Yesterday's post tackled the hypocrisy of our spirits; when there is an imbalance between the false image we project to the world, and the true state of our inner spirit. When such a disparity exists, then we are ripe for bondage to satan, and we are ineffective as a spiritual warrior for the kingdom of God.
Today let's consider the possibility that some Christians understand the need for spiritual warfare, and the fact that there is a battle raging in the spiritual realm -- a battle that, as Christian soldiers, they are called to engage in. But for whatever reason, they face barriers to putting on the armor of God, and are willing to just sit on the sidelines, unprotected. Note: it is God's armor that we put on -- not our own! We are actually protecting ourselves with weapons that belong to God; that are part of Him, and keep us "conformed and transformed" to His image.
So what are some issues that would keep us from putting on this armor and getting into the fight? The first thing to consider might be indifference or apathy towards the fight. This attitude is expressed by Christians who just aren't interested in fighting, or who think that it is unnecessary to fight ... "God is in control, and there is nothing we can do to change His will" kind of people. They feel like the fight is not theirs, that all the combat is between God and the devil; they are just on the sidelines waiting for the Big Boys to duke it out ... besides Jesus has already won, right? The victory has already been declared, so what is there to fight about?
So why does the Bible tells us there is continual conflict with evil, and to "fight the good fight of the faith"? We must push back against the forces of evil, and that calls for a fight! It's not about aggression and militancy; it's about God first loving us, and then us loving others so much that we are willing to fight for them to enter the kingdom with us. You can't be apathetic and uninvolved, and expect to beat the enemy.
That always amazes me, because I just wonder what they do with Ephesians 6:10-17? Is it just religious speech or dialogue to them? If they are Christians that believe that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, then how do they dismiss the specific admonitions of these verses? If they don't believe in the fight, or the necessity of it, then they would have no use for the armor, and somehow manage to ignore this passage or explain it away in some trivial manner.
But to anyone who has ever engaged in a real spiritual battle, these verses speak the language of war, and a spiritual warrior recognizes them as a call to arms. However, a Christian who doesn't believe in spiritual warfare simply thinks, "I'm just experiencing a season of bad luck", or "God is allowing this to come upon me to discipline me and draw me closer to Him". They do not possess the knowledge that the same satan and demons whom Jesus fought -- and who were very real -- are the same entities we are fighting today. They are not symbolic or metaphors for our sin; they are very real beings who have the capability and power to get directly involved in the affairs of human beings, and who are intent on beating us on the battlefield of our lives. We must put on the armor God gives us and get in the fight!
The third attitude that can befall a Christian is when they become demoralized or disheartened in the fight. Let's face it, fighting in a war is hard and exhausting work. No soldier can stay at a constant state of readiness without wearing himself out physically, psychologically, or emotionally. Add "spiritually" to that list if you are considering the spiritual warrior. We must learn to pace ourselves; to give ourselves time to praise our Lord for all the times He protected us from the fiery darts of the enemy during our seasons of battle. As I've read articles that Pastor David Ireland has written about spiritual warfare, no words have struck me so squarely between the eyes than when he wrote, "This battle lasts a lifetime. It starts when we're born, and it should take on a new clarity when we're born again. [The battle never ends in this lifetime]; it ends when we die. The battle ends when heaven's gates open to us."
So we must learn to conduct our service as a spiritual warrior at a slow and steady rate or speed in order to avoid overexerting ourselves and becoming discouraged or dispirited. We must conduct a balanced life; one that finds equilibrium between our family, careers, taking care of ourselves physically, emotionally, spiritually ... and going into warrior mode when needed; alert and prepared. We need to find encouragement through interaction with other warriors and we need to be realistic about our fight. Demons and devils aren't lurking around every corner, but we must never let our guard down --- just don't become obsessed and "on" all the time.
Finally, the last attitude that can disassociate a Christian from God's armor is contempt, scorn or condescension for the fight. This attitude pervades the minds of Christians who are beset by hopelessness, or who think "What's the use"? And, interestingly enough, the disdain for spiritual warfare is shared with those Christians who will say that we are saved by the grace of God, not by our works; so putting on the armor of God and fighting is taking things into our own hands and not relying on God for our salvation. They will say things like, "If God wants me delivered, He will deliver me right here and now. And if He doesn't want me delivered, I won't be. It's not my place to interfere in God's plan for my life". But He wants us to partner with Him; to exert the power of Jesus that resides in us to defeat our enemy. He doesn't want us to be robots, just waiting around for Him to do all the work. How does that glorify Him?
This kind of Christian will never put on the armor of God because he's afraid to trust it in the midst of the battle. Therefore, he never even steps onto the battlefield, and when the enemy attacks him, he is left defenseless with no protective armor nor weapons. His prayers will most likely be ineffective because there is no belief that he has the power and authority of Jesus backing him up. And when his prayers go unanswered, he will just default to defeated mode.
Pastor Ireland explained it another way: "Just as some people enroll in the U.S. Army because of the fringe benefits—a striking uniform, tuition assistance and future veteran's benefits—God's army attracts similar inductees. Some people come to Christ only because of the promised salvation and ticket to heaven—which I admit should not be passed over. Yet they have a disdain for fighting. [But] the calling to be a Christ-follower does not stop with being born again. It progresses to discipleship, which is synonymous with representing Christ on your knees in battle for the souls of men. Paul's words to Timothy hold true for us today: Endure hard times as a good soldier of Jesus Christ."
My final thoughts are these ... just as soldiers in the wars of the world suffer injuries, pain, and wounds, we spiritual warriors will encounter our share of trauma. But we do not battle alone. Jesus, our General, accompanies us into each and every battle, and commissions the Holy Spirit to guide us through the minefields. If we suffer bruises and affliction, we can rest assured that They will heal us and restore us; They will give us rest and peace; and They will strengthen us to renew the battle for another day. Yes, our spiritual armor may have dents, but at least we know we can depend on it to carry us to victory!
Psalm 18:39 "For You have encircled me with strength for the battle; You have subdued under me those who rose up against me."