I was thinking as I watched a news report about General Petraeus’ change of command ceremony in Afghanistan about how badly the war effort there is going. We were largely unprepared for what we encountered. We gave ourselves far too much credit for early successes and underestimated the enemy’s ability to rise up again. We didn’t wage war with the enemy in a way that would be ultimately productive. We kept changing who would be held responsible for the prosecution of the war. Our enemy there is crafty and doesn’t see this with results that are measured in days or weeks but in years and decades.
The greater war I am thinking of is the war against sin we all fight. Some of us don’t even seem to realize we’re in a war in the first place which is why so many are losing ground. Those who have not turned from their sin do so because the deceitfulness of sin has blinded them from the truth. Satan is like the Taliban or Al Qaeda times 100. He is deceptive and the father of lies. Christians who are no longer slaves to sin still fail to win these battles for all the same reasons the USA and NATO is failing in Afghanistan. We do not prepare for the battle that we’re in. We give ourselves too much credit for past victories over sin and forget that while it may not be standing at our door in an obvious way, it is crouching there waiting for any opportunity to attack. We often do battle sin in a way that sacrifices long term benefit for immediate results by using crutches like rules and emotionalism instead of being motivated by love for Jesus. We blame others for our sin because they antagonize or tempt us, rather than simply face the fact that we alone are responsible for our choices.
What’s a Christian to do?
- Pray for the young men and women in harm’s way in Afghanistan. The news accounts break my heart as I see people in their early 20’s losing their lives in this war. Pray for the families they leave behind – that they would turn to the Great Comforter to be their strength and sufficiency.
- Use the media accounts of the struggle of this war to remind yourself that you are at war with a deceptive enemy, but that the stakes are much higher for you – your soul and eternity.
- Battle the deception the way the Bible says to. Hebrews 3:13 says 13But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. God says a main weapon against the deceiver and is other Christians exhorting us – that is we should be coming alongside other people to remind and encourage them about holy living. It is a command, not an option. That also means that God has designed it so that we all need to be exhorted, as well as to exhort others.
- We need to be alert. The Bible says ” Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” Lions don’t jump up and down and announce their presence before pouncing on gazelles to devour them. The military uses sophisticated technology and recon teams to see the enemy coming so they are not surprised. We need to use the tools God has given us – prayer for ourselves and our families, the exhortation of those around us, a heart that grows in loving discernment (Phil 1:9).
- Pray for the leaders whose decisions affect your battle with sin. Church leaders can make decisions that affect their people’s sensitivity to the war, their understanding of the severity and the consequences, and how prepared for battle each individual Christian is. We need wise leaders who see eternal things for what they are and lead us in the right direction – not fearing the battle but confident in the One who has already won it for us.
- Finally, be confident that He who began a good work in you will be faithful to bring it to completion. I know it is easy for me to fall into sin, to lose a key battle, and to immediately become despondent or depressed. When we take our eyes of Jesus and look at our own performance it’s like forgetting about our secret weapon. If you are a Christian, all your sin has been paid for. Not most, but all. One of the great lines in any hymn ever written:
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
We should pray that good will prevail over evil in Afghanistan. We should ask God to save sinners there who are blinded by the deceitfulness of sin. We should pray that our young men and women fighting there would discern the crafty tactics of their enemy. Their success is not sure, but ours is. It was secured 2000 years ago when the Son of God volunteered to serve by bearing human flesh and dying in the place of sinners who deserved death. Praise God that we cannot lose what He has already secured for us.