The army of God

As a new believer 50 years ago, I saw myself as part of the invisible army of God.

As a bit of a romantic, I imagined this army of believers conquering the secular world around us with the gospel of Christ.  It was thrilling to be part of this army.

I am coming back to this vision now.

Of course, the world has changed greatly in 50 years.  At that time, I was a young man – only 20 years old.  War of any kind seemed to be a great adventure.  Naziism had been defeated by a righteous force of allied nations.  Militant communism threatened our liberties, including religious freedom.

As a believer, I knew the army of God was not there to defeat secularism and communism by force.  It was there to win the battle through love and the power of the Spirit.

However, the idea of armies – whether godly or not – fell into disfavour in the intervening decades.  The Vietnam war led many Americans and other Westerners to denounce war of any kind.  “Army” and “war” became dirty words.

I believe this has had an impact on us as believers in the Western world.  We are on the defensive.  No one sings “Onward Christian soldiers” any more.  Christians believe in the peace that Christ brings to our hearts when we put our faith in him.  But we have carried that further to not wanting to offend anyone by our beliefs.

In the last while, I have come to accept what many other believers have pointed out over many centuries: We are in a battle with Satan’s kingdom whether we like it or not. It has taken me a long time to recognize this truth.

Only six years ago, I remember a friend suggesting that serious illness in our family might be part of Satan’s attack on us.  I said nothing but dismissed this thought as an extreme position.  Maybe it is, but I am not so sure any more.

I have changed my thinking as a result of studying the scriptures and reading modern-day stories of people delivered from evil spirits.  I have read of witch doctors in the developing world  who had supernatural powers but were defeated by believers resting in the power and love of God.

Some might say that this kind of “power encounter” happens only in poor countries where people are not well-educated.  But similar things are happening in North America.  In fact, I remember a very mild-mannered Baptist pastor and teacher at an Ontario seminary who had a deliverance ministry in Canada some years ago.

When people speak about spiritual warfare, they usually refer to the apostle Paul’s message to the Ephesian Christians in Ephesians 6:10-18.  Paul says explicitly that the battle is not against “flesh and blood”, but against dark spiritual forces – the forces of Satan.

I have learned not to be troubled by our enemy.  As some have said, Christ won the victory over Satan on the cross and our job is to gradually mop up the enemy forces until Christ’s victorious return.  The Bible clearly shows that the devil will flee if we resist him.

So, now my focus is on advancing the kingdom of God in this world as part of God’s vast, invisible army.  I do this whenever I allow Christ to work through me to touch the people around me – through prayer, acts of kindness, and the word of God.

But to be effective, I need to submit to my heavenly commander.  That is what I am learning now.

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