Prepare for Battle
Chapter 7 - Strategies for Battlefield Living
“No soldier on active duty gets himself entangled
with the affairs of civilian life because he wants to
please the One who has chosen him to be a soldier.”
2 Timothy 2:4
“We do not want to give the enemy any advantage over us, for we are not ignorant of his schemes.” 2 Corinthians 2:11 As we learn how to live on the battlefield, this concept again stands as the backdrop. Even in the area of conducting ourselves on the battlefield, we see the enemy trying to take advantage of us. Let’s look at a number of strategies that we can develop for overcoming the evil one and for living successfully on the battlefield.
Move Out Of The Pew
At some point in our Christian walk, we become aware that we are Soldiers of the Cross. And that means spiritual warfare. But actually getting out of the country club comfort of our pew (any aspect of our Christian life that denies, ignores or fights against the realities of spiritual warfare) and into the battlefield (every place in our inward battle or in the battle for lost souls where we have laid down the gauntlet, declaring war on the enemy) can be quite a struggle. The Holy Spirit’s work in our lives to accomplish this move is not unlike that of Mama Eagle as she begins to teach her young to fly.
You have seen pictures of it, I am sure. Up on that craggy cliff, a nest is hanging over the canyon. It has been well made. A strong scaffolding of branches has been wedged into the cracks of the cliff. Woven into these pieces are smaller branches and twigs; and finally, the soft down that Mama plucked from her own body lines the nest. Deep in that soft, warm, fuzzy refuge the baby eaglets are hatched. And they romp and play. Mama keeps bringing them food. “Hey, this is really livin’!” They tweet to each other.
And that’s what a lot of Christians like to do. They just stay snuggled deep in the nest (pew) because it’s so comfortable there. But one day Mama Eagle wakes up, spreads her mighty wings, and starts tearing the nest apart. And the little eaglets think Mama has gone crazy! “You’re ripping my home away from me! This can’t be. It’s getting uncomfortable. (It’s not like it was when I first got saved!) You are my Mama, aren’t you? Aren’t you going to keep bringing me my food and masticating it for me and placing it into my beak?”
Ignoring their peeps, Mama just keeps pulling the twigs and branches out and lets them fall to the canyon floor below. As if to instruct her, an eaglet protests, “Mama, you built this beautiful home for us. Maybe I haven’t fully expressed my appreciation for it, but you don’t have to be this radical. You can’t just keep pulling it…apart!” His last words are interrupted as he hops off a twig Mama is pulling out. He catches his balance on a safer branch.
In his insidious, illogical effort to keep us off the battlefield, satan could even suggest to our minds that this restlessness created by the Holy Spirit to mature us is “just the devil” trying to disrupt our lives.
But pretty soon, just the framework alone is left. And the little eaglet is looking down, down through the sticks to a rushing river a thousand feet or more below, wondering what is going to happen next.
Then Mama Eagle starts hovering over the disassembled nest. That huge expanse of her wings blocks the sun. Little eaglet looks up and tries to say something nice: “That’s beautiful, Mama! That’s your reality!” He is oblivious to the fact that his little wings are about to learn how to soar.
Mama Eagle carefully snuggles down into the skeleton of the nest and begins nudging little eaglet right up to the edge. “Afraid” isn’t the word for it. His knees are shaking; his eyes are bugged wide open; perched on that framework he totters, holding on for dear life! But Mama comes along and gives him a shove right off the edge!
Ooohhl aaahhh! the little eaglet’s baby voice echoes down into the canyon. Frantically flapping his wings, yet not knowing what to do with them, he free falls for several hundred feet. He’s sure that this is his end. But in the nick of time, Mama swoops down underneath him, catches her baby on the pinions of her wings and takes him up again.
His heart is pounding out of his chest. “Whoosh! Mama came to her senses and she rescued me. Now she’s going to build the nest so I can be comfortable again,” little eaglet thinks. But, no! She pushes him off again …and again …until eventually that eagle learns how to soar on the currents of the wind. And he finds that life has new meaning. He sees things from a totally new perspective.
Might your experience have been similar? Sunday after Sunday the pastor bottle—fed you with the milk of the Word. Your friend spoon—fed you the pabulum of the Word. Your home fellowship group provided you with the warm fuzzy comfort. All was well. And you sank deeper and deeper into the nest (pew).Ah, yes! Being a baby is wonderful. Carried, fondled, fed, diapered, patted, petted and passed from one adoring relative to another. The center of attention! My comfort zone! So also Christians come into the family of God as newborn babes in Christ. And it’s all very wonderful. They don’t care who pays the taxes or the gas and light bill. They’re getting along marvelously. The whole world loves a baby. But when a 25–year–old has pabulum dribbling off his chin, we say something is very wrong.
Likewise, there is a God–implanted genetic pattern in our spirit that says, “Let’s grow up.”
The day will come when you hear Him say, “At a time when you should be feeding others, I am still having to hold the bottle in your mouth. Let’s go on to maturity.” A rather loose paraphrase of parts of Hebrews 5:12 and Hebrews 6:1. Read the whole passage in its context.
Getting out of that pew and into the battlefield is that time in our Christian experience when the focus changes from “Me ‘n’ my God” to “God! What an awesome privilege that You would allow me to participate in Your great Plan of the Ages!” See Ephesians 2:10.
Now “getting out of the pew” does not mean “not going to church!” But when you are at church, you view it as a war college or strategy room. Granted, the church is also a nursery, a hospital and a rehabilitation center. But for the purposes of this discussion, we see it as Annapolis or West Point! Developing the mental image …No, it is more than that! Developing the life style of getting out of the pew and into the battlefield is the first step to successful battlefield living.
Focus on Proper Motivation
We find Paul instructing Timothy in matters of battlefield living in 2 Timothy 2:4. He is saying that anyone who goes to war is not going to get entangled with the affairs of this world. (We will deal with that part of the verse next.) He goes on to emphasize the compelling force for living on the battlefield: “…that he might please the One who has chosen him to be a soldier.” That is our motivation. We want to please the One who has chosen us. It’s not that we have volunteered, but that He has called, commanded and commissioned us. He has chosen us to be Soldiers of the Cross. “You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you—I have appointed you…” John 15:16 We want to fulfill His calling on our lives.
When I follow the owner’s manual for a new tool or appliance, using that piece of equipment for its intended purpose, it works so well. But when I try to use a table knife as a screw driver, for example: Watch out!
“We were created for His pleasure,” John writes into the Owner’s Manual in Revelation 4:11. Thus, when we set our hearts on pleasing the Lord—since that is what we were created to do—we live in harmony with the purpose for our existence. And it works so well!
