I have the utmost respect for those who serve in our military. The closest I have come to combat would be the various war movies I’ve seen. For those who have risked their lives for our freedom, I am beyond grateful. I can only imagine what it must be like to be on the frontlines, facing the enemy, fearing for your life, knowing that every choice you make could have dire consequences. The movies I have seen have left me on the edge of my seat as I’ve been drawn into the hopelessness, the fear and the darkness of war, but then I always go back to my comfy life without battle scars or emotional bruises.
I wish I could say the same for my spiritual life, though. Every one of us has a uniquely appointed spiritual course to follow in our lives. We can’t take another person’s path nor can we just sit back and watch as others travel the road on our behalf. Sometimes following Jesus Christ can seem more like navigating a battlefield than a leisurely stroll through meadows of wildflowers. We can be left scratching our heads and wondering what we really signed up for in this Christian life. An expectation of ease can usher us onto the battlefield of doubt and blame. 1 Peter 5:8 warns us: “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” So, where is grace when you are too tired to fight the battles of life yet you know the enemy is prowling around? Grace comes in the form of a shield and a hiding place when the fighting is fiercest.
The psalmist in Psalm 119 wasn’t unaware of the battles of life. In verse 114 he tells God: “You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word.” One of the tactics of war is to surround the ones you are trying to attack. No matter where you turn, enemy forces are there. This not only stacks the odds in their favor, but it causes morale to falter. Have you ever been there spiritually? I know I have had times when it seemed like everything was working against me. No matter where I turned, the enemy was there shooting arrows of frustration from coworkers who were less than pleased with my work; from family members who disagreed with my choices; from close loved ones who criticized my actions and from dear friends who no longer had time for me. Finding comfort in James 1:2 can be difficult: “Consider it pure joy….whenever you face trials of many kinds.” Really? Finding joy when surrounded by the enemy is a battle that I am sometimes too tired to fight. Instead I would like to cry out like our psalmist in verse 115 of Psalm 119, who says “Depart from me, you evildoers, that I may keep the commandments of my God.” Yet, it is often in this very trials that our faith is rooted and our love for Christ is refined. The apostle Peter explains it more clearly to us in 1 Peter 1:6-7 when he says, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
Another tactic of war is to leave landmines in areas that appear non-threatening. Have you ever stepped on a spiritual landmine in the form of betrayal by a Christian friend or unethical behavior by church leadership? Have you trusted someone that never should have let you down. let alone hurt you? The scars from those types of spiritual battles can take a lifetime to heal. Our psalmist was familiar with this battlefield tactic for he states in verses 116-117, “Uphold me according to Your promise, that I may live, and let me not be put to shame in my hope! Hold me up, that I may be safe and have regard for Your statutes continually!” As we seek spiritual safety after intense hurt, God will be our shield of grace if only we trust in His Word. You can be assured that when you fall, Jesus is there with capable arms and a willing heart to pick you back up. Isaiah 41:10 shields us with these words: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Psalm 51:12 shields us behind this plea: “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.” Psalm 27:5 reveals our hiding place: “For He will hide me in His shelter in the day of trouble; He will conceal me under the cover of His tent; He will lift me high upon a rock.”
Friends, God knows when we are too tired to fight the relentless tactics of the enemy. His grace provides us a shield if only we run to His Word. His Word becomes our hiding place when we trust in these promises: “For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish.” (Jeremiah 31:25) “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) and when we say to God: “Be to me a rock of refuge, to which I may continually come; You have given the command to save me, for You are my rock and my fortress.” (Psalm 71:3)
It is true that life can feel more like navigating a battlefield than strolling along easy street. Following Jesus doesn’t mean that everything will suddenly be easier, less painful or less risky. In fact, often times the opposite is true. But there is one difference between the wars of men and the spiritual battles of life. In war there is hopelessness, fear and darkness that sometimes haunts a person even when the fight is over. When we follow Jesus across the battlefield of life, however, His grace shields us from all of that. His Word gives us hope: “Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:2) His love drives out fear: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” (1 John 4:19) And His truth gives us light: “The people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.” (Matthew 4:16)
You see, my fellow sojourner, we have one weapon that the enemy just can’t seem to defeat –faith. Our faith rooted in the blood of Jesus Christ is unstoppable. It is what binds us to our victorious King. God’s Word shows us His grace in providing us a shield strengthened by truth, impenetrable with love, forceful with hope and held by faith. “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13) No matter what battle you find yourself in right now, keep fighting because love wins! For those in Christ, there is a ‘happily ever after.’