Strength for the battle

One with Christ I will encounter
Harm and hatred for his name
But mine is armour for this battle
Strong enough to last the war
And he has said he will deliver
Safely to the golden shore
And mine are keys to Zion city
Where beside the King I walk
For there my heart has found its treasure
Christ is mine forevermore

“Christ is Mine Forevermore” CityAlight, Words & Music: Jonny Robinson and Rich Thompson

It seems to me, at least, that our family in Hillview and Kintore have been in the trenches over these past few months, engaged in a bruising battle. There are painful losses to endure, wounded bodies and souls to bind up and comfort, and the ever present awareness of life’s fragility irrespective of age. At times it has been accompanied by confusion, when it’s not possible to discern who is winning; and uncertainty, when we’re unsure of our capabilities and strategies to overcome the enemy – ‘the fog of war’. And yet, like any war, we also get to experience victories – Jesus Christ’s kingdom breaking in like a shaft of light obliterating any darkness in its path! Salvation, baptisms, spiritual growth, authentic and precious times of worship and prayer graced by a sweet sense of God’s presence.

These times of experiencing life as a battle are unsettling. They take us by surprise and knock us off balance as if somehow they’re not supposed to happen to Christians.

John Newton in a letter to a young pastor (1) once had this counsel: “I see well you would like to be a soldier, provided there were no enemies or fighting….But the Lord does not give us our arms and regimentals only to strut about in, like the Beefeaters at court. We must expect blows, yea sometimes wounds, but the leaves of the tree of life are appointed for healing.”

I can relate to that. I prefer it when there are no enemies to confront, or when all is mundane and there is no fighting to be done. But Paul in Ephesians 6 brings us back to the reality that by identifying with Christ – being one with Christ – we have an enemy. And we need armour, not for the pomp and ceremony of the parade ground, but battle ready armour to withstand the blows of the enemy.

“Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm” – Ephesians 6:11-13

In the heat of the battle, when our vision is restricted by the visor and we’re busy fending off repeated blows from the enemy, it’s easy to think you’re losing the battle. Yes, we need the full armour of God, and yes, we need to fight to stand our ground. But take time, often, to look to our commander in chief, and remember that victory is assured, our enemy is defeated. Past tense.

This is how John puts it in Revelation 12:10-11:

‘And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.
And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.’

Past tense – “conquered”. How? Through Jesus’ blood shed on the cross, by our testimony and, by loving God more than anything else, even our lives. Read on in Ephesians 6 and we see that this armour is no ordinary armour but it is fashioned from Christ’s death on the cross on our behalf. Belt of truth. Helmet of salvation. Breastplate of righteousness. Shoes of the gospel. Shield of faith. And the sword of the Spirit. All gifts to us from our saviour, Jesus Christ.

When the intensity of this present battle wanes, as it will, don’t be deceived into thinking all is well and stop tending to your armour. Continue to rest in Christ’s victory on the cross – dwell on it often and allow his sacrifice and love for you stir up a greater affection for him. Keep alert. Pray at all times. Be swift to share the good news to a broken world that needs a Saviour more than ever.

There will be more battles ahead but with every battle will come victories, as God the Father answers our prayers for his Kingdom to come and his will to be done here on earth as it is in heaven.

In the song “Christ is Mine Forevermore” we’re reminded of the final outcome:

God, in Christ, provides us with armour strong enough to last the war. And he will deliver us safely to the golden shore where we will gain the greatest treasure in all his fullness – Christ our everlasting King.

1. “Wise Counsel – John Newton’s Letters to John Ryland Jr.; edited by Grant Gordon; Banner of Truth; 2011”