Satan the devil is your adversary. He is the one who seeks to destroy God's Church, and you along with it. Be prepared to fight and win in the battle for spiritual survival.
"This charge I commit unto you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on you, that you by them might war a good warfare" (I Tim. 1:18, paraphrased). Paul knew that the Christian, both in Paul's day and throughout coming generations, would be involved in many struggles and battles with evil. That's why he told Timothy to wage a good warfare. "Therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that wars entangles himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who has chosen him to be a soldier" (II Tim. 2:3-4, paraphrased).
Not a new thing
War is not a new thing to the Church of God. Again and again in the Bible the analogy of God's people being involved in war is drawn. The Church has always been in a war, though we wrestle not against human beings. Our real struggle is against the spiritual forces that Satan marshals against us in trying to discredit or to destroy the very Work of God. Yet we know that Christ has said, "I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matt. 16:18). God's Church will continue throughout every age. But will you continue with it? That is the crucial question. To insure that you will not become a casualty in the monumental battle against Satan's demonic kingdom, you should enlist in the army of God. But first, before you can be accepted in any army, you must go through a battery of tests to determine your physical and mental fitness. God wants those who really believe in the cause; those who are strong enough to begin the journey and those who are strong enough to endure, with God's help, right through to the end. Some who have sat in God's Church have thrown the precious knowledge of God's truth away. They're absent without leave, A WOL from God's Church, walking on dangerous ground. So it's important that you be tested first.
Then let's assume you are chosen to serve. Even though you have passed the initial test, you're still a green recruit. The next step is basic training. Two of the basics in this training are proper nourishment — both physical and mental — and exercise. The Bible shows that the diet of the Christian soldier is the Word of God. You're to be fed on the milk and the meat of the Word. And you must exercise discipline in your study of the Bible and in your prayers. Study diligently and pray frequently in order to remain spiritually strong. While in basic training, you will learn to use weapons. An alert recruit will learn everything he or she can about the Christian soldier's weapons and be able to use them effectively. These weapons are described in Ephesians 6 (see article, page 27). Another lesson you as a recruit must learn is how to take orders. When your commanders tell you, "Go in this direction," you will go in that direction. Each man can't charge off with his bayonet, running in whatever direction he chooses. An army, in order to win its battles, has to be unified. It is directed from the top, as is God's army. Upon completion of basic training the recruit is ready for a tour of duty. The use of weapons is firmly understood, and the individual is at the peak of his or her mental and physical condition and, in the case of God's army, is full of the Holy Spirit.
Be not afraid
At that point, those things that cannot be taught in basic training or learned from a book must come into play. Courage, for example. In Deuteronomy 20:1, God said to the people of Israel: "When you go out to battle against your enemies, and you see horses, and chariots, and a people more than you (in numbers), be not afraid of them: for the Lord your God is with you, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt" (paraphrased). As we look around us today and see the world's mighty governments and its giant armies, we don't have any might in comparison to them. But God's power marshaled on our side is like a spiritual hydrogen bomb. "And it shall be," God told His people, "when you come near into the battle, that the priest shall approach and speak unto the people, And shall say unto them, Hear, O Israel, you approach this day unto battle against your enemies: let not your hearts faint, fear not, and do not tremble, neither be you terrified because of them; For the Lord your God is he who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you. "... What man is there who is fearful and fainthearted? Let him go and return unto his house, lest his brother's (in war) heart faint as well as his heart" (verses 2-8). The fearful and fainthearted were told that they were not even wanted near the other brave men. God wants people in His army who will strap on the armor of God and fight with undaunted veracity until total victory is won.
Our courageous Leader
Although bravery is a quality that must be nurtured throughout an individual's life, it can be motivated and brought to the fore if the leader commands the same quality. God the Father is the Commander in Chief of the spiritual militia that He has called to fight against Satan. Our Captain, the Bible says, is Jesus Christ. Christ's example as a courageous leader is shown in Joshua 5. Notice God's instructions to the Israelites who had just crossed over Jordan and were ready to begin clearing the land of the Canaanites. "And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand" (verse 13).Joshua boldly went up to him and said, "Are you for us, or for our adversaries?" And the great Personage standing there with a sword in His hand said, "Nay; but as captain of the host of the Eternal am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my Lord unto his servant? And the captain of the Lord's host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot, for the place whereon thou standest is holy." You see, the Lord Himself appeared to Joshua, drew His sword out of His scabbard, and said that He was the Captain of the Lord's host. He would go before them to lead their troops, the host of Israel, the army that He had chosen, to total victory. This was a great sign, undoubtedly given to inspire Joshua and his people during their soon-coming military campaign. During one such campaign, the sun stood still, and God actually worked a miracle, by stopping this earth from rotating on its axis. From the vantage point of human beings, this caused the sun to stand still for about 24 hours. God actually fought for His people.
