Prepare for Battle
Chapter 6 - Principles of War
I hate war! It is vicious. It is unfair. It is dirty. It leaves a path of devastation, sorrow and pain. There are casualties. Even in victory, there is loss. It seems so out of context with the peace–loving God of our culture.
Yet those who commit themselves to this business of war–those Christians who have left the country club comfort of the “pew”—must also study, understand and apply the principles of war. Our abhorrence for secular war cannot keep us from facing the realities of spiritual warfare.
But as I flip the pages of my Bible back and forth between Micah and Joel, the encouraging words of Micah are much more enjoyable to read than those of Joel: “In the last days…the house of the Lord shall be established…all people shall flow into it… They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nations shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” Micah 4:1-3 That is music to my ears. I await that day.
Then I turn back to Joel. I don’t even want to read the words, much less write them. But they are also a part of the Whole Counsel of God. Therefore, in this time of war, it is necessary to “PREPARE FOR BATTLE, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near… Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears. Let the weak say, ‘I am strong—a warrior!’” Joel 3:9-10.
You have not studied the lessons of this book to this point without believing that Christians are indeed engaged in warfare. You must also be aware that it is imperative that those of us involved in battle apply certain principles to govern our actions.
(This chapter somewhat follows the outline of a book,Principles Of War. Authored by Jim Wilson, a military strategist, it puts forth eleven principles of war. These eleven principles, taken from secular strategy, have a striking parallel in spiritual warfare. Mr. Wilson has graciously allowed me to integrate many of his thoughts into this context. His complete book [a 96–page paperback] is available through Ransom Press, PO Box 9754, Moscow, ID 83843.)
Principle One: Objective
On the time line of history, periods of peace in this world barely appear as blips. If the full truth were known, there probably has been no period of time in which some region of the world has not been engaged in war. And in the council chambers where decisions are made, as men weigh the cost of battle, victory is their ultimate objective. For who would engage an enemy in battle if he were assured of defeat? Instead, he would send ahead envoys of peace. And appeasement. See Luke 14:31-32.
In spiritual warfare, however, ultimate victory is assured. The outcome is known. We have been told by our Commander–in–Chief. And we believe Him!
Victory in the inward battle is validated in Scripture: “You are of God, my children, and have already defeated and overcome (the evil spirits of anti–Christ), because He Who lives in you is greater than he who lives in the world.” 1 John 4:4
“Thank God! It is our Lord Jesus Christ, who has given us the victory
(over sin and death and the grave).” 1 Corinthians 15:57
The victory in the battle for lost souls is expressed in the triumphant words of the twenty–four elders. “You are worthy to take the book and break its seals, for You were slain, and by Your blood You have purchased for God men from every tribe and tongue, every people and nation.” Revelation 5:9.
Whether the battle rages in the inner recesses of our being or for souls throughout the nations of the world, when war on the enemy is declared, the objective is living in the victory won at Calvary.
The assignment of war is in the hands of Jehovah Sabaoth, the Lord of Hosts. He is the Commander of the armies of heaven. He, in turn, has passed on His commands to all subordinates. Our objective is victory in fulfilling the commands of God. Although none of us—in our particular arena of battle—can possibly comprehend the full compass and strategy of this war, we can read, study, understand and obey the commands God has given to us. How much more simply could He have stated them? Jesus declared the commands of God in four brief words: “Love God; love man.” See Matthew 22:37-40.
From that basis of relationship, however, He does enlarge the objectives in our lives with further details:
Because we love God, we will “be perfect, even as He is perfect” (Matthew 5:48); we will “give our entire beings to Him as an act of intelligent worship.” Romans 12:1.
Because we love men, we will “go into all the world and preach the Gospel” (Mark 16:15); we will “go into all the world and make disciples of all ethnic communities.” Matthew 28:18-19.
If we are going to participate in the victory of the ages, we must clearly understand and fulfill His commands in our lives.
Unfortunately, history records that some wars have been deliberately protracted for the selfish financial or political gain that such a delay in victory might bring to the perpetrators. However, in spiritual warfare, we must be sure that we want victory—now! One who finds himself ensnared in battle over some “secret” sin, yet does not do what is commanded to gain victory over that sin is not likely to live in freedom from it.
He may time and again enter his closet of prayer and weep tears of sorrow and remorse. He may begin that trek to Calvary, wanting to reckon himself dead to that sin, convincing himself that this time he really means it. Yet, not having fully wrestled his will into submission to his God, when the jagged splinters of that cross dig deeply into his shoulders and the weight is more than he can bear, his resolve dissolves, and he finds himself in another defeat.
Victory for the believer is to live within the provision of the “abundant life” that Christ has won for us. See John 10:10. Victory in the battle for lost souls is to give them a clear, culturally relevant presentation of the Gospel. See 1 Corinthians 2:2. Unless we know what we are fighting for, all else is of little consequence. The objective is primary: Victory!
Principle Two: Offensive
The offensive is the attitude as well as the action by which the objective (victory) is achieved. There are three attitudes that have been employed in both secular and spiritual warfare that have not accomplished the goal of victory:
1) Defense. No territory is claimed or gained. One is only trying to hold onto what he already has. Without reinforcements from outside, defeat is imminent.
2) Détente. This word and attitude was made popular by Henry Kissinger during the Cold War when he was Secretary of State. And it remains a compelling worldly posture today. Détente is an attempt at coexistence which leads to compromise which leads to appeasement which leads to infiltration which surely leads to defeat. It is significant that the word, of French derivation, means “slackened bow string.” We don’t need to be an archer to know that an unstrung bow is worthless in battle. In New Age lingo it comes out as “Live and let live.” Or, “Do your own thing.” Or, “That’s beautiful. That’s your reality!”
3) Desertion. One who is weak and cowardly and without resolve or knowledge of the Commander’s will, by his desertion, proves that he lacks the “stuff” to “stick it out.” It is an attitude toward war that is easily adopted by those who are raised on, “If it feels good, do it!” Or, “Are we having fun yet?” Or, “Try it, you might like it!” Yet, it is a trick of the enemy as old as history. Solomon observed, “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.” Proverbs 24:10.
Each of these “d” words initialized by their author, the devil, has weakened, crippled, and then defeated those trying to employ them.
There yet remains a fourth attitude. It is the position—the frame of reference—from which victory arises. It is the only one that makes satan tremble.
4) Offense. Paul said (regarding the inward battle), “Don’t allow yourself to be overcome by evil, take the offensive; overpower evil with good.” Romans 12:21 Jude said (regarding the lost), “There are some who doubt. Be merciful and have compassion for them. Some you will save with fear, snatching them out of the fire. But there are others whom you must pity with the utmost caution, hating even their clothes stained by their evil deeds.” Jude 22-23.
An army (secular or spiritual) on the offensive has two distinct advantages over the enemy:
1) The aggressor has the advantage of making his decisions and carrying them out. The defender must first wait to see what his opponent does before he can make his plan of action.
2) The aggressor has the advantage of the initiative. He has overcome inertia so his forces are actively on the move. He has chosen whether to attack, and when and where to attack. The defender must wait for him.
In warfare the offensive is also the action by which the forces achieve their objective. That action may be directed against any point along the battle line. In military strategy two questions must be answered in the affirmative to determine a decisive point of battle; that is, the one which will most likely lead to victory:
1) Is it worth taking? Is the action strategic to the battle? Is it vital to put clothes on the aborigines and see them go to hell nicely dressed rather than naked? Is it not but humanitarianism to feed the starving children of the world and to not nourish them in the Word of God? Is it leading to the objective that “all men come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9) to make the hippies cut their hair or the skinheads grow their hair? The Slaughter of the Innocents taking place today makes Herod’s actions in the region of Bethlehem look like child’s play. It is grievous. It is barbaric. Yet, is there a deeper issue which, if addressed, would be a more decisive point of battle than killing abortionists?
