Tag Archives: battle

Training, sparring, fighting

There are at least three elements that make up a solid defender of the Christian faith.

Training

You can’t fight if you don’t know how. You might be able to flail about, but you won’t be very effective. What’s worse is that you are just as likely to hurt yourself and those on your side than you are the enemy. Especially since part of the training process is developing the ability to tell the difference between friend and foe and properly take stock of a battlefield before charging off to engage the enemy.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. -2 Timothy 2:15

Sparring

The expression used of a 2nd lieutenant in the army is “butter bars”.

After completing OCS (Officer Candidate School), a large number of newly minted butter bars tend to think that they are General Patton reincarnated and have the belief that after months of schooling they know much more than 30 year combat hardened NCOs.

Like the army, we are prone to think that mere knowledge will be enough to face the enemy with, and unfortunately many (including myself) have rushed off into battle without spending the time to properly spar with our fellow brothers at arms first.

The reason for this is simple. We never want to go into battle without at least stress testing new tactics and ideas with our battle hardened comrades. Its better to find out that our armor and weapons aren’t up to snuff in the sparring ring where our opponent isn’t seeking to do permanent damage than it is to discover our shortcomings as the knife is plunged deep into our heart by a true enemy.

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. -Proverbs 27:17

Fighting

All the training and sparring in the world is pointless if it is not ultimately employed on the field of battle.

The primary means of advancing the kingdom of Christ is through winning the hearts and minds of those around us who have been captured by the enemies of false teaching and sensuous pleasure.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. -Ephesians 6:12

Because of this, it is incumbent on us to “be ready in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2) to engage the enemy wherever we find him, in whatever form he happens to be in.1

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. -2 Corinthians 10:5

As we fight, it is important to keep in mind that the enemy is not “flesh and blood”. So when we are interacting with a non-Christian we should treat them with the utmost respect and civility. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fight with every fiber of our being the thoughts and practices that have captured them.

The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him. -G. K. Chesterton

At the same time

Training, sparring, and fighting should be ongoing activities in each Christian’s life. Some might object that new Christians shouldn’t be rushed into battle for fear of their being cut down. To that I propose that we “go to the lions” and teach our new recruits how to fight by going with them into minor skirmishes. Part of the role of a mature Christian should be designating and delegating strategic targets of opportunity for less mature Christians.

However it is incumbent on all Christians to charge the gates of hell in order to advance the kingdom of Christ here on earth.

  1. I’m using the personal pronoun “he” here to refer to anything that “sets itself up against the knowledge of God”. []
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What it looks like, when you’ve actually been in battle

My kids and I recently ran across the movie, The Guardians of Ga’Hoole. An epic fantasy adventure which follows the plight of a a few heroic owls as they fight injustice and evil. In one scene, Sorin, the main character, is being taught about bravery and courage. In this scene He observes his mentor, Elizaryb, writing and notices his mark matches the ones he has seen as the author of an battle he and his brother have spend hours reenacting.

I love Elizaryb’s response. He notes that heroes are not as glamorous in person as they are in our minds and battle is scary, and its only glamorized by those who have not been in there to witness the visible and invisible wounds inflicted by war, on all involved.

There is an old saying that “war is hell”. That saying applies as much to ideological warfare as it does to physical warfare. Sure, the pain and consequences are often (though not necessarily) radically different, but the brutality is no less real.

I am constantly amazed by other Christians who oooh and ahhh when I relay stories of past exploits where I’ve engaged people from various ideological backgrounds. They are usually enamored by such tailes and some even form a desire to join in such exploits themselves among the people they encounter on a daily basis.

But for far too many, it ends there. I never see them later and hear their grand tales of past exploits. They never take the steps to become a warrior.

Why is that?

My guess is that like Elizaryb, they come face-to-face with the brutality of war and they blink. They get into an argument and get their butt handed to them by a vastly superior and more seasoned foe and they decide they would rather feel good than rise to the challenge. Or they realize the amount of work that is really involved in running this marathon and so they quietly give up a few steps away from the starting line.

Now some of this is no doubt the fault of other seasoned warriors. For those of us who have ventured out into battle, even if only briefly and even if we’ve only been met with moderate success (if that), we have a responsibility to encourage and train others.

However the lion’s share of blame for this sad state of affairs rests on the recruits who never decide they want to go through with what they signed up for.

As a Christian community we need to stop praising the worship leader who has likely never set foot on the battlefield. We need to stop fawning over pastors who have never engaged their ideological opponents in open combat.

Instead we need to look for the seasoned warrior. The one scarred from years of fighting. The one who draws his sword without hesitation and uses it with a skill that only comes from months of practice and years of hard combat.

The Body of Christ is called to battle, and the last thing we need is more cannon fodder.

The cross is laid on every Christian. The first Christ-suffering which every man must experience is the call to abandon the attachments of this world. It is that dying of the old man which is the result of his encounter with Christ. As we embark upon discipleship we surrender ourselves to Christ in union with his death—we give over our lives to death. Thus it begins; the cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise god-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ. When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die. It may be a death like that of the first disciples who had to leave home and work to follow him, or it may be a death like Luther’s, who had to leave the monastery and go out into the world. But it is the same death every time—death in Jesus Christ, the death of the old man at his call. -Dietrich Bonhoeffer (The Cost of Discipleship, 99) [HT Pastor Brett]

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Soldier

Some ex-scripts from an article by my friend Jeff Henning on being a Christian soldier in God’s army:

“Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.”2 Timothy 2:3

..

Paul equated the life of a soldier with the life of a Christian. A Christian needed to have the civilian individualism taken out by disciplined training and the ‘team first’ concept installed in it’s place. He wrote “No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs” to mean that way of life had to cease. Being a soldier was a serious, full time job.

I wonder how we would change if we began to see our “walk with Christ” as more of a march?

About the Church, and Christian in particular, Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12:26 “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” This implies shared sacrifice, shared suffering, shared duty and shared reward. This is what we learned in boot camp, and what we should learn as new Christians. Jesus understood this concept. He said in John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends”.

Our problem is we bring our civilian mindset into the church. “my needs”, “my desires” and “my glory” is what matters. Shared suffering isn’t tolerated. The mission is clouded by special interest; Everyone wants to give orders, but no one wants to carry them out.

One of the sad realities of the feminization of the church is a lack of this mindset among Christian men.

Jeff’s last line contains a haunting question for us all,

Boot camp was tough, rugged and unrelenting, but it put in me the sense of honor, duty and courage. Christians, have you been to boot camp since you were sworn in to the Army of the Lord? Do you think you can take it?

I hope so, because what the army of God could use is a few good men who are willing to stand on their convictions, fight, and die for the truth.

Read the rest of Jeff’s article here.

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