This week I’ve learned some more about spiritual warfare. All of us in training have thought, prayed, and read about how the Father fights his battles, and what to do when we look around and find ourselves in the place of a foot soldier. God is, right now as I type, at war with the Enemy. Because of these battles, persecution pushes back on the growth of new believers around the world. Many hearts are hardened to Father’s stories of repentance, grace, and salvation. Strong believers fall daily into sins they knew to flee and avoid. But also because of these battles, the lost are freed from the Enemy’s traps. Father triumphs over people who would oppose the spread of the Truth. Strong believers are daily freed from sins which would eat them alive, given the chance. Satan is already bound and has no power except that which God gives him. And we who believe have victory in Christ.
We’ve studied this week about how Father wins his battles on our behalf through our weakness. Think back to stories of actual battles in the Old Testament. Whenever Father shows himself to be the Lord of Hosts, the Lord Almighty, it is when his people are vulnerable. Father won for Gideon when his men had all deserted but a few, and those left were either in the band or banging together pots and pans. Not the most effective battle strategy, last time I checked. Father won for Joshua when the people marched around the city more times than they cared to count and then shouted like maniacs. The Israelites escaped the Egyptians by waiting like sitting ducks on the shores of the Red Sea while chariots and horses charged at then. Hezekiah’s troops won by never even leaving the city of siege. All they did was quake in their leather sandals as men hurled insults over their walls. In all of these stories, the people Father fights and wins for look… utterly ridiculous. They have no room to claim a piece of the victory. God clearly did ALL the work. His people only had to stand up, vulnerable but trusting, waiting for God to act to win their battles. That’s how spiritual battles are won. That’s what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12. God’s power is perfected in our weakness. If we go into spiritual warfare knowing the God who we represent, and knowing we don’t stand a chance against the enemy in our own power, God fights for us, to show off his power. We just have to be ready and trusting for him to work.
As a story example (I do love stories), let’s look at David. David the boy stood up to a giant who defied the armies of the Lord. He refused armor. He refused good weapons. He refused sly tactics or anything that would help him win against the giant in his own power. He stood, a little boy with no shred of armor, and boldly opposed the enemy. He knew he had no power of his own, but that the Lord would fight and win for him. But David the king became a little more trusting in his own might. When war threatened, David did not always turn to his God to fight for him. One time he took a census of all the young men who could be warriors. The Lord punished David for taking stock of his resources and relying on his own power to save him from enemies. One of our teachers told us always to seek to be David the boy in the midst of spiritual warfare. Realize your failures and faults and call on the Lord of Hosts to fight for you. When we are like David the king and try in our own might to win, it’s then that we fail. If we leave no room for God to show off, he simply won’t do it. It isn’t in his nature to force himself upon us.
I have been overwhelmed the past few weeks by all of the mission work I don’t know how to do, all the things I can do wrong, all the ways I could get in the way of the Father doing mighty things. I haven’t as much been focused on myself, as I have been widening my focus and seeing how little I am and how much work there is to be done. But I have also seen how great our Father is, that he would use someone like me, with issues of fear, pride, doubt, self-absorption, not enough experience, and social skills leaving something to be desired. He doesn’t need me. In fact, I will most certainly cause more problems that he has to solve. But he chooses to use me. Incredible. Absolutely incredible. He shows himself powerful, the victor of the spiritual wars raging around us, when he uses someone as foolish and naïve as I am.
One of my favorite missioanries I’ve read about is Gladys Aylward. The woman was a firecracker. When she shot sparks the world around her lit up. She grew up in London, a little slip of a woman, not an inch over five feet tall. She took what schooling she could, read everything she could get her hands on, and didn’t stop trying to make it to China when mission boards declined her for her ‘inability to learn language.’
She scrimped and saved her earnings as a housemaid, sold her hope chest, and bought a one-way ticket to take her to China. She traveled just as she was, single, unprotected, and unsure of what lay at the other end, over war-torn train tracks and through frozen wastelands. When she finally did make it to China, the woman had an incredible ministry. She adopted orphans, stopped prison riots, marched a hundred children out of a warring country, and made friends and disciples of criminals and government officials alike. She lived an incredible life, and the Kingdom was grown immensely for it.
Father didn’t ask of Gladys a seminary education, a linguist’s background, an anthropology degree, or a hundred converts before he used her. He asked only her obedience. And in her weakness, God showed himself mighty in power. He provided Gladys with the skills she needed. He took her background and what training she did have and he used her mightily. I don’t mean to belittle her abilities, or mine, by comparison, but I do mean to point out that any effectiveness she had, Father gave her for the sake of His Name. He supplied her with people skills and language learning, and discernment and faith. HE made her into something special. And everyone knew that the God who stood behind this little 5-foot foreigner was powerful indeed.
God has begun to equip me with skills to use for his glory. I don’t mean to smother you in false modesty, though. I truly have so much to learn and so many places to fall before even this two-year assignment is through. Let me always be David the boy, standing naked of armor, small and unprotected, with only a leather strap and a stone before a fortress of a man. Let me continue to look absurdly comical as I face the Enemy and bring the Light into his darkness. For it is then that God’s power is unmistakable. Let me be weak, for His power is made perfect in weakness. When I am weak, the God who used a tiny single woman from London, triumphed over Goliath, won for Gideon’s men, and toppled the walls of Jericho stands behind me to win the battle for His sake.
Gladys Aylward said, near the end of her life: I wasn’t God’s first choice for what I’ve done for China. There was somebody else…I don’t know who it was—God’s first choice. It must have been a man—a wonderful man. A well-educated man. I don’t know what happened. Perhaps he died. Perhaps he wasn’t willing…And God looked down…and saw Gladys Aylward…And God said — “Well, she’s willing.” There are other people far more equipped than me to carry out the work I am going to do. Maybe they have seminary degrees, winning personalities, or already know the language I will butcher for the next two years. But God looked down… and he saw Caroline. And he said, “Well, she’s willing.” I know God will triumph in my smallness and inadequacies. And I know he asks of me nothing less than tireless obedience. The Lord has many better options—people more suited to his work—but I’m it. I’m the one he’s sending.
Pray for me, brothers and sisters, as I pray the same for you, that I would always see myself as little boy David standing before a giant. Pray that I would neverforget that battles are won only through the power of the God who stands behind me—the God who fights for me.