Right now there is in the world a “war on terrorism”. Members of the United States Armed Forces as well as members of the armed forces of other countries are in Iraq and Afghanistan and in other places in the world fighting this war on behalf of their countries. The enemy, radical Islam, is taking the war to every nation on the earth.
For two main reasons, I’m not sure I agree with the common terminology usually applied to this situation.
The first thing is that we are not just at war with an idea and a lifestyle: terrorism – we are at war with people who are dedicated to that idea and who practice that lifestyle. We can fight a wicked idea with the truth and with integrity but the real battle happens on battlegrounds and the battlegrounds for ideas are human minds.
When a person takes the idea in his or her mind and either prepares to or actually brings it to the physical realm, in this case blowing to bits innocent men, women and children, then it is time for righteous individuals to meet the enemy in the physical. These will be committed to righteous ideas.
The second reason is that I don’t believe that there is anyone on the earth that is not completely entangled in this conflict. In other words, the uniformed members of armed forces and the nameless and faceless millions of people who fight the battle in offices and in the streets as doing research, surveillance, etc. are not the only people involved in this war.
The problem is that most of the people in the world act as if there is no war. They live their lives like they always have, allowing the images of September 11, 2001 and the bombings of the U.S. Cole and the Federal Building in Oklahoma City and so many more to fade from their minds. They pay their taxes and in doing so they seem to feel that they have done their part in the war effort, having paid the salaries of the “professional warriors” and paid for the weapons and ammunition needed for the “real war”.
This brings us to the reason I started writing this piece.
I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in the Church that is hurting the Body of Christ and it parallels what I have just described above. What I’ve seen is that much of the body of Christ goes about its daily business acting as if there is no spiritual battle going on all around us.
I can’t tell you how many Christians I have encountered that have never heard much in “church” about the war in which humanity has been embroiled since the Garden of Eden. Satan has effectively blinded our minds with bad intelligence and has duped many of us into thinking that there is no war…..life is just supposed to be like this.
Even in the Church we see disease, chaos, strife, marital discord, rebellion, lawlessness and on and on going on all around us and in our lives and we just accept it as normal life. Sometimes something dramatic happens and there is a devastating automobile accident or someone gets cancer or someone wants a divorce and we respond exactly like people did when evil men whose minds were given over to satanic ideas flew planes full of innocent people into buildings filled with other innocents: we respond with shock.
And then the shock ebbs away and we’re back to “normal life.”
For some of us in the Body of Christ, there seems to be a vague ghost-like comprehension in the backs of our minds that there is a battle going on but we think, “Isn’t that what ministers are for?” We have been trained to partake in an idea that God certainly never had for Christianity: that there is a separate class of Christian named “clergy” whose job is it to protect us spiritually.
We give money on Sundays in these organizations (“churches”) that almost all exist separated from one another (what army ever functioned like that and survived the war?). We assume that we have paid our taxes and that the spiritual government, if you will, now has the responsibility to protect us from spiritual harm.
Sometimes we belong to institutional churches in which there are “spiritual warriors” or “intercessors” – unpaid professional spiritual soldiers….mercenaries. As a group, we trust them to fight the battle for the rest of us. Then we go our separate ways and ignore the battle that rages all around us and sometimes within our minds secure in the mistaken knowledge that a professional spiritual soldier is on the job for us.
I believe that one reason we suffer as a body is that the Commander in Chief never wanted it to be this way.
The Body of Christ is an army (Revelations 19:19) and God never intended that we would be identified with rigidly separate units in that army that functioned without sharing information, funds and each other with the rest of the army. In other words, we have allowed the general of the other army to fool us into being an army that is fragmented, confused, impotent and easy to defeat.
Paul urges us in Ephesians 6 to put on the full armor of God for a reason: we are at war! We need it!
In addition, it was always God’s intention that everyone in Christianity, the body of Christ, IS the army. There simply is no such thing as a separate spiritual armed force in the body of Christ since the Body of Christ IS the army!
“Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11)
Peter urged all Christians to be aware of the war that was being waged against each of their souls and urged them to fight back individually and in teams. This reminds me of World War 2 in which everyone was urged by the leaders of the United States, Great Britain and other countries to be a part of the war effort.
