Wars. They’re ugly. People die. Many more are wounded. Destruction abounds. And there are often many battles before the war is won.
Some wars can last years. In fact, America is still engaged in our longest war. We’ve been fighting in Afghanistan for nearly 20 years, and many good men and women have died, and even more wounded.
Imagine for a moment the following fictional conversation between two soldiers, Bob and John:
“Hey Bob, we’re headed out again tonight on a secret mission. I’m told it will be very dangerous with the likelihood that some of us may not return. Are you ready?”
“Well John, I’ve been thinking about the mission and while it could be important, I think I’m gonna pass. I know how it ends. We win! They lose! Plus, I might be killed in the battle. So I’m gonna hang out back here, grab some pizza, and play my favorite video game: Call of Duty. But my thoughts are with ya John! And remember, “we win!”
Any soldier who would say something as stupid and cowardly as what Bob said above would be quickly shamed, perhaps even court-martialed. Imagine exchanging the real life and death battle that John was gearing up for, and instead choosing a fantasy battle, inside a virtual video game. Bob, our imaginary soldier, wouldn’t be fit to wear the uniform.
If you’re a follower of Jesus, you’re a soldier. No, not a physical one with guns and bayonets. But you are engaged in a real battle that is part of a greater war, for all the marbles. Jesus is our Captain, in the war of the ages, between Heaven and hell, God and Satan.
Too often though, particularly in America, I hear many of the members of Jesus’s army exclaiming what Bob said above. We see the continued slide of our culture into the abyss and we exclaim, “we know how it ends.” We quote our favorite prophetic verses, believing that Jesus will just swoop down and pluck us out of this mess we call the world. So we slump into our comfy Lazyboys, and fancy ourselves Saturday night quarterbacks, for the Super Bowl on Sunday. We arrogantly believe we know how it will all play out. Meanwhile, the angels in heaven don’t even know!!
And guess what. You don’t know either. While we are told to watch for the return of Jesus, we don’t know when He will appear. For the last 2,000 years, believers have routinely reasoned that Jesus would return in their lifetimes. But can you imagine if the great believers of past centuries had all sat back and remain disengaged, citing “we know how it ends.” If they had, you and I might not be here today. Or at least, we might not know Jesus.
So, if you’ve ever said (like me) “I know how it ends,” what should you instead be saying and doing?
Thankfully, we have God’s Word to instruct us on the proper response a believer should have in the midst of a “crooked and perverse world.” One of my favorite passage tells us this:
“Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless. But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God, just like your faithful service is an offering to God. And I want all of you to share that joy.” Philippians 2:14-17
Additionally, if you’re a soldier for Jesus, the Apostle Paul has this word of instruction for you:
“Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.” 2 Timothy 2:3-4
From just these passages we see a few suggestions on how we should be living:Complaining or arguing is not an option.
➖Live clean, innocent lives
➖Shine as a bright light (in a dark world)
➖Hold firmly to God’s Word (which means we should be in it more than anything else)
➖Be joyful if you lose your life for God
➖Expect suffering if you’re serving Jesus
➖Don’t get tied up with the things of this world
Is this it? Not at all. But it’s a good start, particularly if you’ve fallen for the “we know how it ends” mentality. The truth is, the “end” that we like to refer to may not occur during your lifetime or mine. So do you want to be “tied up in the affairs of this world” or serving God wholeheartedly?
Perhaps we should live in the light of the fact that “our end” may come sooner than “the end.” Are we living in such a way that when we take our final breath, we will hear the words “well done good and faithful servant?”
If God has spoken to you about the importance of living for Jesus as if your very life, and those around you, depended on it, I would encourage you to read and mediate on the entire chapter of Romans 12. This one chapter perhaps encapsulates how a follower of Jesus should live, in a crooked and perverse world.