To try and be a man of God is to be engaged in a vicious war. Whether or not you agree with that statement isn’t going to change the fact that there is a very real enemy out among you that wants to kill you. It also won’t change the fact that there is an enemy within you with the same purpose. The first enemy is Satan and the second is your flesh. This is the great war of your life. This is the war that will continue until God calls you to glory.
Now, a good portion of you may affirm everything I have just written but the question is, does your life reflect that reality? Here is what I mean… Do you live in such a way that it shows you are not only engaged in this great battle but taking new ground?
The reason I ask this question is that I would have answered yes but a few days ago I realized I was deceiving myself. A little backstory may help.
Back in July, I took on the full-time role of being a youth pastor (I really am blessed to come alongside some amazing students). However, prior to doing that I was devoting all of my ministry energy to a ministry I started aimed at equipping men. That meant that I was daily in communication with other men who desired to get after it. I had a small platoon of guys in my life who marched alongside me and fought spiritual battles with me. However, when I took this new role, I had to dramatically pull back how much time and energy I gave to this ministry.
I was saddened but truly felt in my heart that even though I couldn’t do the ministry part of it, I was still just as committed to growing as a man of God. To say I was wrong would be an understatement.
There was a two month stretch where my wife and I were arguing more than I want to admit, depression had continued firing its cannons at my heart, while anxiety and anger were dropping bombs on my soul. All I could keep thinking was “Why Lord?” I mean I was in my Bible daily, memorizing Scripture, faithfully teaching the Bible, cultivating a robust discipline of daily prayer… Shouldn’t life be going just the opposite?
Then God did His thing and intervened. One of my adult leaders is another married guy, he’s a bit younger than me but very spiritually mature. After youth group on a Sunday night, we were sitting in my office talking and next thing you know the Holy Spirit kicked in the doors of both our hearts and we began confessing our sins to each other, honestly saying where we were at, and speaking Gospel to each other. That night was a turning point. It felt as if an elephant had been lifted off my chest. As amazing as it was though, I was confused as to why it was so amazing.
It was there that God in His grace reminded me that a soldier always has a battle buddy. A soldier never fights alone. A soldier is part of an army. For the last 3 months, I had been trying to fight in this war called biblical manhood alone. I was living divorced from the brotherhood. I was charging into battle reckless and alone. Is it any surprise then that my life was riddled with difficulty and pain? No matter how much I buckled down on spiritual disciplines I was still alone on the battlefield which means I had no coverage or accountability. No matter how hard I fought there was an archer 200 meters away driving an arrow into my side. God in His grace would drag me back to safety and begin to nurse me to health only for me to do the same thing over again.
But on that night with me and my other leader, the arrow hit his shield and not me. He covered me. As we opened up, confessed, and spoke the Gospel to each other, we protected each other and enabled each other to take ground against the enemies and fight well.
This reminded me of the Spartans. The Spartans are known as being some of the fiercest warriors in history. One of their tactics was to create a barrier using their shields (called phalanxes). The front row of shields would all lock together and a row of spears would stick out. They would move as one in complete unity and in doing so cause immense damage to the enemy.
Here’s the point, I was fighting alone rather than locking shields with the brotherhood that God had given me and commanded me to be a part of. I wasn’t united to anyone on my left or right. And so, the enemy could pick me off. I had that before when I was fully engaged in my ministry to other men but when I stepped back from that ministry, I unaware also stepped back from it personally. In doing so, I cast aside one of the biggest weapons God has given me to fight Satan and sin, my brotherhood of godly men.
I’m thankful that God in His grace opened the opportunity to connect with one of my leaders. I’m thankful that God reminded me that alone, all that awaits me is a body bag. I’m thankful that He has healed me and sent me to fight another day.
Let me close with these words from the Apostle Paul:
But you, man of God, flee from these things, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of eternal life to which you were called and about which you have made a good confession in the presence of many witnesses. In the presence of God, who gives life to all, and of Christ Jesus, who gave a good confession before Pontius Pilate, I charge you to keep this command without fault or failure until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. God will bring this about in his own time. He is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings, and the Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see, to him be honor and eternal power. Amen. ~ 1 Timothy 6:11-16