Points to Ponder: How goes the War (In You)? ▄
Points to Ponder
How goes the War (In You)?
Much of the warfare going on around us is silent. Look in the faces of the people you pass on the street or in the mall. Notice the countenance of the driver in the car rolling along in the lane parallel to yours. Look in the rearview mirror while sitting at a stop light. How does the driver behind you look? Happy, content, or carefree? Or is there a stressed-out expression, a look of being distracted? Within the minds and hearts of many people, there are battles raging. Temptations that are relentlessly wearing down someone's struggle to resist. Trials are testing another's patience, stoking a growing flame of resentment and anger, crushing the motivation to persevere.
The apostle Paul admonishes the Ephesian Christians to draw strength from the right Source and remember that the believer's life is lived on a battlefield.
"Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:10-12).
The passage goes on to describe the "whole armor of God" and how one is to suit up for spiritual warfare. It is wise to be mindful that there is no army of one.
I have found that "divide and conquer" is the battle strategy of the enemy of our souls. When you think you can go it alone, that you don't need anyone else, or that no one would understand or care, then the enemy has locked on his target. Sure enough, you will make a series of small decisions/choices, being accountable to no one, and you will fall. The most likely to be deceived in this way are those who are doing well and feeling like they're blessed and comfortable. Only in cartoons does the Devil come dressed in red with horns and a pitch fork. Enemies infiltrate a secure zone by blending into what seems normal and acceptable.
I try to stay vigilant myself. As a pastor leading a new church with a building program underway and things going fairly well thus far, I'm watching for the spiritual attacks. My own weaknesses can make me vulnerable; my strengths can lull me into complacency. It's the door you're not watching that will be the one you forget to lock. This is not paranoia or even a source of worry. We've seen enough prominent, otherwise strong people fall. Trace backward along their life path and I'm sure, if they were honest, they could pick out the times when they weren't watching. They isolated themselves, kept their troubles, temptations, or trials to themselves.
"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world." (I Peter 5:8-9)
You're not alone in your particular field of battle. Others "around the world" are experiencing that too.
During trying times, I have seen God put His hand on my shoulder and come alongside of me in ways that oftentimes I could only recognize in retrospect. I've even seen how God, knowing what was about to come my way, will make a "pre-emptive strike," beating the enemy to the punch. How?
For instance, I have received an e-mail or a card in the mail sent to encourage me, telling me my prayer for someone was answered; or that something I'd advised long ago served to be "a word fitly spoken like apples of gold in settings of silver" (Proverbs 25:11). That would come in the same week I'm experiencing self-doubt. When feeling spiritually embattled, or just down, I would think about a friend I hadn't spoken to in months. Then, within 24 hours, he'd call. Once, while studying in a cafă, the friend I'd thought of the previous day showed up; just happened to be in the area. In tough times, it would be a virtual line-up of calls, or get-togethers over coffee that would just happen. I usually seek out an accountability partner; but then God seems to send out a dispatch and suddenly there are people who were "just thinking about me" who felt the need to call.
When people tell me they can be Christians without being part of a church or a fellowship, I'm torn inside by the sadness of knowing what they are missing along with their just plain disobedient attitude that feeds their thinking. Americans approach church in the same way they approach most things: what's in it for me? If it's not relevant to my life, then I don't need it. What a self-deception. And part of the self-deception is not even realizing that you are deceiving yourself.
Jesus talks about building His church (Matthew 16:18). The apostle Paul's letters are to churches (Ephesians, Galatians, Corinthians, etc.) or to the leaders of churches (Timothy, Titus). The early believers were devoted to gathering together, to share their lives, to study together, to eat and to pray together.
"And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine (teaching) and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers...
"So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart" (Acts 2:42, 46).
There is a reason for why we are commanded to fellowship.
"And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching" (Hebrews 10:24-25).
It's not just that you need to be in church. It's that the fellowship needs you there. We grow in Christ by contributing to how others are growing "in love and good works." And within that fellowship, God's Spirit works in and among us to strengthen us on the battlefield we know as life.
If you are going it alone in your faith journey, who's really in charge of it?
"...let him who thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall" (I Corinthians 10:12).
Points to Ponder is a series of occasional articles written by Rev. Dennis Whitmore, Pastor of Hilltop Christian Fellowship of Clear Spring, MD. These articles are also found at www.HilltopChristianFellowship.com.