Develop Disciplines Of Christ–Like Living
To live on the battlefield we must practice the discipline of Christ–like living. To be a disciple of Christ is to be disciplined. Now, I realize that His disciples seemed a rather motley crew during their 3 1/2 years of training. However, from Pentecost on, things changed! Within months they had “filled Jerusalem with their (His) doctrine.” Acts 5:28 And within years they were preaching the Word and making disciples of Christ as far as Antioch. See Acts 11:19.
Though a whole volume could be written on just this subject, let us look briefly at five disciplines:
1) Toughen up! “Timothy, endure hardness—join the ranks of those who suffer hardships—as a loyal soldier of Jesus Christ.” 2 Timothy 2:3 The succinct wording speaks clearly of the discipline that is necessary for a soldier to become ready for active duty. Jesus bluntly said, “The world is going to hate you.” John 15:19 James added, “If you are going to be friends with the world you are an enemy of God.” James 4:4 Jesus another time said, “In this world you will have tribulation…” John 16:33 James again enlarges, “When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your life…” James 1:2 Peter said not to think it strange to be partakers in Christ’s suffering. See 1 Peter 4:12-19. Warriors need to become tough for the tough times of war.
For perspective, it might be good to review the hardships—the tribulations—Paul experienced as a Soldier of the Cross. “I have worked harder than any of them. (Those with whom he is foolishly comparing himself.) I have served more prison sentences. I have been beaten time without number. I have faced death again and again. I have been beaten the regulation thirty–nine stripes by the Jews five times. I have been beaten with rods three times. I have been stoned once. I have been shipwrecked three times. (Another time would come on his way to Rome.) I have been twenty–four hours on the open sea.
“In my travels I have been in constant danger from rivers and floods, from bandits, from my countrymen, and from pagans. I have faced danger in the city streets, danger in the desert, danger on the high seas, danger among false Christians. I have known exhaustion, pain, long vigils, hunger and thirst, doing without meals. I have been cold and have lacked clothing.
“Apart from all external trials, I have the daily burden of responsibility for all the churches. Do you think anyone is weak without my feeling his weakness? Does anyone have his faith upset without my own longing to restore him?
“Oh, if I am going to boast, let me boast of the things which have shown up my weakness! …In Damascus …I escaped by climbing through a window and being let down the wall in a basket. That’s the sort of dignified exit I can boast about!” 2 Corinthians 11:21-33
And then meditate, if you will, on his words in reference to his hardships: He called them “light afflictions!” See 2 Corinthians 4:17. Paul goes on to say, “One who goes to war doesn’t ever get himself entangled in the everyday business affairs of this world.” 2 Timothy 2:4 We must keep focused. We must keep our “eyes fixed on Jesus, both the source and the goal of our faith.” Hebrews 12:2.
A hymn of the Church has this refrain:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus;
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.
It is not a matter of looking for the hardships of wartime austerity, but the Bible does warn us that they will come and that to please the One who has called us to be a soldier, we need to toughen up.
2) Bring Your Thoughts Into Captivity. Paul emphasized to the Christians in Corinth that though we live in this world, it is not a flesh and blood battle that we are waging. Therefore, “…the weapons of our warfare are not of human design and forge, but are divinely potent for the destruction of the enemy’s strongholds in our minds, casting down imaginations and every imposing defense that exalts itself against the knowledge of God.” 2 Corinthians 10:4-5.
Have you ever asked your friends, “What are you thinking about?” And they answer, “Nothing.” You know that is impossible. Our minds are always active—even in our sleep. The research that is currently being conducted on the brain and how it functions is yielding fantastic insights to the Scripture, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made…intricately and curiously fashioned…” Psalm 139:14-15 The capacity of our minds to think, to reason, to draw conclusions, to analyze and to dream is phenomenal.
And to make choices. There is the key. We have a choice not only in our actions but also in the very thoughts we think. In fact, it is the thoughts of our yesterdays that become the actions of our todays. Thus, Scripture admonishes us to think on these things: “Whatever is true and honorable and just, whatever is kind and gracious, whatever is pure and praiseworthy, fix your mind on these things.” Philippians 4:8 This is the ounce of prevention that saves us from pounds of cure.
But when cure is necessary, when we have allowed the enemy to establish a stronghold in our minds, we must “declare war.” When we have allowed another person’s unkind word to turn into a dislike of him, which has mounted into animosity and mushroomed into hatred, and we have vowed, “I will never forgive him.”—satan has built a stronghold (a fortress within) from which he can launch a continual barrage of missiles, making direct hits on our tender consciences. That stronghold must be destroyed—in this case by humbling ourselves and asking the person for forgiveness.
What if’s and If only’s also erect huge enemy strongholds in our minds. “If only I hadn’t done that,” we lament. And though we have asked forgiveness of God and the others involved—and they have assured us of their forgiveness, we cannot forgive ourselves. The stronghold the enemy has built around those thoughts keeps them going ‘round and ‘round in our minds to the extent of causing despair, and even causing thoughts of suicide.
Whereas if only’s refer to laments of the past, what if’s speak of the anxieties of the future. These walls of anxiety—fear—that are built up around our minds disallow us the freedom to think God’s thoughts of creativity and determinative action. They keep us locked in a prison of immobility. Jesus said in His discourse on healthy living, “Take no anxious thought for tomorrow.” Of course, what He said next certainly brings us back to the reality of today: “Every day has trouble enough of its own!” Matthew 6:34.
Thus, also to be dealt with are the what, where, when, why and how’s of today. The frustrations of the present can be equally immobilizing. Having a firm grasp on His will for my life and walking with Him in those chosen steps does a lot to keep me focused. Trusting in His sovereign Plan frees me from assuming responsibility for more than He expects of me. I am challenged to the maximum with just what He shows me He wants me to do.
All of these negative thoughts concerning regrets of the past, frustrations of the present and anxieties of the future can be brought into captivity. His Word declares it!
The same discipline of Christ–like living is necessary to “cast down imaginations.” Use your imagination in a good way. Picture yourself standing on a high mountain with Jesus. And then imagine the enemy, the devil, showing Jesus all the kingdoms of the habitable world in a moment of time. Jesus’ thoughts (whatever they were) are interrupted by satan, “To you I will give all this power and authority and their glory…” We know what Jesus does: “It is written ‘…worship and serve only God.’” See Luke 4:5-8.
Any moment’s hesitation of our combating that offer with a strong “It is written,” would allow our imaginations to go wild. “Yes! Let me be in charge!” Any moment’s hesitation of allowing Jesus to be our model in response to all the imaginations the enemy brings to our minds is dangerous. Whether the imagination is as (apparently) mundane as wanting that new gismo for our car or as radically serious as “coveting our neighbor’s house, wife, manservant, maidservant, ox, donkey or anything that is our neighbor’s” (Exodus 20:17), it is most easily cast down with a strong, “It is written…!”
