Phyllis Beveridge Nissila
What prompts this post besides the time of war in which we live is a recent re-read of famed military writer and philosopher Sun Tzu‘s The Art of War.
Sun Tzu (544-496 BC) covered not only practical battle prep and maneuvers on the ground but also the importance of aligning philosophically and spiritually with the commander, and what kind of leader the commander should be.
Of all of the skills and strategies detailed in Tzu’s treatise*, my emphasis today is on the spiritual element but from my own faith tradition, Christianity, not as in a religion but as in a relationship with Jesus Christ, the King of Kings who is “the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
And in constancy is strength.
Before Jesus left earth after His first mission was accomplished, He detailed not only our mission until His return but also some warnings about this era often called “end times” aka the end of the Church Age, by prophecy scholars.
From “God’s treatise,” so to speak, aka the Bible, I offer the following “six truths” for both strategy and encouragement in our day of battle presented in outline form using the six essential pieces of information: who, what, when, where, why, and how.
Be encouraged, strengthened–and reminded that you and I were put here specifically for such a time as this when, as in no other era, it has become very clear that the battle is good versus evil.
1. WHO: Two Kinds of Commanders
On the side of evil led by the Father of Lies, there are inaccuracies, falsehoods, misrepresentations, dishonesty, disloyalty, and a modern term, “mis-speaking,” promulgated by those who deceive.
On the side of good there is truth.
When discerning which commanders represent good and which evil, we can, as Jesus put it, observe their “fruit”:
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them. (Matthew 7:15-20)
2. WHAT: ON THE CONFLICT and THE COMMISSIONS
Regarding what we really war against:
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Ephesians 6:12, more below on this)
The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy…
…I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. (Jesus, quote in John 10:10)
For those who follow Jesus Christ, here is what is referred to as our “Great Commission” that–note–has not been revoked:**
Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them.
17 And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted.
18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matthew 28:16-20, emphasis added)
The reason for the emphasis is that no member of the Trinity, God the Father, God the Son (Jesus) or God the Holy Spirit, has changed the plan. Plenty of false prophets and false messiahs do change their minds, however, rendering our battle merely another terrestrial conflagration, or if a spiritual one, one that we must wage on our own.***
SIDE NOTE: how will we know when the “end” of this spiritual era, aka the Church Age, which is our focus today, has come? We won’t know exactly. As Jesus, Himself, answered that question:
“But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.” (Matthew 24:36)
However, many Bible verses point to the signs of the end of the age.
3. WHEN: On the End of the Church Age–Another Perspective
NOTE: this is perhaps the strongest of my personal anchors when it comes to the tyranny of the urgent, the fog of war, the “top down, bottom up, and inside out” nature of the chaos and crises that Satan loves to exploit and in which he wants to embroil and distract us: remembering that the Age will not come to its desired fulfillment until…
“…the fullness of the Gentiles has come in” (Romans 11:25).
Fullness as in pléróma, “full number” [of Gentiles].
Gentiles as in ethnos, from etho; a race (as of the same habit), i.e. A tribe; specially, a foreign (non-Jewish) one (usually, by implication, pagan) — Gentile, heathen, nation, people.
Why do I consider it such a strong mind and spirit anchor?
Despite all the fires that arise daily to distract, discourage, and destroy, a believer has still only one objective in this war (refer back to our Great Commission) until such time as the last believer “comes aboard the Church,” you might put it (the Greek term for “fullness” is also nuanced to include the total number of crew members needed on a ship until it can set sail).
Therefore consider: all we really have to focus on in the multi-faceted and multi-frustrating fray swirling about is prayer for the unsaved and spreading the Good News of the Gospel in what ways each of us is called. Whether by prayer, preaching, teaching, sharing, or myriad other ways the Good News is broadcast to the ends of the earth, we each have an indirect, and for some a direct, hand in ushering in that last believer whose identity only God the Father knows.
Thus, we do not have to expend precious energy on trying to figure out all the enemy’s strategies nor focus on putting out all his distracting fires, but only on the Great Commission until such time as the Church Age is complete.
