“Are we there yet?” If you are a parent, you have heard that impatient question on a road trip. You probably remember asking it of your own mom or dad, ten minutes into a two-hour drive. Lately, I have been asking the same question of my heavenly Father, but I already know the answer: No, we are not there yet. We have not arrived at Destination Peace and Unity, a place Jesus desires for His Church.
The topic for this week is battle strategy. A spiritual battle strategy is needed because we are “not there yet” (i.e. “the new heaven and the new earth.” Rev. 21). If you are like me, I am not a fan of language that confuses and sometimes divides Christians on the very battleground we are talking about here, so bear with me while I offer my own weak definition of the topic.
Battle strategy refers to one’s spiritual plan of action in combating evil (wrongdoings, human state of rebellion against God, and the presence of evil in the world) and in making progress in bringing the Gospel (the Good News of God) to others. It is akin to a military strategy--the Apostle Paul instructs us metaphorically in the Letter to the Ephesians to “put on the armor of God,” which includes truth, salvation, faith, the Gospel, peace--in other words, remember who you are: a child of God saved by faith in Christ Jesus through His death on the cross, instructed to live in love and peace as we share the Gospel, enabled by the Holy Spirit’s power.
We do live in a world of good and evil, of the material and the spiritual, and yes, I believe in angels and demons. But I first and foremost believe that the powers of darkness (demons, Satan) have already been conquered at the cross (“And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He [Jesus] made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” Colossians 2:15).
Too often, we believers act as if a battle against Satan is still to be fought around every corner. Too often, we ignore the battle in our own hearts and the anger, hatred, resentment, racism and nonsense that line its walls.
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18).
Unfortunately, we are not there yet, are we? Every week, it seems, we face a battle of wills--our own, and others--instead of following the battle plan of our Lord.
Here are four “weapons” that wield great power: love, prayer, thankfulness and humility. I fail at these every day and when I am successful, it only comes through the power and grace of God, and by choosing obedience over selfishness.
Regarding love, Jesus said, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them (John 14:23). If we love God and actually obey the Word, we are winning the battle. If we love others, we are winning the battle. “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8).
Prayer: 1 John 5:14-15 encourages us, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us - whatever we ask - we know that we have what we asked of him.” “With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18).
Thankfulness: Being thankful even in the direst of circumstances defeats hopelessness; it may not change our circumstances, but it changes us. “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17). Anne Voskamp offers wise words in her book, One Thousand Gifts: “The brave who focus on all things good and all things beautiful and all things true, even in the small, who give thanks for it and discover joy even in the here and now, they are the change agents who bring fullest Light to all the world” (p. 58).
Humility: We believers who speak very sincerely about putting on the armor of God, should not forget the set of clothes Paul describes in Colossians: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12).
In summary, tools for battle for overcoming the evil one and success as a Gospel-giving Church are believing and proclaiming the name of Jesus; reading, believing and acting on the Word of God; and displaying a unity that so reflects God’s love that the world WILL know that Jesus is real and so is His love. Are we there yet?