After one of our recent men’s breakfasts as I stood during worship, trying to get my mind focused on the Father, these images and thoughts came to me. I saw myself as a small child, perhaps about twelve, dressed in what looked like ancient Roman battle dress. What I saw made me look comical. Almost as fast, I saw myself as a grown man, but this time I was fumbling about, trying to put on this armor of God[i]. In either case, I was ill prepared to battle anything. My mind quickly put these two scenes together as the Spirit of God started speaking to me about the warrior mentality we try to push on believers.
This particular Saturday morning, having experienced sixty years of life, I wondered how many other men are like me and do not have a clue. Most of us have been faking having some kind of control over our own lives by putting on a macho show for the guys, who, like me, are just faking it. Sadly, I think we have at least learned how to be just aggressive enough to intimidate people and keep them from probing into the damaged hearts we carry.
I realize what this warfare preparation is meant to get people ready for the varied spiritual battles[ii] we have to face, and hopefully to cover each others back, ideally before the attacks come[iii]. However, this attempt at preparation tends to miss two groups: those that are embroiled in battle and seem to have no armor at all, and those that were never taught how to fight.
We tend to talk about putting on the armor of God as if it is a foreign substance; something that you must use when you are knowingly going into battle. The reality is, your thinking should be more like a bodyguard, constantly prepared for that “it’s not a matter of if, but when,” situation. Trust me, most of the time the battle will come to you.
A few days before this, I had watched a television show called Ancient Assassins. What caught my attention was the older leaders efforts to train his bodyguards in preparation for the “what if” situation. The examples were appropriate to the seventeenth century in which this took place, and fitting for an opponent reaching across his body to draw a sword, what do you do if they strike from above, or slash at you from a low angle. The last one I mention is the one that we followers of Christ seem to deal with the most. Considering that it seems as though most of the attacks against us feel like sneak attacks, what do you do to prepare for the attack that comes from behind?
Therein lies the problem, where does one learn these skills?
Having recently been invited to watch a friend’s son play soccer, this idea of being taught how to prepare for battle became very clear. This young man seemed to have no clue that: he was in a battle; that this will most likely hurt; that no one cares about your hair; and that many situations, like this one, demand focus and training; even worse, he has a dad that chooses not be involved in his life.
That young man playing soccer that day could have easily been me, because as a child with undiagnosed learning disabilities, I can remember playing baseball, standing in the outfield, picking daisies, and singing some stupid song over and over. I had no clue what the game, or the life I was going to experience, demanded. I had no idea that this moment in time, lost in the outfield, might be a microcosm for my life to come.
I cannot remember having a strong motivation to be competitive. Why tell you that, because all life seems to grow from our experiences, where interaction is thrust upon us. Classrooms always have a few children that quickly answer questions and therefore gain the positive attention of the teacher. In my case, I was always on the edge of obscurity because I just did not get it and was not assertive enough to ask questions.
The other prevailing aspect of grade school is the playground, where pecking orders are established. You quickly begin to realize who the bullies are. I understand, for I had issues with games like dodge ball, where a cluster of the most aggressive kids you knew, intentionally tried to knock your feet out from under you. My solution for that non-sense was to play marbles (which I used to be good at) while honing my skills at avoidance, and isolation.
No, not all were bullies, but they were certainly competitive, and aggressive. I had no idea how to be that kind of person, because as a child I lived under the threat of severe punishment if my mother ever learned of me striking back at someone.
The bottom line, no one taught me to fight the good fight of faith[iv] as a child, but even worse, I was never taught to fight at all.[v] Do not get me wrong, I am not trying to glamorize socking someone in the nose, but if your life is frozen by fear, you will do nothing, and worse, you will probably preach that we should be a community of do nothings, and God never asked us to do that.[vi]
I realize that at some point you have to own your life and your decisions, but what if your decisions were framed by a lack of training, and responsible role models. Then I need to find people that are willing to be my role model and get myself retrained. (That concept seems so irrelevant at this point in life.)[vii]
If being a warrior is what is demanded, somehow I found that place.
I do not know how I did it; perhaps just spending time in God’s Word that created that warrior image inside of me. (One of my favorite characters in the bible is the prophet Samuel. Samuel had his issues, we all do, but he was not the typical pale skinned Pastor.[viii]) It does not matter where this image came from, but somewhere along the line, I developed what I thought was a warrior’s mentality. Here is a thought; maybe I watched too many highlights of the Vietnam and Iraq Wars. What I have come to realize is that there are times the warrior mentality will get you killed over foolishness.
If my focus is on the two groups I mentioned earlier, then how do we change the outcome of their battles?
To those that find themselves already in this position: embroiled in battle, with no apparent armor. If you are in Christ, you have an advantage already. This of course means nothing if you do not understand the relationship you have with Christ. (If I were your enemy, I would make it my goal to see to it that you never comprehend this idea.)
Here are some verses that speak toward your place in Christ and what it does for you:
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1-2 ESV)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, (Ephesians 1:3 ESV)
The general idea is this, God, well pleased with the actions of His Son, enthroned him next to himself. Everything necessary was done to restore man and creation. It would seem that if God sees that in his Son, and we are in the Son now, then he should see those traits in us.
How does that help you when you stumble incessantly, as I do?