2) Can we take it? Once the action is determined to be valid, those laying the strategy for battle must determine if the personnel and material resources are available to claim victory in that struggle. Do we have the resources to launch a campaign for moral purity? Do we have the grace to allow the hippie and skinhead into our fellowship, following God’s instruction to Samuel, “The Lord looks on the heart”? See 1 Samuel 16:7. Do we have the compassionate heart of Christ not only to fill the bellies of starving children but also to give them the Milk of the Word? Do we have the patience to let the Word convict the hearts of people regarding mini–skirts or tight jeans or aboriginal attire?
In short, the offensive is characterized by:
1) An attitude that is bold, daring, creative. “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes,” Paul strongly declared. Romans 1:16 Can we also say with this daring first–century Christian, “My life is of no importance to me when compared with the joy of completing the course laid out for me…to bear full witness of the Good News of the love of God”? Acts 20:24 What an attitude. Bold! Daring! Creative!
2) Action against the enemy, not against the objective! “Get thee behind me, satan” were the words Jesus used when He knew Peter was seeing things from a human perspective and not from God’s. See Matthew 16:23. The vilest of sinners is not the enemy! He is a soul for whom Christ died.
3) Using the most effective means at decisive points of battle. “I have been made all things to all men so that by all means I might win some to Christ.” 1 Corinthians 9:22.
In spiritual warfare the most critical battle has been fought and won. It is history (HIS STORY)! The decisive blow was Christ’s death for sin. The decisive point was on a cross on Mount Moriah outside Jerusalem. The decisive time was during the Feast of Passover, about 30 a.d. The decisive action was His obedience; His obedient giving of His life.
Those of the world who believe in a historical Jesus look at His death as a failure—the ultimate failure. “But we see Jesus…crowned with glory and honor because of His having suffered death…” See Hebrews 2:9. When Jesus died on the cross, He cried with a loud voice, “It is finished!” See John 19:30. The battle was over. Victory had been won!
What then is there for us to do? Personally, as Christians, it is our privilege to live within the freedom that Christ has won for us. “Whom the Son sets free is free indeed!” John 8:36.
In our relationship to the lost, it is our privilege to declare the emancipation to satan’s captives—to proclaim the means of freedom so that in reality all men may live in the power of the resurrection. Paul told King Agrippa what he knew to be his part in the battle for souls: “To open their eyes, to turn them from darkness to Light, from the power of satan to God…” (and then he describes God’s part), “…so that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and gain an inheritance among all who are sanctified by faith that is in Me.” Acts 26:18.
Principle Three: Concentration
As kids, wanting to have a good game of competition, we would carefully weigh the value of each player as we chose teams, trying to make the teams as even as possible. However, in the cold, cruel business of war, one does not count the warriors of the opposing side and make sure he has only an equal number. No! It is a military leader’s calculated purpose to mass an overwhelming force of power to hasten the outcome of victory.
The principalities and powers of darkness outnumber us in every arena of battle. By employing the principle of concentration at decisive points of battle, though, Christians can win the victory. Biblical precedent for this is abundant. Jesus sent His disciples and then the 70 out two‒by‒two. He also taught them to pray in concentration. See Matthew 18:19-20. Certainly on that Day of Pentecost there was concentrated unity of prayer. “They were all in one accord.” Acts 2:1.
On Paul’s missionary journeys we see the effective use of concentration. He always had one or more companions with him. When he found himself alone in Athens, he sent a message calling for Silas and Timothy to rejoin him as soon as possible. They delayed. After some days of waiting “his soul was exasperated beyond endurance at the sight of a city so idolatrous.” He went out on his own. To the synagogue. To the God–fearing Gentiles. To the street corners of the market place. To the Aeropagus. “With mixed reception Paul retired from their assembly, yet some did in fact join him and accept the faith.” But there was no great revival in that city–nor a riot! See Acts 17:14-34.
Paul went on to Corinth, reasoning in the synagogue. Not much action. But it was after Silas and Timothy arrived that “Paul was pressed in the spirit, showing as clearly as possible that Jesus is Christ.” And then followed the opposition and blaspheming (war!) and many conversions. See Acts 18:1-11.
It must be noted that the enemy also applies this principle. For, following 18 months of Paul’s successful preaching and teaching, “the Jews banded together in one accord to attack Paul…” Acts 18:12 Another time, “…the unbelieving Jews were aroused to jealousy, and getting hold of certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, gathered together a mob and set the city in an uproar.” Acts 17:5.
And today, satan has large segments of the Church of Jesus Christ amassed at non–decisive points of battle. Thousands of Soldiers of the Cross, having been trained in warfare, yet are lounging in a perpetual apathy! Yes, they know about armor. They have a brilliantly polished set in their closet. Yes, they know about weapons. They have five or ten Swords—in as many translations—on the coffee table or on a shelf. Yes, they know about the authority that is available to Christians in Jesus’ Name. They hear their pastors tell of the mighty deeds of warriors of days gone by. Yet, the leadership has not sounded the battle cry. Thus, they unknowingly fall prey to one of satan’s most successful tactics: There is no war!
Some of our churches fit the description of social clubs, amusement centers, hospitals and psychiatrists’ offices; as a result they cannot be regarded as induction centers, barracks, strategy rooms and deployment centers. May God help us to weaken our forces at non–decisive points of battle so that we may amass the Army of God in the homes and workplaces and market–places of the world where the people are being held captive, yet where spiritual breakthroughs are assured.
The very thought of partnership—a relationship with someone who is really with you—will seem foreign to the person with a strongly individualistic mind. To apply this principle of war, you must find another person or team of people to work with. Ask God for a “good man, full of faith and the Holy Spirit.” Acts 11:24 Then study the Word together, pray together, talk together, reprove one another, find an openness and honesty between you—a unity of purpose. Then you can meet the enemy with combined power. You will fight in concentration.
A final lesson from Paul: “When I came to Troas to preach the Gospel of Christ, although there was an obvious God–given opportunity, I had no rest in my spirit because there was no sign of Titus. So I said good–bye and went from there.” 2 Corinthians 2:12-13 So strongly did he believe in this principle that even though a “God–given opportunity” was there (it was worth taking), because he had no partner, he left (he sensed that he could not take it). Because both questions couldn’t be answered in the affirmative, it was not a decisive point of battle.
Principle Four: Mobility
After 430 years of “entrenchment” in the land of Egypt, on a night to be remembered, about 600,000 Israelite men plus women and children and a mixed multitude of others—up to possibly three million people, together with flocks of goats and sheep and herds of livestock (and don’t forget the mummified body of Joseph), went out from Rameses to Succoth. See Exodus 12:37-41. That is mobility!
As a principle of war, mobility is not measured against how well we moved yesterday, or how well we could move “if only.” Rather, it must be compared with the enemy’s mobility. We must move more quickly and farther and for a greater period of time than the enemy. Even in a temporary retreat, this principle must be measured against the enemy’s mobility.
When one cannot attack, evade or retreat, he has become immobile. So devastating was the Jewish self–annihilation on the mountain citadel of Masada that today the one word, Masada, is the battle cry of the Israeli military. Worked deep into their being is the determination that they will never again be caught immobile so that they must choose suicide over surrender.
One of the greatest causes of spiritual immobility is the fear of man. Solomon says it “brings a snare.” Proverbs 29:25 Fear of what others will say or think or do entangles and entraps. We discard a new method of presenting the Gospel because we fear change. We scrimp on the big ideas because we fear the costs involved. We stifle the creativity of God in us because we fear failure.
Oh, there is a healthy fear: The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10) and of knowledge. Proverbs 1:7 And when that fear remains directed toward God, men have strong confidence (Proverbs 14:26), men depart from evil (Proverbs 16:6), and men enjoy long life. Proverbs 10:27.
So strong an immobilizing factor is fear of man that the Word contains 365 “fear nots!” Let us break the bars of fear that imprison us. Let us strive to live more and more in the “perfect love” of 1 John 4:18 that “casts out all fear.”
And let us listen to our Commander–in–Chief who is mobilizing His Army. He stood on the Mount of Ascension and said, “Go! I will be with you!” See Matthew 28:19-20.
