Too often I think Christians have a poor and even dangerous view of what it is to be intentional about living a missional life. There is way to much romancing and glamorizing and when the reality of what a missional lifestyle is really like is made known disillusionment and discouragement quickly set in. It's kind of like the heroic and brave stories we hear about war where the hero sacrifices his life to save his fellow comrades with the beautiful angelic music playing. It shares all the glory but very little of the blood, guts, pain and sorrow.
I personally think that the comparison of a soldier in wartime and the Christian living a missional life is very appropriate. The reason I feel this way is because
THE MISSIONAL LIFE IS THE WARRIOR'S LIFE!
As fully devoted followers of Christ we must never forget that we are not on a picnic where we are sipping lemonade and eating fried chicken. No! The life we are called to is a life in the midst of a raging battle where our enemy, Satan, is like a hungry lion seeking to attack and devour whomever he may. This is the reason why the Apostle Paul admonishes us to put on the full Armor of God; watch and pray; and stand and resist. Of all people the Apostle Paul knows all to well what lies ahead for those who choose to follow Christ on this mission. Paul had been stoned, whipped, imprisoned, shipwrecked, falsely accused of wrong doing, hated by his countrymen, and eventually beheaded for his faith in Jesus Christ. Over and over again Paul warns Christians to expect persecution as a normal part of the life of a Follower of Christ.
THE MISSIONAL CHRISTIAN LIFESTYLE IS NOT A LIFE FOR THE WEAK AND FEARFUL! IT IS A LIFE FOR THE WARRIOR READY TO FACE HIS ENEMY!
It is as if, when a person determines and announces that they are going to live a life for Christ and intentionally pursue the mission that Christ has commissioned, that Satan says,
"Oh really! So you think you are going to come into my territory, knock down my walls and liberate my slaves! I don't think so! No way! It's not going to happen!"
And then Satan goes up into the heavens, just as he did with Job and with the Apostle Peter, and demands permission from God to sift you like wheat. That's right. Satan is going to demand that God give him permission to spiritually attack you, to test your metal and to see if he can find any chinks in your armor. I mean, really, do we honestly believe that when we come to a place in our walk with Christ where we decide to follow him and obey him fully that it is going to go unchallenged by Satan? When we decide to live a missional life for the cause of Christ we have put a bullseye on our shirt that says,
"SATAN I DARE YOU TO TAKE YOUR BEST SHOT!"
Do your really think he won't? Here's the crazy part! THERE WILL BE TIMES WHEN GOD GRANTS HIM THAT PERMISSION.
How crazy is that? Doesn't that sound crazy of God? Why would God, who loves us, allow our enemy to attack us and possibly do harm to us? That doesn't sound like love! Does it?
Unless God Knows Something We're Not Thinking About!
A nation that intends to defend itself from their enemy will put together an army to fight on their behalf. The first thing that every new recruit goes through is basic training where they learn how to be an effective warrior. Why? Why put them through this training? Is it not so these new recruits will have the best possible chance of survival before they're thrust into the battlefield? In the same way God knows that the world is hostile to Him and those who belong to Him. He knows that we have a real enemy who truly does hate us! And God allows Satan to attack us but with limitations so that we can gain battle experience and strengthen our faith in God for even bigger challenges that will come our way.
Satan's goal is obvious. He desires to destroy our faith in God and leave us wounded and bleeding in the gutter!
However, God has a different goal in mind. James 1:2 says,
"Consider it all joy ... when you encounter various trials know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result that you may be perfect, complete and lacking in nothing."
Did you catch that? The trials, the difficulties and, yes. even spiritual warfare is designed by God to test our faith in order to make it stronger and make us complete with nothing lacking. Now that's truly amazing? While Satan wants to destroy our faith, God intends to use what Satan does to make our faith in Christ even stronger.
From the story of Job and Peter there are a three encouraging truths about spiritual warfare we need to understand:
- First, when Satan attacks us he first has to get permission from God to do so. Satan can't attack us any time he desires. He is never going to pull a fast one on God where he sneaks in an attack that God didn't know was coming. In the story of Job we first see Satan coming before God seeking permission from Him to attack Job and thereby prove that Job's faith in God was weak. It was only after God gave permission that Satan went out and attacked Job. The same was true of Peter! On the night that Jesus was to be arrested Jesus told Peter that he would deny him three times. After Peter insisted that he would never deny Christ, Jesus looked at Peter and said that Satan had demanded permission to sift him like wheat. Once again we see that before Satan could attack he first had to get permission from God.
- Second, once Satan receives permission he cannot do anything he wants because God also sets the conditions and limitations to what Satan is able to do. On the first attack against Job God placed the condition that Job himself could not be touched. So Satan went out and destroyed all his wealth and had all his children were killed. For the second attack God said that yes he could attack Job physically but could not kill him. Here we learn that when it comes to spiritual warfare Satan has to work within the boundaries that God has established.
