My pervious post made the case that God does not provide an easy button for believers but rather that the Christian life requires that we fight the world, the flesh, and the devil, a struggle that demands spiritual strength and endurance to win.
If believers do not understand this, they will enter the battle of the Christian life without the necessary preparation. Imagine a soldier entering a combat zone without going through basic training, without the essential equipment but wearing shorts and a T-shirt, without realizing that the enemy is shooting at him. The medics would be carrying him off to the field hospital in nanoseconds.
Some preachers prefer to think of the church as a hospital. Certainly this should be one function of the church. But if the church realized that we were in a battle and functioned as a basic training and equipping facility, most of its members would not be hospitalized.
What sort of equipping and training do spiritual soldiers need in order to survive and win the battles in which they will surely be engaged?
Perhaps the primary resource for this fight is Scripture, specifically the whole counsel of God. The contemporary evangelical tendency to believe in a battle-eliminating easy button has resulted in failure of Christians to equip themselves with Scripture. Expository preaching has been replaced by “needs-oriented” sermons. Bible studies have morphed into studies of someone’s book. My mother and mother-in-law both had read through the Bible many times. In fact, my mother-in-law shortly before her death memorized Psalm 119 with its 176 verses. These saints were better equipped for battle than most contemporary soldiers and consequently spent little time in a spiritual hospital. At most they just needed a few Band-Aids along the way.
Prayer also constitutes a major piece of equipment for the battle. Not only has this weapon been neglected in the personal lives of contemporary Christians but also in the church. In the primary service of most churches substantially less time is devoted to prayer than to announcements, especially if we exclude prayer for the offering. Prayer meetings are practically nonexistent, and if they do exist they are attended by only a handful of people and are comprised predominantly of activities other than actual prayer. One hour-long “prayer meeting” I attended recently only devoted about five minutes to prayer. While the enemy is shooting real bullets, wounding many Christian soldiers, contemporary evangelicals tend to be rummaging through their knapsack looking for the TV remote.
Another piece of equipment supplied by the Lord consists of the church, which provides fellowship and teaching. However, recent studies reveal that typical contemporary evangelical church attendance consists of showing up on Sunday morning about twice each month. It was not all that long ago that most believers could be found in church every Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night. Though Scripture does not designate how often a person should attend church, it can be safely assumed that those who immersed themselves more fully in the equipping and training resulting from church participation were better armed for the spiritual conflicts of life.
Though mention of these resources may sound like tired bromides and a return to legalism to contemporary evangelicals, the fact is that those availing themselves of these provisions were better equipped to fight and win the battle. If most evangelicals are patients, and most of the rest are doctors and nurses, we can’t expect to win too many battles, and in fact we have not. Most conflicts are not won by doctors and nurses and their patients.
Winning must begin by recognizing that God does not provide an easy button for living the Christian life, but that it consists of the battle for which we must be equipped and trained. Only then will we get serious about gearing up for the fight, and only when we do that will we start to win.