I’ve never been in a war zone. I have cousin who has served several tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, a small group member who is overseas right now, a father who served on the DMZ in Korea. I imagine that when someone signs up for the military, there is an awareness that war is possible for them, that one day they will be in a battle, but knowing that and having it become a reality are different things. And I can imagine that there are some men and women who, on the eve of battle, say, “You know, I didn’t sign up for this. I don’t want to be in a battle.” But the reality is, they did sign up for it and they are in the battle, and their option now is to fight.
I think that spiritually I feel much the same way. When I signed up as a follower of Jesus, I realized in theory that my life was not my own, that I belonged to God and was to live for His purposes. But I also imagined that this meant a life of peace and safety. Instead, what I am realizing is that I have signed on in a battle, and the closer I grow to Christ, the more I realize what is raging.
It’s not by accident that Paul writes about the armor of God. There is a spiritual battle going on that I am largely blind to, and as a leader in the church, I believe that I am under fiercer scrutiny, being drawn closer to the front lines. And there are days when I say, “You know, I didn’t sign up for this. I don’t want to be in a battle.” But the reality is, I did sign up for it. I transferred my allegiance from the kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of Light; I have a King, and while my King is good and loving, He has enemies. And so do His followers.
Was it for nothing that Jesus said, “If they hated me, will they not also hate you?” Was it for nothing that Jesus invited His disciples to take up their cross daily and follow Him?
Many Christians in America don’t sense the battle because we’re not a threat to the enemy. When we live complacent spiritual lives (which I am prone to do), there’s no need for a counterattack. But when we advance God’s Kingdom, living for our King and not for our own lives, we will see and feel it.
What’s so great about that joining the battle? Why not just take the assurance of salvation and try and be as comfortable as possible this side of heaven? For me, when I think about it, I think of movies and stories that stir my soul. The Lord of the Rings is an enduring classic because so many of us resonate with the ordinariness of hobbits who do extraordinary things. I love when Frodo says, “I wish the ring had never come to me.” Yet he is counseled by Gandalf to find hope in the battle. And so Frodo does, bolstered by community, fighting with what he has, not what he doesn’t. Caught up in a greater story is what we are created for, but there is no greater story without risk, no victory without battle. Too many people miss the adventure and settle for what’s safe, not what’s best.
I’m in. I don’t always want to be “in.” I’m tempted to run. But having other in the battle with me makes it all the more worth it. And even more, the Word of God strengthen, sustains and emboldens me. Stay in the battle and move forward.