That clear and simple command to be mobile rings through the corridors of time and is today the clarion call to aggressively take the offensive, overpowering evil with good, striking a death blow against the enemy (victory in the inward battle). And, finding ourselves free in Christ, we mount an attack against the devil, wresting from his clutches those for whom Christ died (victory in the battle for lost souls).
All over the world the Spirit is moving. The ways and means of going to the battlefields of the world today are limited only by our lack of creativity. Nations and people groups formerly closed to the Gospel message now are waiting for Christians who know how to get up and go—to get up and go! As with Isaiah, the Lord is still saying, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for Us?” Isaiah 6:8 Whether to our own people (as was the case with Isaiah) or around the world, may we arise and go forth!
(I was tempted in this context to launch into a discourse on cross‒cultural outreach ministry. But I am restraining myself by writing just that one paragraph. The primary work of Emmaus Road International is mobilizing and training churches and teams for cross‒cultural ministry. If the above spoke to you about your possible involvement cross‒culturally [either as a “goer” or as a “sender”], please contact us for more information.)
Yet, wherever we are going, our primary concern should be sending the Word of God—by whatever means—to all parts of the world. For the Word of God, the Sword of the Spirit is the primary weapon in spiritual warfare. Paul, in prison, exhorts the Christians at Colossae to pray for him that God would open for him a door for the “entrance of the Gospel.” Colossians 4:3 To the Christians at Thessalonica he said, “Pray for us, that the Word of the Lord may run free and bring Him glory.” 2 Thessalonians 3:1.
Beyond our physical presence, the means by which the Word can be mobilized today are mind–boggling: A hand–written copy of the Word secretly shared with 300 believers in an underground church in China, correspondence, books, records, audio tapes, CD’s, video tapes, DVD’s, MP3 and MP4, streaming, downloads, radio, TV, satellite dishes, telephone, fax, e–mail, blogs, web sites, and the communication super highway…! And who knows what further telecommunication wonders are about to broaden the means to mobilize the “entrance of the Gospel”? We rejoice with Paul: “The Word of God is not bound!” 2 Timothy 2:9.
What about our other main weapon in spiritual warfare—prayer? Is it bound or is it mobile? It is not bound and it is mobile. No satellite power failure can hinder its effectiveness. No busy signal can delay its transmission. No human agent can deny our access to the Father.
We can enter our closet of prayer anywhere in the world. With the simple acknowledgement of “God,” we are transported beyond the dimensions of time and space and are ushered to the very gates of the eternal Kingdom. And with thanksgiving in our hearts, those portals of Heaven open to us. And with praise on our lips, we walk into the Courts of the Lord. See Psalm 100:4.
And then, by the miracle of miracles, because we “have a High Priest Who shared fully in our experiences of temptations (yet without sin), we walk boldly into the very presence of God, and bowing at His throne of grace we are able to obtain mercy, and find grace in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:15-16.
Is our heart broken with compassion for the lost in Tibet or the lost in our neighborhood? We can present this need to the Father. Is our heart grieved because of the “sin that so easily trips us up?” Hebrews 12:1 We can ask for forgiveness. And heed Christ’s Words of comfort and exhortation: “I don’t condemn you; go and sin no more.” John 8:11 Do we see the holy wrath of God about to be poured out on a nation that has turned from Him? We can “stand in the gap and fill in the hedge of protection against His holy anger” (Ezekiel 22:30), begging for a little more time for their repentance. See Genesis 18:23-32. We can live by the Promise of God, “If my people who are called by My Name will humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways; then I will hear from Heaven, forgive their sins and heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14 We can rejoice that both of the main weapons of our warfare (the Sword of the Spirit and Prayer) are fully mobile. Let us not put limitations on them by our immobility.
Principle Five: Security
Looking for a safe place from the world (and from other Christian groups), some segments of the Church have retreated into their own little world. In fact, at one point the Church almost “retreated” itself into oblivion through monasticism. Today’s retreats generally focus on how to make my life better, easier, more fulfilling with the pleasures of this world.
In military terminology, a retreat (or, more accurately, retrenchment) is for the purpose of regrouping, getting our signals clear and laying strategy for the next advance. Thus, some groups now call their conferences, Advances; however, we have generally made the retreat centers so comfortable that no one wants to “get out of the ‘pew’ and into the battlefield!”
Security, as a principle of war, however, does not even relate to finding a secure hiding place from the enemy. Rather, it encompasses these three aspects:
1) Security requires intelligence of the enemy. Is there an enemy? The first issue here is acknowledging that there is an enemy. A nation or person without an enemy is very secure. A nation or person who has an enemy but does not know it is very insecure! A nation or person who knows there is an enemy but tries to ignore him is most frightfully insecure!
Who is the enemy? The enemy of our souls is satan. Lucifer, the fallen angel of Light, is a created being, and—for reasons known only by the counsel of God’s wisdom—he has been given license to hassle mankind.
What are his intentions? Isaiah, by the Holy Spirit, penned the five prideful “I will’s” of Lucifer which led to his downfall: “I will ascend into Heaven; I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will sit also upon the mountain of the congregation, in the sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High God!” Isaiah 14:12.
What are his methods? Covered at length in Chapter 4, they are briefly summarized here:
a) Initially, to distract us from war.
b) If that doesn’t work, to get us to fighting with each other.
c) Next, to get us so confused in our priorities, that we “burn out.”
d) Or, without need for logic, to isolate us or herd us into majority thinking.
e) Or, behind a façcade of wisdom, to get us to focus on non–essentials.
f) Or, lead us into sin.
g) Or, bind us in his stronghold.
h) Or, lead us into an addiction.
i) And ultimately, to try to destroy the validity of God’s Word.
We know the enemy and his tactics. We are secure.
2) Security involves continual protection against the enemy. Our primary objective is to preach the Gospel to every person of our generation. But those who have not trusted in Christ as Savior are “enemies of God through the evil things they have done.” Colossians 1:21 Living in this “evil and perverse world” (Philippians 2:15), there is a continual barrage against the children of God. Yet, we are not to isolate ourselves. See 1 Corinthians 5:10. And Jesus prayed that we should not be taken out of this world. See John 17:15. It is His will that we be exposed to attack, but not defeated. With Paul, we might say, “We are pressed upon on every side, but not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are persecuted, but not deserted. We are knocked down, but never knocked out.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 Therefore, since this is the nature of the war, we “put on the whole armor of God.” Ephesians 6:13.
We wrote extensively of this armor in Chapter 1. However, in brief summary here: To find that continual protection against the enemy, we must “put on” Jesus Christ. He is Truth; He is our Righteousness; He is our Peace; He is our Source of Faith; He is our Salvation. Again, “…let us put on the armor of Light; let us put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 13:12,14 Where the Light of Life is radiating, no darkness can penetrate. See Psalm 139:11-12. We are secure.
3) Security also concerns itself with the final stand against the enemy. So astounding was the revelation of truth about the final stand to me, that I still get excited every time I think or speak about it. Yes, the contrast comes from my early erroneous theological understanding:
I had come to believe that the phrase in Ephesians 6:13—"…and having done all, to stand"—meant: The enemy has me in a corner. He’s beating me to a pulp, but I have done everything that I can do. “Lord, help me to keep standing!” And most modem translations do no better than the KJV to explain otherwise.
However, studying the language and the culture of Paul’s day let me understand and interpret an entirely different picture: This is a military term that describes the final stand against the enemy. It is the turning point of the war. It is called the defensive–offensive battle. It is that point in time when we engage the enemy in defense but emerge on the offensive. It is the point in life when we are no more “overcome by evil,” but we take the offensive and “overpower evil with good.” Romans 12:21 It refers to that point in warfare when we are no longer trying to “protect (defend) what we believe” and instead we boldly “declare God’s Word—that sacred mystery which up until now has been hidden in every age and every generation, but which is now as clear as daylight to those who love God.” Colossians 1:25-26 It is the time in our life when we say, “Enough is enough! We will stand for righteousness in our neighborhood, our schools, our community, our nation and our world!”
