Battle Perspective

A few weeks ago I wrote about Perspective. As Christians we almost invariably need to take another look at ourselves in every situation. The most crucial however, is Warfare.

I’m not talking about joining the US Marine Corps here, but rather the Spiritual Warfare we are involved in on a daily basis.

The battles we fight are not against flesh and blood, as Paul puts it, but rather we fight against ideas. “We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5 The Message)

Ideas, philosohpies, imaginations. These are what we must fight against.

I heard someone say some time ago that they imagined King David as the shepherd boy going toe to toe against Goliath. It gave them comfort to think of David looking at this giant and being scared. Goliath was a massive figure, and dressed in full battle gear he would have cast an impressive figure, it’s true. But when I read the story I see David’s heart. He was a young man powerfully driven by the Love of God, whom he had an incredible relationship with already.

He saw a man, nothing more, who dared to defy the army of the Living God. Armed and assured by his knowledge and relationship he went out and fearlessly first stunned the giant with the weapons he was most familiar with, then finally used the enemy’s own weapon to behead him. True, the sling may have killed the giant outright, but the removal of his head certainly completed the job!

We need to look at the attacks we endure with the same attitude David had.

Firstly we must look at what we already have in our armoury. God has given each of us tools to use in a fight we are familiar with and can wield with just as deadly accuracy at the enemy as anything he can launch at us. Saul offered David his own armour. David was unfamiliar with the weapons and had he chosen to use it the story would have had a very different outcome. Encumbered with what Saul had given him and unfamiliar with the use of the weapons, David would have died quickly and Israel would have fallen. When we come under attack we must use the familiar. The World will seek to have us use other things. Often, as Saul was at this point, well-meaning people will give advice that will result in our falling, not because the weapons are inherently bad, but simply because we don’t know how to use them. David went on to become a battle-hardened warrior in his own right, and fought many campaigns with a sword in his hand. But first he had to learn.

Secondly, once our familiar weapons have felled and stunned the initial attack, we can then look at how our enemy’s own weapons can be used to ensure his utter defeat. Ill health, financial loss, even death of a loved one can be turned around to Glorify God and defeat the enemy if we look to God’s wisdom on how.

In the midst of the first step it may now be obvious, but as the initial onslaught stops we can often see where God is directing our steps and how we can now use the very thing that the enemy wanted to use to destroy us, be it sickness, death or financial ruin (or any combination thereof!) to rebuild stronger and more Blessed than ever before, while the enemy is utterly defeated.

The Simple Things

Last night for 12 hours we were without water to our home. It was a hassle. I couldn’t shower, the dirty clothes needed to wait and I couldn’t have my evening cup of tea. This was an inconvenience, not a disaster.

I wasn’t well last night. I felt thick headed, my mouth was dry, I was nauseous and I needed to use the bathroom…

The little things like turning on a tap are what get to us. A few years ago I would regularly go camping for the odd conference. These camping trips were well organised with stand-pipes dotted about for supplying water and an ablutions block. But for cooking I had to fetch water. I would walk from my tent site to the tap nearest, which always felt like a trek, fill a couple of 25 litre jerry cans and walk back. That would do me for the day’s cooking, washing (don’t like to shower on camp) and drinking water. Some campers had mobile homes with fitments allowing them to drive to the tap and fill water butts with enough water for the whole weekend. Some made several trips a day because they had smaller containers.

Overnight last night I was reminded of this as I went and pumped water from the wellpoint in the garden (sulphurous and very much NOT drinking water) into jerry cans again for the toilet cysterns in the house. It struck me that this simple luxury we take for granted is an absolute necessity we cannot do without.

Water.

Jesus didn’t stand up and announce that He was the living egg and chips. He didn’t reveal himself to be the beer of life. Water. Simple water.

We cannot live more than a couple of days without water. Spiritually we need to be filled constantly with the Living Water of Jesus’ Spirit. Why? Because we leak.

Imagine taking a nail and driving it through a 25 litre container about an inch from the bottom and leaving it there. Then fill the can with water. You might not notice immediately, but the water immediately begins to flow out of the hole. The pressure from the air surrounding it forces the water out. Gradually the water all drains out until it reaches the level of the nail, and it levels off there. You can’t stop the flow on a camp site, you need to simply return to the source and top up. Regularly.

Spiritually it’s no different.

Top up or dry up. And Sundays aren’t enough alone. We don’t drive big mobile homes with enough storage space for weeks at a time. But we do have a link to the source. What we need to do is to plug ourselves into the source and we can keep going back as often as we need – that tap never dries out.

Jesus would withdraw from the disciples and go alone to pray. He needed to top up. If Jesus needed to, how much more do we.

Single Minded Focus

I really get hung up these days on being single minded. It never really occurred to me that I wasn’t until the latest battle I’ve had to fight. My wife is going through the biggest fight of her life, and as a result I am as well. She’s fighting illness in a way I’ve never had to before now. If she loses, she really loses. Faith requires focus. I firmly believe that it is not God’s will for her to be going through this. I have absolutely no doubt that He will ultimately be Glorified through it, but H e didn’t cause it. So I need to pray.