I remember stories in which my dad told me that as a child he believed he was personally part of the reason the Allies defeated Germany and Japan. Why? He saved the tinfoil from his chewing gum! He and his family used ration stamps so that the soldiers could get what they needed first. His dad patrolled the waterfront at night with a flashlight and a rickety old pistol.
Why did the non-military citizens at home feel like they were a part of the war effort? Their leaders rightly told them they were and they chose to believe that truth.
Read the inspiring words of Sir Winston Churchill and as you do, realize that leaders in the Body of Christ have been doing for the Church what I am doing right now and as Churchill and Roosevelt and others did for their countries in times of war:
“Never give in--never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” (Sir Winston Churchill, Speech, 1941, Harrow School)
“We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.” (Sir Winston Churchill, Speech, 4. June, 1940)
When Churchill spoke of defending “our island” people in the United States generalized it to “our nation”. In Ezekiel 11:15 we hear a principle that I believe applies to us here. Ezekiel was told regarding things entrusted to him, “this land has been given to us as a possession.” Whatever God has given to you, see it as yours to care for.
When we hear Churchill speaking of his island, let’s apply that to our lives, the realms that the Father has entrusted to us. In other words, let’s commit to fight this spiritual battle the way they did it. Let’s commit to defending our territory that was given to us by the Lord! Let’s commit to never giving up!
Churchill spoke of fighting in France, a helpless country that was overrun by a brutal enemy. Let’s commit to fighting in the lives of other people, our friends and acquaintances, who are helpless and weak!
This battle is ours to fight and we have what it takes to fight it and win!
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Scripture can be a weapon in itself but it is much more than that. The Lord through the Scripture also teaches us about the battle itself and things that would hamper us in our battle. For one thing, it cautions us that we must not allow the things of this world to distract us.
“You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.” (2 Timothy 2:1-4)
As a society, we have allowed the busyness of everyday life to cause us to almost forget that we are all personally at war with earthly terrorists in this world. The same thing can happen regarding the spiritual conflict in which we find ourselves. In the Word the Lord tells us how to deal with those distractions that fritter away our focus and energy and encourages us to do things that will insure victory.
“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” (1 Timothy 6:10-12)
The Lord has also instructed us as to the nature of the war and has given us specific weapons with which to fight the war.
“…though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled. (2 Corinthians 10:3-6)
In order to accomplish this, we must be vigilant. Concerning the earthly war on terrorists, we must be careful to sift through the news and information we receive to decide which is true because believing lies about terrorists and their motives will negatively affect us as warriors. In the same way, we must monitor our thoughts and determine which are from the Lord and which are from the prince of darkness because the battle is being waged in our souls.
This is the principle reason we cannot depend on someone else to fight our own personal battles for us. They happen in the realm entrusted to us by God: our lives.
In this war on terror, we must also be aware of the people around us. Our earthly leaders are urging us to pay attention to anyone who might be acting suspiciously….people who are not behaving as if they have our society’s, and therefore our, best interests in mind.
In the same way, we must be aware of those who, knowingly or unknowingly, bring the enemy’s weapons into our souls. Lies, division and false doctrines are among his favorite weapons of soul destruction.
“Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple. For your obedience has become known to all. Therefore I am glad on your behalf; but I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil.” (Romans 16:17-19)
Living this way, God promises us victory!
“And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.” (Romans 16:20)
I close with one final encouragement.
“This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare” (1 Timothy 1:18)
The apostle Paul urged Timothy to lean on fresh things that God had told him. These are prophetic words given through living people, so that he would “wage the good warfare” – literally, that he would “serve in a military campaign” (wage) the “beautiful, virtuous, valiant” (good) “military service” (warfare).
Seek the Lord in this battle. He is the Commander in Chief, the Captain of our salvation (Hebrews 2:10). Direction must come from the Lord and it will - often through others in His army. Perhaps you received direction from Him through what you have read here. If so, honor Him by acting on His direction.
“The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things” (Philippians 4:9a - NASB)
The Greek word “prasso” translated in the NASB as “practice” means to “do repeatedly so it will become habitual”. God says that when we apply His direction habitually, we will experience something valuable in the heat of battle: the presence (experiential nearness) of an all-powerful God.
“and the God of peace shall be with you.” (Philippians 4:9a)