Psalm 18:39 – For you equipped me with strength for the battle; you made those who rise against me sink under me.
It may be safe to say that all of the Christian life is one of battle. Whether it’s battling against the enemy, battling for healthy relationships with friends and family, battling your own sin, battling those who oppose you or hate you, or battling sicknesses and diseases; life is a battle. Psalm 18 tells us that God equips His people for battle, but the problem is, we over fantasize as to how God equips us and delivers us. We need to redefine how God equips us and battles for us.
The danger in claiming that God always wins the fight for us on our behalf is that we are so prone to think and believe that if tragedy happens in the physical realm and our life is destroyed and torn apart, then God has abandoned us, lost the fight, or is just plain cruel. We know this is not true because God’s Word says otherwise. God is not a liar, not to mention He is infinitely loving, gracious, strong and just! The problem is our sight; our filter as to what we think God should do versus entrusting ourselves to the Sovereign God of the universe and long for eternity with Him more than we long for a comfortable life here on earth.
What I want to do very briefly is uncover 3 realities that we often overlook or miss when we are in the trenches battling to be faithful to Jesus or battling to see Jesus in the midst of the battle:
1) We often fight battles that God isn’t interested in fighting. I would say that this is the most common problem in the Christian life. We all have our agendas, our passions, our convictions, and our expectations. When one of these areas in our lives is threatened by something else, then the battle is on! We will fight for what we want, what we feel is right or what others want. The problem with this is that we are the ones who are setting the bar for what we are fighting and many times God is not in the same battle we are. We are the slaves to God. God is not a slave to us waiting to obey our every command. God is not a higher power who fixes all of our problems so that life is more comfortable, rather God Himself is the reason to persevere, to have hope and joy.
Dr. Dan Allender talks about the courage to struggle in his book Bold Love (and in this context, we will call it the courage to battle). God often throws us into battle where we will either die or see Him face to face. This means that if we are fighting a different enemy than God, we will die and think that God was not there with us. Actually, God in His great love for us, will let us die and mess up and miss it completely so that we run back to Him, grow up and realize that we must wait to see where He goes or else we are dead. Dr. Allender says in Bold Love, “When we take on merely those forces that work against our immediate comfort, and fail to engage the diabolical enemy who longs to rob God of glory, then God never becomes a reality–because He is waging war on a different front, where the battle is far more intense.”
2) We have to be willing to stop fighting battles when we have won, loss or God has said enough. This is another way we can “go at it alone in battle”. There are some battles that are very worthy of fighting and one must devote most of their life to fighting it. But here is the problem, when we give up our lives for causes or any other created thing, we are giving our lives up for something that is not God. This is idolatry, or it can lead to idolatry. We draw our identity from our idols or the things in which we give our lives to. Often times, when the battle we fought for years comes to an end, we do not know what to do because we have created an identity from fighting the battle rather than from God.
When this happens, we usually continue to fight the battle in the form of continuing to give our life to it much longer than God wanted us to and we are now fighting alone again. If we derive our identity from the proper place, Jesus (who purchased us by His life, death and resurrection and calls us sons and daughters of God), then we can easily stop fighting battles after we have won, loss or when God says enough.
3) We fight not against flesh and blood, but the spiritual forces we fight against can and will harm ours and others flesh. We see this in the life of Job. Satan came to God and said that the only reason that Job was faithful to Him was because God had given him everything and blessed him with health and wealth. Well, long story short God saw fit to let Satan steal Job’s health and wealth and the lives of his family members. There is no promise in the Bible that promises protection from physical suffering. It is all around us and there is no way of escape. The promise is that God is with us and that there will be a day when all this mess and pain here on earth will be as if it has never even taken place.This gives us radical courage to battle and be faithful to Jesus no matter the cost on this earth.
This is where the prosperity gospel and the speak it out in faith theology falls apart. When we say that God always wants to heal us physically or that if we speak something in faith then it will be done for sure, it’s only a matter of time…. then we are moving outside of Scripture, putting too much stock on physical well-being on this earth and terribly misleading people away from the true gospel of Jesus! Some of us will prosper and be healed, some of us will suffer greatly in this life and never be monetarily prosperous. Again, the promise is God Himself to a people who do not deserve and cannot stand in His presence if it weren’t for Jesus. To the degree that we labor and strive for shalom here on earth for the sake of our comfort, will be the degree we think God is not with us when suffering comes. We are laboring for things that only heaven can offer.