PREPARING FOR BATTLE

 

This morningís lesson comes from the following text:

 

Philippians 1:27 Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel,28 and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God.29 For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,30 having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me.

 

It does not matter how experienced a warrior is, they must all prepare themselves for battle so they can have the minds set on being victorious. Throughout history, there have been many warriors who used prayer to God as part of their preparation: For example, one of the most revered British heroes, Vice Admiral Horatio wrote:

 

May the Great God, whom I worship, grant to my Country, and for the benefit of Europe in general, a great and glorious Victory; and may no misconduct in any one tarnish it; and may humanity after victory be the predominant feature in the British fleet. For myself, individually, I commit my life to Him who made me, and may His blessing light upon my endeavors for serving my Country faithfully. To Him I resign myself and the just cause which is entrusted to me to defend. Amen. Amen. Amen.

 

Another great example comes from a famous prayer made by General George Patton during World War II that involved the 3rd Army. His prayer reads as follows:

 

Almighty and most merciful Father, we humbly beseech Thee, of Thy great goodness, to restrain these immoderate rains with which we have had to contend. Grant us fair weather for Battle. Graciously hearken to us as soldiers who call upon Thee that, armed with Thy power, we may advance from victory to victory, and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies, and establish Thy justice among men and nations. Amen.

 

General Patton used prayer as a form of preparation for battle. Even though it was only 71 words, this prayer is widely believed to have influenced the course of the war. General Patton continued to communicate with the Chaplin of the 3rd army and wanted to encourage them all to pray. He believed that God had already blessed that army, but now he wanted them to pray that the rains would stop.

 

I really like what history records the General saying next to the Chaplain:

 

Chaplain, I am a strong believer in Prayer. There are three ways that men get what they want; by planning, by working, and by Praying. Any great military operation takes careful planning, or thinking. Then you must have well-trained troops to carry it out: that's working. But between the plan and the operation there is always an unknown. That unknown spells defeat or victory, success or failure. It is the reaction of the actors to the ordeal when it actually comes.

 

Some people call that getting the breaks; I call it God. God has His part, or margin in everything, that's where prayer comes in. Up to now, in the Third Army, God has been very good to us. We have never retreated; we have suffered no defeats, no famine, no epidemics. This is because a lot of people back home are praying for us. We were lucky in Africa, in Sicily, and in Italy simply because people prayed. But we have to pray for ourselves, too. A good soldier is not made merely by making him think and work. Ö

 

Or course these are just two worldly examples of how men thought that prayer to God and relying on God to help them with victory was absolutely necessary, but we could easily look at many examples in the Bible that shows that you defiantly want God on your side with any battle that you fight. As Paul said:

 

Romans 8:31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

 

This morning I want point out some guidelines that Paul gave the Christians in Philippi

to prepare for battle. Christianity is in an ongoing spiritual battle against evil

and the forces of Satan who desire to extinguish the light of the gospel:

 

Philippians 1:27 Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel

 

To conduct ourselves in a way that is worthy of our citizenship we must first stand firm in one spirit. ďStanding firmĒ come from one Greek word:

 

Steko which means: 1) to stand firm 2) to persevere, to persist 3) to keep one's standing

 

Philippi, sometimes called a little Rome, was home to many military men and was also considered to be a place where retired military men lived. Since there were apparently many soldiers and ex-soldiers there, Paul uses several military terms in this letter. For example, our word steko was used to describes those who held their ground without yielding. This word refers to one who exhibits unflinching courage in the face of battle.

Also, our word steko was used to describe a soldier who steadfastly refused to leave his post no matter how heated the battle got.

 

Paul uses our Greek word steko to make spiritual application. He wants the Christians and Philippi and all Christians to stand their ground no matter how heated the battle get. We should not flinch or let our guard down because not only are standing up for righteousness, we are fighting for our souls. So, lets us always determine to stand firm like a soldier who will not abandon his post in the heat of battle.

 

Paul message is universal to all Christians in every place. Anytime God or the way of righteousness comes under attack, Christians are to stand firm without yielding. As Paul said we are to stand fast in one spirit.

 

This means that we are unified in our standing. We are stand together with the Word of God as being our foundation. We stand together and our unified it will be very challenging for our enemies to break through our front line. When we stand together in one spirit, we become like a fortified wall that is not easily broken.

 

Paul also says: with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel

 

As Christians, we must fight together as one unit and we must use the same protection, ammunition, and have the same training, which comes from the Word of God. If we do not have the same training or use the same weapons then we will not be united nor will be successful.

 

The need for unity as we battle against the evil way is stressed throughout the N.T.

 

Philippians 2:2 fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.

 

Ephesians 4:1 I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called,2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love,3 endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling;5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism;6 one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

 

1 Corinthians 1:10 Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

 

If we want to be successful at preparing for battle against our common enemy the devil and way of darkness, then we must be united and be willing to stand up next to each other as we stand up for Godís truth and perfect way. We cannot be divided, or we cannot stand. As Jesus said:

 

Luke 11:17 "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and a house divided against a house falls.

