43. BEHIND ENEMY LINES

BEHIND ENEMY LINES

The stark realization of the attack often takes us by surprise.  To the best of our knowledge we hadn’t done anything to attract undo attention to ourselves, yet it seems we had landed squarely in the crosshairs of our enemy.  The intensity in which he was applying himself to secure our defeat is evident. He isn’t just looking to cause a little pain, discomfort and confusion. Rather, he is actively seeking any type of advantage he might use to bring about our total destruction. To underestimate his power would be disastrous.  Our only hope is to use the resources at our disposal and confront him with the same conviction with which he is attacking us.  It won’t be easy, nor will it probably be quick.  This will be lifelong battle before our ultimate victory can be assured.

In many ways the battle I’m describing is not dissimilar to the battles depicted on the movie screens, both now and from eras gone by.  Recently I saw the award winning film “1917”,  a story that focused on the journey of two soldiers caught behind enemy lines in France during WW1.  The scenes of death and destruction, mixed with the soldier’s courage and resolve, are hard to forget.  It’s not the kind of movie you want to watch before going home to try to get a good night’s sleep.   Other films like “SAVING PRIVATE RYAN”, “MIDWAY”, “HACKSAW RIDGE”, ‘’BRIDGE OVER THE RIVER KWAI”, “SCHINDLER’S LIST”, “GLORY”, “BRAVEHEART”, and many more depict the horror of war throughout the centuries, the reality of evil, the indescribable cruelty men can inflict on other men,  and the impact such campaigns have on all those caught in such geopolitical struggles.  If these “pretend” scenes from war make such an impression on us, what would’ve it been like to actually be there! I was spared that challenge during the years I served in the  military, but I know I’m surrounded every day by many of those who have experienced real life battles over the past 75 years on the battle lines of WW2, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and numerous other hot spots around the world. In ways I think our whole culture struggles with “post traumatic stress syndrome” from this constant turmoil of unrest and violence.

In recent weeks I have been exploring various aspects of spiritual warfare.  It came out clearly in a recent sermon series on the power of prayer and in a class I am teaching this spring on Revelation. The scriptures tell us that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the authorities, against the power of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12).  It is naïve for any of us to think that such forces do not exist.  The evidence of their existence is overwhelming, both in scripture and in the collective history of humanity.  Often somewhat trivialized in fiction or movies, there is a tendency to dismiss or underestimate the power of such spiritual beings.  They make fine fodder for sensational books or films where they have freedom to create chaos almost at will and in a vacuum where God is never introduced as their primary foe.  Instead, regular human beings tend to battle these dark forces, normally with disastrous consequences, before some type of “super hero” can be found to defeat them. It makes for a compelling storyline, and perhaps it’s even entertaining to watch as an outside observer, but it has very little basis in reality.

I’m convinced that we have an enemy, and he’s not that little guy we see in pictures with a pitch fork and horns wearing a bright red suit.   The Bible describes him in vivid detail……not so much in his appearance but in his passion to defeat us all in this real life battle for our souls.  Peter reminded his readers, “Be alert and sober minded.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).  I’m convinced that’s exactly what Satan and his forces of evil want to do. They desire nothing less than the total destruction of our lives. Satan is intense and will use every resource at his disposal to defeat, discourage, tempt, confuse, and complicate our lives. His only goal is for us to surrender the fight, to accept the compromise he offers, and to become a casualty of this war.

We are like those soldiers caught behind enemy lines.  Each day we are alive we are confronted with the task of navigating our way through the minefield of life.   Vigilance is required to avoid the traps set by our enemy, many of which will be disguised in way that makes them appear harmless at first.  These subtle, often unseen, and seemingly innocent distractions, temptations, and compromises are our enemy’s primary weapons to gain a foothold into our lives. While we would most certainly not fall prey to an obvious and overt buildup of the enemy’s forces in our camp, at times it seems we do not comprehend the danger of allowing these little footholds to be established. Our enemy knows that and uses that failure on our part to gain an advantage.

At other times it seems that we have become the focus of an all out enemy offensive.  Like soldiers trying to defend the ground we’ve gained, everywhere we turn we feel like we are under direct attack.  Worst of all, the attacks seem to be coming from all directions – our families, our jobs, our health, our emotions, our other relationship, and our finances.  We find ourselves facing undue pressure, stress, and anxiety.  We are tempted to cut corners, make compromises, or find some other way to escape the situation.  We’re hanging on as best as we know how, but the ongoing battle is taking a toll. At that point the enemy knows he has us on the ropes so he’ll keep pushing harder trying to break through the lines of our defenses.  Standing tall in the midst of such an damaging offensive requires courage and conviction.  When you’re trying to survive behind enemy lines every inch of progress comes at a price. The more ground we take away from the enemy, the harder he will fight back.

Fortunately, God has assured us that He would stand with us through such battles. In addition, He’s provided us some tools we can use to defend ourselves.  Most of us are familiar with the “Armor of God” outlined for us by Paul in Ephesians 6 (The Belt of Truth, Breastplate of Righteousness, Feet fitted with the Gospel of Peace, Shield of Faith,  Helmet of Salvation, and the Sword of the Spirit).   I’m not attempting to provide an exegetical description of these tools, but rather to remind us all that we are not defenseless. If we are going to survive in our journey behind enemy lines we are going to have to use these irreplaceable tools, along with a lot of caution and common sense.  We have to be alert and focused, understanding that we are in a battle that will not just go away quietly.  Our attention to detail, our awareness of our surroundings, and our commitment to staying true to the course we have set for our lives are absolutely required if we are to survive behind the enemy lines.

I’m not writing to discourage anyone with a bleak picture of our lives this side of heaven. Rather, I want to help us all have a clear view of what our task is until we get there.   I’m actually very encouraged to see how so many of those who have gone before me faced the skirmishes in their lives.  They didn’t shrink back from the enemy or the trials and tribulations of life. They faced them head on, even when the price was steep.  They have set an example for us all that should not be overlooked.  Their lives are recorded in the pages of history where their clear testimonies of faith shine like lights in the night. They sit in the pews of the churches we attend or gather with us at family reunions.  Many are now sitting in the grandstands of heaven, as suggested in Hebrews 12, cheering us on as we continue to “run our race with perseverance” in the midst of battle.   They know it’s not easy…..they’ve been there!  But they also know it’s possible…..because they’ve been there too!

We are all behind enemy lines.  Satan and his team of evil doers want nothing less than to defeat us.  He knows we’re in his territory, at least temporarily, but he also knows his time is limited so he’s going to throw everything he has at us for as long as he can.  The good news is that he can’t win unless we let him.  The ultimate victory is ours if we align ourselves with God’s will for our lives.  It may not always be easy…….but friends, I guarantee you  IT WILL BE WORTH IT!    Claiming victory behind enemy lines!!