If in this discussion of “taking the offensive” you have felt a bit uncomfortable, you have a lot of Christian company. Somehow it seems “right” to defend and “wrong” to take the offensive. When we were kids, nobody had to teach us to say, “He started it!” And we quickly discovered that that declaration (if proven true) brought little or no punishment. We are for the underdog. Defense is associated with the innocent party, as though we expect only the wicked to take up the offensive. We are passive. We are A Nation of Sheep as William J. Lederer declared in his book by that title. Thus, (along with many other factors), our culture has taught us to be reactive rather than proactive. Something really bad has to happen before we take action—be it Pearl Harbor or Roe vs. Wade or the Twin Towers.
In our Christian culture, then, this can develop to the point of enjoying defeat. Some may even (mis)use the half–scripture, “Blessed are you when men persecute you…” Matthew 5:10-11 But the full context gives a different picture. Why are men persecuting you? because you are taking a stand for righteousness! We must remember that in the business of war a defensive attitude will ultimately lead to defeat. There has to come the point in time when we take a proactive, offensive (not being offensive) stand for righteous living and His Kingdom’s sake.
Principle Six. Surprise
As with each of these principles of war, numerous examples can be drawn from secular war and spiritual warfare—from the pages of world history and from God’s Word. But a classic illustration of surprise has to be the story of Gideon. Nobody fought at night in those days. Nobody pitted his three hundred men against 140,000. Nobody used lanterns, pitchers and trumpets as weapons. And, for sure, nobody used the battle cry, “The sword of the Lord.” Yet, in the confusion of that surprise midnight battle, fewer than 15,000 Midianites escaped. And they were pursued and destroyed before the war was over. See Judges 6, 7, and 8.
Salvation, itself, is a surprise. It is a free gift of God, lest any man should boast. See Ephesians 2:8-9. You can’t earn it, barter for it or buy it. You can’t beg, borrow or steal it! All who will drink freely of the River of Life will be saved. See John 4:14.
There are five elements in surprise as a principle of war:
1) The Time. Remember Pearl Harbor? It happened on a Sunday morning in a culture when Sunday was still a day of rest for Americans. And, just like Gideon’s attack, it began at the change of a watch.
2) The Place. Pearl Harbor was a strategic location of naval and air power.
3) The Method. The method in that the battle was not so surprising, but certainly the ending of that World War was brought about by a surprise method—the dropping of an atomic bomb!
4) Ignorance of one commander… By incompetence (there had been warnings that went unheeded) or by deception (a Japanese delegation had just left Washington, D.C.), coupled with
5) Intelligence possessed by the other commander. It was later learned that the mastermind of this battle had been an international student in the Pacific Northwest who had been culturally abused. In his anger against America, he conceived this gruesome battle as retaliation!
Any one of the first three (or any combination of them) can yield surprise. But elements four and five must be employed together to be an effective strategy. 2 Samuel 11 begins, “At the time of year when kings went out to battle, David sent Joab.” The element of surprise was certainly not applied to those battles. Yet, as the story unfolds, satan applied this principle of surprise in David’s inward battle, using all five elements. For David found himself in the wrong place, at the wrong time, using the wrong method of relationships. Though David was deceived into believing he could cover his deed, satan knew that the repercussions of this sin would affect David’s relationships for the rest of his life. See Proverbs 6:32-33.
Does the Church of Jesus Christ employ the principle of surprise in evangelism? When, where and how does most evangelism take place? On Sunday or Saturday evening, in church by one person in the pulpit. Or late at night on TV by one person on stage. We have developed a salt block mentality. “You bring ‘em to church and I’ll get ‘em saved,” the evangelist assures. Or, “Bring ‘em to the crusade. We’ll all walk out on the field together.” Rather, as Rebecca Pippert so well teaches in her book, we must get Out of the Saltshaker and into the World! Meet them where they are.
No one—saint or sinner, nor the devil himself—is surprised by the evangelistic message given on so many Sundays at as many churches. Even if everyone in attendance is known to be a Christian, the salvation message must go forth. And the altar call must be given. But no one goes forward. So the next appeal: “Is there anyone who is not sure of his salvation?” All are sure. No one goes forward. The pastor, being watched by his Board of Deacons, is getting nervous. “Well, is there anyone who wants to rededicate his life to the Lord?” And we play church, ad nauseam!
Rather, I have heard of creative churches that, when they have gotten too large for their auditoriums, instead of building bigger barns (oops! I mean sanctuaries! have rotated their congregation. One–fourth of the congregation each Sunday of the month is not allowed at church. They are to be out in their neighborhoods talking with the unchurched! Talking about Jesus Christ and Him crucified! That’s surprise!
It was in the middle of a secular movie on television when, at the commercial break, a man in white buck shoes came out offering to send me a free Bible. That’s surprise!
A friend of mine pastors a church in Olongapo, Philippines, a city made “famous” for its prostitutes when the U.S. Subic Bay Naval Station was in operation. He told me that they never bothered the girls when they were “working.” But the people of his church knew where those girls lived with their mothers and children. And the church members would go to their homes to share the love of Christ with them. That’s surprise!
On the other hand, two ladies who were ministering among the skinheads, punkers and prostitutes of London, one Christmas, were allowed into the basement rooms of a brothel. They knocked on each door, handing each girl a long–stemmed rose, saying, “Merry Christmas. Jesus loves you.” That, too, is surprise!
On the last day, the Great Day of the Feast, the Man stood on the paved courtyard and shouted, “Hey! Are you still thirsty? Come to Me, and drink!” To us it may be just a story. But to the people listening, it was surprise!
The timing was strategic. This Jewish festival celebrated the time of the Children of Israel arriving in the Land flowing with milk and honey. For six days, the priests went down to the Brook Kidron and brought jugs of water up to the Temple Mount. The water was poured out. It ran over the people’s feet, and they thanked Jehovah for His provision in the Wilderness. On the last day, the Great Day of the Feast, again the people gathered. But this time, no water was poured out. They were to celebrate His provision in the Land flowing with milk and honey. See Exodus 23:16 and Zechariah 14:16-19.
And it was on this day that Jesus questions, “Hey! Are you still thirsty? Come to Me, and drink.” That’s surprise! See John 7:37-39.
On the other hand, Jesus Christ can never be surprised. He has no limitations on His intelligence, nor can He be deceived. “No creature has anything to cover himself from the sight of God; everything lies naked and exposed before the eyes of Him with Whom we have to relate.” He had just said that His “Word is alive and active: It cuts more keenly than any two–edged sword; it strikes through to where soul and spirit meet, to the innermost intimacies of a man’s being; it exposes the very thoughts and motives of a man’s heart.” Hebrews 4:12-13.
This is not true of the devil. From his very first act of rebellion, his lack of intelligence led to his defeat. In the most critical battle of the ages, his incompetence led to the surprise of Calvary. “But we speak the wisdom of God (a mystery, even hidden wisdom) which He planned before the creation for our glory today; wisdom which none of the princes of this world knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory!” 1 Corinthians 2:7-8.
We must take the offensive and employ the element of surprise in our battles. On the defensive we have no choice but to fight. But when we take the opportunity to surprise the enemy, the decision to fight is ours.
For us to devise and employ the element of surprise in our warfare, three ingredients are necessary:
1) We need creativity. We cannot vegetate in front of the TV or video games for hours on end and then expect the creative juices to flow. We need to think and reason and question and meditate and imagine and wonder! We need to exercise the mind of Christ that is ours as His spiritual body. See 1 Corinthians 2:16.
2) We need to take the initiative. The “get–up–and–go” has to really get up and go! A thousand mile journey still has to begin with the first step. Moses was saying, “Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord!” But the Lord said, “What are you doing talking to Me? The enemy is coming! Tell the people to get going!” (Another one of my rather loose paraphrases of Exodus 14:13,15. But it is there. Read it for yourself.).