Another area in which our thoughts must be brought into captivity is the area of knowledge. Knowledge is increasing at a rate that can barely be measured. Much of the knowledge of the world, however, stands in opposition to the knowledge of God. With minds programmed to accept detailed data and researched findings, the stacks of evidence can erect an “imposing defense that exalts itself against the knowledge of God.” When the knowledge of this world and the knowledge of God don’t seem to line up—though it may leave us momentarily in a tenuous position—it is best to wait for all the evidence to come in. Theory after theory that previously had been held inviolable has fallen to new information and ultimately has aligned itself with the knowledge of God. We fight to capture every thought until it acknowledges the authority of Christ.
Words, and more words, could be written. But, in the final analysis, the Words of Scripture—already written—will bring the thoughts of our mind into obedience to Him. This also is the discipline of Christ–like living.3) Renew Your Mind. This principle of Christ–like living presented in Romans 12:2 was quite completely covered in Chapter 1, but we mention it here, also. For no one can survive on the battlefield without the continuing, regenerative intake of His thoughts—of His very life. On the battlefield, we are in daily contact with the world and the ways of the world. In such a setting it is so easy for the enemy to squeeze us into his mold of conformity. Jesus prayed, “It is not that I want You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.” John 17:15.
If we are going to please the One who has chosen us to be a soldier, we will learn His thoughts and His ways. In this way we are submitting to the discipline of Christ–like living.
4) A Light Touch On All That Is Earthly. As an introduction to this section, I want to emphasize that though I do not believe in the concept: Prosperity—Your Divine Right, neither do I believe that a Christian—in order to be a “really good Christian”—has to be a pauper.
There is in the Word the story of a rich, young ruler. In the final analysis it was necessary, Jesus said, for him to sell everything, give the proceeds to the poor and then follow Him. This was not because he was rich. Jesus knew his heart. Though he had done a commendable job at keeping the Law—even from his youth—it was his wrong attitude toward his wealth that was holding him back from following Jesus. See Luke 18:18-23.
On the other hand, a family of Bethany—Mary, Martha and Lazarus were also very wealthy. They had in their own backyard a hewn–out tomb. They had a house large enough for Jesus and his entourage of followers to come whenever they wanted to stay in Bethany. And think of the food bill! Jesus never once told them to sell all, give to the poor and follow Him, because they were evidently using their wealth wisely.
I like the counsel of Agur’s prayer in Proverbs 30:8-9: “Give me neither poverty nor riches, but just enough; lest I be wealthy and say, ‘Who needs the Lord?’ Or, lest I be poor, and steal, and blaspheme the Name of my God.” Whether you are a millionaire or a nickelaire, it is a matter of your attitude, which must be: A light touch!
In the discourse which has come to be called the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus instructed us about our attitude toward wealth, or lack thereof. Listen to the wisdom of His reasoning:
a) Regarding investments, they are most secure in Heaven’s repositories. For where your treasure is your heart will be also.
b) You cannot serve two masters. You will love one and hate the other. You cannot serve God and the power of money.
c) Life is far more than food, drink and clothes. Consider the birds of the air. God feeds them. Aren’t you more important than they? Consider the lilies. Solomon’s splendor does not compare. Will He not more likely clothe you?
d) Set your heart on His Kingdom and His righteousness and all these things (food, drink, clothing) will come to you as a matter of course. See Matthew 6:19-33.
“What will a man give in exchange for his own soul?” is a question that Jesus uses in order to teach another aspect of our attitude toward the wealth of this world. In Matthew 16:24-26, Jesus is not talking about self–denial: “I’ll be happy to give up spinach for the rest of my life, Lord!” (For most that isn’t even self–denial.) But He is talking about denying self. And we prove that we have denied self by taking up our cross and following Him. “For what is the profit to a man if he should gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”
In the early days of our marriage, when college and kids took all our cash, my wife and I practiced what we then thought to be a rather innocent (and inexpensive) pastime: window shopping—now called “malling.” We walked along the streets looking in the store windows at all we knew we could not afford. Of course, neither of us admitted to the other that there might have been the least bit of lusting in our looking.
However, in many communities today, the edifices of hedonistic worship rise as monuments to a society gone wild on self–indulgence. Fed by the bumper sticker philosophies—“Shop ‘til you drop” or “I’d rather be shopping at …”(name your favorite store)—the malls are open for worship every day—not just Sunday morning.
There is nothing wrong with most of the world’s goods. But when bigger and better has you indebted to the creditors, or if you are even just lusting for the bigger and better, Christ’s words of warning, “What shall it profit a man…” need to be heeded.
“He who dies with the most toys, wins!” is a bumper sticker philosophy of the world, feeding a materialistically–minded society with diabolical lies of hell. And the bigger barns of Luke 12:18 are lost in the shadows of the thousands of self–storage sheds that are being used to hold those toys.
He who dies with the most toys …dies! just like everybody else. And then the judgment. See Hebrews 9:27.
A light touch on all that is of this world is a demanded discipline for battlefield living.
4) Crucified With Christ. In Galatians 2:20, Paul captured the very essence of Christ–like living: “I am crucified with Christ, but wait a minute—I’m still alive! Yet, it’s not really me, but Christ who is alive in me. And the life that I am now living in this body, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.” We need to readily pick up our cross—daily—and follow our Master to Calvary. By an act of faith we must reckon ourselves dead to our sinful nature—to the appeal and power of sin, and our spirits alive and sensitive to the call of God through Jesus Christ our Lord. See Romans 6:11.
The disciplines of Christ–like living are demanded of those who are determined to live on the battlefield.
5) Active Duty. Once we have been called, commanded and commissioned to be a Soldier of Jesus Christ, and we want to please the One who has called us to be a soldier, battlefield living demands that there are works of righteousness in which we are to be actively involved.
Ephesians 2:10 reads, “We are His most finely crafted work of art…” (KJV says workmanship; the Greek word is poema, from which we get our word, poem). We are His most beautiful poem created in Christ Jesus to “…sit back and wait for the rapture.” Is that what the rest of the verse says? Does that even sound like God talking?! No! A thousand times, No! “We are His most finely crafted work of art, created in Christ Jesus to do those good deeds (works) that He beforehand prepared that we should walk in.”
God has planned for each one of us to be “a doer of the Word and not a hearer only.” James 1:22 And those good deeds were probably planned even before the foundations of the earth. Works for salvation? Definitely not! We don’t want to get caught up in that. Salvation is a gift of God, giving us no room to boast. In Ephesians 2, notice how Paul deals with the “work” of believing (Ephesians 2:8-9) and follows it with the “works” of righteousness (Ephesians 2:10). Note also in Titus 3:8, Paul instructed “that they which believe in God (they had been saved by grace) be careful to maintain good works.”
