A soldier in God’s army

I remember singing “Onward Christian Soldiers” often in my elementary school class just after the Second World War.

The hymn begins: “Onward, Christian soldiers! Marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus going on before.”

No state-run public school would allow the hymn today. And I am sure many Christians would be reluctant to sing it now – they might feel it hints at crusades and jihads.

But there is an underlying message in the hymn that is as true today as it was when it was written more than 150 years ago. That message is that we believers are in a spiritual war and that we are in it together.

Our weapons are not AK-47s and supersonic fighters. Our main weapon is the love of Christ. Our mission is to advance God’s kingdom in a world that lies under the heel of Satan.

But, it seems to me that Western Christians – and I am one of them – too often feel alone in this struggle. So we hide rather than stepping out behind the banner of Jesus.

A soldier alone in enemy territory is more likely to hide than to stride forth in confidence. But if he is surrounded and supported by other soldiers on the same mission, he will gain strength.

For me, that is the joy of the church – the group of believers with the same vision and mission. We build each other up and support one another as we carry out God’s assignment in the world around us.

Like any soldier, we need training. We need to understand the plan. We need to work together. And we need experience in battle.

In Ephesians 6, the apostle Paul described the spiritual armour we need to equip ourselves with in our struggle against the “evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world”. The word of God, prayer, salvation, God’s righteousness are a few of them.

Most of all, we need to know that we are part of a victorious army. Our leader – Jesus Christ – has already defeated Satan at the cross and we are now taking part in a mopping-up operation.

That takes faith. The Western world is very secular – in many cases, anti-Christian. Like other Christians, I need to look beyond what I see around me and place my faith in my commander who tells me his plan is unfolding as it should.

He is calling me to action every day – in prayer, in testifying to Jesus, in acts of kindness. Each act is a blow against Satan and his empire.

It’s exciting to be part of the army of God.

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