A Call to Advance God’s Kingdom
It should be noted that our warfare as Christians is not against human beings, flesh and blood, as the Scriptures say, but against Satan and all of his principalities and powers in high places that attempt to destroy the precious lives and souls of millions of people. Jesus said that He came to destroy the works of the devil. We believe this is our job, Too. One of the demonic works we are fighting to destroy is the bondage that thousands of unreached peoples still find themselves living under. We battle Satan in order to free these peoples and allow them the freedom to choose to follow Christ. The weapons of this warfare that Jesus gave us are the same ones that He Himself used. They are not earthly, but spiritual, such as love, prayer, service and sacrifice.—The Editor
The Supremacy of God in Missions through Suffering
We measure the worth of a hidden treasure by what we will gladly sell to buy it. If we will sell all, then we measure the worth as supreme. If we will not, what we have is treasured more. "The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field." (Matt. 13:44). The extent of his sacrifice and the depth of his joy display the worth he puts on the treasure of God. Loss and suffering, joyfully accepted for the Kingdom of God, show the supremacy of God's worth more clearly in the world than all worship and prayer. This is why the stories of missionaries who gladly gave their all have made God more real and precious to many of us. (Ed. Note: See the article on Graham Staines on page 16.)
"He Bids Him Come and Die"
Some suffering is the calling of every believer, but especially of those God calls to bear the Gospel to the unreached. Dietrich Bonhoeffer's famous lines are absolutely Biblical: "The cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise God-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ. When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die." This is simply a paraphrase of Mark 8:34 "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." To take up a cross and follow Jesus means to join Jesus on the Calvary road with a resolve to suffer and die with him. The cross is not a burden to bear, it is an instrument of pain and execution. It would be like saying, "Pick up your electric chair and follow me to the execution room."
The domestication of cross-bearing into coughs and cranky spouses takes the radical thrust out of Christ's call. He is calling every believer to "renounce everything that he has," to "hate his own life" (Luke 14:33,26), and to take the road of obedience joyfully, no matter the loss on this earth.
Do We Need Martyr Models?
One of the most stunning and sobering words spoken at the second Lausanne Congress of World Evangelization in Manila in 1989 was spoken by George Otis concerning the call to martyrdom. He asked, "Is our failure to thrive in Muslim countries owing to the absence of martyrs? Can a covert church grow in strength? Does a young church need martyr models? Many places in the world today feel the words of Jesus with all their radical impact: to choose Christ is to choose death, or the very high risk of death. David Barrett estimates that in 1993 about 150,000 died as martyrs.
Prayer Advances the Mission of the Church
Life is war. That's not all it is. But it is always that. Our weakness in prayer is owing largely to our neglect of this truth. Prayer is primarily a wartime walkie-talkie for the mission of the church as it advances against the powers of darkness and unbelief. It is not surprising that prayer malfunctions when we try to make it a domestic intercom to call upstairs for more comforts in the den. God has given us prayer as a wartime walkie-talkie so we can call headquarters for everything we need as the kingdom of Christ advances in the world. Prayer gives us the significance of frontline forces, and gives God the glory of a limitless Provider. The one who gives the power gets the glory. Thus prayer safeguards the supremacy of God in missions while linking us with endless grace for every need.
Contend for the Faith
When Paul came to the end of his life, he said in 2 Tim. 4:7, "I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." In 1 Tim. 6:12 he tells Timothy, "Fight the good fight of faith; lay hold on eternal life to which you were called." For Paul all of life was war. Yes, he used other images as wellfarming, athletics, family, building, shepherding and so on. And yes, he was a man who loved peace. But the pervasiveness of war is seen precisely in the fact that one of the weapons of war is the Gospel of peace! (Ephesians 6:15). Yes, he was a man of tremendous joy. But this joy was usually a "rejoicing in the tribulations" of his embattled mission (Rom. 5:3; 12:12; 2 Cor. 6:10; Phil. 2:17; Col. 1:24; cf. 1 Pet. 1:6; 4:13).
Life is war because the maintenance of our faith and the laying hold on eternal life is a constant fight. Paul makes clear in 1 Thess. 3:5 that Satan targets our faith for destruction. "I sent that I might know of your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and that our labor would be in vain." Satan's attack in Thessalonica was against the Christian's faith. His aim was to make Paul's work there "vain"empty, destroyed.
It's true that Paul believed in the eternal security of the elect ("Those whom [God] has justified he has also glorified," Rom. 8:30). But the only people who are eternally secure are those who "confirm their calling and election" by "fighting the good fight of faith, and laying hold on eternal life" (2 Pet. 1:10; 1 Tim. 6:12). Jesus said, "He who endures to the end will be saved" ( Mark 13:13). And Satan is fighting always to bring us to ruin by destroying our faith.
Virtually every "civilian" blessing in the Christian life is conscripted for the war. There is not a warfare part of life and a non-warfare part. Life is war.
The Absence of Austerity
But most people do not believe this in their hearts. Most people show by their priorities and their casual approach to spiritual things that they believe we are in peacetime not wartime.
In wartime the newspapers carry headlines about how the troops are doing. In wartime families talk about their sons and daughters on the frontlines and write to them and pray for them with heart-wrenching concern for their safety. In wartime we are on the alert. We are armed. We are vigilant. In wartime we spend money differentlythere is austerity, not for its own sake, but because there are more strategic ways to spend money than on new tires at home. The war effort touches everybody. We all cut back. The luxury liner becomes a troop carrier.