Once we recognize the privileged position that He has given us to be part of His eternal Plan of the Ages, we jump in with a firm grasp on His will for our lives (Ephesians 5:17) and do the works of the One who has sent us. For Jesus said, “As the Father sent Me, so also I send you.” John 20:21 The Father certainly sent Jesus to accomplish specific tasks. In John 5:36, He said, “The works which the Father has given Me to finish, I am doing…” So in His prayer in John 17, Jesus was able to say, “I have finished the work which You gave Me to do.” John 17:4.
As Queen Esther learned so long ago (Esther 4:14), we too have been called to the Kingdom for an hour such as this. There is Kingdom work to be done. Let’s not just talk about it or listen to others talk about it or applaud those who are doing the work of the Kingdom. Let’s be doers of the Word. This is battlefield living. Let me say it again: Battlefield living is doing the works of the One who called us to be His soldiers and thus please Him Who has commissioned us into His service.
Develop A Working Relationship With All In The Army
The uninitiated in battlefield living may think that the most difficult aspect is the distress of the job or the long hours, the tough living conditions or the thankless labors. But reports from the front lines say that the most difficult aspect of battlefield living—of all Christian ministry—is the business of getting along with the other soldiers, that of developing a working relationship with every one in the allied armed forces.
Paul, the Apostle, knew this. He knew that the first thing that satan would do in his attack to weaken the Army of God, to weaken us in our aggressive offensive of overpowering evil with good, would be to get us to fight among ourselves: To “sow discord among the brethren.” Proverbs 6:19.
In Romans 1‒11, Paul has masterfully guided the Roman mind from creation through the gift of Christ to the conclusion that God has done all on His part for us to live the Spirit–filled life. By the time he gets to Chapter 12, he is ready to make the transition from God’s action to man’s response.
“With your eyes wide open to the mercies of God…” (I have just spent 11 chapters telling you of His grace and mercy). Now Paul implores, “What is the most intelligent, reasonable response but to give your entire being to Him—a living sacrifice. However, you can’t be thinking and acting like the world; you have to think the thoughts of God to prove His perfect will for you. Now be careful that you don’t think too highly of yourself or your importance. Think soberly. Have a sane estimate of your capabilities based on the faith He has given you.” Romans 12:1-3.
In Romans 12:4-8 he talks about the body functioning together, each doing its part in cooperation with the rest. (He enlarges on that in 1 Corinthians 12.) We should focus on doing well what He has gifted us to do.
Then! Beginning in verse 9 [Romans 12:9-21] and continuing through the end of the chapter, Paul gives no less than twenty–five solutions to the most critical issue in Christian service: Interpersonal relationships!
Let’s look at a few: “Let love be without dissimulation.” Romans 12:9 Unfortunately, we are not very familiar with those King James words today. The love is agape–the deep level of God’s love flowing through us. Dissimulation means without hypocrisy. God’s agape love flowing through us must be real; it must be sincere (sin=without; cere=wax), uncontaminated.
Now, when we go about our busy lives isolated in our shiny, plastic bubbles of protection, we can (pretty well) control what others see of us. We can call across the foyer of the church our happy “hello.” And they respond with their smile. And we feel the “Christian love of the brethren.”
But get up close to each other. Take off that isolation bubble. When you ask some people, “How’re ya’ doin’?”, and they really start telling you, your agape had better be sincere. When you get down in the dirt and filth of this world, pulling lost souls out of the muck and mire of sin, that agape flowing between you and your co–worker had better be real—without wax.
Have you ever come into a house, looked across the living room into the dining room and seen a beautiful bowl of fruit on the table? Oh! It looks so delicious. You want to reach out and taste the sweetness of that fruit. But as you get closer, you realize it is plastic. It is fake. It is not real. That can happen when people look at you if your agape is not without dissimulation.
But that’s just the first solution Paul gives to inter–personal relationship problems on the battlefield. He goes on: “Abhor that which is evil.” Romans 12:9 In this case I like to stick to the KJV word, abhor. It is a strong, powerful word expressing the degree to which we should hate evil. It also carries in its meaning the action of fleeing the evil that we detest. May God help us to abhor evil as He does.
Next: “Cleave to that which is good.” Romans 12:9 Again, cleave is a word not well known, but equally powerful in the opposite direction of abhor. The story that comes to my mind is of David’s warrior, Eleazar, the son of Dodo, who “arose, and smote the Philistines until his hand was weary, and his hand clave to the sword.” 2 Samuel 23:10 In battle, his hand had so gripped the sword that they had to pry his fingers off the hilt. That’s cleaving! That is what we are to do with that which is good.
And Paul goes on through twenty–two more solutions to interpersonal relationship problems, solutions that will help us get along with the other people in the army. For, after all, “They (the heathen, the lost, the ones whose eyes we are trying to open) will know that we are Christ’s disciples by our love for each other.” John 13:35.
Psalm 133:1 adds another perspective to this issue. It says, “How good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in uniformity.” Wait a minute! Is that what Scripture says? Does that sound like God? No! There is no way that a creative God who has demonstrated His matchless power of diversity would then say, “Now, conform!” He has built into each of us the uniqueness of personality and perspective. The God who has created at least 11 billion different sets of fingerprints wants diversity. Uniqueness. Individuality. But out of that unique diversity He says it is good for us to come together in unity. Thus, several of the solutions of Romans 12 deal with unity, such as: “Live in harmony with each other; don’t be snobbish” (Romans 12:16); “Live at peace with all men” (Romans 12:18).
“But,” you may say, “I can’t be in unity with everyone on the battlefield.” (I would agree that we do not want to unite with satan or his forces of evil. That would be treason!) You continue, “I know what I believe and why. I have studied the Word. I know what Scripture says. I cannot work with those who don’t believe as I do.” Several serious considerations are needed to modulate that attitude if we are to be effective on the battlefield.
First, let’s think again about that apology statement (what I believe and why) that we talked about in Chapter 2, and the three illustrations that I used. We said our beliefs should be written in three sections. First: This I believe and here is the unequivocal Scripture to prove it. (ex: virgin birth). Second: This I have come to believe as I have considered the whole counsel of God, but I also recognize that others have studied the same Scriptures and have drawn another conclusion. (ex: pre–tribulation rapture). Third: This I believe and practice though I realize it is mostly culturally–motivated. (ex: not drinking alcohol).
I will not die for third category beliefs. Yes, I live by them and practice them. But I realize that they are culturally–motivated and I can adjust. I will not die for second category beliefs. Yes, I have studied (and continue to study) the Word, and from it I have drawn my theological conclusions. But, recognizing that others have also done their homework and come up with other conclusions, I hold these beliefs rather tentatively. But, I will die for first category beliefs! Those tenets of faith that all Christians of all generations and cultures hold true I, too, will live by—and if necessary, die for.
