Thursday, November 22, 2007
Stand up to the devil and he will turn and run.
The victory is ours... he makes it ours by our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Lord saves not with sword and spear.
Although we live in the world it is no worldly warfare that we are waging.
Fear not, and be not dismayed... for the battle is not yours but God's... you will not need to fight in this battle; take your position, stand still.
We will go up and fight, just as the Lord our God commanded us... And the Lord said... 'Do not go up or fight, for I am not in the midst of you.'
Aim at righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith.
... be strong -- not in yourselves but in the Lord... Put on God's complete armour so that you can successfully resist all the devil's methods of attack... we are up against... spiritual agents from the very headquarters of evil... Take your stand then with truth... righteousness... peace... salvation... the Word of God... faith... Pray at all times with every kind of spiritual prayer, keeping alert and persistent.
(James 4:7, NEB; 1 Corinthians 15:57, Moffat; 1 Samuel 17:47, RSV; 2 Corinthians 10:3, Weymouth; 2 Chronicles 20:15-17, RSV; Deuteronomy 1:41-42, RSV; 1 Timothy 6:21-12, RSV; Ephesians 6:10-18, Phillips)
In earthly warfare, both sides normally know when the battle was engaged, when it was over, what it was about, and who won. In Christian experience none of these aspects may be clear to us. Satan's cleverest strategy is deceit.
Deceit about the existence of warfare, so we don't actually expect life to be lived under battle conditions, day in and day out.
Deceit about the onset of each skirmish, to keep us unaware until long after battle has been engaged, and much ground has already been lost.
Deceit about the duration of each skirmish. If we don't resist Satan he won't leave us and flee. The order of events is clear.
Deceit about what constitutes victory. Unless I know what each side is aiming at in the battle how will I be able to work out who has won and when the victory took place?
Deceit about Satan's strategy. Frontal attack is not his style. Look out for something sneaky! He prefers poison to gelignite, debilitating to dynamiting. His greatest success in any given day is to make me just feel 'down' and out-of-sorts, burdened by life.
Deceit about our armoury. God never sends us half-armed into battle -- we ourselves launch in ill-equipped.
Deceit about our location in the battle, and therefore about our degree of participation in it. If we think of ourselves as the battleground or battle spoils we will see ourselves in a passive location, with God and Satan fighting on us or over us. If we see ourselves as participants but are worried we may get in God's way, we will keep well back and take little or no initiative. Our real location is to be out in front, with God beside us! No known wrong -- in our own situation, in any situation for which we have direct responsibility, or even in any other situation within accessible range -- is to be left unchallenged. Correct assessment of wrong should always be followed by a strong initiative to bring about change, sometimes by frontal attack but always by some deliberate strategy suited to the sensitivity of the situation. To 'pray about it and leave it to God' can be an unbiblical cop-out. Prayer is not an alternative to battle action: it accompanies battle action. We are to pray and watch at all times.
And everybody praised the Duke
Who this great fight did win
'But what good came of it at last?'
Quoth little Peterkin.
'Why that I cannot tell,' said he
'But 'twas a famous victory...
... But what they fought each other for
I could not well make out.'
Robert Southey, Battle of Blenheim
When the German soldiers went into World War I, most of them shared the popular belief in a nice God who would make everything turn out for the best. Actually, everything worked out for the worst.
Paul Tillich, The Boundaries of Our Being
'But sometimes virtue starves, while vice is fed.' What then? Is the reward of virtue bread?
Alexander Pope, Essay on Man
'... something else in him had died, something that he had long desired should perish. Was it not what he had once wished to destroy during his ardent years of asceticism? Was it not his Self, his small, fearful and proud Self, with which he had wrestled for so many years, but which had always conquered him again, which appeared each time again and again, which robbed him of happiness and filled him with fear?... Too much knowledge had hindered him; too many holy verses, too many sacrificial rites, too much mortification of the flesh, too much doing and striving. He had been full of arrogance; he had always been the cleverest, the most eager -always a step ahead of the others, always the learned and intellectual one, always the priest or the sage. His Self had crawled into his priesthood, into his arrogance, into his intellectuality. It sat there tightly and grew, while he thought he was destroying it by fasting and penitence.'