Previously when I’ve had to pray for something there has been an “acceptable” alternative that I could go to when it didn’t happen how I expected the answer to come. I shifted my expectations according to what was happening in the natural world around me. As a result my experience was hit and miss to say the least. Every so often I’d hold on despite what was going on and I’d see God work in big ways. It finally dawned on my lightning fast mind that I needed to hold on to my focus and to stick to it no matter what.

I used to be a marksman when I was at school. I was a pretty good shot with a rifle, and reasonable with an air rifle. The key was to focus on a single target. I realised recently that I need to apply that same focus to my Sprirtual battle that I use when I have a gun in my hands.

I used to love the old westerns growing up where there was some old-timer with a “scatter” gun. The sawn down barrel of a shotgun that would spray buckshot over a wide area was something that made me laugh and wish I’d been around then. As I learned more I discovered those guns are only really effective up close. The scattering of the pellets diffuses how powerful the shot is and actually in a fight a pistol was far more use for bringing down your enemy.

Prayer is like being a sniper. A scatter-gun prayer sounds great but is virtually useless. We need to pick out our target and fire directly at it – kill shots only. The enemy does nothing less to us. When our health or finances are attacked we often shout at God about it. We lose our jobs and we shout at Him some more. The sickness deepens and we still just scream impotently at God.

Impotent. Weak. Defeated.

This is not what God made us.

When we pray we should do what Jesus told us. Praise first. It’s like a sniper drawing his breath out to steady his hands. It clarifies the mind and puts us into a position where we can really see the target. Line up the kill shot second. Pick the point on the enemy where it will cause most damage to him and the best result for us. Fire and keep firing until he falls. There is no point in shooting once and walking away without making sure the enemy is fully defeated.

King David was a sniper of his day. He was skilled with a sling – deadly from a distance. He loosed the stone at Goliath’s head, hit the mark and the giant fell. Then for good measure, despite having buried a fist sized rock between his eyes, David takes the giant’s own sword and beheads him with it. The action simply states “This guy’s not getting up!”

Peter sees the man at the Gate of the Temple and fixes his gaze on him before he prays, then as if that’s not enough he drags the man to his feet. Healed.

Jesus set his face like flint as he moved towards the city of Jerusalem and kept his focus on the Joy set before Him… Us.

Single focus. Single target. Kill shot. Victory. Hallelujah!

Constant Change

Change happens. We can’t stop it. In fact, whoever it was that said “change is the only constant” first really knew what they were talking about.

But do things change?

Life moves on at an ever increasing pace, yet on a global scale nothing changes really. A Roman historian I remember studying 20 years or more ago in school lamented the breakdown of the family unit, the lack of respect children showed to their parents and the growing problems teachers faced with disruption and bad manners in the average classroom – 2000 years ago!

Even in our lives we have change that merely makes us more the same than we are different.

We diet to lose weight, yet the more we change our eating patterns, the more that final pound needs to be attacked. We go to work to make more money to buy the new things we “need” to survive, only to find they are obsolete, but just a little more and we can get the latest version, wich will then be obsolete.

I recently found myself in the detestable position of having to get a new cell phone. I’d rather have to find a new kidney. I liked my old phone. I knew how to work it, it didn’t use a lot of airtime to receive email and check the odd website online. But it was 3 years old, so the manufacturer has stopped producing the software updates it needs to function and now it is a paperweight.

And so I find myself back at the store being confused by the promises of wonder and hope that each new model brings. I finally pick one, a Nokia – perhaps a bit big, but it comes with the software and hardware I prefer to use (a qwerty keyboard instead of a touchscreen). I tell the assistant my choice and he tells me it’s not available on my package. The ones I really like are all not available on my package.

The worst thing in the world to me is to be shown something, convinced it is what I need and have always wanted by the sales department, and then told I can’t have it – or that there’s a hefty pay-in you don’t know about until you sign the paperwork.

So now I sit with my new phone beside me. It’s not one I wanted – in fact I distinctly and expressly stated I did NOT want this phone. Repeatedly. But it was what I could afford, and actually now I’m using it I find it is quite a good machine – and even is saving me money because I was able to get everything I need on a cheaper package!

Life sure can be complicated. I look back at this little event playing out over the last couple of weeks and remember 3 years ago I went through much the same before I got the much lamented and very deceased paperweight I mentioned. It happens to be one of those things that doesn’t change.

We resist change, but it is forced on us sometimes. But change defines who we are – how we handle the changes in our lives demonstrates to us and the world at large who we are and what we stand for.

Recently we underwent some major changes because of ill health in my family. We will have to make more as a result in a few weeks time. Yet the changes only make us more the same where it matters. On the surface much changes. Jobs come and go, houses rise and fall. Even friendships are transient. I have only occasional contact now with some of the people a few years ago I believed would be major players in my life for ever – even people I have lived with and my own family have drifted away from me as a result of changes, yet at my core I remain the same.

I am, in essence, a fallen man, redeemed by the Grace and Mercy of God through His sacrifice on the Cross, who has been raised to Son-ship and is a joint-heir with Christ in the Kingdom. No matter what cellphone I carry, what job I do or what happens to my family’s physical health THAT will never change.