Summary: We need to trust Christ’s "war plan", even when it seems the battle is going against us.
Over the past couple of weeks, since the war in Iraq began, we have been subjected to a barrage of television commentators expressing their views on the conduct of the war. Every channel has their own set of talking heads – retired generals arguing about whether we have enough troops and tanks on the ground; military analysts critiquing battle strategies; politicians assessing the war’s impact on international relations. And one of the most persistent topics for discussion has been whether the war planners correctly predicted how the Iraqis would respond. Did they anticipate the degree of resistance we faced in Basra? Did they expect that fanatical Saddam loyalists would fight to the death rather than surrender? Did they foresee that the Fedayeen fighters would disguise themselves in civilian clothing and use women and children as human shields? In other words, did we know in advance what we were getting into? Early on, there were many voices claiming that we didn’t; claiming that we were too optimistic, that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had foolishly ignored the advice of his generals. You may have heard the statement by one of the commanders in Iraq, Lt. General William Wallace, who was quoted in the New York Times as saying that, "The enemy we’re fighting is different than the one we war-gamed against." Those unfortunate words just reinforced the perception that we had rushed into war without adequate preparation and planning.
Now, in the last couple of days, things seem to have turned around quite dramatically. Events seem to be proving the critics and the doubters wrong. But at least they were right about one thing: when you are going into battle, it is essential that you know your enemy. It is essential that you understand where the risks and dangers lie, so that you can be prepared for them, and not taken by surprise. Because in wartime, your survival and victory depend on your ability to anticipate what is coming.
Why bring that up? Because you and I are also engaged in a war. The Christian life is a daily battle against the world, the flesh and the devil. And our spiritual survival, our victory over sin and Satan, depends on knowing what we are likely to face and being prepared for it. For example, Paul writes that,
". . . though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds." – 2 Corinthians 10:3-4
This war is being waged, not with tanks and artillery, but with prayers and faith. And although the battlefield is in the spiritual realm, it is no less real and no less serious. Therefore, as Paul urges Timothy, we are to "fight the good fight of the faith" (1 Tim. 6:12), and conduct ourselves as "good soldier[s] of Christ Jesus" (2 Tim. 2:3). The apostle Peter give us these warnings,
"Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul." – 1 Peter 2:11