Have you ever considered what it would be like to perform a difficult and dangerous task against overwhelming odds? For example: Carry much needed ammunition across a minefield to beleaguered comrades, deliver medicine and aid to refugees in the midst of a bloody civil war, or be part of a command chosen to engage the enemy; unsure of its position or strength. Exactly how prepared or even motivated would you be for any of these situations? Now add this factor: You are absolutely assured of the outcome. Now, what would be your resolve; now, how would you approach these challenges? Yet, isn’t that exactly what the Christian life is all about (or should be); a hike through the valley of the shadow of death knowing you are only passing through.
My old pastor, Chris Raker, once told the story of a group of seminary students playing a game of pick-up basketball one afternoon. As they played, the old black custodian sat in the bleachers waiting for them to finish so he could dry mop the court. As he waited, he read his bible. When the game was finished one of the students came over and sat down beside him. “What are you reading?” he asked. “The book of Revelation,” the old man replied. Chuckling to himself the student replied, “Do you understand it?” The old man nodded in response. “Oh yeah,” said the student. “What does it mean?” The old man closed his bible, turned to the student and replied, “It means, Jesus is gonna win!”
However, too often this is not the position we take as His followers. Rather than being aggressors against the kingdom of darkness; we hunker down in our foxholes, trying to hold on until the Lord returns or we return to Him. The words of a Dallas Holm song describe us well:
"Truth has defeated the deceiver.
Hell has no power to wound the Son.
So why do we fight like we’re losing the battle
When the victory’s already won?"
This is not the church of the scriptures. The church of the scriptures has the power of His Spirit and walks in the confidence described in Ephesians 1:18-21:
“…the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come…”
What’s this? The same power that raised Christ from the dead is available to me? You have to be kidding! THAT IS THE PROMISE! A like-minded companion to that promise is “…the gates of hell shall not prevail against us.” I think that many of us may have missed the mark with this this verse. We read this and believe that it means that whatever Satan throws at us we’ll make it through some how. But that’s not the picture at all. I don’t know about you, but I have no personal experience nor have I ever read about anyone being attacked by a gate. That picture is ludicrous; here’s Satan chasing after the church beating it over the head with a gate. What this verse means and promises is that Satan’s dominion has no defense against the people of God when they are filled with the power of God. The single greatest thing we can do is believe in these promises. The Lord doesn’t make promises to make us feel better. He makes promises so that we may know what He intends to do for and through us; to help us see things as He sees things.
Can we rely on these promises? Someone once counted all the promises in the Bible and came up with about 7500. Not one has ever been broken. That should be evidence enough of God’s faithfulness; but God ensures us further by specifically promising His faithfulness:
“But Zion said, The LORD hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me. Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.”
“And the LORD, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8
Is your battle dissappointment disappointment? The victory is 2Corinthians 4:7-9:
“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed…”
Is your battle loneliness or fear? We’ve already read that He is never going to forsake you. And every time we say, “Our Father which art in heaven…” we’re acknowledging that we are part of a family; an eternal, forever family. What about sick and hurting?
“Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains: for the LORD hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted.” Isaiah 49:13
How about job loss? Why not schedule an interview for a job you were born to do? “Are there any openings?” you may ask.
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10
Am I qualified?
“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Philippians 4:13
What about training?
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” 2Timothy 3:16-17
When can I start?
“The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest”
What’s the pay?
“Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart”.Psalm 37:4
“And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you. Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Luke 12:29-32
The bottom line is that we need to ask in faith and then trust God to give us the provision and power He has promised; no matter what the battle. And remember, our prayer of faith does more to change our hearts than activate God; His hand is always filled with gifts He is eager to bestow. And as our hearts change we find within ourselves a new resolve to not only join the battle; but win the battle. If we arm ourselves with His promises as revealed in His Word and trust in them; we will be fully equipped. Faith is more than believing God can…it’s believing He will.
“Okay,” you say. “I am fully armed and I am entering the battle. And I believe the ultimate victory belongs to Christ; but I’m only one person and a pretty sad excuse for a warrior.” Let me add one more thing to our equation. Imagine that it is the eve of the battle. You haven’t seen the enemy; but you can feel that he is close. Your stomach tightens at the thought of the battle that lies ahead. You know you can’t go back; but the only emotions connected with going forward are doubt and fear. Suddenly, you feel a hand on your shoulder. You turn and standing there is one of the largest men you have ever seen. You know this warrior. He is one of the most famous men in the military. He has been in hundreds of campaigns and has not lost a single battle. As a matter-of-fact, it has been reported that more than once the enemy fled upon learning that this warrior was coming. He looks down at you and says, “Tomorrow when we go to battle, stay close behind me; I’ll lead. Don’t worry about a thing.” And then holding out his sword he says, “Here take this. I want you to have it when we meet the enemy; it has always served me well.” Now how do you feel about the coming battle? One man (or woman) can make a difference if they follow the Lord of Lords into the fray. In the world it happens all the time. In politics, Winston Churchill turned a cowering nation into a victor. In business, Lee Iacocca turned a dying car manufacturer into a leader. In sports, Vince Lombardi turned the Green Bay Packers from door mats into legends. It happens all the time.