3) We need determination. The bulldog “stick–to–itiveness” that moves the plan forward; the “nubbies” on the off–road bike tires that dig into the dirt and give it the traction to move forward.
In the final analysis, Jesus is our example:
When was He about His Father’s business? “From 9 to 5. Them’s my working hours!” No! That doesn’t sound like God Incarnate. Jesus ministered to Mary Magdalene at the break of dawn on that Resurrection morning. He met with Nicodemus at midnight, for this teacher of the Law feared the Jews. And Jesus was focused on His Father’s business every hour in between. “I do nothing but what the Father has shown me.” John 5:19 Often, Jesus was so involved that He and His disciples had no time to eat. See Mark 3:20.
Where did He spend His time? In the synagogues, yes. But also in the homes of sinners. In fact, his reputation was that He was a friend of publicans and sinners, mainly tax collectors and prostitutes! In a town where He was experiencing some popularity, His disciples came looking for Him: “The people are calling for You.” He said, “Then we had better go on to the next town, so I can preach there, too—for that is why I have come.” See Mark 1:37-38.
How—by what methods—did He do the Father’s work? The variety is beyond cataloging: Go dip in the pool. Neither do I condemn you. You must be born again. He spit in one guy’s eyes: He stuck His fingers in another man’s ears. He turned water into wine. He waited until Lazarus’ body was decaying before He brought him back to life. I say, do you catch any element of surprise in His methods?“But you shall receive power, after the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth.” Acts 1:8 Again, to us that may be just another sentence in the Bible. But to those to whom He was speaking, it was surprise! For they were hoping that He would at that time set up His Kingdom on earth.
Principle Seven: Cooperation
“Among the large number (estimates of up to 20,000) who had become believers, there was complete agreement of heart and soul. Not one of them claimed any of his possessions as his own, but everything was common property—a wonderful spirit of generosity pervaded the whole fellowship. Indeed, there was not a single person in need among them.” Acts 4:32-34 There was fellowship; there was harmony; there was cooperation in this early church in Jerusalem.
An isolated Christian is an anomaly just as “But, Lord…!” is an anomaly. Those two concepts just don’t fit together. To the degree that we But (butt) Him, He is not truly our Lord, or Master. Another example: “He is deceptively honest.” Wait! Those two words cannot come together to describe one action. Likewise, the thought that a Christian can isolate himself should be as unbelievable.
Yet, a culture that glorifies individualism says, “I can fight my own battles. I can make it on my own.” The self–made man, pulling himself up by his boot–straps, climbs the corporate ladder from janitor to president! He is applauded, and he is proud!
Having grown up in such a culture, the Christian applies this technique to his personal spiritual warfare: “I can do it by myself.” Some misleading Christian songs even supported this mistaken concept. “On the Jericho Road, it’s just Jesus and me; no more and no less, for two is the best…”
How conveniently this fits into one of satan’s tactics, “Shush! You’re the only one doing this. Don’t tell anyone. You will be kicked out of the church if they know,” he whispers in your ear. And the struggling Christian goes deeper into isolation.
Thus, when it comes to the greater battles for the souls of men, we don’t know how to cooperate. Yet, cooperation is essential to concentration at a decisive point, and concentration is necessary for victory!
Cooperation demands two prerequisites:
1) Cooperating forces are allies, not belligerents; and
2) Cooperating forces are under one Commander.
Allies form when people share common goals. Even in such a multi–faceted objective as the evangelization of the world, it is good to be able to state and agree upon a very simple, easy to understand phrase such as Habakkuk’s, “The just shall live by faith” (Habakkuk 2:4) or Joel’s, “Whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved.” Joel 2:32.
But what do we find in the Christian community?
Paul looked for cooperation with Apollos: “As for our brother Apollos, I pressed him strongly to go to you with the others, but his will was not at all to come at this time…” 1 Corinthians 16:12.
A young man came running up to Moses and reported, “Moses, Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp!”
“Moses, forbid them!” Joshua urged.
But Moses said, “Are you jealous for me? Wouldn’t it be great if all of the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put His Spirit on all of them?” Numbers 11:27-29.
John, later to be called the Apostle of Love, at one time bragged to Jesus, “Master, we saw someone casting out evil spirits in Your Name, but we stopped him, for he is not a part of our group.”
Jesus replied, “You must not stop him. No one who exerts such power in My Name would readily say anything against Me. For the man who is not against us is on our side.” Mark 9:38-40.
One says, “I am a follower of Paul!” Another boasts, “Apollos is my favorite TV evangelist. Such eloquent speech!” “Peter is an Apostle; I listen to him,” yet another chides. In assurance of his position, a quiet voice declares, “I am of Jesus only.” “What?! Is Christ divided?” Paul demanded. See 1 Corinthians 1:12-13.
Has anything changed?
In a Christian context, today, the question “What are you?” is meant to elicit the response of Presbyterian or Nazarene or Lutheran or Baptist or Pentecostal or any one of the thousands of Christian denominations. Anymore, I don’t even want to say, “I’m a Christian!” For, even Christian has come to lose its true meaning, Little Christ.
Whether it be denomination or non–denomination or mission society or some theological position of my group, these distinctives tend to keep us from cooperation. Jesus prayed, “Father, that they may be one as We are one.” John 17:22 He had previously instructed, “They will know you are My disciples by you love for one another.” John 13:35.
The greatest single deterrent to cooperation is pride. On a personal level, pride may keep us from admitting our needs to even ourselves, let alone to anyone else. A proud person will struggle alone so that if he wins, he may take all of the glory; or so that if he loses, nobody will know about it.
And Scripture describes him, “He who covers his sins shall not prosper.” Solomon goes on to say, “But whoever confesses and forsakes them shall have mercy.” Proverbs 28:13 James instructed, “Get in the habit of confessing your faults one to another and praying for each other so that you may be healed.” James 5:16 The Word further says that a prideful look (which arises from a proud heart) is one of the seven abominations of God. See Proverbs 16:5; 6:16-17. “Pride goes before destruction; a haughty spirit before a fall.” Proverbs 16:18 The Lord, having just said that He ponders the hearts of all men, declares that a proud heart is sin. See Proverbs 21:2,4.
But the ultimate passage in painting the dismal state of a proud person has to be Proverbs 26:1-12. Solomon has just described eleven characteristics of a fool, ending with “…as a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool returns to his folly.” And then (and to get the full impact of what follows, it would be good to read all eleven verses first), Solomon notes that “…there is more hope for a fool than for a proud person!” (Proverbs 26:12) And if you are quick with your words to defend your pride, Solomon also said, “There is more hope for a fool than one who is hasty in his words.” Proverbs 29:20 May we heed the further instruction of James who wrote, “Humble yourself (and humility is the opposite of pride) in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” James 4:10.
There are four attitudes we can assume as we encounter other Christian warriors on the same battlefield:
1) We can oppose them. “We were here first! We have a better strategy than you! You don’t share (insert your particular theological distinctive) with us. Go home!”
2) We can tolerate them. “Okay, if you have to be here, work in those areas where we choose not to work.”
3) We can ignore them. “Oh! I wasn’t aware of any other warriors on this battlefield.” Or,
4) We can unite with them. “How good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.” Psalm 133:1 Or, as Paul exhorts, “Endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:3.
In the final analysis, the attitude of Paul is classic and one to be emulated: He is in prison for preaching the Gospel. This emboldens others to preach. Some are preaching out of their strong love for Paul. Others, though, are preaching just to make the fact that he is in prison hurt more. What a motivation! Yet, Paul, knowing this, still says, “What should I say? I will say this: Praise God! The Gospel is being preached.” See Philippians 1:14-18.
Principle Eight: Communication
In military language, the “lines of communication are all the land, water and air routes which connect the army with its base of operation, along which supplies and reinforcements move.” History is replete with failed military engagements because the army moved too fast for the more cumbersome supply train to keep up. Or, in their advancing, the thinned–out supply line was cut off by the enemy.
