Monday, May 25, 2009

An Appropriate Memorial Day Meditation by Joe Stowall

Monday, May 25, 2009

Today's Text: Ephesians 6:12

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against . . . the powers of this dark world.” Ephesians 6:12

As the war in Iraq drags on, we are all a little war weary from the complex battle that continues to wage over there. The tired troops want to come home, but with courage and dedication to the cause, they remain on the frontlines. Those of us watching from a distance do what we can to support them, driving around with our “Support the Troops” stickers on our cars and praying fervently for their safety and success.

While no one can accurately predict the resolution, the war carries a poignant lesson for all those who care about the cause of Jesus Christ. As God’s people, we are engaged in a war of far greater proportions—warfare against the hierarchies and unseen powers of the satanic hosts (Ephesians 6:10-12). This battle concerns the liberation of the eternally lost, the advancement of Christ’s kingdom, and the glory of His name.

What strikes me is the surprising lack of support for the frontline men and women who are in the trenches waging this war against the gates of hell. Some of our spiritual troops are dug in on battlefields far away. From massive urban centers like Hong Kong and Rio de Janeiro to the remote jungles of Papua New Guinea, among executives and shopkeepers and natives, these soldiers are penetrating enemy territory with the life-changing claims of Christ.

I am frequently brought face-to-face with the everyday struggles of missionaries who serve as soldiers in the work of the kingdom. Some spend an inordinate amount of time getting to the frontlines because the funds they need are not available. Others often feel forgotten and neglected during their stint on the field. When they finally come home, they feel that somehow they don’t fit.

I also have the privilege of talking heart-to-heart with pastors who labor in their homelands. While some feel loved and supported, others speak of the difficulty they face in trying to focus their church’s attention on the advancement of the gospel. Often a pastor is the target of bickering and petty agendas that turn the congregation inward and end up dividing and sapping its strength.

Laymen fight it out in the trenches of the marketplace, where they see their careers as an opportunity to show Jesus to their world by working with integrity and ethical purity, and some of them do this against great odds. Yet many find little enthusiasm or support for what they are doing in the tough arena of secular society.

So, as Americans commemorate Memorial Day, I think it’s fitting to stop and consider how we are doing in terms of spiritual warfare. Let’s take seriously Paul’s advice to “put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (Eph. 6:11). If each of us were to make a personal commitment to put away what is petty and temporary and instead concentrate on what will advance the cause of Christ, think of the ground we could claim for His kingdom! If we pledge to pray consistently and specifically for those involved on the frontlines, we will provide a vital aspect of support. And if we put our money where we say our hearts are, we will keep the battle lines supplied.

The big difference, of course, between earth-side battles and spiritual battles, is that we already know the outcome. Jesus already claimed eternal victory, and in the meantime He gives us the power for victory in the skirmishes we face along the way. So enlist yourself today, and don’t forget to support the troops!

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