Strategies for a Christian Soldier
Strategies for a Christian Soldier
The Bible often uses familiar vocations to teach spiritual principles: Christians as athletes (1 Cor. 9:24, 2 Tim. 4:7-8), as farmers (Matt. 13:3-9, 1 Cor. 3:6-9), as builders (1 Cor. 3:10-15). Similarly, Christians are soldiers of Christ. What strategies apply?
Christian Life is Not a Leisurely Stroll
The Christian life is a daily battle, a fight of faith. Three times, Paul exhorts Timothy to “fight the good fight,” (1 Tim. 1:18, 6:11, 2 Tim. 4:7); or as the KJV says, “war a good warfare.” Complacency, laziness, and boredom have no place among Christians.
I’ve never fought in a battle before. But I have seen enough descriptions of it to know that no matter what era you are in, ancient or modern, a sluggish soldier doesn’t last very long in the heat of battle. Ancient Roman battles were fought hand to hand. Only a few minutes of battling left one exhausted and messy. Those who weren’t in shape quickly flagged, and lost the strength required to defend themselves and press the attack.
The battle for your soul wages on. You will have periods of rest, but on a regular basis, Satan will see his chance and will press his attack against your defenses. He will tempt you will alcohol, immorality, riches. He will lob bombs of physical suffering your way. He will launch missiles of false doctrine at you. Will you have the strength to repel the attack? Will you have the endurance to fight until Satan has been thrown back, and must flee from you (James 4:7)? If not, you may be overwhelmed by Satan’s minions, and you will lose spiritual ground.
Every so often, Christians will call an offensive attack on Satan’s turf, to run out and preach the gospel, to give sacrificially, to take positive steps. Will you have the fortitude and the strength to answer the call to press the attack? Or will you hide in the trench and watch your brothers and sisters face the enemy for you?
Paul exhorts Christians how to repel an attack. In 1 Cor. 16:13 he says, “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.”
Of course, one needs to be alert to see an attack coming. We don’t want to be caught unaware by Satan (1 Peter 5:8). And we need to be strong like men to deal with it in a proactive, gritty way. This exhortation is for both men and women, it carries the idea of mature action. Read Paul’s description of the armor of faith, in Ephesians 6. “The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses” (2 Cor. 10:4).
The idea of “standing firm” is especially important to Roman battle. Paul repeats the exhortation to stand firm in many places: Rom. 5:2 in grace, 1 Cor. 15:1 in the gospel, 2 Cor. 1:24 in faith, 1 Thess. 3:8 in the Lord, and Phil. 1:27, in one spirit. The picture is of a Roman battalion standing in a line, linked together, each soldier with his shield firmly before him, and his spear planted firmly against his body or against the ground ready to receive a charge.
The formation was called a phalanx, and to a charging barbarian, it was like throwing himself
against a brick wall of studded with nails.
Don’t Give Satan a Beachhead
One reason that repulsing Satan’s attack is so important, is that once he wins one victory, he has established a position of strength from which to launch further attacks. In WW2, this is what the invasion of the beaches of Normandy was all about. The Allies threw everything they had at one spot, suffering tremendous casualties, in order to establish a beachhead on shore to use to build up their forces and begin the task of pushing Hitler out of France.
Satan tries the same thing. In 1 Tim. 5:14, Paul gives principles for young widows to follow, in order to “give the enemy no occasion for reproach.” The word “occasion” is aphorme and is a technical military word meaning a “base of operations” (Vines 809, “Occasion”); just like our modern term “beachhead.”
Don’t give this first valuable piece of ground to Satan. If you can keep him at arm’s length, forcing him to make his attacks from afar, it will be easier to repel him. But if he gets that one toehold established on your turf, he will use it as a base to make further inroads into your life. Once you give in the first time to alcohol, it will be so much easier to give in the next time and the next time. Once you give into anger, Satan will pry open a gap to insert worse things. The more firmly Satan establishes his grip on your territory, the more and more difficult it becomes to resist him. Keep him from getting that first inch, and your shores will remain safe.
Endure Hardship to Please the General
Paul encourages Timothy, and all Christians, in 2 Timothy 2:3-4 saying, “Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.”
As Christians, we are involved in active service for our Lord. We do not want to get so distracted with civilian affairs, our workplaces, our homes, our leisure activities, that we have nothing left for our Master. Instead, we dedicate ourselves further to His service, to please Him above and beyond the call of duty.
Onward to victory in Jesus! “This is the victory that overcomes the world—our faith!” (1 John 5:4).