As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. -- Isaiah 55:10-11

Monday, October 1, 2007

The Reality of War

Lately I’ve been hearing comments that have been bothering me. They aren’t new. The philosophy and theology behind them aren’t new, but my reaction to them is. Instead of having sympathy or commiserating, I’m getting annoyed. Actually, I think I'm beyond annoyed because I realize the mindset behind the statement gives too much power where it doesn't belong. It creates weakness where strength should abound. I see the lie that is just enough Truth to keep people from being free, and it is time for the sword to cut loose the shackles.

What is this statement, you wonder? It’s a statement so innocuous that it has become cliché and evokes no response of action but rather feeds the victim mentality that allows us to live impotent lives because we are at the mercy of the powers that be, and sadly, we put more faith in the power that be against us than that which is for us. And before you misinterpret, my annoyance isn’t aimed toward an individual speaker. My annoyance is toward the generalized ignorance of the church as a whole that perpetuates the thinking that keeps us from preparing appropriately for the inevitable and thus enabling us to continue to give excuse for not living at higher levels of spiritual power and maturity.

The statement has different versions , but it all comes down to one simple statement: The enemy is attacking me in some way, and it’s making things hard.

And people seem somehow surprised or like they are the only ones or that they should in some way be exempt. I’m not sure what their thoughts are exactly. I only know the results. And understand, I’m not judging. I have no room to judge. I’ve said the same things, felt the same way. “Poor me, I’m being attacked. Feel sorry for me. I’m being attacked. I’m so godly or doing so much for the Kingdom the enemy sees me as a threat, and I’m being attacked. I’m making progress, and the enemy is attacking me.” I’m telling you. I’ve been there.

We wear the scars of the onslaught like a badge. We use it to get sympathy or esteem or both. It’s a reason for special treatment one way or the other. It’s an explanation for why we act the way we do. You know what it really is? It’s an excuse not to live above where we are.

Now, I’m not saying we are never attacked, and I’m certainly not suggesting we live in denial. In fact, I’m saying we need to do just the opposite. We need to acknowledge that we are in a war. These are not potshots that the enemy is taking to ruin our day. These are bombs he has devised to destroy our lives. We are either stupid or ignorant if we think otherwise.

Jesus told us about the enemy of our soul who wants to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). Peter said the enemy goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). Paul said “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:12).

Why are we surprised when the enemy attacks us? We shouldn’t be.

Last week I was talking to someone, and she mentioned how “the enemy attacked you yesterday because of the women’s group you are leading.” I looked at her and said simply, “Honey, I’m a Christian. The enemy is going to attack me whether I’m leading a women’s group or not, and to believe otherwise is beyond naïve. It is a setup for a downfall.”

Last night I received an email from someone that said, “Pray for us. We are in a battle up here.”

My first thought was, “Duh. We’re in one here, too. Welcome to being a Christian.”

And you know what? It’s not like being a Christian is going to stop the enemy from attacking. His being, his essence, is that of destruction.

Look at all the children who are set upon by the enemy. Look at the drug addicts who don’t even know who Jesus is. Look at the prostitutes who have never been told about God. You cannot describe the assault on their lives as anything less than demonic, and it wasn’t because they were busy building the Kingdom. The enemy’s attacks are not in relation to one’s spiritual status. The enemy is who he is, and he is a hate-driven destroyer whose plan today is to do whatever he can to steal, kill, and destroy any life he can.

I’m not sure why the church seems so nonchalant with the idea that we are at war. The whole topic is treated as one we should skirt around or bow beneath in fear. It’s like taxes. It’s part of life, so you just learn to live with it and cope with the oppression.

Where exactly is that in scripture? I haven’t found it. Jesus dealt with the same attacks we do. People didn’t believe in Him. Religious people thought He was crazy. His “group” was full of folks who might get it right or not on any given day. When He needed them most, they went to sleep on Him. His family thought He was crazy. He was an illegitimate child raised in a society where folks could die for that sort of thing.

Where did Jesus ever use the attacks of the enemy or circumstances of life as an excuse for having a bad day, for not living up to potential, or for hiding from His calling? I’ve yet to find a place where He did. You know why? Because He knew three very important things:

1) He knew who He was.
2) He knew who His Father was.
3) And He knew who the enemy was.

Jesus knew the enemy’s character is destruction. He also knew His Father was bigger. He knew His plan was bigger, and He knew on any given day the enemy would be who he is but that did not preclude Jesus being who He is. Jesus expected Satan to act like Satan, but He also expected His Father to act like God Almighty, too. The latter is what empowered Jesus to be who He is. Therein is the key.

If we believe we are going to have a day when Satan does not attack us, we have believed a delusional lie that is setting us up for a fall. Satan can’t not attack us. It’s against his nature. He will attack us. That is not the question. The question is how we will respond.

The joy of our day and the power we walk in cannot be dependent on not being attacked by the enemy. Our joy and our power is dependent on one thing only: our identity in Christ.

When Jesus was attacked by Satan in the wilderness, Jesus didn’t falter because He knew the Truth. When He was heckled for saying the little girl was only sleeping, He didn’t waiver because He knew He was the Healer. When His family doubted, He didn’t because He knew His Father. When the storm rocked the boat, He slept because He knew His purpose wasn’t done and He knew the One who controlled the waves. Over and over the enemy threw sources of discouragement, rejection, and doubt at Jesus, and Jesus never faltered because He knew who He was.

We talk about the armor of God. It’s a nice phrase, but do we understand it? Have we dug in and learned the Truth so we can buckle on the belt? Do we understand that salvation is more than a “someday in Heaven” thing so we can wear the helmet without it falling in front of our eyes keeping us from seeing and being ready to attack what is in front of us? Do we walk in peace, or are we tripping over the enemy’s false definition of it? Do we know the basis of our righteousness and what it affords us so we can protect our hearts, or are we still trying to earn it and having hearts diseased with guilt and condemnation? Do we know the Word so we can use our swords? Do we have faith to pick up the shield little less use it?

Folks, we are at war. There is an enemy with a relentless desire to steal or destroy everything he can. To think we can escape or avoid him is sheer ignorance. To think we can ignore him and hopefully come out intact is apathetic. To let him go unchecked is irresponsible.

Jesus never baited the enemy, and I’m not suggesting we do. However, Jesus never ran from the enemy, and He never circumvented His call in an effort to avoid the enemy either. If we are going to be the light this world needs and be the agents that the Lord can use in order to allow His Kingdom to invade this world, we can no longer be surprised by the enemy’s character or be victim to fear of his attacks. Jesus faced the same attacks daily that we do, and yet, He walked victoriously. Jesus said it simply, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33).”

It is time for the army of God to stand up, take responsibility for being warriors, and walk in the victory of Christ. We have a world take. We have marriages to defend and families to protect.

Victory will not be determined by your not feeling the enemy’s attack today. It’ll be determined by how you respond. Are you prepared to be victorious?

Copyright Jerri Phillips 2007


Jan Parrish said...

Stand firm then! We are in battle and this is a good reminder.

Stop by my blog. We are celebrating Breast Cancer Awareness Month with prayer request, praise reports and memorials for those who have or have had breast cancer.

Linda said...

Thoughtful, mature writing. Thanks.

Jenny B. said...

Amen, sister!
And we can be victorious by being thankful to Papa, rejoicing, and worshipping!