In spiritual warfare, we are grateful for a fail–safe communication network—at least from the Commander’s perspective. He said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5 And, “Behold, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” Matthew 28:20 He is omnipresent; so, although we picture Him seated at the right hand of the Father, highly exalted, He is also as close to us as our spiritual beings will acknowledge Him to be.
It has been humorously said that in the Oval Office of an earlier President a new, pure white phone had been installed. One day the Secretary of State entered the room and noticing the phone, inquired of it. “Oh,” said the President, “with the difficulties of this office, I have installed this direct line to God!” Upon using it, the Secretary was about to leave. But the President, calculating the price of that call, gave him a bill. Surprised by the high rate, the Secretary still paid it, for the advice was good.
A number of months later the Secretary was in Israel. Walking into the Prime Minister’s office, he saw a similar white phone. After using it, he pulled out his wallet, again expecting the same high rate. The Prime Minister said, “No. No. It only cost you a dime. It’s a local call!”
Whether we are in Israel, the United States, on the highest mountain or in the deepest sea, we have the assurance of His presence with us. See Psalm 139:1-12 and Romans 8:38-39.
But if we overextend ourselves (burn out) or allow the lines of communication to be severed, we can expect spiritual defeat. How many campaigns against the enemy have been lost because those involved got so busy working for the Lord, that they neglected personal or corporate time with the Lord? The battle was going great. Victories were being won. Advance. Advance! Claim more territory in Jesus’ Name. Then one day the warriors wake up to realize that yesterday’s prayers, last week’s Bible reading and last month’s Bible studying is not sustaining them in the thick of the battle today. Open and vulnerable to the enemy, unless a rapid retreat can be executed, they will fall prey to the devil. And the new believers left behind are vulnerable to the enemy.
Physical proximity was not what distanced Martha from her Lord. But His rebuke to her certainly lets us know that she had overextended herself. Her good works, her good deeds—I’m sure the aroma of her cooking filled the house—had caused her heart to miss the “better part.” See Luke 10:38-42.
Equally, we are warned in Scripture of other practices in our lives which can sever those lines of communication. To mention a few:
1) “Whoever stops up his ears from hearing the cry of the poor, he also will cry, but shall not be heard.” Proverbs 21:13.
2) “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have made Him hide His face from you so that He will not hear you.” Isaiah 59:2
3) “Husbands, live with your wives in knowledge and with understanding, giving honor to them as to a weaker vessel, yet equally heirs with you of the grace of God. If you don’t do this, you will find it impossible to pray effectively.” 1 Peter 3:7.
Whether it is a hearing problem, our iniquities and sins, or how we treat our spouse, the Word declares it will sever—or at least cause disruptive static on—that line of communication.
Jesus said, “I am the Vine, you are the branches …Abide (stay connected) in Me.” John 15:5 Have you ever used a phone where the little safety clip on the connector was broken? Nobody else knows of the danger—maybe not even you. As long as you don’t move the phone or pull on the cord everything is okay… But you reach for something across the desk and the cord falls out. You are still there with the phone to your ear. The party on the other end is still there saying, “Hello? Hello?” Such a little piece of plastic, but how devastating the results—especially if it is a call to your Commander–in–Chief, Jesus Christ, the righteous.
Paul encouraged the Christians at Thessalonica to “pray without ceasing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17 It is an exercise of faith, but it can be done. We are spiritual beings. By the Holy Spirit we are drawn to the Father through Jesus Christ. Our spirits are alive even while the earthly part of us can be stuck in a freeway traffic jam or be in a nose–to–nose confrontation with the neighbor’s bulldog. Thus, by the simple acknowledgement of God, we are able to transcend the dimensions of time and space and dwell in the shadow of the Almighty. And under His wing find the security of His peace. See Psalm 91:1,4. And by just breathing His Name we find safety in a strong tower. See Proverbs 18:10.
By faith, our spiritual communication need not be broken. While I sit at this desk with all the sights and smells and sounds of my physical environment to distract me, and with my mind struggling to put pen to paper in order to clearly communicate that which is in my heart, I am also conscious that my spirit is alive in God through Christ and that I am connected to the Source of my life. This is unbroken spiritual communication. This is “praying without ceasing.”
The strength, the vitality of our spirits comes from the Source of all Life. We, as Soldiers of the Cross, must maintain communication with our Commander–in–Chief at all times. He is our “base camp”—our Source of supply for spiritual food, ammunition, strategy and specific orders.
Further, God’s Word is the ultimate authority. Spiritual communication—from any other source—that does not align itself with Holy Scripture is not of God. Even when a spiritual leader is teaching from this Source—even when that leader is as brilliant as Paul, the Apostle—we are encouraged to “search the Scriptures to see if what he is saying is true.” Acts 17:11.
Why have I filled these pages with Scripture references? To make it easier for you to align what I am saying with the Ultimate Truth, the Word of God. For, unless what we are writing finds its substance in His Precepts, we are merely putting printer’s ink on some finely processed trees!
E. V. Hill, concluding a dynamic presentation on the power of the Word to transform society, crescendoed to this climax: “The Word; The Word; The Word! The Word! The WORD! THE WORD! THE WORD! It is the power of God unto Salvation!” See Romans 1:16.
In concluding this section, while my mind is searching for a word to more appropriately express… (Here I just crossed out the word “say” and wrote in “express.”) …what I am thinking…(What am I thinking? I’m thinking how sloppy this page looks with all its scratch overs and arrows trying to give direction to my secretary to help her follow my thoughts.)……(and before I could write another word, I took a break. It’s a cold day so my wife just brought in a hot cup of herb tea!)
In spite of all of that, my spirit is still alive in God through Christ, drawn by the Holy Spirit into His presence with joy and adoration. I’m not a pious, hyper–spiritual sort of guy. But I assure you, just the same, that while my conscious life is full of a thousand thoughts, my spirit is in communication with God. To the praise of His glory! I am abiding in the Vine. I will not distance myself from my line of communication.
Communication with my Creator is like the umbilical cord of an unborn baby; it is like the tether of an astronaut’s space suit; it is my Lifeline!
Principle Nine: Pursuit
The battle has been engaged. Principles of war have been observed. The enemy has been defeated. He is on the run. Is the war over? No…not yet. Victory—ultimate victory—is declared when the last enemy is pursued and found; when he is taken captive and rendered useless to the cause of hostile forces.
Though some may think pursuit is the “easy” part of war, there are two factors which identify it to be as critical as any other principle:
1) The conquering army is mobile and in pursuit. Not having to engage in battle, they are covering territory rapidly. One danger they face is outrunning their supplies. However, the retreating forces are falling back on their reinforcements, growing stronger all the time. Even to the point of again launching a new defensive/offensive attack against their overextended conquerors.
2) The greater factor, however, is psychological, not material. The tension of the battle is over for the pursuer. The adrenalin rush is not there to keep him alert. “The end is in sight. I’m as good as home,” he thinks. As these thoughts fill his mind, the pursued is thinking, “I’ve got to get out of here!” His senses are keener as he retreats over ground more familiar to him than his pursuer. And he gets away.
With tragic consequence, successful pursuits in the history of war have been few; the escape from a lost battle have been many.
And with eternal consequence, the spiritual war for men is not much different. The battle for souls has been engaged. A Spirit—anointed message goes forth in power. Conviction of sin is in the hearts of many. An opportunity to surrender their lives to Christ is given. Some respond. Many hold back.
Spiritual pursuit, at this point, must be directed toward two groups: Those who responded and those who are holding back.
Those who have surrendered have just capitulated to the Lord. “Having been taken captive by the devil at his will, by the instruction of the Word, they have recovered themselves out of the snare of the devil.” See 2 Timothy 2:24-26.
Follow–up by traditional usage is too weak a word to describe what must take place. Follow–through may be better. But let’s go for the best: Disciple those who have trusted in Christ. Jesus said it: “Go into all the world… teaching them how to live by My Commandments.” Matthew 28:18-20 Make them followers—disciples—of Christ. Encourage them (by your words and your lifestyle) to enter an accountability group. Have them join themselves in the study of the “Apostles’ doctrine, in fellowship, in breaking of bread and in prayers.” Acts 2:42 By these four means the first 3000 converts on the Day of Pentecost were discipled.
