We Need a Plan
Men in warfare is a topic that has been studied for centuries. In his book, On Combat – The Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict in War and Peace, Lt. Col. Dave Grossman tells of a study done by Brigadier General S.L.A. Marshall which revealed that, “only 15 to 20 percent of the individual riflemen in WWII fired their weapons at an exposed enemy soldier.” There were exceptions to that number – if there was a leader present ordering soldiers to fire and if there was a partner there, the percentage increased, “but when soldiers were left to their own devices, the vast majority of them, on all sides, could not kill.” Thankfully, this research was used to change training techniques; and, by the time of the Vietnam war, the percentage had risen to 95%.
While this may seem like a warfare illustration that’s over the top for our purposes, let me say that the illustration is apropos to our situation. These men were trained and well equipped, but when the battle came to their doorstep, for some reason, they failed to carry out their mission.
This is clearly where many men who claim to be Christians live. They have read the Scriptures, perhaps even read a book or two on spiritual warfare and yet, when the battle comes to their front door, they fail to see it for what it is and they fail to carry out their mission. This is why so many men in our churches are simply being taken out, over and over again. Men are living secret lives of sin, they are trapped in addictions, held captive in anger and bitterness and lost in a fog because they are trying to fight supernatural things in the flesh – just try harder. Trying harder won’t help in this case; rather, we must learn how and when to use the weapons Jesus has already given us.
There is another type of man that I desire to reach with these blogs. He is the younger Christian man who has had no teaching on spiritual warfare and needs to learn about his enemy and the tactics he will need to employ when attacked to assure victory. Younger men are constantly getting assaulted in various ways, i.e., addictions, bad relationship experiences, selfish lifestyles, yet many have no idea that there even is an enemy. Most have no battle experience and no warfare understanding. They will need to be taught about warfare from scratch.
This is what we find going on in Judges, Chapter 3. Joshua has died and the people once again “did evil in the Lord’s sight...” Replaying the common theme, the Lord turns the people over to their enemies. The Lord also left nations in the land for the testing of Israel, to test their faithfulness. “These are the nations that the LORD left in the land to test those Israelites who had not experienced the wars of Canaan. He did this to teach warfare to generations of Israelites who had no experience in battle.” Judges 3:1-2
This may sound overly dramatic to many but the principle holds for the spiritual world, especially if you have been taught that your enemy isn’t really all that much of a threat. But how else do you explain the world we now live in? God has been cast out of the public eye and our enemy is running rampant through our culture. Human trafficking, opioid use, divorce, the breakdown of the family, the over-sexualizing of the culture, the self-centered promotion of individuals through social media and the breakdown of unity in our country. No one is reaching across the aisle anymore to do anything together. Every issue is politicized and polarized. Who does this sound more like – Jesus or Satan? And the worst thing is that so many Christians live such spiritually superficial lives that they don’t even recognize Satan’s handiwork as the architect of all this. Folks, our battle is not against our neighbor. Paul was very clear, For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12 (NLT)
There is a generation that needs to learn how to fight and it is the responsibility of the older men to teach the younger men about the wiles of their enemy and how to fight in the spiritual realm. Everything we love is at stake.
We need to know this before we proceed - John Eldredge in his book Wild at Heart teaches that every man has a deep wound – an arrow taken in the deepest part of his heart – at the essential place of his identity. This arrow comes with a message designed to take him out of his God created story. It is a message (usually delivered by his father) that assures the boy that he will never be good enough – in the game of life he most likely doesn’t have what it takes to win – why would you even ask? As the boy receives the message, he begins to build a life around it – giving in to addiction or depression or perhaps over achievement and aggression. The message feels real (true to his heart) so he will expend tremendous amounts of energy to protect himself from appearing weak – incapable – whatever. No matter the cost, no one must discover his weakness – it is the story his enemy is telling him every day. Some, like Dr. Curt Thompson and Brene’ Brown, will tell you this is the voice of shame – how true – but who does that voice belong to? It’s that voice we need to learn to discern with great accuracy.
Let’s use the chart below to give us a working strategy:
When we first sense an issue – an argument – a fight – an assault on our character – anger – frustration – we need to ask ourselves what’s going on? What’s the issue as it appears on the surface? What’s the emotion attached to the issue? We know there are only so many possible actors – and it matters that we sort that out. Remember the illustration of Paul – being hindered at times by Satan and at times by the Spirit. How are we to know the difference?
If it isn’t immediately obvious, we need to find a way to discern who is acting. One way we do this is by searching the Word of God. The more we are steeped in Scripture, the easier it is to discern - almost always. If there is no clear Scripture, or even if there is, we seek wise counsel. Find a man you trust to be a mature Christian – someone who has been walking with God a long time who isn’t going to simply shoot you off a quick answer – (Eldredge would call this man a sage) – you probably already know some. Finally, what is your spirit telling you? The Spirit of God speaks to our spirit – it is our responsibility to be listening. Paul tells us, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God.” Eph 2:12
If we determine Satan is attacking us, we must realize that our mind is where the battle takes place – and we descend down the left side of the chart.