 

As soon as we start making compromises to what Godís Word teaches to appeal to the world, we begin to fight a losing battle. Some Christians and some congregations have made these kind of compromises and while they may have made their lives easier and gained more worldly friends, they have separated themselves from God because they have rejected the orders of their commander in chief. In a spiritual sense, they have deserted the Lordís army.

 

In order for us to stand firm in the faith, we must never compromise Godís Word. As God told Joshua:

 

Joshua 1:7 "Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go.

 

Another interesting point in what Paul said: with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel is the Greek word behind striving together, which means: to strive at the same time with another.

 

Again this emphasizes the need to for us to work together and unified force against evil. Our Greek word was used to describes a line of soldiers fighting together as a unit. The front lines of the Roman soldiers stood shoulder-to-shoulder forming a wall. If one fell, they closed ranks to seal the breech or another stepped up from behind. The outcome of the battle depended upon their ability to hold the line together.

 

Paul applies this to us as we should strive together for the faith of the gospel. This is a spiritual battle to the death that involves each one of us. It is a battle which has eternal consequences for every Christian soldier involved. It is a battle that can only be won by each of doing our part.

 

Jesus as our commander and chief, and our elders lead us in our battle. We all have the sword of the Spirit and the shield of faith and we must fight the good fight of faith together.

 

An army is made up of many people from different backgrounds with different personalities, but for the army to work well with one another, each individual must put aside his differences and unite together because their must peace within the camp. While some personalities may clash, they must look beyond those and focus their attention on the battle before them. Every soldier must know that he can depend on his comrades in arms.

 

Paul applies this same idea to the church. Christians must also be willing to set aside their personal preferences and be willing to work side by side with those they may clash with personality wise for sake of the Lordís army. Since we all have the common goal of being pleasing to God and wanting His kingdom to be victorious, we should take confidence that those who laboring by our side will have our back and will help in our fight against the evil way.

 

Until Jesus comes again, the war against evil will rage on, so there is not time for rest because no treaty will ever be signed with our enemies. We must constantly prepare ourselves for battle because the devil is relentless and will continue to attack us in hopes of causing division or finding those who willing desert the Lordís army. When we fight together in unity we can deal with our enemies from the outside and those who rise from within.

 

Paul also said:

 

28 and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God. 30 having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me.

 

The Greek word behind ďterrifiedĒ is only found this one time in the Bible, but it was used in other writings to describe how easily horses were spooked. Paul is telling us not to be intimidated by those who oppose the way of righteousness. Unfortunately, there are many Christians who are not following this advice. They have become so frighten of our society and those who scream the loudest that many have simply kept silent and have chosen to be political correct instead Biblically correct.

 

All it takes for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing. Yet, Paul teaches us that if we refuse to conform to what society deems acceptable and we refuse to allow the world to intimidate us, then we can know that it is sign that we are saved, but the world is lost because when we stand up for God and His way, we can only be victorious. So, let us never let the enemies of righteousness make us afraid. As Paul told Timothy:

 

2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

 

As Jesus said:

 

Matthew 10:28 "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

 

As we prepare for battle, let us never let our enemy cause us fear because we have God on our side.

 

Paul also said:

 

29 For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,

 

Those who stand as a true and faithful Christian in the face of evil may suffer at the hands of our enemies. Hawthorn is quoted as having said:

 

History bears out that those who believe in the Word of God, who uncompromisingly speak the truth and who unyieldingly live in accordance with the Word of God pay for their resolution and courage and often with their lives.

 

Paul stated this same thought in:

 

2 Timothy 3:12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.

 

As we prepare for battle, we must understand that the world will hate us for what we stand for. We must prepare our minds that we may find ourselves being persecuted and in some cases put to death for our faith in God, so we must have the right attitude about this. For example, when the apostles were beaten for preaching Christ this was their reaction:

 

Acts 5:41 So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.

 

Just like our brave young men and women soldiers are willing to give their lives for their country and count a privilege to serve the USA, as Christians, we should be willing to give up our lives for Christ and count it a privilege to serve our Lord even when it involves persecution. For example notice the following verses:

 

1 Peter 4:13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. 14 If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified.

 

2 Corinthians 12:10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

 

Matthew 5:10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 "Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 "Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

 

As we prepare for battle, let us never forget that persecution and physical death may come our way, but we can know that it is honor and a privilege to suffer for the cause of Christ. We also know that even if man destroys our physical bodies that he cannot touch our soul because it belongs to God. When we take a stand for righteousness in the face of persecution, we can be confident that we will receive our glorious crown in heaven.

 

We have learned several valuable lessons from Paul in Philippians 1:27-30 that will help up prepare for battle and make us live our lives in a way that is worth of our citizenship in Godís kingdom. We learned that we must:

 

1. Stand firm in one spirit.

2. Strive together for the faith.

3. Stand before our enemy without fear.

4. Recognize that suffering for the cause of Christ is a privilege.

 

This is how we can prepare ourselves for spiritual warfare. The question becomes,

 

Are you prepared for the spiritual battles that Christians wage day-by-day?

 

I want to close this lesson out with one of my favorite writings from the apostle Paul:

 

Ephesians 6:10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness,15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints