As an 18-year-old who responded to God’s call, I learned that ministry can be a series of battles. Sitting in the office of a Baptist leader in our state, I shared with my respected friend some great victories I was experiencing through the preaching of the gospel. My conversation inevitably led me to say, “There is great joy in ministry, but there are many battles in this war, also.”
He quickly chided me for referring to “war” and “battles” in the same sentence with Christian ministry. Songs like “Onward Christian Soldiers” and similar references should be removed from all of our vocabulary, he firmly stated.
My shock was surely obvious in my facial expression. “What planet is he living on?” I thought. How can we gloss-over the obvious?
The Old Testament records the stories of endless battles in the history of God’s people. Each one is a model of the battles every believer faces today – both personally and corporately – in the body of Christ.
Paul underscored this reality in Ephesians 6:10-12, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
Yes, battles are real. But sometimes we fail to identify the real enemy. Make no mistake; it is Satan and his demonic schemes. The battles are not political, but moral. They are not social, but spiritual.
Pastors have a very tough job. In the process of preaching the truth and exposing the enemy, resistance may rise to the surface. People can easily misunderstand what a pastor says and side with the enemy. They may take a comment very personally, or they may be so saturated with a secular world view that they have not properly considered the ultimate truth of God. Unnecessary battles follow.
Some issues should be clear to the believer. Unfortunately, the anti-Christian saturation of universalism, relativism, secularism and liberalism has won the hearts and minds of many Christians. Sadly, many believers do not see the threat of these forces.
Christians in the United States are facing unprecedented intimidation and opposition from every direction. I have never seen so many anti-Christian forces marshalled at one moment in time. But nothing in my lifetime has demonstrated a more blatant violation of both the US Constitution and basic Bible truth than the edict from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius – with the endorsement of the White House – to force religious organizations to violate their freedom of conscience in matters of life, health and contraception.
As part of the health care mandate, beginning next year any organization that offers health insurance to employees will be forced to cover contraception, sterilizations, and abortifacients – no matter what their objections. Outrage is growing over this mandate – as it should.
The Wall Street Journal stated: “The country is being exposed to the raw political control that is the core of the Obama health-care plan, and Americans are seeing clearly for the first time how this will violate pluralism and liberty.”
Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote a clear analysis of the issue in his blog.
In summary, he says, “The edict from President Obama to religious institutions is this – violate conscience and bend the knee to the government, or face the consequences…. the Obama Administration trampled religious liberty under the feet of the leviathan state, forcing religious employers to do what conscience will not allow. Religious organizations such as schools, colleges, and hospitals will be required to pay for services that they believe to be immoral and disobedient to God.”
Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission said, “In my opinion, a Baptist needs to take a stand on this issue. Our Baptist forefathers went to prison and died for the freedoms that we have, and now it’s our responsibility in the providence of God to defend these freedoms lest they be taken away by government fiat.”
The battle lines are clear. We may be battling a system of man that forces Catholics (and all of us) to pay for contraceptives and sterilization, forbids the use of public school facilities for church meetings, mandates the removal of the cross from government-owned property, removes prayer from all public meetings and seeks to redefine marriage contrary to the biblical model. But it is still the same battle against forces of darkness.
Pastors, we must be bold. We must be courageous. We can passionately express our convictions, and we can still be civil – which means “Christ-like” in our context. Church members, you can pray for your pastor and stand with him in this battle. Finally, “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.”