Before defeating the Philistines, King David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I go and attack the Philistines? Will you deliver them into my hands?” The Lord answered him, “Go, for I will surely deliver the Philistines into your hands.” After successfully defeating them at Baal Perazim, they came up again and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim. Once more David inquired of the Lord, and again the Lord gave him instruction for the battle. David did as the he’d been commanded, and the Philistines were defeated all the way from Gibeon to Gezer (2 Sam 5:19-25).
Not that long ago it would have been experts, experience or formal instruction we turned to when preparing for life’s challenges, I guess today it’s more likely to be the internet or social media.
It might be that we’re undertaking a new DIY task, getting ready for a significant sporting feat, helping children with their homework, or maybe just struggling with some new technology. The list could go on, as can the sources of advice. But as soldiers facing a battle, would we head for Google to prepare?
When I joined the RAF, in fact even when I’d left over 9 years later, the internet and social media weren’t options! Yet, I’m sure that even if they had been, we still would’ve been running around in full kit, carrying SLRs (rifles) and being bellowed at by an NCO as we undertook basic battle training. There is arguably no substitute for rolling up our sleeves and getting on with things! Which, by the way, is probably why most of us blokes never bother to read instructions!
So, if we acknowledge that tendency to ignore instruction and get stuck in when a task is unfamiliar, how much more likely are we to ignore it when we’ve faced a situation many times before?
Despite my maturity (in terms of days on the planet) it’s only in recent years that I’ve properly understood that every day we go into battle. Quite often it’s the same stuff, some days it will be new stuff, other times we won’t even recognise it as stuff that we need to deal with.
Jesus broke the power of sin by his death and resurrection. He disarmed and triumphed over the enemy Satan, yet there remains guerrilla warfare all around us. Warfare designed to damage, discredit, deceive, divide and discourage us. But in whatever way these battles confront us, we have the most comprehensive instruction manual ever written, the Bible.
As ‘soldiers’ for Jesus, we can ask some questions about our ‘battle readiness’:
- What sort of shape are we in physically, emotionally and most importantly spiritually? What’s our relationship like with God?
- Do we recognise that whilst there will be the familiar battles, the battlefield itself will change? We need to train and equip ourselves for every possible scenario. Gather as much information as possible about the ‘terrain’ (context), the people involved and the origins of these battles.
- Have we got all the kit we need and do we know how to use it?
- Are our combat skills up to scratch?
In his letter to the church in Ephesus, Paul talks about the ‘Whole armour of God’ (Eph. 6:10-18). We get this picture of a mighty General calling the troops to assemble in front of him, laying at their feet all the equipment they will need for the battle and instructing them to take it up immediately. The General of course is Jesus. As followers of Him we have a spiritual inheritance; we have forgiveness and peace and are encouraged to walk in His way, to stand firm, to hold on to what we possess. The battles will rage: the lies, the circumstances that convince us we’re not worthy, that we don’t have peace, that God doesn’t love us, or that we don’t need to forgive. Standing firm means claiming the ground, holding on to it, conceding nothing back so that we are remain in a constant state of readiness.
Maybe it’s a bust up with a mate, an occasion when money is tight, or when someone close becomes seriously ill. Perhaps it’s following a period of prayer about something significant and circumstances turn out completely opposite to what we’d prayed for. Each of us will experience things that threaten the territory we possess, each of us will risk compromising who we are in Christ by the ways we think, talk and act.
In that story from 2 Samuel, David fought his battles the way God instructed him:
- He asked if he should fight.
- He carefully followed what God told him to do, and
- He gave God the glory
As we prepare for battle, let’s be praying for that trust and obedience that David demonstrated. Let’s be standing shoulder-to-shoulder, clothed in the whole armour, and always ready. Secure in the knowledge that God is with us and because, as a mate reminded me just the other day, for every battle fought will come blessings.
Image Credit: Christian Allard