The most gung-ho American soldiers are 18-19 year old kids just out of army or marine boot camps. Their uniforms are pressed and clean, boots are shiny and new, and guns are oiled and ready. To them, there is no doubt the enemy will be defeated in quick order because that’s what they’ve been trained to do. It’s their job and – by golly – they are going to do it. Geronimo!
But the best soldiers are not those gung-ho kids entering their first battles, but rather, the ones who survive their first battles.
You see, in the midst of their first battles, these young kids, who figured they would live forever, discovered that they might die. They watched gunfire wound and kill their comrades, heard screams and live ammo, and smelled the stench of cordite in the air.
Yes, training prepared the raw recruits for entering their first battles. But after the first bullets whizzed by their ears, they knew they had to adapt to the battlefield conditions they faced, rather than the ones they had been taught about, if they wanted to survive the war.
This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare (1 Timothy 1:18)
I once prayed for a Southern Baptist missionary who had just returned from his first tour in South Korea. He and his wife were on a short holiday, visiting local churches.
“Do you have any prayer requests?” I asked before praying for him
“Yes,” he whispered, “pray for me to receive the spiritual gifts.”
To say his request shocked me would be an understatement because we were in a Southern Baptist church at the time. I swallowed my curiosity and prayed for him.
Later, the missionary explained the reasoning behind his request. Like most Southern Baptists, he had been dead set against the spiritual gifts for years. Who needed such spiritual mumbo jumbo, he thought.
Then, he went to Busan, South Korea, population: 3.6 million.
There he encountered a culture cemented into hundreds of years of Buddhism and ancestral worship. As he tried to plant a church, he quickly discovered how ill equipped he was to conduct spiritual warfare against entrenched demons and principalities. He needed new spiritual weapons and miracles.
“South Korea is not like America,” he said, “and if I want to be an effective missionary, I need the spiritual gifts.”
Like the gung-ho soldiers, the missionary had been trained to enter the battle, but once in the field, he needed to adapt to the conditions facing him in order to fulfill his calling and advance the kingdom of God in South Korea.
A plan seldom survives the first contact with the enemy. (U.S. First Army Axiom)
Like the raw recruits and the missionary, I discovered I needed to adapt and change in my valley of the shadow of death experience.
And it’s not that I lacked spiritual discipline or training. Because at the time of my 42 check fiasco, it was my habit to arise at 3 AM to pray for three hours each morning before putting in a full day’s work. In the evenings, I read and studied for two hours or more. Two days per week I fasted and the spiritual gifts were sharp and ready at all times.
Yet, I was not able to fight the good fight…which means I could not win in head to head spiritual battles with principalities and demons.
So, what were my problems?
(Continued in Part 4)