Now, how does that relate to working together with the other battalions in the army? I have determined that when I am on the battlefield that for which I am willing to die is the only substance for which I want to live. Where does a notion like that come from? From the Bible. Paul said, “I have determined to know nothing among you save Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” 1 Corinthians 2:2 Does this mean that Paul knew nothing else of the teaching of the Bible? Certainly not! But at that time—for that focused point in battle—it was necessary for him to concentrate on “Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”
On the other hand, as he penned Holy Scripture concerning hair and head coverings, he ended the discourse with, “But if anyone wants to be argumentative about it, I can only say that we and the churches of God generally hold to these customs on the matters.” 1 Corinthians 11:16. See also 1 Corinthians 7 and 1 Corinthians 8 as he dealt with marriage and meat offered to idols
. There were some things that Paul said he would die for (Acts 21:13)
; other issues were “vain babblings” that he told Timothy he should avoid. 2 Timothy 2:16
A Vietnam veteran once told me, “When I heard the command to advance position, I did not consider whether those working with me were white, black or green. They were carrying parts of the mortar emplacement and I was carrying a part. Our survival depended on getting that instrument of war advanced, assembled and fired.”
I believe that if we are going to fight an effective war against the enemy, we need to clarify what we are willing to die for. And that is what we should be living for. But that, then, requires a tolerance for other people’s opinions and beliefs—beliefs that they, too, (hopefully) hold tenuously in their second and third category. However, we cannot compromise (for ecumenical, political or any other reason) on any first category beliefs.
And I realize this is no simple matter. All the soldiers on the battlefield have not placed the same issues in the same categories as you. You might have put pretrib rapture in your second category of belief. Another may believe that the timing of the Lord’s return is a first category belief. Thus, something he would die for!
Dealing with these issues demands the wisdom of God. However, God has not left us unequipped. In the letters of James, the Holy Spirit, through the brother of our Lord …(oops! Do we all believe that the writer of James was the actual half–brother of Jesus? Will you die for that belief? Though I believe it, I won’t die for it.) James gives a beautiful description of the wisdom that comes from God. In verse 5 of Chapter 1 [James 1:5] he has already said that if we don’t know how to handle any particular issue of life we have only to ask of God who will give generously of His wisdom without making us feel foolish or guilty for asking. Then in verse 17 of Chapter 3 [James 3:17] he states that one of the eight characteristics of God’s wisdom is that it is “full of tolerant thoughts” (compassions, mercies).
To give some perspective on this, I will tell an embarrassing story about myself. I was the “ripe old age” of 17 (having been raised all my life in a particular denomination) before it dawned on me that there were good Christians who went to churches of other denominations. In fact, some seemed to be living a much more holy life than I was. Now, it wasn’t that we were particularly taught the intolerant thought that “we were the only ones going to heaven,” but it was sort of left to our imaginations to assume this (or, at least, that is the message I got).
From such a background, God had to work many experiences into my life to develop this characteristic of His wisdom: tolerance. Let me illustrate with one more story.
When I was principal of a Christian school affiliated with a particular denomination, I was privileged to notify a teacher that the Board had hired him. His first question was, “Do I have to get baptized again?” As his story unfolded, I discovered that over the years he had taught in a number of different denominational schools and that with each change, he had had to be “re–baptized” by their prescribed manner. It seems he had already been immersed or sprinkled four or five times. I told him, “No, I think that is enough.” I didn’t want to risk his drowning! We wanted him as a teacher. I learned tolerance for various forms of water baptism.
Soldiers, there is a war going on. There is an enemy determined to see our destruction. We need to lay aside every weight—strip off every encumbrance—throw off every impediment and the sins (including the sin of intolerance) that do so naturally entangle us…” Hebrews 12:1 We need to work together.
Think of this illustration: Brothers and sisters can fuss and fume with each other all they want to in the family room. But let little sister be hassled in the neighborhood—the family forgets its differences, unites and aggressively attacks anyone bothering little sister. See Genesis 34 for the story of a father, his twelve sons and their little sister!.
It is measured that one horse hitched to a wagon can pull a one ton load. But if you hitch two horses to that same wagon, they will be able to pull 23 tons! Let’s build a working relationship with all true Christians in the army. So much more can be accomplished. God’s tolerance is far broader than “middle class, conservative, American Christian—or whatever economical, social, political or ethnocentric category in which you find yourself.
On the other hand (as a note of caution), we do not want to be so broad–minded that we embrace the light from many lamps. On a recent trip to Vladivostok, Russia, I was asked by a Bulgarian man to tell him what I believed about religion.
Knowing his religious affiliation I said I would talk with him only as it centered on one question: “What have you done with Jesus?” He agreed.
During our third meeting, he showed me his ring. He showed me the 12 rays that were leading to the sun in the center, describing them as the paths that lead to his true father, the Reverend Moon.
I took occasion to say, “Yanko, I too believe that all paths lead to God!” In light of things I had previously said, his shocked expression was expected. I continued slowly and deliberately: “All paths do lead to Jehovah God. One path leads to a God of mercy and grace through Jesus Christ. All other paths lead to a God of justice and judgment.” The Gospel message is all inclusive: “Whosoever will may come.” Revelation 22:17 Yet, that same life–giving Good News of Hope is all–exclusive: “No man can come to the Father but by Me.” John 14:6.
We need to work together with those who preach and teach salvation through Christ’s life, death and resurrection. But we cannot embrace those who are teaching “another doctrine.” See Galatians 1:6-9.
When does a person’s doctrine become another doctrine? Winds of doctrine have been blowing through the Church for nearly 2,000 years. Some are rather innocuous—with little harm. But others can lead whole movements astray. Jim Jones began his efforts with the best of intentions. Love for the poor and needy motivated him. But somewhere along the line another doctrine allowed for grossly ungodly acts, culminating in the arsenic–laced Kool–aide mass suicide!
Listen to the winds of doctrine …(No! Don’t!)…blowing through the airwaves by certain gifted orators. We can soon tell what are the current religiously correct terms. Each one of these doctrines usually has a measure of truth. But tragically those promoting them distort, and thus move away from, the Truth. And those not wanting to get caught in the whirlwind, also move further from the Truth—but in the opposite direction. In both movements, the enemy is the winner.
Another issue that can so easily entangle us is doctrinal excesses. They also usually have a solid Biblical basis. But when a Christian can speak about nothing else but his current soap box issue, he has fallen prey to the enemy’s tactic of distorting the Whole Counsel of God.
Of course, winds of doctrine and doctrinal excesses can very easily lead to false doctrine which can then lead to heresy. We cannot deny that the trivialities of truth test us, tantalize and tempt us to turn from the true testimonies of God’s Word. But eventually they become false doctrine, and can lead many astray. Or, at the least, distract soldiers from the battle that rages for the lost of the world.
These all are a part of the encumbrances we must shake off so as not to be entangled in the things of this world. At some point, by God’s wisdom and a keen sensitivity to His Spirit and His Word (Paul’s Letters to Timothy are a good place to start), we must separate ourselves from those who have lost Christ’s Message of Love.
