Some of the most gripping drama is found in true stories of soldiers fighting on the front lines. Movies like Apocalypse Now, Saving Private Ryan, The Hurt Locker, and Zero Dark Thirty capture the life-and-death conflict that war is. I can’t watch movies or read books about combat without deep gratitude and admiration for those who have fought to preserve freedom. I know many who have served or are serving, and every day I live free, I thank God for them.
I never served in the armed forces, but when I was a boy, we used to sing a song that went like this: I may never march in the infantry, ride in the cavalry, shoot the artillery, I may never fly o’er the enemy, but I’m in the Lord’s army. When I got older, we often sang a hymn in church with these lyrics:
Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war;
With the cross of Jesus, going on before.
Christ the Royal Master, leads against the foe,
Forward into battle, see His banner go…
You might think we were war-happy, but we weren’t. The ‘war games’ we played as boys with wooden ‘guns’ was nothing compared to the brutal reality kids experience in video games today! But in a day of pretend cyber-battles, we’ve lost an awareness of the very real spiritual conflict every Christian faces on a daily basis. Scripture clearly exposes this battle:
For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6.12)
We have been called to this battle by our Savior, and the Apostle Paul urged us to be prepared to be ‘good soldiers’ by keeping focused on the spiritual conflict:
Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. (2 Timothy 2.3-4)
It may be difficult at the start of a new year – and perhaps unwelcome – to think about going into battle in the coming twelve months. But as with most wars, we have only two choices: Fight, or surrender. Many Christians are blithely unaware of the conflict. Others know of it, but are unprepared for combat. The weapons of this war are not guns or bombs, but the gospel, the word of God, faith, and prayer (see Ephesians 6 for a complete list).
I once heard someone say that in the battle of the Christian life, if you’re not on the front lines, you’re not in the battle at all. In the year ahead, I urge you to ‘get on the front lines’ in the spiritual battle. How? Here are a few ways to ‘enlist’ in the ‘Lord’s army’:
- Pray. Make time each day for personal, private prayer – for yourself, your family, your church, Christian leaders, and missionaries. You can also join the ‘prayer force’ that meets in the library at 8:30 each Sunday morning, as they pray for teachers and leaders.
- Read the Bible. Make time each day to read Scripture – use Our Daily Bread or an online guide if you want. And then go the next step: Attend a class at 9:00 Sunday morning, and join a Bible study (or start one!). And if you’re really serious, memorize a verse every week.
- Share the gospel. If you need to, take the ‘Growing in Discipleship’ training class when it is offered, then join others in sharing the gospel at Bussey’s or the County Fair. Another option is to join those going overseas to share the gospel this coming summer. (Talk to Phil for more info on this.)
Whatever you do…don’t do nothing. The battle is raging, and it’s not a ‘pretend’ conflict. It’s all about your life, and making a difference for eternity. Nothing could be more important than that this year.