Preparing for Battle
Pastor Arn Buck
Heart Song Worship Center
"A few conquer by fighting, but more battles are won by submitting." Elbert Green Hubbard (1865-1915)
This message discusses an aspect of spiritual warfare. Unfortunately some have carried this topic to extremes. They have stretched it to areas that have loose or no real Biblical backing. This is not "howling at the moon" weird stuff. We are not going to pick up swords and start slashing at demonic creatures. We are not going to search for demons hiding in the dark corners of every room. We are going to, in a practical manner, look at the part we play in a great spiritual war that is raging between God and Satan. The intent is to help us be better prepared and be more likely to succeed.
We are All Participants In A Great War
In order to discuss preparation for battle, we must first except the reality of battle. There is a tremendous war raging around us in the Spiritual realm. Whether we like or not, we are each involved and affected by this war. Even though we cannot see it, this war has greater significance than any war fought on earth since the beginning of history. The incomprehensible horror and suffering inflicted by physical wars ends at death. The impact and the consequences of the spiritual war are eternal. The core of this battle is revealed in Satan's third temptation of Jesus.
Matthew 4:8-10 (NLT) Next the devil took him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him the kingdoms of the world and all their glory. "I will give it all to you," he said, "if you will kneel down and worship me." Get out of here, Satan," Jesus told him. "For the Scriptures say, 'You must worship the LORD your God and serve only him."
Satan's offer and Jesus' response reveals that both God and the Devil are fighting for our worship. In this battle we are either serving God and being transformed into His likeness or we have assumed the self-serving nature of Satan. Jesus made this abundantly clear when He said, "He who is not with me is against me." There is no neutral point to stand on. There is no place of sanctuary. There is no leave or furlough. Imagine standing unarmed as non-participant in the middle of a raging medieval battle with swords flashing and arrows flying. It is only a matter of time before you are wounded or killed. Without at least defending yourself, the end is inevitable.
It's easy to convince ourselves that none of this is real. We could sit by a nice warm fire in a cozy chair, in a quite room and use the stillness of the environment to convince ourselves that there is no war. We could also use our financial success, good health, and general state of well-being to do the same. We must, however, remember that our five senses render us blind to the spiritual. We are dependent on the Holy Spirit to discern spiritual things.
The battle is on-going. It is not on our terms. We don't decide when we want to fight and when we want to withdraw. Even without sensing it, we are constantly participating through our actions, the decisions we make, and even our thoughts. It is not slashing at a monstrous looking creature using a jewel studded sword. That's the Hollywood version.
Our perception and understanding of the battle becomes clearer over time. A young believer might struggle with freeing themselves from the influence of the world. A more mature believer's battle might be seeking spiritual guidance for a critical decision. One element common to most battles is a struggle between our will and desires and God's will. Even though the outcome of each battle will have an effect on the spiritual realm the battle field is often in our hearts. In a broad sense there are four forces influencing outcome.
1. Human nature - the natural man
2. Spiritual forces controlled by Satan
3. The Holy Spirit
4. Others around us
The Bible clearly shows that God will ultimately win the war, but until that time the battle will continue to rage. We must remember that each battle is an opportunity to demonstrate our love for God for all the goodness He has shown to us. God is rooting for us. He wants us to be victorious. He trains us, equips us, and empowers us to win for His glory. Let's look at some examples in the Old Testament that show how some of the great men of God prepared themselves for battle.
Being Strong and Courageous
The enemy often uses fear and intimidation to influence us. They are used because they are affective in taking our focus off of God. When we suddenly see a lion crouched to attack directly in front of us, everything else disappears. We don't notice the beautiful weather, the flowers, the birds singing, or even the weapon that might be in reach off to our side. All we see are the claws and teeth in front of us as we imagine ourselves being destroyed by them.
God is well familiar with Satan's tactics. Before Israel entered the Promised Land, God felt it important to ensure that Joshua was prepared for the battles ahead.
Deuteronomy 31:7-8 (NLT) Then Moses called for Joshua, and as all Israel watched, he said to him, "Be strong and courageous! For you will lead these people into the land that the LORD swore to their ancestors he would give them. You are the one who will divide it among them as their grants of land. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you."
