Phyllis Beveridge Nissila
Both terrestrially and spiritually, believers have several advantages in any war, specifically, today’s war of good versus evil waged on many fronts and in many places.
In this post, inspired in part by military strategist Sun Tzu’s lists of how to succeed in war as referenced in a previous post, Six Truths to Keep the Mind Clear and the Spirit Strong in Today’s War of Good vs Evil (with a nod to Sun Tzu), I offer a perspective on “four locations” both natural and supernatural, on and in which the believer operates:
- in “the heavenlies,”
- on earth,
- in time, and
This commentary emphasizes the “heavenlies” location, by far the most important and powerful because it is supernatural in nature, no matter the earthly battlefield.
No spy can penetrate it, no hacker can scramble the transmissions, nor can any man-made cyber warfare censor or block the truth and wisdom from that location. It takes but eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts open and obedient to God.
Access to this kind of information is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, and the gift of the Holy Spirit He sent to “abide in believers” when He returned to heaven (more below).
But to back up a little, when I consider the importance of location in battle, temporal or eternal, I often think of the absolute necessity of knowing both the enemy’s “home turf advantage,” so to speak, their battleground advantages, and of equal importance, knowing one’s own.
On the Enemy’s Home Turf Advantage
I recognized a good illustration of this some years ago when, on a tour of parts of the U.S., we drove through the geographical location of “Custer’s Last Stand” at Little Big Horn (June 25-26, 1876).
What I was particularly impressed with traveling through that territory (Montana where the battle took place and parts of nearby Wyoming and the Dakotas) was how advantageous a battleground it would be for those who were familiar with the innumerable undulating hills spread out in all directions, perfect geographical nooks, crannies, and shelters in which to hide, and through which to escape, from advancing enemy combatants.
I was struck with the advantage those would have had who knew when a hill would suddenly drop down into a valley surrounded by unexpected geographical “surprises,” turns and twists, a brake of trees big enough to hide a small band of warriors, or some heretofore obscured waterway.
While Custer and his advisors understood certain advantages, a high plains lookout, for example, they could be no match for the far superior sense of place by those who for generations had lived, hunted, and fought on that massive, unpredictable terrain, thus had an intimate, organic sense of it.
Those thoughts have remained with me ever since when it comes to the spiritual battleground we face, too, where a believer’s “sense of location” in the war of good versus evil allows him or her certain advantages as well–and not merely terrestrial–especially when our real enemy and his minions in the flesh kick up some serious evil. Like today.
Because when it comes to the most important, most eternally significant war, that of good and evil, knowing our location has not only temporal but also eternal consequences.
On the Temporal: What Sun Tzu Says
After the general has received his commands from the ruler, united the armies and assembled the masses: Do not encamp on entrapping terrain. Unite with your allies on local terrain. Do not remain on isolated terrain. Make strategic plans for encircled terrain. On fatal terrain you must do battle. (chapter 8)
On the Eternal: What God Says
Although the advice of Sun Tzu regarding battle location offers wisdom in man vs man skirmishes, it is analogous in certain respects to the war of evil versus good on all of its turfs–natural and supernatural–its genesis, sin, its consequences eternal.
A war actually won on a hill outside Jerusalem called Golgotha where Jesus was crucified for the sin that affects us all, tempting both sides of every conflict.
And if not for Jesus’ sacrifice, damns us all.
This was that war fought some 2,000 years ago, our real enemy, through his willing accomplices in the flesh, may have thought he had the advantage on his own treacherous turf strewn with all manner of deception, mayhem, and murder deployed to annihilate his (eternal) arch-nemesis now bleeding out on that cross, but that was not the case.
What Satan et al couldn’t know without a true understanding of prophecy throughout the Old Testament, was that Jesus actually led them to the place of His willing sacrifice for our redemption—and He allowed it–which was His combat mission, so to speak, all along.
And He did it through love, submitting to God the Father, not as a victim but as the Sacrificial Lamb offered up for our sins, in our stead, so that we can be reconciled to God and spend eternity with Him. As put in John 3:16:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Satan’s comrades in evil were only the means by which Jesus allowed Himself to be sacrificed for us–and for whom He died as well, should they later so choose His offer.
Talk about taking the Devil by surprise on Jesus’ “turf”!
What we have dealt with since is a mop-up campaign, you might say, Jesus having secured the victory.
But a mop-up campaign can be as formidable and dangerous as the real thing.
And as deceptive.
