnourished because we are not eating a balanced diet of the Word—maybe we are just reading the promises of the Word. Or, always focusing on His judgements, or just reading about end times, or some other theme.
Solution The solution is not: “OK, January first I will make a new resolution. I will. I will. I will!” Or, “Well, tomorrow I’ll get started. Yes!” Or… (Name your put–off–the–decision–until–later excuse here!) The solution lies first in asking God to help you, then in a self–discipline which involves making concrete plans which will include the Whole Counsel of God. Answer the questions: What am I going to do differently? When am I going to do it? What method of Bible reading and study am I going to use? And, maybe—With whom am I going to do it? Be creative. If you are having a hard time reading your Bible, if your mind wanders and you can’t concentrate, try listening to the Bible being read on tapes as you follow it in your own Bible. Hearing it and seeing it at the same time might help your concentration.
Record the key points of your daily Bible reading in a log book. Read aloud to yourself. Study inductively, keeping a notebook. Covenant with another person in an accountability agreement to encourage and check up on each other. You can agree to read the same passage and share what God has shown you and how you applied it to your life.
Maybe you have a hard time praying. Again—ask God for help in this area of discipline. Ask God to block distractions and to help you to concentrate on Him. Sing—pick out a worship tape or CD that says what you want to say to God and sing your prayers. There might be occasions when you can concentrate better if you write a letter to God.
Do you fall asleep while you’re praying? Don’t pray in bed; don’t lie down; don’t close your eyes! One of the best times for me to pray is while I am walking. I can’t see projects waiting to be worked on or hear the phone ringing when I’m walking! Another idea is to keep a notebook of what God is saying to you during your prayer time.
I am sure you can also find other creative ways to make Bible reading and prayer an important part of your life.
Problem The enemy tries to hassle me when unhealed emotional areas in my life are touched. Everyone gets hurt while growing up. As surely as children get skinned knees, emotions get “skinned.” Sometimes the “scars” are so minor, they are not remembered. On the other hand, there may be deeper hurts that never were healed. Some people go through their whole life without dealing with those hurts. Those unhealed places are weak spots that are open to repeated attacks from the enemy.
Solution Make a plan to deal with them. Now! I know these areas in our lives are usually very painful, and we would rather just bury them. We don’t even want to think about them. But we need to work through them—now—because as long as we have unhealed areas, we are particularly vulnerable in those places.
I had a friend who was constantly getting attacked in a particular area in her life. To me, it was obviously connected with a situation in her past. When I would try to help her to face it, she would say, “Oh, that’s past. Anyway it’s just a spiritual attack.”
And I would say, “That may be, but where does the enemy attack? He isn’t going to attack us where we are strong. No, he attacks in our weak spots, because that is where we are vulnerable.”
We need to take care of damaged areas so they are no longer weak spots where the enemy can easily get at us. Allow God to give us victorious insights through His Word. In our hearts forgive ourselves or another who has caused this deep pain. If a resolve cannot be found on your own, talk with someone—a friend, or a godly counselor. Get someone to pray for you and with you.
I am not saying that every issue of your past life has to go through some “healing process.” But if it is an issue that regularly comes to your mind or negatively affects your life, deal with it! Now! It can’t be ignored, or you will continue to be vulnerable to the enemy’s attack in that area of your life.
Problem The enemy tries to hassle me when I feel badly about myself. I know the subject of “self–acceptance” is a hot issue. I don’t want to get into that controversy, but neither do I want to ignore the fact that when people do not see themselves as accepted and complete in Christ, there can often be major problems. It is easy to feel rejected, worthless, and just no good, and that creates a need to have the approval of someone—anyone! When we don’t have a realistically good self–image and we believe that certainly God sees us the same way, it leads to a miserable life of being discontent, often coupled with people–pleasing instead of God–pleasing.
Solution Develop concrete plans to deal with this now! There is a reason I keep repeating “deal with it now.” If you finish reading this section and just say, “Yes, that is exactly what I need to work on,” and then go on to read the next section with the same, “Yes, that is just what I need to see,” you will get to the end of the book and be no closer to a solution than when you started reading. You may have more knowledge about the subject, but you will be no closer to victorious living.
If your response is, “Yes, I’m going to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in working on that issue,” but you don’t have a specific plan that spells out the what, when, where, how and with whom, it is very unlikely to just happen. So, for example, if there is something you don’t like about yourself—something that makes it hard for you to be content and at peace with yourself, find out what it takes to bring about the desired change. If it is worth it to you—make a plan of how to do it. If it is not worth it—accept yourself as you are. For, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” 1 Timothy 6:6.
With the deeper, far more significant things that bother us, we need to determine what steps to take to bring about the change and start walking in those steps now! An example might be—knowing in your head that God loves and accepts you, but you are not experiencing this Truth on a daily basis; times of doubt often come. Saturate your mind with the Truth of His Word. One good Scripture to read and pray (several times a day) would be Ephesians 3:16-19. Do it until the Word changes you! Do it so the enemy can no longer easily attack you with the feeling that God does not really love and accept you.
If you don’t know how to handle any particular problem, “…tell God the details of your needs in earnest and thankful prayer.” Philippians 4:6 He is faithful to His Word; He will bring the solution.
Problem The enemy tries to hassle me in situations where I lack confidence. I am looking at myself alone, instead of looking at the facts: The Holy Spirit is in me; the Lord is my strength! We can become paralyzed and unable to do what God wants us to. The thoughts of “I’m not good enough,” “Somebody else can do it better,” “I’ll just quit, anyway,” or “I won’t even try that,” can prevent us from feeling able to make commitments or walk into the opportunities that God has for us.
Solution To stop the enemy at this point of attack, our confidence must be in the One Who said, “Without Me you can do nothing.” John 15:5 Paul came to that place of true confidence, “I can do all things through Christ Who is my strength.” Philippians 4:13.
There was a time when I could not talk in front of a group of people—any size group. Now when my husband and I are planning to do a seminar together, I say, “I need more time!”—in good humor, of course. But that didn’t happen in a day. Small step by small step, God put within me the confidence to walk in the ways He had for me. He enabled me to realize I am just a normal human being, like anyone else, but with the huge advantage of being accepted in Christ and loved by God and empowered by the Holy Spirit!