Very few people think that we are in a war that is greater than World War II, or any imaginable nuclear war. Few reckon that Satan is a much worse enemy than any earthly foe, or realize that the conflict is not restricted to any one global theater, but is in every town and city in the world. Who considers that the casualties of this war do not merely lose an arm or an eye or an earthly life, but lose everything, even their own soul and enter a hell of everlasting torment?
Until we feel the force of this, we will not pray as we ought. We will not even know what prayer is. Prayer is the communication with headquarters by which the weapons of warfare are deployed according to the will of God. That's the connection between the weapons and prayer in Ephesians 6. Prayer is for war.
Why Prayer Malfunctions
Probably, the number one reason that prayer malfunctions in the hands of believers is that we try to turn a wartime walkie-talkie into a domestic intercom. Until we know that life is war, we cannot know what prayer is for. Prayer is for the accomplishment of a wartime mission. It is as though the field commander (Jesus) called in the troops, gave them a crucial mission (go and bear fruit), handed each of them a personal transmitter coded to the frequency of the General's headquarters, and said, "Comrades, the general has a mission for you. He aims to see it accomplished. And to that end he has authorized me to give each of you personal access to him through these transmitters. If you stay true to his mission and seek his victory first, he will always be as close as your transmitter, to give tactical advice and to send air cover when you need it.
But what have millions of Christians done? We have stopped believing that we are in a war. No urgency, no watching, no vigilance. No strategic planning. Just easy peace and prosperity. And what did we do with the walkie-talkie? We tried to rig it up as an intercom in our houses and cabins and boats and carsnot to call in fire power for conflict with a mortal enemy, but to ask for more comforts in the den.
Times of Great Distress
In Luke 21:34-36, Jesus warned his disciples that times of great distress and opposition were coming. Then he said, "But watch at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of man." In other words, if we follow Jesus it will lead us into severe conflict with evil. It will mean war. Evil will surround us and attack us and threaten to destroy our faith. But God has given us a transmitter. If we go to sleep, it will do us no good. But if we are alert, as Jesus says, and call for help in the conflict, the help will come and the Commander will not let his faithful soldiers be denied their crown of victory before the Son of man. Thus, repeatedly we see the same truth: we cannot see what prayer is for until we know that life is war.
Praying for Peace
But I Timothy 2:1 looks like it might conflict with this battlefield image of prayer. Paul says that He wants us to pray for kings and for all who are in high positions "that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way" (v. 2). Now that sounds very domestic and civilian and peaceful.
But read on. The reason for praying this way is highly strategic. Verses 3 and 4 say, "This (praying for peace) is good, and acceptable in the sight of God our savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." God aims to save people from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. But one of the great obstacles to victory is when people are swept up into social and political and militaristic conflicts that draw away their attention and time and energy and creativity from the real battle of the universe.
Satan's aim is that nobody is saved and comes to the knowledge of the truth. And one of his key strategies is to start battles in the world which draw our attention away from the real battle for the salvation of the lost and the perseverance of the saints. He knows that the real battle, as Paul says, is not against flesh and blood. So the more wars and conflicts he can start, the better, as far as he is concerned.
So when Paul tells us to pray for peace precisely because God desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth, he is not picturing prayer as a kind of harmless domestic intercom for increasing our civilian conveniences. He is picturing it as a strategic appeal to headquarters to ask that the enemy not be allowed to draw away any fire power onto decoy conflicts of flesh and blood.
The Crying Need of the Hour
So the truth is reaffirmed: God has given us prayer because Jesus has given us a mission. We are on earth to press back the forces of darkness, and we are given access to headquarters by prayer to advance this cause. We have so domesticated prayer that for many of us it is no longer what is was designed to bea wartime walkie-talkie for the accomplishment of Christ's mission.
The crying need of the hour is to put the churches on a wartime footing. Mission leaders are crying out, "Where is the church's concept of militancy, of a mighty army willing to suffer, moving ahead with exultant determination to take the world by storm? Where is the risk-taking, the launching out on God alone? The answer is that it has been swallowed up in a peacetime mentality.
We are a "third soil century." In the parable of the soils Jesus says that the seed is the word. He sows his urgent word of kingdom power. But instead of taking it up as our sword (or bearing fruit) we "are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the delight in riches and the desire for other things enter and choke the word and it proves unfruitful" (Mark 4:18-19).
This is why Paul says that all of life is warevery moment. Before we can even engage in the mission of the church we have to fight against "the delight in riches" and "desire for other things." We must fight to cherish the kingdom above all "other things"that is our first and most constant battle. That is the "fight of faith." Then, when we have some experience in that basic battle we join the fight to commend the kingdom to all the nations.
God Will Triumph
Now into this warfare God asserts Himself for the triumph of His cause. He does this in an unmistakable way so that the victory will redound to His glory. His purpose in all of history is to uphold and display His glory for the enjoyment of His redeemed people from all the nations. Therefore, God engages in the battle so that the triumphs are manifestly His. The chief end of God is to glorify God and enjoy His excellence forever. This is what guarantees the victory of His cause. In order to magnify His glory He will exert His sovereign power and complete the mission He has commanded.