Thus, like the snakes that keep attacking for a while even after their heads are cut off, we have to maintain awareness and war-readiness.
For as brilliant–and seasoned–as Satan is, and as well as he seems to know the battle ground on terra firma and our vulnerable positions here, he ever exists to kill, steal, and destroy.
On to “the heavenlies”.
Location 1: The Heavenlies
You might say that Sun Tzu’s first directive, staying away from “entrapping terrain,” is mirrored spiritually by first of all remaining in what the Bible calls “the heavenlies” (NOTE: the safest of all places for all people at all times as the world inevitably wars on).
Here is how this location is described in Ephesians 2:1-6, in context, emphasis added:
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh[a] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,
Though it is a mystery, this is the most important battleground location, so to speak, in which we reside because it gives us 24/7 access to the Throne Room, the Spiritual Central Command, you might say.
Consider this point made in an excerpt from the Pulpit Commentary (emphasis added):
Verse 6. – And hath raised us up with him (comp. Philippians 3:10); so that we no longer walk “according to the course of this world,” but according to the life of Christ; we walk “in newness of life.” And seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. As God placed Jesus at his right hand in heaven, so he has placed his people with him in heavenly places; i.e. places where the privileges of heaven are dispensed, where the air of heaven is breathed, where the fellowship and the enjoyment of heaven are known, where an elevation of spirit is experienced as if heaven were begun. Such was the case of the three disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration; of the two on the way to Emmaus, when their heart burned within them; of the beloved disciple when he was “in the Spirit on the Lord’s day;” of many at the Holy Supper, or in fervent communion with brother and sister believers, when they seem at the very gate of heaven. This is sometimes the experience at conversion, but the vividness of the feeling does not always abide. The repetition of “in Christ Jesus” in this connection emphasizes the fact that this gracious proceeding of God towards us is in immediate connection with the work and person of Christ. It is as being one with Christ Jesus that all this raising up comes to us. (Ephesians 2:6)
Remaining “in immediate connection” with the work and person of Jesus Christ in a battle of good versus evil might be described as remaining in immediate connection with our High Command, although in the unseen.
But how can this be?
Consider what Jesus said to His disciples just before He ascended back to heaven, his first mission on earth complete:
And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. (John 14:16-17)
You might say that when we become Christians, we receive an “inside source” of information, the ultimate in stealth intel. Here is more information on that spiritual phenomenon.
You might also think of it this way: when we are born again*, we become, as the physicists might put it, “quantumly entangled” spiritually with our Heavenly Commander. We have a connection to God through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, given to help, comfort, and guide us.
And to lead us in battle, ultimately victorious
This wisdom and guidance is accessed by prayer. Consider…
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6)
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. (Hebrews 4:14)
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. (1 John 5:14)
There is a vetting process, of course, to ensure that voice we hear is the Lamb of God and not some wolf in sheep’s clothing.
By making sure the “commands,” whether given in thought, word, and/or deed, align with the Word of God.
Just as on any kind of battlefield in any kind of war, education, training, and discernment is required, a “manual” is required in spiritual warfare, too.
And what better place than the “heavenlies”–through the conduit of the Holy Spirit–from which to have access to an understanding of our literal manual, aka the Bible, that, among other things, details God’s wisdom regarding certain land wars (see a few examples here) as well as spiritual warfare–for all times.
Attending to our location in the heavenlies and applying what we learn there is especially important because it is very tempting, down here on the ground, to be drawn into wielding the hate for hate, rage for rage, and destruction for destruction that exists on the enemy’s home turf–an uneven, unpredictable, lawless, and dangerous place for mankind–and void of the power of Love–the ultimate overcoming weapon.
Because where Jesus, in love, came to free mankind eternally from the entrapment and destruction of sin, Satan comes to do just the opposite: entrap us in sin to destroy.
Our anger may well be righteous over certain political, social, and economic issues in turmoil today, but not always deployed with wisdom.
But God, for the asking, can help us sort it out, help us recognize the “entrapping (spiritual) terrain” and avoid it, while equipping us with the knowledge and wisdom regarding what TO do, through both His Word and sometimes with the aid of treatises written by those in the world gifted with knowledge of such matters.
And Satan has been strategizing since the dew was fresh on Eden, so we need all the supernatural as well as natural help we can get.
As terrestrial fighters might put it: “choose your battles carefully” and–spiritual warriors would add–prayerfully.
More “locations” to come.
*For more information on how to become born again, aka saved, see ABCs of Salvation