The Captain of our salvation
In Hebrews 2:10, we also read that Jesus Christ is called the Captain of our salvation. As the Church of the living God, we are a spiritual army! We're in a warfare. And you know who our Captain is? It's not a human being. Sure, we have officers, and our chief human officer is Herbert W. Armstrong, a warrior. But Christ is the Captain of our salvation. Christ is also our shield in battle. Notice Psalm 33:8. "Let all the earth fear the Eternal: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him." It's time people began to stand in awe of God in this Church too. If we do, we are going to shake kingdoms with our message far more powerfully than we have ever done in the past. "For he spake and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast. The Lord bringeth the counsel of the heathen to nought: he maketh the devices of the people of none effect. The counsel of the Eternal standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations. Blessed is the nation whose God is the Eternal; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance." Blessed (verses 9-12 above) are those people in the Church of God whom God has chosen for his inheritance. "The Lord looketh from heaven; he beholdeth all the sons of men. From the place of his habitation he looketh upon all the inhabitants Of the earth. He fashioneth their hearts alike; he considereth all their works. There is no king saved by the multitude of an host: a mighty man is not delivered by much strength. A horse is a vain thing for safety: neither shall he deliver any by his great strength. Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon them who fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy; To deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine. Our soul waiteth for the Lord; he is our help and our shield" (verses 13-20). As long as we please God we have nothing to fear in any battle. We are now in a war. And the only question I have concerns when we will win, not whether we will win. In Psalm 34:7 we read, "The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them." Do we fully realize that if we please God and have a right heart, a right attitude and keep close to and in constant communion with the Captain of the host, the Captain of our salvation, Jesus Christ, then God's angels will protect us from danger?
Strength and endurance
Another quality one must have before entering the heat of battle is strength; endurance to withstand the physical and mental strain of war. II Samuel 23:8-19 mentions three of David's mighty men, and it says that one of them was named Eleazar. At a time when most of the army of Israel were running away from the Philistines, Eleazar stood there for his God, for his king and for his country, and he fought until he couldn't let go of the sword. His hand "was weary," and they had to pry his fingers back to let his sword drop. He had the endurance absolutely necessary for him to win the victory. The endurance that is so necessary for you and me, brethren, if we are going to win the victory.
Put on the whole armor
Ephesians 6 says that we are in a warfare and that we are soldiers for Christ. We must look upon ourselves that way — that we are fighting a battle against Satan. The devil wants to elbow Mr. Armstrong aside, so he can destroy the Work of the living God and His Church. But he shall not succeed. In Ephesians 6 it says: "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Eternal, and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." Or as the margin says, against wicked spirits in high places. These satanic beings inspire leaders in this world to destroy God's people. We are to have the whole armor of God. Above all, we must take the shield of faith, which is the faith — the assurance in God — that He is faithful. He will never leave or forsake us. God is on our side. He will fight our battles for us. "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints" (verse 18). We should be praying constantly, for Mr. Armstrong, for God's true ministers and for all of God's people.
Are you suffering battle fatigue?
Most of us have received our basic training. Many have had years of experience now in the army of God — fighting minor skirmishes throughout the years. But now we're in a major conflict, a fierce battle with Satan, who would wish above all things that we would quit and give up at a time when we're so close to victory. How many of us now are suffering from a sickness common to battle-weary soldiers — battle fatigue? There is a way that you can survive the world's spiritual holocaust, but it will not be easy. It will take rigorous and determined training to prepare physically, mentally and spiritually. You will have to endure great tests. It is by any standard the toughest challenge you'll ever face. But the reward for victory is greater than anything your mind can imagine. The time to enlist is now. Join forces with Jesus Christ and become a good soldier in the army of God.
'The Armour of God' by Gerald Waterhouse
Ephesians 6 shows that the Christian soldier should put on the whole armor of God before entering into spiritual battle. Armor refers to any body covering designed for protection in combat — in this case it is protection for the soul. But Satan, through his subtle influence, can convince us to take it off; usually a piece at a time until completely unprotected. For the sake. of those who are in danger of believing it is easier to fight with less of the spiritual weight of God's armor, I offer the following scenario: The devil is like a demoniac general, eagerly plotting the demise of his enemy — in this case, you and me. He deals in subtleties, launching surprise attacks here and there until we're caught completely off guard. His plan begins by inspiring discouragement and doubt among God's troops, about the Church, about its leaders, about our calling, hoping eventually to convince us that we can no longer have faith even in Christ's leadership and protection. Once that happens, it is so easy for us to unfasten the support of truth that God has fastened to our loins (verse 14), thereby becoming a little more vulnerable to attack. Later in the battle, without that girdle of truth to protect our vital organs, it becomes more natural to agree that the weight of our armor is quite heavy (perhaps we should water down God's commandments just a bit or. change Church government). That" is where the weary soldier takes off another piece of equipment, the breastplate of righteousness (verse 14). Only partially protected now, the soldier searches more desperately for an effective battle plan (listening to any "smooth saying"), but is led ever closer toward the inevitable ambush. Removing his boots for speed, he runs to and fro in the midst of battle, but with feet that are no longer shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace (verse 15). He loses the realization of the Church's great commission, which is to preach the true Gospel to the world. Satan's attack nears its apex. After barrage of manipulation and disorientation, the Christian lays aside His shield of faith — the coup de grace, so to speak. Now he or she can no longer quench the fiery darts of the wicked (verse 16). Another casualty is recorded in the great conflict. After the Christian is down, his blood poured out over the field, Satan's henchmen remove his helmet of salvation (verse 17), once so earnestly cherished, the last gesture that seals his fate. Brethren, don't let the above come true in your life. Don't be misled by subtle rationalizations from those "angels of light" (II Cor. 11:14) who fight against God's Church. This Philadelphia era has been raised up to do the work of Elijah in preparation of "restoring all things" (Matt. 17:11). It is no wonder then that Satan is fighting us now with great zeal and passion. Before it is too late, make sure the armor, of God is fastened tightly around your body and soul. And through your constant "prayer and supplication in the Spirit" God will grant you living faith, so that we ll1ay boldly say, "The Lord is my helper. and I will not fear" (Heb. 13:6).