In Deuteronomy chapter 31 God used Moses to encourage Joshua. When Moses installed Joshua as the new leader of the Israelites, he instructed him to be strong and courageous. Wait a minute! Wasn't Joshua one of the two men who had the courage to face the entire rebellious Israelite camp. Didn't he and Caleb tell them, "Do not rebel against the LORD, and don't be afraid of the people of the land. They are only helpless prey to us! They have no protection, but the LORD is with us! Don't be afraid of them!" (Numbers 14:9). Why did Joshua, of all men, need to be instructed to be strong and courageous? Because God knows us. He saw all the difficult challenges that were facing Joshua. He knew that Joshua had to undoubtedly be able to trust Him in the days ahead.
Joshua 1: -9 (NLT) "Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. This is my command-be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go."
In this passage we see God speaking directly to Joshua. He told him exactly what He told Joshua through Moses, "Be strong and courageous." He not only told him once this time. He told him three times. The repetition is used for emphasis. God is saying to Joshua, "Pay attention! It is important that you know this!" Joshua knew that his strength came from God and that his courage came from His knowledge of God's strength. However, in the days ahead his trust in God's strength would be tested. God was preparing him for battle. Verse nine ends with this reassurance from God, "Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go."
The best defense against fear is to undoubtedly know that God is strong and able to be our salvation in all situations. This knowledge can be gained by studying the Bible and letting God demonstrate His faithfulness. He will show us how faithful He is when we call out to Him in prayer and place our trust in Him. It is essential that God's strength be a reality to us. We must experience it. Head knowledge alone is not enough. The better that we know the truth and reality of God's strength, the better we will be able to withstand the attacks of fear and intimidation.
A prime example of courage that was rooted in the knowledge of God's strength and faithfulness is shown in a conversation between King Saul and David. This was just prior to David's battle with Goliath.
1 Samuel 17:34-37 (NLT) But David persisted. "I have been taking care of my father's sheep and goats," he said. "When a lion or a bear comes to steal a lamb from the flock, I go after it with a club and rescue the lamb from its mouth. If the animal turns on me, I catch it by the jaw and club it to death. I have done this to both lions and bears, and I'll do it to this pagan Philistine, too, for he has defied the armies of the living God! The LORD who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine!"
David was strong and courageous against Goliath because he absolutely knew God's strength. He experienced God's rescue from the lion and the bear. Goliath was another step of faith that he was ready to take. Another key to his courage is that he knew God was angry about Goliath's attitude toward Him. Knowing God's heart and will can sometimes give us the extra dose of courage that will make us victorious. Joshua had this because he knew that it was God's will that the Israelites inhabit the Promised Land.
Sending Out Spies
Military commanders know the value of reconnaissance. Knowing the enemy's troop strength and location helps military commanders plan their battle strategy. Joshua set spies out before attacking Jericho.
Joshua 2:1 (NLT) Then Joshua secretly sent out two spies from the Israelite camp at Acacia Grove. He instructed them, "Scout out the land on the other side of the Jordan River, especially around Jericho."
Notice that Joshua sent the spies out secretly. He remembered the rebellion of the Israelites ten of the twelve who scouted Canaan came back with a negative report. In spite of that, he knew the military importance of knowing all he could about the enemy's defenses. In spiritual warfare God will sometimes use the Holy Spirit to tell us what we need to know in preparation for a battle.
Some time ago my daughter, in response to the moving of the Holy Spirit, brought Psalm 118 to me. While reading it, verses eight and nine stood out. They stressed how important it was to place our trust in God instead of man. A couple weeks after that I found myself getting to a meeting before everyone else. During that time the Holy Spirit instructed me not to defend myself just as Jesus was speechless while on trial before Pilate and the Jewish Counsel. During the meeting I found myself being attacked by several who were bringing false and distorted actuations against me. The leader of the meeting was someone who I had put my trust in. He initially attempted to defend me but then saw that it was politically advantageous to let me fend for myself. The whole experience was quite hurtful. I had always treated everyone at the meeting with kindness and respect. As I got ready to defend myself, I remembered the instruction from the Holy Spirit. Although it did not make sense, keeping silent helped in two significant ways. Firstly, the attacks wound down because it was hard to continue beating on someone who is not defending himself. Secondly, I earned respect because they saw the strength and maturity that it took to hold my tongue. I had come out as well as I could from a very difficult situation because the Holy Spirit had shown me what was ahead and provided the best strategy for the battle.