We must keep the Good News good news. But we must also keep God’s tolerant wisdom guiding our relationships. For on the battlefield we want our lives to please the One who has chosen us to be a soldier.
Avoid Presenting Another Religion
As we move forward on the battlefield, we must be sure that we are not presenting another religion to the world, but that we are talking about a relationship with God through Christ. There are those expressing their concern that Christianity is facing a crisis. If it is the religion of Christianity, I can only say, “May that crisis bring death to Christianity!” In a culture of “live and let live,” “do your own thing,” etc., being born again can mean anything from a true conversion experience of eternal significance to the new vigor a football team experiences whenever they hire on another six million dollar man.
It is significant that throughout history, as Christianity finds its place of respectability in the world, it becomes a less viable force in changing the lives of its adherents. Whether it is Constantine’s attempt to nationalize Christianity through mass baptisms or the current polls that say 87% of Americans pray to God once a week, the sickness of the third century and the apostasy of the current one rise as a stench in the nostrils of God.
True Christianity, only initiated by conversion, is a radical, on–going, developing relationship with the Father, through Jesus Christ, drawn unto Him by the Holy Spirit. This radical relationship will see Christian leaders calling nations to repentance (Jonah, Evan Roberts, Billy Graham). This radical relationship will see the Church of Jesus Christ fitting into His Plan of the Ages. This radical relationship will see men of God saying, “These light afflictions are nothing when compared to the eternal weight of glory.” 2 Corinthians 4:17; 2 Corinthians 4:11-12.
Paul, the Apostle, said it. On through the centuries of time, thousands of saints have said it. And today, an innumerable host of Christians around the world are saying it. May we see the battle from this eternal perspective, and stick to the Truth of God’s Word. It is a relationship with God through Jesus Christ that we have to offer the world, not a religion.
We Are On A Mission Of Love
Another consideration relating to battlefield living is our attitude toward our work for the Lord. Does the business of service interrupt our mission of love?
As part of my responsibility as Superintendent of Children’s Education for Wycliffe Bible Translators in Brazil, I was asked to conduct a study on how to make the educating of our children more sensitive to the host culture. The study included interviews with many people—students, parents, and nationals who knew us and our work. One discussion was held with a national couple, Dr. and Mrs. Spadoni. Not only was he our family doctor and my tennis partner, but over time we had become quite close friends. They knew ahead of time the topic of our discussion. Yet, as we sat at the patio restaurant, watching and listening to the river cascade over the rapids, they danced around the subject for two and one half hours! I had written a few notes, but I sensed that they (in their gracious manner to not offend) were holding back what they really wanted to say.
Then, as if it had been pent up for years, Maggie Spadoni brought her open palm slapping down on the table. Nearly shouting, she said, “All right! All right! Do you really want to know how I feel? The whole issue lies in this question: DO YOU LOVE US? OR ARE YOU HERE TO GET A JOB DONE?” And, then, just in case I didn’t know on which side of that question she stood, she added, “You are so production oriented. You act like you are here only to get your job done. By doing so you are running roughshod over the people. You aren’t showing us that you love us.” She sat back in her chair as if exhausted from an hour–long speech! But in saying that, she had communicated the essence of a major battlefield problem.
This is a cultural issue with which we Americans need to deal. We are production–orientated. We are efficiency–orientated. We lay out the job. We get in there. We get it done. Big! and now! We are generally reactive, responding to a crisis. We wait until it gets really bad and then we go in with our bombs or money or…Gospel! Yes, this cultural issue can carry over into Christian ministry. We develop a strategy. We establish quotas. We do our thing. We come back to the church in a victory celebration. Or we write a glorious evaluation. We have accomplished it! But have they seen the “love of God shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us?” Romans 5:5 I wonder if this is what Jesus was dealing with when His disciples returned from ministry? See Luke 10:17-20.
Battlefield living—whether we are relating to the neighbor next door or the individual around the world—requires that we do not let the business (often it is just busy–ness) of service interrupt our mission of love. As we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, our Commander–in–Chief, we will follow His example of love as He related with people. Nothing He did was stereotypical; all was by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. What an example!
Live In The Supernatural Power Of God
Just before Jesus returned to the Father He said to His group of followers (some of whom were still doubting), “Stay in Jerusalem until you receive power from on high.” Acts 1:8 I realize that our relationship with the Third Person of the Trinity is another area of “discord among the brethren.”
We can relate to God, the Father. Everyone has a father. Whether he was good or bad, we can understand the Father–image of God. Jesus, the Son. Yes, we all know about sons—as children or brothers. But Holy Ghost? Thanks to the King James Version, just the name Ghost can make one shrink from a relationship with the Holy Spirit.
Though I have a fairly well–defined apology statement regarding the Holy Spirit (all based on Scripture, I trust), I believe I have put most of what is controversial in my second category. Thus, I can say, “I don’t care what you call it. I don’t care when you get it. Just don’t leave home without it!” And by it I mean a vital, vibrant, alive, growing, developing, dynamic, powerful relationship with the Third Person of the Godhead: God, the Holy Spirit!
I cannot imagine that we have come this far in this study without realizing that without the power of God, provided to us by the Holy Spirit, we are no match for the enemy. But, on the other hand, I trust we have also come to understand that when we are “strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power” (Colossians 1:11), we are invincible!
Good battlefield living acknowledges who I am—in Christ, of course—and gives me a “sane estimate of my capabilities measured by the faith He has given me.” Romans 12:3 Yes, it is good to read books about the exploits of others. Ruth Tucker’s From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya; John Woodbridge’s More than Conquerors; the Holy Spirit’s Hebrews 11! Yes, all of these are good. But in our idol mentality, we can succumb to the lament, “Oh! If only I were as good as…(you fill in the blank), then I too could do mighty wonders for the Lord.”
A related erroneous line of reasoning goes: I never sank that deeply into sin, so I don’t really have a good testimony to give. No! Stop! That is not a good line of thought. We are just to be the person God made us to be. He has created in each of us a life story. The dark and bright threads in the tapestry of our lives have been woven by a Master Weaver. And that which has been (and is being) woven is the message He wants us to share with those that we meet on the battlefield, whether they are fellow soldiers or the lost we are there to rescue.
Thy Kingdom Come
As we trod the battlefields of the world, we do need to be aware of the politics of the countries to which He takes us. But we must also keep in focus that we are not an ambassador for any earthly government. We are “Christ’s ambassadors!” 2 Corinthians 5:20 An ambassador is one who represents the government of one country to the government of another. In spiritual terms there are only two kingdoms: The Kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness. We are representatives of Christ’s Kingdom to all ensnared in the kingdom of darkness, no matter what political lines may form their boundaries.
We are not a–political nor anti–political, but our message transcends all earthly politics. We are here to establish the Kingdom of God, not that of any country, man, denomination or non–denominational denomination.
