The Unseen War
The Casualties of War
War. It is destructive. Innocent bystanders always get hurt or killed. Its toll can be seen for years, decades...even centuries into the future. Just ask any veteran or family thereof. As a "military family" (several family members have served or are serving), I can honestly say its toll is great. In my generation alone we have 2 who suffer from PTSD and physical injuries and ailments, and the other died in the line of duty; not from an IED, gunshot or battle wound, but a battle wound on the inside. When they committed suicide, everyone was shocked. Nobody had a clue as to what was going on on the inside. And that, my friends, is where most battles rage.
Most people, in fact I dare say everyone, has battles raging on in their minds and souls that no one even remotely has a clue about. Complete transparency and intimacy are rare things these days. Embarrassment, fear and shame keep us locked in our closet, hiding away from the world. For me, only a select few people know what truly goes on in my mind - in the war that rages on.
The Cause of the War
The world will tell you to 'self-help' it away. Some will even say you have the power within to be successful and overcome what ails you. So many books sit on shelves at bookstores on how to do it yourself. I on the other hand, disagree with them. The Apostle Paul explains it well in Romans 7. (It's the whole chapter, I know it's long, but it is all relevant.)
An Illustration from Marriage
7 Since I am speaking to those who understand law, brothers, are you unaware that the law has authority over someone as long as he lives? 2 For example, a married woman is legally bound to her husband while he lives. But if her husband dies, she is released from the law regarding the husband. 3 So then, if she gives herself to another man while her husband is living, she will be called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law. Then, if she gives herself to another man, she is not an adulteress.
4 Therefore, my brothers, you also were put to death in relation to the law through the crucified body of the Messiah, so that you may belong to another—to Him who was raised from the dead—that we may bear fruit for God. 5 For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions operated through the law in every part of us and bore fruit for death. 6 But now we have been released from the law, since we have died to what held us, so that we may serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old letter of the law.
Sin’s Use of the Law
7 What should we say then? Is the law sin? Absolutely not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin if it were not for the law. For example, I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, Do not covet.8 And sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind. For apart from the law sin is dead. 9 Once I was alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life 10 and I died. The commandment that was meant for life resulted in death for me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me, and through it killed me. 12 So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good.
The Problem of Sin in Us
13 Therefore, did what is good cause my death? Absolutely not! On the contrary, sin, in order to be recognized as sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that through the commandment, sin might become sinful beyond measure. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am made out of flesh, sold into sin’s power. 15 For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree with the law that it is good. 17 So now I am no longer the one doing it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it. 19 For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but it is the sin that lives in me. 21 So I discover this principle: When I want to do what is good, evil is with me. 22 For in my inner self I joyfully agree with God’s law. 23 But I see a different law in the parts of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and taking me prisoner to the law of sin in the parts of my body.24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this dying body? 25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I myself am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh, to the law of sin.
Notice verse 18. We have the desire to do good. We just don't have the ability. Therefore, the cause is quite simple. Our fleshly tendencies are toward evil ever since the Fall in the Garden of Eden. We absolutely do not have the power to overcome evil. Given the chance, our flesh will latch on and conceive all manner of evil, and the deeper entangled we are in sin, the more twisted and sick it becomes.
Marriage is great! But sooner or later the flesh runs the thought of another through your mind. Pretty soon, your spouse isn't enough...you are wanting more. Either you meet someone else or delve into smut and filth. After a while that isn't enough either. The things you pursue become riskier and more bizarre and twisted. One sin is never enough. The flesh can always come up with something else to covet. The flesh can take us deeper and further down a road we never though we'd see, much less travel down. Thank God He didn't leave us to our own misery. He rescued us in a way most people search for their whole life. It's the puzzle piece they just can't seem to find.
The Answer to the War
Everyone is created with a Christ-sized puzzle piece missing in them. It's a desire to seek God out for salvation. It's the desire to find authentic answers in a world that will provide many cheap substitutes. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3:4-6 that,
4 We have this kind of confidence toward God through Christ. 5 It is not that we are competent in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our competence is from God. 6 He has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit produces life.
Likewise, he states in 1 Corinthians 12:3,
3 Therefore I am informing you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus is cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.
The only good that comes is through the power of the Holy Spirit that is there within us as believers. God's Spirit draws us to Him (Christ) for salvation. Subsequently, the Holy Spirit that lives in us afterward is the power by which all good comes. Hence the war that rages inside. Even in the unbelieving God is tugging at them to come to Him...yet they resist fiercely. Thus even for the believer we find ourselves,
19 For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do. (Romans 7:19)
For the believer, it is the war that rages. It is a battle of the Flesh vs. the Spirit. Paul tells Timothy in his 2nd letter, chapter 4 verse 7
7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
This is what we as Christians should aim for. Running the race and keeping the faith all while fighting the good fight. Because, as I remind you of what Paul said in Romans 7:6, 22-25
5 For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions operated through the law in every part of us and bore fruit for death. 6 But now we have been released from the law, since we have died to what held us, so that we may serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old letter of the law.
22 For in my inner self I joyfully agree with God’s law. 23 But I see a different law in the parts of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and taking me prisoner to the law of sin in the parts of my body.24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this dying body? 25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I myself am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh, to the law of sin.
Simply? The more we submit to God on a regular basis, the easier it becomes. However, watch out, because evil can always sneak back up and entrap you again. So, remain vigilant (1 Peter 5:8),
8 Be serious! Be alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour.
Also be aware and put on the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10),
10 Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil. 12 For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. 13 This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand. 14 Stand, therefore, with truth like a belt around your waist, righteousness like armor on your chest, 15 and your feet sandaled with readiness for the gospel of peace. 16 In every situation take the shield of faith, and with it you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation,
and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word.
18 Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert in this with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints.
By recognizing the War for what it is, we can have victory through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.
Collateral Damage and the Aftermath
The collateral damage from war can be catastrophic. The cleanup can be a tough task. However, it is the aftermath that the test of time will prove the solidarity of your identity in Christ Jesus. Your reliance upon Him can mend wounds, heal scars, and restore relationships. It is a tough task ahead to live with a sordid past, but,
13 I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)
By living for Him we can find ourselves in the midst of a great future. We can finally experience the freedom we've sought after. Embarrassment, fear, and shame are things of the past and grace, mercy, and forgiveness become things we embrace. Love becomes the focal point only because that is what Christ showed us. An immense love for God and a passionate love for others and to see them freed of their captivity become what we live for on a daily basis. It is why we are here. Freedom isn't the ability to do what we want, but the releasing of the chains that bound us, tied us up, and kept us in slavery and shame. Christ paid the price for our freedom and it cost Him His life. The least we can do is to give our to Him and His will.
For those deep in an unseen war, allow me to say this one thing: you don't have to live this way. Christ never intended for you to battle alone. He can rescue you...and His Church can walk along side you to encourage you in the process.