To change the analogy, these new converts are babies. They need someone to choose the right formula—the Milk of the Word—and hold the bottles in their mouths; to spoon–feed them on the pabulum of the Word. And, yes, to change their dirty diapers, also! They will fall; they will sin. And satan will be right there to condemn them. But you will be there, too, to sustain them—to lift them up again. Yes, you will, if you are discipling them and not just offering them a New Testament and the first in a series of follow–up sheets.
But there are also those in whose hearts the battle is still raging. They stand there. Tears of regret may be streaming down their faces. Their eyes have been opened to the spiritual realm. Flashing before them is the contrast of darkness in which they have been living and the Light of Life, Jesus Christ. But the power of satan still keeps them from turning to God. See Acts 26:18. This is a vulnerable moment.
While you are rejoicing in the success of the campaign, those scared of the uncertainty of exchanging death for life eternal have time to retreat into their thoughts of the pleasures of sin. While you are counting those who went to the altar, those who have been given just a glimpse of eternity escape to the familiar territory of earthly pursuits. As their reinforcements accumulate, they come back at you with a greater vengeance.
Rather, at that vulnerable moment, press in with even greater force. A number of years ago I was an elder at a very evangelistic church. Often on Sunday evening, rather than going to the front to deal with those who had surrendered, from the back of the auditorium I would look around for those in whose chests such a battle was still raging. I would go to them. Stand next to them. Sense by the Spirit the words to speak. As a result many who would otherwise have left the church in their unrepentant condition bowed in submission to their Savior and Lord.
On that great Day of Pentecost, when the Church was birthed, “3000 trusted in Christ as Savior.” Acts 2:41 “And they continued daily in the temple and from house to house …and the Lord added to the Church daily such as should be saved.” Acts 2:46-47 Days or weeks later “many of them which heard the Word believed, and the number of men rose to about 5000.” Acts 4:4 Some time later “…more and more believers were added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.” Acts 5:14 “The High Priest said, “Didn’t we tell you to stop teaching in this Man’s Name? Look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine.” Acts 5:28.
Did they stop? No! The pursuit continued. “And daily in the temple and in every house, they continued teaching and proclaiming the Good News that Jesus is the Christ.” Acts 5:42 This is pursuit to ultimate victory!
Principle Ten: Obedience
“Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice.” 1 Samuel 15:22 This was a tough rebuke to one who had just annihilated the enemy. However, it was a hollow victory of triumph for Saul, since he had not obeyed the commandment of God.
In one of satan’s most subtle ploys, he has lifted up one word as our standard for involvement in Christian service. And he has caused us to overlook the scheme of God’s design. (Bear with me as we look again at this critical issue in war. We considered it in Chapter 3.)
The word is volunteer. It is a high–sounding word. It speaks of bravery. Of sacrifice, Of doing something dangerous—above the call of duty. We would rather volunteer than obey because the choice of involvement rests in our decision. We have time to think about it. “Yes, that’s something I would like to do,” we muse. “I will stand up. They will see me step forward. I like that.”
To volunteer is to respond to a challenge. The gauntlet is most often thrown down, surprisingly, by our own leaders. Those enticing us into Christian service paint the dangers and difficulties of a particular task in such a way as to provoke in our minds a human pride that draws us in.
In secular war, the military also appeals to pride to get a young person to volunteer. But once the ink is dry, it is a matter of obedience. There are no more appeals. The system has changed. There are only commands to obey. But the church wields no such authority over its adherents. Therefore, week after week the appeals must be repeated: “We are looking for more volunteers.”
We should recognize that it is a flawed system. Let’s learn from the Master. God is not looking for volunteers, nor does He challenge His own children. When Jesus called His disciples, it was in the simple imperative: “Follow Me.” There were also a great many volunteers who followed Jesus. But they wanted to bury their dead first or care for their possessions. Or say good–bye to their family. Or… See Luke 9:57-62.
And when His sayings got tough, thousands left Him. So great was the exodus that He turned to His disciples and said, “Will you leave Me, also?”
“Where would we go? You have the words of eternal life,” Peter declared.
Jesus answered, “I have chosen you.” See John 6.
To volunteer is to respond to a challenge. To obey is to respond to a command. In John 14:15, Jesus did not say, “If you love Me you will volunteer.” Rather, He said, “If you love Me you will obey My commandments.”
There are two obvious problems with this business of obedience. First, we are not used to Kingdom living. Even in earthly kingdoms today, there is a great emphasis on individual rights. Thus, the concept of a supreme monarch is lost. However, God is not running an earthly monarchy, nor is He running a democracy. It is a theocracy, a benevolent dictatorship! When God speaks, He speaks in directives. And He expects obedience—a willing, or if necessary, an unwilling carrying out of His commands.
This leads to the second problem. As a child, we learned an obedience that was reluctant—an unwilling obedience. What we might have even volunteered to do—such as rake the leaves—when it became an order to obey, all the fun was taken out of it. And now, because we had to do it, we avoided it until threatened.
Thus, whether we find our obedience of the reluctant kind (Refer again to the story of Moses in Exodus 3 and Exodus 4.) or of the willing kind (Refer to the story of Mary, the mother of our Lord in Luke 1:26-38.), it is obedience that will keep us by the side of our Commander–in–Chief. Men may become active in His Army because of a challenge or desire to volunteer (though that motive is inferior to simple submission to His will), but obedience—a gut–level discipline of commitment—will keep them there!
“If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good of the land,” God spoke through Isaiah. Isaiah 1:19 I believe it is consistent with His character to affirm that principle for us today, as well.
The Holy Spirit through Paul told Timothy (and us), “The goal of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a clear conscience, and of a genuine faith.” 1 Timothy 1:5
May we with Paul discover the greatest motivation of service to our Master: “For the love of Christ constrains me…the love of Christ compels me…God’s love for me leaves me no choice…It is His love for me that is the very well–spring of all of my action…” 2 Corinthians 5:14.
Say it as you like it. Choose your translation. It all comes down to mean that when I come to comprehend and apply to my life the depth and height and breadth of His love for me, in humble willingness, I bow my knee to the King of Kings and say, “Yes, Lord!”
Principle Eleven: Economy of Force
The combined application of all principles of war yields an economy of force. Thus, to the degree that the foregoing principles can be brought to bear on any given engagement, there will be victory with the east amount of force.
There was only one “perfect” battle. It took place on Mount Moriah overlooking Jerusalem about 2000 years ago. Let’s look at it:
Objective: Victory over death, hell and the grave. See 1 Corinthians 15:54-57.
Offense: He set His face toward Jerusalem. “For this reason I was born,” He said. See Luke 9:51 and John 12:27.
Concentration: This one principle alone was not employed, for “all the disciples deserted Him and fled.” Matthew 26:56 And while on the cross, Jesus Himself cried, “My God! My God! Why have You forsaken Me?” Matthew 27:46.
Mobility: His body was nailed to a cross, yet He freely gave His life a ransom for many. See John 10:18 and Mark 10:45.
Security: The enemy was so deceived regarding the purpose of this battle that he (through the “princes of this world”) was cooperating with it! See 1 Corinthians 2:7-8.
Surprise: Why seek the living among the dead? He is risen!” Luke 24:5-6.
Cooperation: “Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit.” Luke 23:46.
Communication: “After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had been accomplished, that the Scriptures might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst.” John 19:28.
Pursuit: “Go tell the disciples—and Peter—that I will meet them in Galilee.” Mark 16:7.
Obedience: “Nevertheless, not My will but Thine be done.” Luke 22:42.
“It is finished!” were His last words from the cross. Indeed! “For the joy that was set before Him He endured the cross, despising the shame and has now taken His seat at the right hand of the Father.” Hebrews 12:2 Victory was His so that victory can be ours.