It is in our mind that Satan comes to tell us of our shortcomings and faults. By the way, when the attack is on who we are as a person, it is always Satan. The Holy Spirit convicts, to bring us to repentance – Satan condemns, to bring us to ruin. Also, the condemnation will most usually come in agreement with our wound – you’re not smart enough – you’re too weak – you’re not able to compete with others – you honestly don’t have what it takes, etc.
Next, we move to TRUTH - Every battle is ultimately a battle for truth. The enemy is selling us a bill of goods and God is trying to tell us we are His beloved son - created in His image and called to live in His presence. The battle for truth is waged with God’s Word. We are to claim what God says about us in the face of the discouraging things Satan is trying to tell us are true. In order to do that, we must spend time memorizing the Word so it is present with us when we need it. We renounce the condemning thoughts in Jesus name and begin to recite out loud the Word of God. This is true even when the accusation is based in fact. The message comes to us, “Remember how you really blew it with Bob? You had to go and ask forgiveness? It wasn’t real, he has written you off and you’ve lost his friendship forever.” Well, maybe you did mess it up with Bob, but he did say he forgives you. You have to declare out loud, before Satan has a chance to win this – “I reject that thought in Jesus name. Satan you are a liar and there is no truth in you. Bob is a good and faithful friend and his forgiveness was real. He is a man of truth and if he still had an issue with me, he would tell me. So, you’re not getting a foothold between me and my good friend – be gone in Jesus name!”
That’s how we take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ – who is Truth.
After realizing and proclaiming the truth, we can reset our minds on the good things we know to be true about Bob and our long-time relationship. In fact, we can prayerfully thank God for Bob and his friendship and pray blessings for Bob and his family.
Finally, Paul tells us, And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9 (NLT – emphasis added)
Paul is reminding us that we can make choices in this life and in fact, we will have to in order to stay in a place of peace. He is telling us what we are to think about – it’s not a suggestion – it is what’s necessary for us to win the battles that are waged in our mind. Remember the attacks come as thoughts – so must the victory. We broke the negative thoughts about Bob and repented of them and rejected them – if we don’t replace them with something else, they are likely to show up again. Rather, we begin to recite the above verse, to align our thinking with God and that’s when we sense the peace in a real way. We must change the way we think.
In this way, we firmly close the door on the attack and walk in new victory in this area.
Often the attack may be much more severe and the stakes much higher – perhaps our relationship with our wife or one or more of our children, but the strategy is the same. We may have to move through the steps more than once, but when our feet are firmly planted on truth, we will find the victory.
Let’s move to the right side of the chart – this time we have discerned that God is the one acting in our situation. Perhaps we lost our temper once again with our wife over something stupid (usually is, right?) But as we pray, we are sensing God is convicting us of our anger and how easily it flares up with those we love. As we pray, we search for truth. James comes to mind – But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. James 1:19a,20
As truth comes, we can measure our behavior against the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22, But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control. . .
The conviction of the Word convinces us that our anger is wrong and we can repent and ask forgiveness from God and ask Him to help us walk in the fruit of His Spirit. We can then surrender our constant need to have things our way and our entitlement to get angry when we feel disrespected. If we are really introspective, we might even be able to see where this behavior is attached to the message of our wounding. But as we surrender our right to be right before the Lord, we will sense a new level of freedom. Jesus told us, in Matthew 16:25 that if we would lose our life for His sake, we would find it, and after all, that’s the journey we are on – to discover the life that Jesus has for us.
Again, following the chart, we change what we are thinking about according to Philippians, and receive the peace of God. Then we can go and set things right with our family. Out of learning how to lay down our will and surrender to God’s will, we find a deepening in our spirit and a growing and abiding peace. That is growth – that is victory.
This is obviously not a comprehensive study – it’s actually just a start. There is so much more. I apologize for stating up front that this would be a three-part study. As it began to unfold, I realized that I couldn’t put forty years of walking with Jesus and twelve years of counseling experience into three handy segments; thus, this lengthy installment. I can only honestly say at this point, there might be more. Did I say might?
In the end, our life will be the culmination of all the choices we have made. All the little, seemingly insignificant choices that we never gave much thought to as well as the big ones – the ones we really knew mattered. Our victory over the enemy will always hinge on our choices. Will we turn to the Lord in the battle or try to fight it in our own strength? Our goal is to walk closely with Jesus – closely enough to hear Him speaking to us – this is the only way we will discern the enemy’s work. In those moments, victory will depend on our choices. And our enemy? As Eldredge says, we must choose against him. Every. Time.
Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.
1 Corinthians 16:13
Wild at Heart by John Eldredge – This is essential reading for every man, period.
Waking the Dead by John Eldredge – A deeper dive for after Wild at Heart
Daring Greatly – Brene’ Brown – Unbelievably relevant – Brene has studied shame and vulnerability for 20 plus years – Watch her TED talks and special on Netflix (watch with your wife if you’re married – I dare you).
The Soul of Shame by Dr. Curt Thompson – The best stuff out there on the topic of shame and how it affects us – A deeper read.
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