- From the Cedar Street Times, Pacific Grove
What does God say about war, sacrificing and suffering?
This week we commemorate the brave souls who have sacrificed everything for us! Our military, police officers and firefighters; the men and women who allow the rest of us to enjoy our blessed safety and freedom! Thanks and blessings, to all of you for your service!
God tells us we are in the middle of a spiritual war between good and evil, Eph 6:12, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
Suffering and sacrifices are part of this war. Merriam-Webster defines war as: “a struggle or competition between opposing forces for a particular end” and sacrifice as: “destruction or surrender of something for the sake of something else.” So, every war is a struggle to achieve certain ends, which require our sacrifices.
Is God calling each of us to pick a side? Deut 30:19, “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:” God is telling us the struggles we find in this life, including the battles we witness, are all part of the larger spiritual war between good and evil. Unfortunately, battles are sometimes fought within our own families, as members pick different sides in this war, Lk 12:51-52, “Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three.” These family battles ruin lives and provide for many sleepless nights.
God was willing to sacrifice His son on a cross, as part of this spiritual war, to offer us salvation. Can we imagine how difficult a choice this would be? Can we feel the agony Abraham experienced when God asked Him to sacrifice his son Isaac, Gen 22:6-8, “And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together. And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.” God wants us to feel, deep in our souls, the sacrifice He has made. This allows us to truly understand the importance of making a decision and to help us endure the sacrifices required in this life, which help us know which side of this war we have chosen to support. When we refuse to make the necessary sacrifices, we demonstrate the things we have placed before Him, Ex 20:3, “You shall have no other gods before me.” Understanding there is only one God leads us to reason with Him, putting us on the path to Him and the eternal life He promises.
Countries also pick a side, which leads them into international wars, as different countries try to defend their own side in the larger war of good and evil. Lk 21:9, “But when ye shall hear of wars and commotions, be not terrified: for these things must first come to pass; but the end is not by and by.” Wars produce victims, collateral damage as it were, as battles rage. The horrible things we see every day in the news declare the fact that the spiritual battles are raging all around us, as innocent victims are being harmed; these stories tell of genocide, beheadings, suicides, school shootings, rapes, abused spouses, etc.
If we want to know which side we are on, or which side countries are on, we need only look to the fruits being produced, Matt 7:16, “Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?” When we/countries, express our opinions or take actions, the truth of the side we support is exposed. God calls us to live the fruit of the Spirit, Gal 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” If everyone decided to live the fruit of the Spirit, their gentle nature would not harm others, there would be no collateral damage, and there are no laws against this kind of behavior.
This war began in heaven, as one of the angels envied God’s position and decided to act on his jealousy. Is 14:12-13, “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:” Lucifer was that angel and he lost that battle. He is now trying to recruit as many of us as he can to fight on his side in this war. 1 Pet 5:8, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:”
War is messy. People die on both sides. One of the tragedies of war is that many innocent lives are also lost without their ever knowing the truth of the “why” behind the war. God has given us a measuring stick to help us identify the behavior, which leads us away from the evil side of this war, 3 Jn 11, “Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God.” Millions have sacrificed their lives to help us see the choice before us, Acts 7:59-60, “And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” We can hear Stephen’s dying declaration, which is but one of the many who have echoed Christ’s words, Lk 22:34, “Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do…” Listen as God describes the behavior we can look for on His side of this war: Matt 12:33, “Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit.” and 1 Cor 13:13, “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” and Eph 4:1-3, “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” and 2 Cor 6:6-7, “By pureness, by knowledge, by long suffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, By the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left,” and Rom 13:10, “Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” and Col 3:12, “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;” and 1 Jn 3:18, “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.” Can it be any clearer?
Jesus promises us His peace, no matter what is going on around us, all we need to do is have faith, Jn 14:27, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” and Jn 16:33, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” The time we spend in this world is but a speck on the timeline of eternity. We cannot let this short time affect our eternal future, so we must learn to follow the fruit of the Spirit, in spite of our suffering and the sacrifices required. When we have the hope Jesus brought us, deeply rooted in our hearts, we can have His peace no matter what is going on around us. We will learn to peacefully accept the sacrifices we are making in this war to save souls from eternal death. What sacrifice is too great to make, to save even one soul?
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