Herman Hesse, Siddhartha
'If the immediate and direct purpose of our life is not suffering then our existence is the most ill-adapted to its purpose in the world: for it is absurd to suppose that the endless affliction of which the world is everywhere full, and which arises out of the need and distress pertaining essentially to life, should be purposeless and purely accidental. Each individual misfortune, to be sure, seems an exceptional occurrence; but misfortune in general is the rule.'
Schopenhauer, On the Suffering of the World
'... this, at least, may be maintained, that we do not always find visible happiness in proportion to visible virtue... All that virtue can afford is quietness of conscience, a steady prospect of a happier state; this may enable us to endure calamity with patience; but remember that patience must suppose pain.'
Samuel Johnson, Rasselas
It need not surprise us that as an image to convey the nature of Christian living, the Holy Spirit uses that of warfare. No image could be more apt.
John White, The Fight
...subject to all manner of tribulations, to troublesome circumstances beyond number, which make us uneven in health, moods and disposition of heart and of behaviour; in a word, people whom God desires to bring low by countless trials and travail as much within as without. We must without doubt believe that it is to our advantage, that it is pleasing to God to sacrifice us to himself...
Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God
A victory is twice itself when the achiever brings home full numbers... In our last conflict four of his five wits went halting off, and now is the whole man governed by one.
William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing
E'en victors are by victories undone.
Epistle to John Dryden
One more such victory, and we are lost.
Some Christians are so self-confident that they think they can manage by themselves without the Lord's strength and armour. Others are so self-distrustful that they imagine they have nothing to contribute to their victory in spiritual warfare. Both are mistaken.
John Stott, God's New Society
'Much-Afraid,' said the two guides, stooping over her and shaking her by the shoulder gently but firmly. 'Much-Afraid, you know where your help lies. Call for help.' She clung to them and sobbed again. 'I am afraid to call,' she gasped. 'I am so afraid that if I call him, he will tell me that I must go that way, that dreadful, dreadful way, and I can't. It's impossible. I can't face it. Oh, what shall I do? Whatever shall I do?.'
Hannah Hurnard, Hinds Feet on High Places
The Hebrew words for 'salvation' are readily translated 'victory'.
F.F. Bruce, This is That
'If the people who run the show are so clever and so powerful, why don't they find something to suit their public?. All this poppycock about growing harder so that the grass doesn't hurt our feet...
C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce
From subtle love of softening things,
From easy choices, weakenings,
Not thus are spirits fortified,
Not this way went the Crucified,
From all that dims Thy Calvary, O Lamb of God, deliver me.
Amy Carmichael of Dohnavur
For yours, Lord, is the kingdom and the power and the glory for ever and ever. I thank you for accepting me into that kingdom and for making me heir to its privileges. Thank you for entrusting me with its keys and for giving me your power to war against the principalities and powers of evil, to bind them, and to loose situations and people in bondage to them.
Thank you that no testing I encounter during the course of today will be beyond your power. Armour me with discernment and the will to win. Help me to be patient in suffering and even to rejoice in it, so long as my own stupidity has not brought it upon me. Keep before me a vision of victory -- the victory of the cross -- and help me to see each day’s events from its perspective.
Thank you for understanding my frailties, the fluctuations of my faith and my utter foolishness in so much that I do. Help me to develop your strength, constancy and wisdom, so that I may grow up into you in all things and be conformed to your image and likeness. May you be satisfied with the travail of your soul for me.
Bless the Lord! Blessing and honour and glory and might be his for ever and ever. And now be assured of his blessing -- his abundant blessing -- on all that you seek to do and to be for him. You are his personal investment: he holds you secure in his mighty hand, and he will keep you secure until eternity. You are part of that great multitude that will one day stand before the throne, having come out of great tribulation. God himself will wipe away every tear from your eyes and your crying and pain will be no more. He will shelter you with his presence, and you will rest in his love. So work together with him for good -- a peculiar good for a peculiar people -- and may the blessing of a loving Father, an understanding Saviour, and the empowering of the Holy Spirit, be with you now and every day. Amen.
Still Waters, Deep Waters ed. By Rowland Croucher pp. 146-151