- Thirdly, in the story of Peter when Jesus tells him that Satan has asked permission to sift him like wheat we also hear Jesus tell him, "But I have prayed for you..." The Bible tells us in the book of Hebrews that the resurrected Christ is now standing before God our Father as our High Priest always making intercession on our behalf. Now that's a powerful thought. The Son of God himself is constantly praying on our behalf during our greatest times of spiritual testing and warfare. NOW THAT'S THE GREATEST PRAYER WARRIOR EVER FIGHTING FOR US!
NOW THAT WE KNOW THAT THIS MISSIONAL LIFE WE ARE CALLED TO IS NOT A PICNIC BUT A RAGING BATTLE - HOW ARE WE TO LIVE?
First, every morning we you get up to start your day remember that you are going out to war. It's not a picnic, it's not a party, no, it's a battle! Therefore, suit up! Put on the full armor of God! Don't forget any piece but pray it fully on so that you are fully protected from Satan when he attacks. And rest assured he will attack. He is looking for a weak spot, a vulnerable place or a chink in your armor. If you are not careful to put on the full armor he will find that weak spot. So don't make it easy for him by failing to spend time in prayer before you start your day.
Second, throughout the day keep watching and praying. Just as a soldier out on patrol walking through a potential battlefield is staying watchful for any sign of the enemy, so you must be watchful for any sign that Satan is around. Satan, like a lion, is hiding and blending into the surroundings waiting for the most opportune time to pounce on his prey. The soldiers who aren't watchful make it easy. But do not only be watchful but also be praying. From where does our strength and power come to defeat our enemy? From ourselves? No! It comes from God. Quite literally it is God who fights our battle but He does it through us. Prayer is the conduit from which the power flows from the throne of God into our lives to defeat our enemies. A Christian who fails to pray continuously is like a soldier who has gone out to battle and has forgotten to bring his weapon.
According to Jesus failing to watch and pray is the exact reason why Peter lost his spiritual battle on the night that Jesus was arrested. In the garden Jesus had instructed Peter, James, and John to pray but then Jesus returned He did not find them praying but sleeping. He woke them and admonished them all but named Peter specifically to:
"keep watching and praying that you might not fall into temptation..."
And we know the next part of the story. They still were unable to stay awake and the result was the loss of a spiritual battle for them and in particular Peter.
Third, you need to stand and resist! The armies of old when they would fight with swords and shields would form a battle line where the soldiers would stand shoulder to shoulder with their shields forming one solid and hopefully impenetrable wall. The opposing army would run and charge them ramming into their shields hoping to create a break into the wall. The soldiers that formed the wall would stand firm and hold up their shields to buffet the assault and try very hard not to break the line thereby allowing a crack to form in the wall. These soldiers would continue to hold up their shields between them and their enemy until the initial push was stopped. Once they were able to withstand the initial assault and stop the push the soldiers would push back against their charging enemy with their shields creating a small little space between them and their enemy. They then would take their swords or spears and stab and kill the enemy that was right in front of them and then go back and form their wall of protection. Over and over again they would do this until the charging army suffered such losses that they would retreat like a dogs with their tails between their legs.
This is what is meant when the Bible tells us to STAND and RESIST! We stand with our shield of faith in the Lord Jesus protecting us when we see our enemy, Satan, charging with an attack. Once we have buffeted Satan's initial charge with our shield and stopped him in his tracks, we take our weapon, the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of Truth and we stab him with it. Our faith in Jesus stops Satan but it is our use of the Bible and scripture that allows us to fight back. That's exactly what Jesus did when he was tempted by Satan in the wilderness after fasting for 40 days. He used the Word of God as a weapon to fight off Satan's attack against him.
Now here's a wonderful promise that the Bible gives us! It says that if we resist the devil he will flee from us. That's right, you stand with your faith in Christ and you resist him by fighting back with the Word of God Satan will run away. Once he figures out that there is no way to crack your defense and fight off your attack on him he will run off but only for a while. Isn't that what he did with Job! After Job successfully fought off the first attack Satan asked permission a second time to have a whack at him.
Now please understand that the Bible says that if we resist Satan he will flee from us. BUT IT DOESN'T SAY TO RESIST TEMPTATION! Those are two totally different things. The Bible tells us that when it comes to temptation we are to flee and run from it. The best way to overcome temptation is to get away from it and put your focus on something totally different and wholesome.
SO HERE IS THE FINAL THOUGHT I WANT TO LEAVE WITH YOU. THE MISSIONAL LIFE IS NOT A PICNIC OR PARTY IT'S A BATTLE, WITH A REAL ENEMY, THAT REQUIRES US TO BE PREPARED TO ENGAGE HIM WHEN HE ATTACKS.
How well do you prepare yourself each day for battle?
Are you making sure you are putting on the full armor of God?
- Are you watching and praying? Are you ready to stand and resist?