Seasons of warfare are unavoidable. In modern (or postmodern) times, many people view the personal quest for spirituality as a road to peace and transcendence, while associating “organized religion” with violence and war. This view has little to do with the Bible, but is in keeping with eastern religious philosophy.
Battle, warfare and fighting are inherently spiritual terms from God’s perspective, and those of us who follow Jesus need to see it in that light.
When we behave as though the battle isn’t real we make ourselves vulnerable to attack and defeat. “It happened in the spring of the year, at the time when Kings go out to battle…” (2 Samuel 11:1) is the prelude to one of the greatest failures in all of Scripture. When David’s armies went out to battle but the king himself stayed behind, what resulted with Bathsheba and Uriah led to the king’s tragic downfall.
There are seasons of calm and seasons of warfare, times when the battle must be fought and times when the fighting is most fierce. Regardless of the season, the admonition to “put on the whole armor of God,” is not an occasional suggestion but a daily duty. We wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers.
Sometimes we fail to recognize where the real battle lines are drawn and we suit up to battle one another. Fighting the good fight means choosing the right battles! It means saying “no” to skirmishes that distract and dishearten us from doing what we need to in order to win the victory in the real battle. Yes, we need to fight in such a way as to win.
Fighting a good fight has the capacity to energize us; it enables us to focus on the godly vision to which we have been called. It requires us to rely on the Lord more than we otherwise might—to be alert, to show true bravery. A good fight builds unity among fellow warriors, those who recognize what is at stake in the battle. Ultimately these battles lead to the preserving of life and to the saving of souls.
On the other hand, fighting the not-so-good fight causes unnecessary suffering arising out of misunderstandings, mistakes and miscalculations. Fighting the wrong battles can still energize us, but that energy is mis-spent on our own desires and deadly temptations- (think of King David).
When we fail to see the bigger picture we fall prey to our own weaknesses and insecurities. Instead of the alertness and bravery produced by fighting the good fight, we have a dulling of the spiritual senses that can lead to displays of stunning cowardice. Fighting the wrong battles in the wrong way also causes disunity and division in the ranks. The failure to watch out for one another leads to many needless casualties.
Recently I was watching the premier of Pacific, a mini-series about World War II. The very first battle scene was grippingly intense. It showed many dead and wounded, but even those soldiers who survived were covered in sweat and caked with filth; fear was all around. The survivors were devastated by the brutality and loss they had witnessed. It was as though they had lived an entire lifetime in those few hours of the battle. You could see it in their eyes.
As they say, “War is hell.” This is especially true when we do battle in the spiritual realm, because we are fighting against the denizens of Satan. Fully clothed in the armor of God, we still experience the stress and strain of the conflicts in ways that will change us forever. In those battles, we endure just a small measure of the sufferings of Christ. Remember His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane?
We may feel we should be protected from all grief and pain when, in fact, it is an unavoidable consequence of engaging in the spiritual battles that come with following the Lord. If we take the pain and even the losses we experience to the cross, God can use them to make us more compassionate, more courageous and more like Jesus.
The history of God’s people is filled with stories of battles—unfortunately, some of those stories show what happens when men and women of God fight the not-so-good fight, where nobody really wins. But thankfully, there are lots of stories of fierce battles waged and won for King Y’shua. Whenever we can read the stories of the heroes of the faith, whether from the Bible or in the accounts of people like Judson or Wycliffe or Saint, it helps us to keep our own battles in proper perspective. We find the strength and encouragement to stand when we see how others have stood.
I think back to the time ten years ago when we launched our very first Behold Your God campaign in Jews for Jesus. It seemed as though every circumstance conspired against us to turn us back from this major commitment to worldwide Jewish evangelism. Financial crises, long-time staff leaving the mission, personal failures, catastrophic illness; all these things hit our team hard, and all within a relatively short period of time. At first we kind of shook our heads over the “coincidence” of all this turmoil, but soon it was apparent that we were up against a major and deadly battle.
Looking back, I see how, once we realized it, these challenges worked a great deal of good for us in Jews for Jesus. A new sense of purpose and unity grew among our missionaries, a greater reliance upon the Lord and an intensified focus on the task at hand. Thankfully, by the power of the Spirit, we pressed on to win that battle to the glory of God and to the saving of many souls. In the same way, about three and a half years ago as we began to gear up for our first Behold Your God Israel campaign, we were hit with very similar circumstances. We faced huge health crises, financial struggles and personal turmoil that just can’t be chalked up to coincidence. And we are still in the thick of that battle.
We are not kings, but here at Jews for Jesus we are in a season of going out to war in the service of the King. Right now our brothers and sisters in Israel are fighting a battle we call our Sharon campaign. They are out on the streets of Herziliyah, Petach Tikva and other surrounding cities proclaiming the gospel, handing out gospel literature, holding up gospel banners and making the Messiahship of Jesus an unavoidable issue throughout this region in Israel. To keep smiling in the face of opposition, to keep loving when some express hatred, to keep caring when many we want to reach seem indifferent, to face a dozen rejections in order to be there for the person whose heart God has prepared—those are the battles our campaigners are fighting.
We have three more campaigns following on the heels of this one and we are battling on a lot of different levels in Jews for Jesus right now. Please pray for us.
What battles are you fighting? Remember that the circumstances of your life right now are not unrelated to the bigger picture and the spiritual warfare faced by all of us who follow Jesus. Make certain you are fighting the good fight. Keep your eyes on Jesus. Allow the conflict to sharpen your focus and strengthen your resolve. Avoid misdirected conflict and remember that our Messiah went before us so that we might become more than conquerors through Him who loved us.