But ethnocentrism thinks differently: “We are the best,” it insists. “We do worship God in the most accurate, Scripturally prescribed manner,” it reasons. Thus, it is natural to try to make them like us before they can really be Christians. Oops! Is this not exactly what the Judaizers were up to? “Yes—to Christ! But first become a Jew!” seems to be what they prescribed.
A pastor once insisted to me that a particular lady couldn’t possibly be a Christian because she didn’t conclude her prayer of repentance with the words, “In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”
In the summer, the Alps are dotted with flocks of sheep. An owner may have several flocks with different shepherds. The sheep in each flock know only their shepherd and the other sheep of their own group. As Christians we must rise above this sheep mentality. We must heed the voice of Jesus as He concluded a discourse on sheep: “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one fold, and one Shepherd.” John 10:1-16.
Jesus Christ our Lord is the Good Shepherd. May we, not as hirelings, but as under–shepherds, point people to the One True Shepherd.
Be A Wise Steward
Paul argued, “Have you ever heard of a soldier going off to war paying his own expenses?” 1 Corinthians 9:7-14 His conclusion, as we follow through his line of reasoning, is, No! John the Baptist told soldiers to be content with their wages. See Luke 3:14. A final consideration, then, on battlefield living is wisdom in all financial dealings.
Unfortunately, the battlefields of the world are strewn with those who use the Gospel for their own financial gain. Again, we are not advocating a poverty mentality but that of a steward: “Master, it is all Yours. How do You want me to spend it?”
Though so simply stated, it is not an easy issue. Nor was it for Paul. One time we hear him saying, “I wouldn’t take your money now even if you offered it to me! 2 Corinthians 11:7-10 Another time, he more graciously couches a thank you in saying, “You helped me time and again. But it wasn’t so much that I wanted a gift, but that you have invested in heavenly stocks and I desire to see the dividends that accumulate to your account.” Philippians 4:15-17 Yet again, he coerced Philemon into forgiving Onesimus’ debt: “If he owes you anything, charge it to my account. Of course, I don’t need to remind you that you owe me your very soul.” Philemon 1:18-19.
A good rule of thumb is to live as much as possible on the level of the people you are ministering among. One spring a Bible translator woke up to realize that while his house still had a thatched roof, all of the villagers had replaced theirs with metal! It was my privilege that summer to help him upgrade his house! On the other hand, another friend of mine had been given the distinction of ministering among the up–and–outers (as he called them) from Hollywood. At a time when the average American house ranged in price between $60–80,000, he was thanking the Lord for the good deal he got on a half a million dollar home! Thus, whether we live in a million dollar house ministering to up–and–outers or in a thatched–roof but ministering among indigenous people, being a good steward of the funds entrusted to us by God, is the critical issue.
Living on the battlefield is sometimes exciting, always challenging; sometimes difficult, always demanding; sometimes lonely, yet we are never alone. In fact, how could battlefield living be summed up more eloquently than in the words of Paul, who daily lived on the battlefield: “We are troubled and pressed on every side, but we are never crushed. We suffer embarrassment and perplexities, but we are never driven to despair. We are persecuted and pursued, but we are never deserted. We may be knocked down, but we are never knocked out! Every day we experience something of the death of Jesus, so that the resurrection life of Jesus also may be plainly seen in our mortal bodies.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-10.
Editor’s Note: We traversed some pretty rough terrain in the discussion about battlefield living! But as Warrior concludes in this allegory, “Where else could I be but at the side of my Commander?"
While returning to their field of service, the writer of this allegory had a dream. She put her thoughts on paper. Little did she realize that within a week, she and her family would be casualties of war. Due to some church problems back home, they were ordered off the field!
The path He was looking for emerged from between rows of tall shimmering buildings. It led onto a narrow, rocky way, overgrown with wild vines. Before He plunged into the unknown darkness, He turned. The mirrored surfaces of the buildings reflected the brilliance of the next and the next, each with the newest of modern architecture boasting its owner’s name. Yet, He knew. He knew that behind those façades of tinted glass and burnished aluminum were empty rooms. Halls that echoed the loneliness of humanistic materialism.
Helper shuddered and pulled His coat more tightly around Him, as if chilled by that thought. He picked His way carefully along the junk–strewn path: Polaroid and disposable camera packaging and bubble gum wrappers—residual signs that many people had curiously come this far.
Just where the path began to become a bit rocky, Helper met a most handsome soldier. Dressed properly, his shoes were spit–polished, the creases in his uniform were sharp, his sword and shield were of a brilliant shine.
Helper, pleased to see a new recruit headed for battle said, “I’m glad we can walk to the front together. The battle is growing fierce.”
“Ah…I don’t think You quite understand. I have come this far. But the path is getting rocky. I have not yet been trained in ‘Rock–strewn pathway walking.’ I hear there is a seminar soon on the subject.”
“But I’ll be by your side,” encouraged Helper.
“No…No…Ah…There is other training I must take. A lot more training! Good teaching about the history of war. And the ethics of war. And the newest in strategy and weapons. And…”
Helper turned, shaking His head, and began the long trek to battle.
The soldier, taken up in naming the classes yet to prepare him for battle, didn’t notice that Helper had begun walking. Looking up, he saw Him down the path. In a final defensive tone he shouted, “I’m planning to go…” His voice trailed off weakly“…some day.”
Beyond the first ridge Helper heard a pitiful whine. “Who might that be?” He mused. He walked until he came upon the most miserable sight. There, hunched over by the side of the road, was a wounded soldier.
Whimpering and muttering to himself, he didn’t even see Helper. He just sat there with his sword on the ground beside him, waving his shield above him as if to protect himself from some unseen enemy who had stopped bothering him long ago.
Helper stooped down and looked in his face. “May I help you?” He asked.
“No. No…” pined the wounded soldier. “There is nothing You can do. Can’t You see that my condition is beyond help?”
“No. I’m afraid I don’t see that,” Helper smiled.
“Oh, You’re just like the rest!” shouted the man. He finally threw down his shield and glared at Helper. “It’s all their fault!” he said, pointing up the path. “They said they knew. They said they cared. They said they would support me in battle. I should have known. Oh, I’m better off without them, anyway. People like that are never there when you need them!”
“What about Me?” Helper asked. “Why didn’t you call for Me?”
The soldier leaped to his feet. He shouted angrily, “Because You should have known without my asking!” His shoulders drooped as he realized the weakness of his reasoning. The soldier began to cry.
“The Training Manual says you need to ask,” consoled Helper, gently touching his wounded arm.
But, at that, the soldier started to scream and wail, throwing himself to the ground. “I won’t go back to battle! I can’t fight again!”
Helper stood helpless as He watched in wonder. The soldier picked himself up, gave his shield a swift kick, and stormed up the path. Helper, stunned by this scene of self–pity, finally continued His journey down the lane. He could hear soldier’s moaning and muttering, echoing among the buildings.
