“There was war in heaven.” Not a text that is too popular with preachers, but true nonetheless. Couple that stark statement with this better known section of the Lord’s Prayer and you’ll see where I’m heading: ‘Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’
I don’t know about you, but I had always thought of heaven as a place where the will of God was done immediately, with a ready and willing spirit. Not so. It is plain from Scripture that sin gate-crashed even heaven, and laid claim to one of the archangels themselves. And so Lucifer became Satan, the accuser of the brothers. And he could only be defeated through a long and costly battle.
Some believers hold a strange view that if we follow the Lord everything will work out just fine and we should never have to struggle. Curious, because that didn’t work for the Lord Jesus, or Paul, or the first Christian martyr, Stephen, or for countless other heroes of the faith, “whose weakness was turned to strength, and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.” We are eternally indebted to them.
No. Struggling against sin and fighting the devil are very much part of the Christian’s experience, especially as we fight for the very soul of our nation.
And please don’t try to spiritualise what I am saying. War is physical. If Jesus could have triumphed through prayer he would not have gone to Calvary. He won the battle in Gethsemane we often say, and that is true. But he had to triumph over his adversaries and make a public show of them on the cross.
War is public. David might have killed a lion and a bear as they tried to make off with his father’s sheep, but that was in the proving ground of the wilderness. His real battle came when he faced Goliath, watched by two armies to see exactly what God would do.
And above all else, war is painful. We have all heard the trite cliché ‘no pain, no gain’ but it plainly is true. The fact that something hurts does not mean that it is wrong. Could it have been easy for Abraham to take his only son along with the fire and the knife? Sometimes the pain comes simply because we are stretching further than we have ever done before. Or pushing harder.
I am writing to the parents, and businessmen, and local pastors – to everyone who is finding the opposition strong. Don’t allow the devil to fool you into thinking it will all turn out right if we just pray. We have to go to war. We have to fight publicly to attain our goal. And we have to push through the pain barrier to find the progress we seek.