You would think Adam and Eve had it all.
They were living in paradise together, able to enjoy all creation had to offer, and had an awesome fellowship with God. Unfortunately, they were no match for the temptation that would come through another creature, and ended up listening to something other than the good news. They crashed and burned with one small decision resulting in shame and embarrassment, and their relationship became a source of conflict rather than a source of joy and companionship. How could they blow it? The harder question is would we have made the same fateful decision?
As military members, we are taught to be tough and take on challenges beyond our capabilities. We are led to believe we can do great things because our training, experience, and talent will win the day. We think we have the strength and resources of a superhero like Captain America. Additionally, we may think we could have handled the situation better than Adam and Eve. We are trusted with classified information and handling dangerous weapons so we convince ourselves that in any situation, “we’ve got this.”
How could they blow it? The harder question is would we have made the same fateful decision?
The irony is when we say “we’ve got this” we tend to drift from God because we don’t think we need Him (at least not as much as other people). Paul dealt with this situation in 2 Corinthians 11. He noticed that the church had been led astray from their purity and devotion to Christ. In fact, they were just like Adam and Eve who quickly realized they were out of their league in dealing with Satan. We have a hard time believing that our moral strength combined with a good quiet time are not going to be enough to handle everything. Even becoming a Captain America is not going to do it. We refuse to believe that we are out of our league and in desperate need of help.
Help, of course, is what God is all about. Paul’s mentoring program for young leaders included a man named Timothy. Paul wanted him to understand real power comes from outside of us. In 2 Timothy 1:7, he tells this up and coming leader, “God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” These three essential qualities are what we need and what we cannot produce on our own. Let’s take them in reverse order.
We are given discipline, or in other words a regulated life. The military has perfected this concept. New recruits show up with little to no discipline at all. Time management, attention to detail, efficiency, and effectiveness are then drilled into new recruits until these qualities become second nature. It is a painful process for many but it is essential to fulfill our calling. The Christian life is no different. Discipline is painful at times (Heb. 12:11) but must become second nature. It is essential so that we can make the most of our time because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:16). It is practiced in our commitment to times of teaching, fellowship, worship, and prayer (Acts 2:42). Military discipline ensures a nation has freedom, and spiritual discipline ensures we have the freedom to live for God.
Discipline is painful at times (Heb. 12:11), but must become second nature.
We are also given love. Many of us join the military because we love our nation. We want to see it thrive and prosper. God has the same goals for us. He loves us and calls us to thrive and prosper in light of His love. The entire chapter of 1 John 4 gives us an example of what that love looks like, including the concepts of sacrificing self and always doing what is best for others. Love is also about obeying God’s commands (John 14:21). Love must be the motivation behind our discipline.
America has the most advanced and powerful military in the world and therefore it is hard to comprehend being outmatched. As Christians, we are outmatched. We are playing out of our league with three opponents: the world, the flesh, and the Devil. They have every advantage over us and possess capabilities that we can barely imagine. They are faster, stronger, smarter, and bigger. We have no hope to defeat them on our own.
But God’s power is given to us and best exemplified in the terms of spiritual armor. We know armor is essential to survival on the battlefield because our skin and bones are no match for bullets and bombs. Similarly, we are no match against the world, the flesh, and the Devil, therefore God has given us a spiritual armor detailed in Ephesians 6:10-17. Our head, heart, and body are all protected. Our weapon is God’s word and our strategy is knowing that no one is in God’s league, not even Satan.
It may then seem we are invincible, but we must still be cautious because we tend to believe God is always on our side.
A General named Joshua had this mindset as he approached an impenetrable fortress at Jericho. Right before the battle, Joshua encountered a powerful warrior (think a combination of the Hulk, Captain America, and Iron Man) and asks, “are you on our side…?” (Josh. 5:13). The surprising answer gave Joshua the right perspective before the battle even began, and is the same perspective you need daily. Read the rest of Joshua 5 and then think about how you will fight the daily spiritual battles you encounter.