Before long, He heard someone talking. “Why, don’t you fellows see? Don’t you understand?” the voice rehearsed to itself. “I’ve suffered quite enough. I do believe I owe it to myself…” And then the man caught sight of Helper. He blushed, somewhat embarrassed at himself.
He was a soldier, and had obviously been in the battle, for Helper could see his wounds. But He wondered, because the man didn’t carry sword or shield.
“Hello,” called Helper.
“Who …uh…Hello,” said the man. And Helper thought his smile a bit strained.
“Tell Me,” said Helper, “where are you from?”
“Oh,” he said with a practiced sadness, “I am from a most terrible battle—most terrible, indeed! I saw men fall to my left and to my right. And as you can see…Well, I’ve suffered very much, myself.”
“And where are you going now?” asked Helper.
“Well …uh,” said the soldier, looking down and clearing his throat, “I expect that I shall suffer from these wounds for many years to come, and I do believe this poor old body needs a rest.”
“That sounds very humane,” said Helper.
“Oh, You think so?” The man looked at Helper in delight. “Oh, I’m so glad You agree! You see, there were so many that thought I was being…uh, well, You know…They just don’t understand that I need to enjoy life for a while. I mean, I’ve already suffered so much!” And then the soldier’s face took on such a fanciful gleam as he said, “Look at that,” waving his arm as if to encompass the skyline of glittering buildings they could see from the ridge where they were standing. “It’s all mine! Mine for the taking. Why…I can be rich! I can at last give my family all the wonderful things they need …and want!”
“And what of your comrades at the battle?” Helper asked.
At this the man’s face turned white. He swallowed hard, almost choking. And Helper saw the man’s eyes turn hard. “I don’t need Your condemnation,” he said. “Besides, I’m not made for that stuff. And…and…they don’t need me!”
“You may have convinced yourself,” said Helper. “But not Me. Those men at the front have suffered considerably since you pulled out of the battle.”
The man’s face tightened, and for the first time he looked at Helper. “It’s not true,” he said. “It’s not true! And I don’t need this from You. I’m finally going to get the things I deserve …all the things everybody else has…After all, I do believe I have suffered quite enough!”
Helper stood, looking after the soldier, and felt His chest begin to tighten and tears fill His eyes. He heard the soldier’s voice disappear among the buildings, still consoling himself.
Then turning, Helper continued down the path until He saw another man: Rather cold for a soldier, but very impressive. His sword and shield were polished and shiny, as was the rest of his uniform—immaculate. Yet, Helper could see that he had no wounds. As He drew close, the soldier turned to face Him. And Helper’s breath caught in His throat. He’d seen those eyes before, He thought.
“I’ve got all I need,” smiled the man. “The plans, the method, the power and the brains. Before long, they’ll all be leaving the front. They will all be following me.
“They …who?” asked Helper.
“Why, the soldiers, of course! Who else?” And the man threw back his head and laughed a most hideous laugh.
“You’ll be taking men out of the battle?” queried Helper. “Away from the fight?”
At that, the man’s face twisted viciously; his eyes glared at Helper. “There is no fight! No battle! No enemy! All those stupid recruits wandering around, trying to hear the voice of the Captain. The fools! I’ll make them see. I’ll make them understand. They need me. I’ll convince them that they are doing the Captain some great service by following me. I’ll get them busy in a hundred good works. They won’t have time listen to You or the Captain.”
“You’re not even a real soldier, are you?” said Helper, exposing to the man what He’d known to be true all along.
Threatened, the man looked at Him with poison in his eyes, hesitated, and then laughed. “They won’t believe You. I’ll talk so long and hard that they’ll even forget the sound of Your voice.”
And with that, Helper walked away, not bothering to strive or even look back at this man. For a moment, the pity He’d felt for the first three men was almost lost beneath the anger He felt for the fourth. But soon all He knew was the ache–the piercing agony of seeing soldiers fall away from the battle.
The path was becoming increasingly treacherous. Helper walked more carefully now. Resting by the side of the trail sat another soldier. “Hello!” Helper called. “Are you headed back to the battle?”
“Why, yes, of course! You can see by my attire that I am a soldier, can’t you?” A bit of haughtiness edged his voice.
“Yes, you are dressed like a soldier and you are carrying sword and shield. Yet, your wounds are few and superficial,” Helper noted.
“Look, I have learned how to stay at the edge of skirmishes. I don’t see why this world can’t just ‘live and let live’! From my vantage point I have often watched those in the thick of battle. They just seem too radical …too serious.” Convicted by the sound of his own words, he grudgingly said, “OK, OK, I’m on my way.”
Helper’s eyes burned with tears as He continued on the path. He came upon another soldier walking wearily back to the battle; his shield hanging weakly at his side. His wounds were much deeper and more severe than any He had yet seen. His sword, Helper could see, had never been dropped. His swollen, bleeding fingers clung to it, as though it were a part of him. And as Helper neared, He heard from him a deep groaning, and then a sob.
“What is your name, Soldier; and where are you from?” asked Helper.
The Soldier turned, unsurprised by Helper’s voice. My name is Warrior!” said the man. “And I am from the heart of the battle.”
“Shouldn’t your dwelling be in the secret place of the King?” Helper taunted.
Warrior’s face lit up with such a fierce loyalty as Helper had never seen. “Yes!” the soldier said. “Yes, and where else would that secret place be other than by the side of my Captain in the midst of the battle?”
“But your wounds…?” Helper wondered.
“Wounds? Oh, they’re nothing,” said Warrior, grinning and waving his shield. “We’re taking the land, and nothing can stand against the King!”
“But, Warrior, why are you here? Away from the battle? Were you going off to seek your own plans—your secret ambitions?”
Warrior looked away. Helper saw his face twist in pain as tears began to fall. “That’s why I’m here,” sobbed Warrior. “I came to find the ones who’ve left the battle and try to bring them back.”
“And what did you find?” asked Helper.
“I found men entangled in their own plans and ambitions, like the delicate threads of a spider’s web, yet binding them like bands of steel,” said Warrior. “And nothing I could say would make the battle burn in their hearts again.”
“And where are you going now?” queried Helper.
“Why, back to the battle, of course.” said Warrior, wiping his eyes. “Where else would I go?”
“Man, you could have great power and position among men. After all, you have already suffered so much. You could publish near and far the great exploits you have done,” Helper chided.
Warrior looked deep and hard into the eyes of Helper. And then he grinned.
Helper smiled. He’d seen those eyes before. They had the look of the Captain. Warrior turned his head for a moment to look down the path. Then he looked back at Helper. “I’ve got to go now,” he said.
Helper smiled as He watched Warrior make his way along the trail back to the battle. “So much like the Captain,” He said aloud. “So much like the Captain!”