There will be people saved during the seven years of Tribulation that follow, but as per the Doctrine of the Rapture, today’s believers will have completed our tasks.
This clears my mind and calms my spirit while increasing the gift of peace Jesus left us along with the prophesies and warnings–not to mention the motivation to get about the “Father’s business”!
For where there is calmness, clarity, and peace, there is greater access to critical thinking and sharper discernment–two essential elements no matter what the nature of a war, when–or where–it takes place.
4. WHERE: On the Location of the Battleground
As cited above in Ephesians 6:12:
In the heavenlies as in kosmokrátōr (from 2889 /kósmos, “world” and 2902 /kratéō, “to rule”) – properly, world-ruler, referring to Satan (demons) influencing the lives of worldly people (used only in this verse).
In high places as in epouranios heavenly, celestial, in the heavenly sphere, the sphere of spiritual activities; met: divine, spiritual.
In short: our enemy, he of evil, is both unseen and seen; here, there, and everywhere. Thus, our need to discern the intent and “fruit” of his minions in the flesh.
5. WHY–On Knowing Our Enemy
As previously cited: our enemy has a tri-part goal: to “steal, kill, and destroy”.
Which is why we are to…
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8).
In modern lingo, this enemy neither negotiates nor takes prisoners. Nor can he be outsmarted unless we align with a higher power (read: Jesus Christ who took out the Devil’s teeth, you might put it, by conquering death which was and is Satan’s most potent weapon aimed at us. Here is some informative and encouraging commentary on that.).
We ignore this to our great personal and global peril.
6. HOW: On Our Skills, Strategies, and Armor for Such a Time as This
For this section, here is a redux post from June of 2014.
Ask yourself how much more it applies today in 2022!
A Timely Reminder: Armor Up
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. (Ephesians 6:10-18)
This section of scripture seems to be popping up all over the place, lately.
Turn on Christian radio, a preacher is teaching on it. Talk with another believer, she brings up how she is impressed with its timeliness. Put in some worship tunes, guess what the lyrics center on?
Do you suppose God is trying to say something? To us? Today [both back in 2014 and today in 2022]?
Just as there was fresh manna each morning for the Israelites in the wilderness (for two days over Sabbath), God keeps us abreast of the who, what, when, where, why, and how of His Word (spiritual “food”) for the day specifically and the day, as in the era, in which we live.
And I can’t think of a better reminder, warning, encouragement, and necessity than the instructions in Ephesians 6:10-18 right now and for the foreseeable future.
Does lawlessness seem rampant? Religious persecution on the rise? Geopolitical mayhem of biblical proportions about to explode around the globe?…
It has been suggested that a good way to implement this little power-packed passage of the Good Book is to “don” the articles of our real warfare first thing in the a.m., perhaps right along with pants, shirt or blouse and skirt. Then it’s out the door–or right here at home–(spiritually) armed and dangerous, at least to him who “prowls about seeking whom he may devour”.
And don’t forget to “fit your feet” with the preparation of the Gospel of peace. (Now, that part of spiritual armor has to really bug The Prowler who would just love for us to initiate the conflagration so then he can do his worst work. Don’t you think? [2022 update–and how often are we especially warned against taking this bait, today, so that someone can declare martial law and take greater control of mankind?!])
*”The 13 Chapters” of The Art of War:
Attack by Strategem
Use of Energy
Weak Points and Strong
Maneuvering an Army
Variation of Tactics
The Army on the March
Classification of Terrain
The Nine Situations
Attack by Fire
Use of Spies continue reading…
**I refer to our Great Commission as one that has not been revoked, to counter the false teaching that somehow we will become so perfected as the Body of Christ on our own steam (to simplify this false teaching sometimes called Kingdom Now) we ourselves by our behavior, will usher in the millennium when, having cleaned things up sufficiently, we will hand it over to Jesus. Here are the core heresies of this teaching.
***https://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/Bible-Verses-About-The-Battle-Is-The-Lords/, and although there may be a need for boots on the ground, literally, the battle is primarily and ultimately a spiritual battle, as referenced above.