What about the spiritual realm? What can one person do there? Look at the story of William Wilberforce. He and a handful of men labored from 1787-1807 in parliament to abolish the slave trade in England. They were led to fight against all odds by a single thought: “Christianity must not only save; but serve.” On their way to that victory they fought and won smaller but no less important victories: Wilberforce persuaded King George III to reissue a “Proclamation for the Encouragement of Piety and Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, Profaneness and Immorality.” Many local governors took this proclamation seriously and endeavored to implement it. He organized the Society for the Education of Africans. He organized the Society for Bettering the Conditions of the Poor. He organized the Society for the Relief of Debtors and over a five-year period secured the release of 14,000 prisoners from debtor’s prison. He worked for prison reform, established hospitals for the blind, established a fund for war widows, and established a clinic for “distressed sailors.” He labored in parliament for years and just before his death in 1833 witnessed the signing of the “Bill for the Abolition of Slavery”, signaling the eventual demise of slavery as a legitimate means of commerce in the free world.
Maybe you are thinking he was a great man of God and you’re just some regular person. Abolishing a great evil like Wilberforce or converting millions like Billy Graham is out of your league. Okay, how about the story of Pascal. Pascal was a university professor. He was thrown into a Madagascar prison after a Marxist coup. While there he became a Christian. After his release he continued to visit the prison to bring the Good News. Once while visiting, he noticed a room full of dead bodies and was informed by the prison nurse that they all had died of malnutrition. Taking the small profits from his export business, he and his wife cooked and delivered meals to as many as seven hundred prisoners a week from their own kitchen.
Still too lofty for you? Let’s take a look at the story of Trevor Ferrell. On a cold December night in 1983, 11-year-old Trevor Ferrell saw a TV newscast about people living on the streets. Those images really bothered Trevor and he begged his parents to take him to downtown Philadelphia so he could give away his blanket and pillow to the first homeless person he met. In the weeks that followed, with the help of his family, classmates and neighbors, Trevor made trips every night into Philadelphia to give food, clothing and blankets to the needy. Hundreds of generous citizens and many businesses soon got in on the act, inspired by one little 11-year-old boy. This little "campaign" soon grew into a ministry that provided places to stay and many other services. The dream and compassion of one small boy has become an integral part of the vital services offered to the estimated 24,000 homeless of Philadelphia. Since that first blanket and pillow, the Campaign has grown in its focus and sophistication; helping enable the homeless to regain self-sufficiency. And now it covers the needs of the homeless with outreach, housing and services, redistribution, public education and advocacy.
I think that perhaps we view things on too grand a scale. We believe that big problems require big solutions and extraordinary results require extraordinary action. However, simple obedience and perseverance are all that is required to see the victory of the Lord. Maybe you don’t believe you have the strength or skill to reach the top of the mountain; but surely you have the strength to take the next step. And that is how a mountain is climbed; one step at a time. I used this illustration before; but it bears repeating here:
The story is told of a man walking along a beach after a big storm. Thousands of starfish have been washed up and are now dying in the hot sun. Soon he comes across a boy who is picking up the starfish one at a time and throwing them back into the water. “What are you doing?” the man asks. “Saving these starfish.” the boy replied. Looking up and down the beach, the man shook his head and said, “Son, there are thousands of them. Do you think what you’re doing really matters?” Picking up one and tossing it into the water he replied, “It matters to that one.”
The power is the same and the results have equal value; whether you are leading a crusade like Billy Graham or leading your neighbor to Christ. The victory is the same and the angelic celebration just as loud. Whatever your battle; be bold. All the power you need for victory is readily available. We have the testimony of history to tell us that one person can make a difference when the King goes before us. The time has come for all of us who are called by His name to arise and go forth. It will be dangerous; for whether we are called to a distant country or called next door, we are going behind enemy lines to set the captives free. In fulfilling that mission we may also battle loneliness, pain, suffering, disappointment, financial hardship, and loss. At times it will seem so dark we may wonder if we will find our way out. Sometimes the battle will rage with such ferocity you will wonder if you will make it out alive. However, the truth for us will be the truth that always has been:
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4
Among the Cheyenne warriors there was a group called the “dog soldiers.” They were the toughest warriors of the clan. The dog soldiers were the elite military organization in the tribe. They were the last line of defense for the people. And so they were greatly honored. The warriors in the society were outfitted with a particular sash, which trailed the ground. And each member carried a sacred arrow. In time of battle, the dog soldier would impale the sash to the ground with his arrow and stand the ground to the death. They had a song which only the members could sing, and only in the face of death!" NO RETREAT!
We need to be God’s “dog soldiers”, drive our arrow into the ground and declare, “This is where I make my stand.” The darkness may be heavy and the battle great; but not only is their no retreat, with Jesus there is no defeat. Make no mistake it’s a war we are fighting; but it’s a war we’re going to win.