An aspect of constantly stumbling is wrapped up in our lack of faith. Do not get all depressed because I made that statement, thinking that you have to work harder. For whatever the reason we choose not to believe that the price Jesus paid was enough. I am sure that Paul was speaking to something of this nature when he wrote to the church body in Rome.
Since the composition of the early church was primarily Jewish by tradition, they too were steeped in the Law of Moses. Following the law only pointed out our sins.
(Romans 3:20, 21 ERV) “.. no one can be made right with God by following the law. The law only shows us our sin. But God has a way to make people right, and it has nothing to do with the law. He has now shown us that new way, which the law and the prophets told us about.”
This knowledge was not something new, they just did not see it, or worse, they refused to see it. If you have come to know this Jesus Christ, then you have seen it, and God made you right that day, whether it feels like it or not. He will make anyone right in his eyes if they come to Him and believe.
(Romans 3:22,23 ERV) “God makes people right through their faith in Jesus Christ. He does this for all who believe in Christ. Everyone is the same. All have sinned and are not good enough to share God’s divine greatness.”
Maybe you noticed what made this happen, this life we now have in Christ. It was only by his grace. Pastor Greg Laurie of Harvest Christian Fellowship, explains grace as simply as this: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. Even if you had been the most pompous and arrogant Pharisee, following every law to the letter, it would not have gained you an advantage, for it is a free gift, purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ.
(Romans 3:24,25 ERV) “They are made right with God by his grace. This is a free gift. They are made right with God by being made free from sin through Jesus Christ. God gave Jesus as a way to forgive people’s sins through their faith in him. God can forgive them because the blood sacrifice of Jesus pays for their sins. God gave Jesus to show that he always does what is right and fair. He was right in the past when he was patient and did not punish people for their sins. And in our own time, he still does what is right. God worked all this out in a way that allows him to judge people fairly and still make right any person who has faith in Jesus.”
I understand that we need to change the course of this dangerous, overflowing river called our thoughts by aligning and replacing our thoughts with His. I am telling from experience that this is not as easy as it sounds, for you will be met with the most vile of opposition and it will be disguised as friends, family, and those who claim to mean you well; they do not, unless what they bring you is directly from God’s word.
My suggestion is to start feeding yourself on the character of God. Find out who he is. Allow Him to build an image of his love toward you, and understand that God, in the person of Jesus, displayed a fierce anger toward religion and its phoniness. You need to find the true God and the true you. Yes, this is going to take a little more time than you anticipated, but then how long have you been mired in this despair you feel? Get yourself into recovery; there are some sober and sane people there, but keep in mind that we are all still broken, and that will not change completely until the day we meet Him face to face.
Give healing some time, as I must do, for the day will come when clarity will be a constant aspect of your life, and you will be the sage that others come to for help. Aside from that, we followers of Christ have a hope, and that is eternity with the one who paid the price for our freedom by giving His life on our behalf.
[i] Ephesians 6:10-18
[ii] 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 (ERV) “We live in this world, but we don’t fight our battles in the same way the world does. The weapons we use are not human ones. Our weapons have power from God and can destroy the enemy’s strong places. .”
[iii] You can argue all day long, but you cannot prepare for everything. If that were the case, then ancient warlords would still hold their ancestral rule over nations.
Ecclesiastes 9:12 (ERV) “You never know when hard times will come. Like fish in a net or birds in a snare, people are often trapped by some disaster that suddenly falls on them.”
2 Timothy 2:24-26 (KJV) “And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.”
[iv] 1 Timothy 6:12 ERV We have to fight to keep our faith. Try as hard as you can to win that fight. Take hold of eternal life. It is the life you were chosen to have when you confessed your faith in Jesus–that wonderful truth that you spoke so openly and that so many people heard.
[v] 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 ERV (3) We live in this world, but we don’t fight our battles in the same way the world does. (4) The weapons we use are not human ones. Our weapons have power from God and can destroy the enemy’s strong places. We destroy people’s arguments, (5) and we tear down every proud idea that raises itself against the knowledge of God. We also capture every thought and make it give up and obey Christ.
[vi] Deuteronomy 11:8 KJV Therefore shall ye keep all the commandments which I command you this day, that ye may be strong, and go in and possess the land, whither ye go to possess it;
[vii] When King David is about to die, he calls Solomon before him and gives him a talk on wisdom. Considering how poorly David handled his own life, and the lack of parental care he showed his children, I suppose this makes sense. He had not sat down with any of them and told them how to handle life; Bathsheba could be a striking example of that. Here are his words to Solomon:
1 Kings 2:1-4 CEV “: My son, I will soon die, as everyone must. But I want you to be strong and brave. Do what the LORD your God commands and follow his teachings. Obey everything written in the Law of Moses. Then you will be a success, no matter what you do or where you go. You and your descendants must always faithfully obey the LORD. If you do, he will keep the solemn promise he made to me that someone from our family will always be king of Israel.”
One might assume from this that God is our only hope and that in staying under the umbrella of God’s mercy we gain knowledge of him. Solomon certainly was not going to learn it from his dad.
[viii] 1 Samuel 15:32-33 ERV Samuel said, “Bring King Agag of the Amalekites to me.” Agag came to Samuel. Agag was tied with chains and thought, “Surely he won’t kill me.” (33) But Samuel said to Agag, “Your sword took babies from their mothers. So now, your mother will have no children.” And Samuel cut Agag to pieces before the LORD at Gilgal.