Although we do not send spies out into the spiritual realm, we can benefit as if we had. The Holy Spirit sometimes shows the winning strategy for battles. Remember how king Jehoshaphat defeated the combined Moab and Ammon armies by putting worshipers ahead of his army in 1 Chronicles chapter 20? We must ensure that we are paying attention so that we do not miss it. God doesn't typically shine a bright light in our face and speak to us in a loud, clear, audible voice.
Whittling Down the Numbers for God's Glory
God works miracles in our lives as a clear demonstration of His love and faithfulness toward us. But that's not the complete story. He also does it to let the world know of His power and glory. A testimony of God's deliverance displays His power most clearly in situations where there was nothing left but a supernatural answer. Sometimes, in preparation for battle, we must be willing to let God set the stage even though it goes against all reason and logic. A prime example of this was Gideon as he was preparing to fight the oppressive Midianites.
Judges 7:2-3 (NLT) The LORD said to Gideon, "You have too many warriors with you. If I let all of you fight the Midianites, the Israelites will boast to me that they saved themselves by their own strength. Therefore, tell the people, 'Whoever is timid or afraid may leave this mountain and go home.'" So 22,000 of them went home, leaving only 10,000 who were willing to fight.
Judges 7:7 (NLT) The LORD told Gideon, "With these 300 men I will rescue you and give you victory over the Midianites. Send all the others home."
Gideon started out with 32,000 men. In the natural the battle would have been challenging with that large a force. Then God immediately has Gideon send over two thirds of his army home. That's nuts! Who in their right mind would do something so stupid! Then God whittles the army down to only 300 men. Now this has gotten absolutely insane! Gideon should be locked up before Israel is destroyed and made a laughing stock. He is setting them up to gain the reputation as the most stupid nation in military history! The enemy will hurl statements like that at us when we prepare for such a battle. Our family and closest friends might even do the same out of concern for us. This is where we not only have to be strong and courageous, we have to be absolutely certain that we are hearing clearly from Him.
It is vital to maintain a very close relationship with Him. It is vital that we be able to distinguish His voice from others. It's nice that God knows our thoughts and hearts and that we works with us. He knew that Gideon had doubts just as we might in a similar situation. He doesn't chastise him for his lack of faith. He provides the reassurance that Gideon needs to have enough confidence to boldly lead his men into battle.
Judges 7:9 - 11 (NLT) That night the LORD said, "Get up! Go down into the Midianite camp, for I have given you victory over them! But if you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah. Listen to what the Midianites are saying, and you will be greatly encouraged. Then you will be eager to attack."So Gideon took Purah and went down to the edge of the enemy camp.
For those not familiar with the outcome, God showed Gideon a strategy that allowed him to route the overwhelming Midianite force. When God whittles down He sets the stage to display His deliverance in a powerful and indisputable manner. Such testimonies of God's mighty deeds are powerful tools for reaching the lost and encouraging the Body of Christ to battle with greater strength and vigor.
Hopefully the arguments at the beginning of this message convinced you that the great war between God and Satan is real. Hopefully it also convinced you that each of us are participants whether we choose to fight or not. By looking at examples in the Old Testament we saw three things that could help us prepare for battle. These include the following:
The truth of God's strength and faithfulness must be a
reality to us.
We must stay focused on God so that He can warn us of up-coming battles and impart winning strategies to us.
We must have the faith to let God set the stage for His miracles that defy natural explanation and logical analysis.
It is important to understand that we are not alone in this war. We have brothers and sisters in Christ who are going through similar struggles as us. We can contribute to their success by praying for and encouraging them. There is strength in unity.