How are things going for you at the moment?
Are you enjoying the last days of summer in the northern hemisphere?
Are you counting down the last days of winter in the southern hemisphere like me?
And what about your life?
How are things going there?
Are you content?
Are you hopeful?
Are you patient?
Are you at peace?
Are you full of faith?
Are you bearing fruit?
Are you experiencing grace and bestowing it?
Are you feeling strong?
Of course, on the flipside is an array of other states of being; discontentment, hopelessness, impatience, frustration, despair, pain, illness, injury and faithlessness.
Where are you?
And where is your God in the midst of it all?
When we are feeling contentment and peace, hope and assurance, we often forget the existence of our God and His purpose for us. Let’s be honest. Most of us have finite memories. Instead of basking in the glow of our God and His blessings, we take our fill of the moment’s gift. We give our feet a rest on a summer swing and enjoy the breeze that gently sways us this way and that; unaware of all that is happening around us.
However, in time, perhaps just as we’re making ourselves comfortable, the swing overturns and we find ourselves in a tumbled heap. We weren’t expecting the violent upheaval that sent us sprawling to the ground. As we look up, we find ourselves in the center of a battle. A crisis of health, the crisis of death, a work crisis, a relationship crisis, or even a crisis of faith has sent us reeling and we’ve become undone. We were not ready.
We should have been.
There is no proverbial bed of roses or reliable summer swing for the personal benefit of our rest, comfort and relaxation for a lifetime on earth.
We are in the middle of a battle. There is a great spiritual battle that contends not only for our heart and soul but for the hearts and souls of every man, woman and child on earth. Do we live with this understanding and the integral part and purpose we are to play?
There is a quote by Tom Downey that says this: A firefighter that can keep his cool in the kitchen is more likely to remain level-headed when things go horribly wrong in the fire.
What does that mean?
Let me explain it this way. We have a one-year-old oven that has now passed its warranty in our home. It replaced an oven that constantly ‘shorted-out’ and in turn tripped up every electric circuit in our house. Cooking and baking was a continual challenge with that old, unreliable oven. John repaired it and repaired it and repaired it. Finally, we asked our landlord if we could purchase a new stove and oven after a seven year struggle. She consented and we were blessed with a brand new oven last year.
A week and half ago, this one-year-old oven that passed its warranty began to ‘short-out’ just like its predecessor. Oh the frustration; especially when I was set to cook and bake for a house full of incoming guests. However, we kept our cool in the kitchen and decided to cook what we could outside on the grill. This wasn’t the greatest problem we’ve ever had in our lives, but kitchen antics can prepare us for larger challenges, greater battles or even a fiery furnace.
For when the fires of battle rage against us or against others, and my friend, they will rage at us some time or other; how we handle ourselves in the kitchen of life, is indicative of how we’ll respond to the horror and pain of this greater life as well.
Make no mistake, my friend: whether we choose to acknowledge this truth or not a massive spiritual battle wars all about us – all the time – for the souls of every man, woman and child.
A battle was fought long ago and is recounted here:
The Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh had 44,760 men ready for military service—able-bodied men who could handle shield and sword, who could use a bow, and who were trained for battle. They waged war against the Hagrites, Jetur, Naphish and Nodab. They were helped in fighting them, and God delivered the Hagrites and all their allies into their hands, because they cried out to him during the battle. He answered their prayers, because they trusted in him… because the battle was God’s. 1 Chronicles 5:18-22 NIV
These men were warriors of strength and might; well-trained and well-prepared for battle. In war, they utilized their warfare abilities and knowledge with skill. Yet, they did not rely upon their abilities, strength or knowledge alone. They were helped in their fighting by their God. In the midst of the battle, they cried out for God’s aid and deliverance. Their God answered them because they trusted in Him and because they ultimately acknowledged that this conflict was not theirs alone. This horrible, deadly battle was the battle of the LORD.
Matthew Henry wrote, “In our spiritual conflicts, we must look up to heaven for strength; and it is the believing prayer that will be the prevailing prayer.”
You may be enjoying the last days of summer and enjoying a time of rest.
On the other hand, you may be in the center of a battle and need the protection and deliverance of your God; no matter the size or intensity of the struggle.
In the midst of the melee, you may be suffering and in pain. I cannot imagine that the warriors of Gad, Reuben and Manassah did not suffer injury or loss as they fought on in the name of the LORD. Firefighters, too, suffer injury and emotional stress under the physical and psychological strain of what they endure in the midst of their fire-fighting and thereafter with the toll of the fire’s impact upon its victims. A battle is a battle; not a comfortable, summer meander with a reward of a sip of lemonade.
The thing is though most of us would prefer a summer’s meander and a life of continual comfort than to understand that we too are warriors in a spiritual battle for the life and death of souls near and far. Do we want to embrace and trust in the power of Christ and his suffering to reach our families, our neighbors, our communities, our cities, our countries and the far corners of the earth for their eternal life?
Paul wrote, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his suffering by becoming like him in his death.” Philippians 3:10 NIV
The men of Gad, Reuben and Manasseh were willing to give up their lives for the cause of their God and their nation. Firefighters rush into burning houses and forests that are aflame in hopes of saving the lives of people they do not even know. They chose to give up their comfort and self-centered interests to lay down their lives for a greater good. Jesus Christ did the same for us upon a wooden cross.
Mark Galli writes this in his book, Jesus, Mean and Wild: The Unexpected Love of an Untamable God: “…many of the difficulties that God sometimes directs and sometimes permits in our lives make sense when seen in a redemptive light. And such suffering is about more than character. God’s got the whole world in his mind, and he is looking for people who are keeping that world foremost in their minds as well.”
So how are we doing?
Do we have the world in mind? Are we trusting our God for our role and purpose in the battle that is now and that will come?
Photo from US Navy of Flickr