“Now unto Him Who is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy; to the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen!” Jude 1:24-25.
WHEN SATAN HASSLES CHRISTIANS
There is joy in knowing that “in Christ” there is a solution for every need. We can cast all of our cares on Him because He cares for us. Let’s live victoriously in the solutions His Spirit reveals to us.
Problem The enemy tries to hassle me through temptations which can be very subtle. Too often we don’t even see the problem coming, and so we fall. Or, just the shock of being tempted by something that we didn’t think could be a temptation, can be unnerving to us.
Solution Temptation is not sin! If a thought to do wrong comes into your mind, that is not sin. If you entertain that thought, however, it can follow the downward spiral that James talks about: “Every man is tempted when he is beguiled, allured and enticed by his own evil desires, passions and lusts. Then passion conceives and brings forth sin. And when sin is fully matured it brings forth death.” James 1:14-15.
Paul warned Timothy (and us) to “flee youthful lusts.” 2 Timothy 2:22 Avoid setups—situations which make it easy to follow that downward pattern. If you know that you are easily tempted to over indulge in sweets, don’t go into the bakery when you are hungry. Don’t even walk past it!
If something is continually, consistently a temptation—a real problem in your life over a period of time—follow concrete plans to gain a permanent victory: 1) Meditate on Scripture passages that are relevant to the solution. (Notice I didn’t say, “relevant to the problem,” for our focus always needs to be on God’s solution.) For example, take the problem of being tempted to talk in a negative, destructive way. In just the Book of Proverbs, there are scores of Scriptures that teach us how to communicate in a healthy, constructive way. Allow the Spirit to direct you to the passage that will help you overcome this temptation. Then go over and over that Scripture until it becomes a part of you. Make it personal. Rewrite it with your name in it. 2) Get into an accountability relationship with a person with whom you can and will be totally honest. 3) Have the elders of your church, your home fellowship group or a few close friends pray for you.
Problem The enemy tries to hassle me through confusion. There are so many ways that confusion can cause trouble—it’s confusing! Confusion can come through distractions. You have heard from God; your direction is clear. Then other good ideas come along, or maybe your leader proposes a different direction, or you begin listening to the many voices (of real people or thoughts in your head) that are trying to get your attention.
Confusion can come through timing. For example, there is a delay in scheduling. Or a change in a law now blocks your plans. Or something broke. Or you got sick. Or there was a family problem. Or a financial problem. Stop! It’s too confusing!
Confusion can come through trying to live in a role that is not yours to fulfill. You just don’t know how to function in that position. You feel like a round peg in a square hole! It’s not what God planned for you. You just sorta’ got there …somehow!
Confusion can come through your claiming other people’s problems. It can be very confusing to try to solve someone else’s problems for them—especially when they don’t want you to. This does not mean that we are not to help another person who is asking for help—if God is also saying we are the ones to help.
Solution God is not the author of confusion. There had been some confusion going on in the Corinthian church. Paul wrote some instructions about what they were doing and what they should be doing. Then he gave the basis for getting this issue sorted out: “For God is not the author of confusion.” 1 Corinthians 14:33 He does not contradict Himself or change His mind.
Once we understand the source of confusion, we can exercise authority over the enemy to leave. This may clear up the confusion immediately. At least you will be thinking more clearly. Good questions to ask are, “Is this my problem? Is this what God wants me to do? Am I submitting to the authority structure God has put me under?” Often the issues that confuse us are out of our realm of responsibility, or beyond the scope of our role. When we see that it is not our problem or business, we need to learn to let it go.
Confusion can also just be the natural fruit of disorganization, and not to be blamed so directly on the enemy! Some people may lack the discipline to order their time, their household, and their work. But that’s an issue for the next problem.Problem The enemy tries to hassle me when I don’t establish priorities. To be totally unorganized, lacking clear goals just drifting—makes me very vulnerable to the enemy’s attack. Just think about it—nothing drifts upward; everything drifts downward. When we don’t have our time planned, it gets used up by whatever comes along. So it is with our priorities, as well, if we don’t understand them; if we don’t have them clearly in our minds. When all we set out to do does not get done, the frustration that follows could make a place for the enemy to attack.
Solution Make a plan and follow your plan. This applies to any area of your life. Your plan will begin with goals, the objectives that you want to accomplish. Then each goal needs specific steps to follow in order to achieve that goal. You look over those steps and set them in order of priority. You might want to have yearly, monthly, weekly and even daily priority sheets. Personally, I am a “list” person. Every night I make a list of what I need to do the next day. I can’t think without my list! (Well, that might be a little extreme.) But I do make a daily list. Then I put numbers next to the items I have listed. That becomes my order of priority for the next day.
Your plan is to be a guide, not a law. Interruptions (which may not be interruptions but really God’s plan), changes in other people’s schedules which affect you, and any number of things as the day progresses can lead you to alter your plan.
When my husband drove our family (and his sister who was living with us) to the harbor one Saturday morning, I already had plans for that weekend. But he stopped, pulled a suitcase out of the trunk and said good–bye to his sister and our children. We were off to a surprise weekend on Catalina Island! Do you think I insisted on following my previously determined plans?
Having no plans or priorities can be a great thief of your time. When Paul was telling the Ephesians to be wise and have a clear understanding of the will of God for their lives he said, “Make the best use of your time, despite all the difficulties of these days.” Ephesians 5:16 Make a plan and work your plan!
Problem The enemy tries to hassle me through pressure from other people. Partners, roommates, spouses, our children, parents, friends, in–laws! The enemy can use anybody—especially those close to us—to bring pressure. People with poor self–images suffer the most by this trick of the evil one. We all want to be accepted and approved of, but if we do not have the security of the realization of who we are in Christ—on a heart level—then we will have an even stronger need to please people. Thus, pressure from people who are close to us has a lot more effect on us.
Solution We must be in a close fellowship with God. A healthy Scriptural view of God and our relationship with Him gives us a security that can resist the pressures of other people’s demands. We should certainly ask for, listen to and consider godly counsel from people. But we should not waiver in what we know to be God’s will for our life. We take all of their godly counsel before the Lord and ask, “Lord, out of all this advice, what is Your will for me.” See Proverbs 19:20-21.
We build and continue in a strong relationship with God just as the first Christians did: “And they remained steadfast in the Word, in fellowship, in breaking of bread (that’s having meals together) and prayers.” Acts 2:42.
Also, we need to choose to develop a realistically good self–image as sons and daughters of God, the Creator of the Universe! When we have this “in Christ” estimation of ourselves, we can more clearly see things from His perspective and respond to others in love. And, as we have already noted, a healthy self–image comes from dealing with each issue—one at a time—with the truth of God’s Word.
Problem The enemy tries to hassle me by keeping me busy doing good things instead of the things God wants me to do. “Don’t be so extreme. You’ll be too different to relate with other people. Be reasonable; you’ve done your share; relax. Let someone else do their part,” the enemy whispers in our ear. Mediocrity becomes the normal way of life. Thus, we find our time and our energy used up in good and acceptable things. And we are robbed of being and doing the best that God has for us.
Yes—we can miss the best in the big things—like whether to be a missionary or which profession. But the more subtle, daily way the enemy tries to block the Christian from God’s best is by putting many small, very good things to do in our paths. The story of Mary and Martha is all too familiar. Martha was doing good things—exercising the gift of hospitality, serving Jesus and His disciples. See Luke 10:38-42. We can become so busy doing many good things that we miss the best and most important that God has for each of us.
Solution Sometimes to do the best involves risk, sacrifice, or people’s questioning disapproval. Each of us has twenty–four hours a day. First, we must realize that it is impossible to do everything that we would like to do. Some of our dreams will remain just that—dreams. This may involve having to say, “No,” to many things we would really like to do.
Second, we must prioritize those great plans that God has given to us by determining His will for our lives. And begin fulfilling them—one at a time.
Third, we need to have time for reflecting to be sure we are continuing in His priorities.
“In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us.” Romans 8:37.