"Let the gratefulness overflow into blessing all around you. Then, it will be a really good day." Louie Schwartzberg
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"Where do You See Yourself in the Cosmic Battle?"

posted by Susan Dominikovich on , , ,

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And then suddenly I saw a group of people walking down the war-torn street, arm in arm, like they were on a Sunday stroll in the park.  They were completely blind to the dangers around them.  Some of those hiding tried to warn them and beckoned them to find a place under cover.  Others tried to throw them some weapons, urging them to arm themselves, but these people waved them off and...they simply smiled. 

Every second Friday is Bible study night at our house with some friends.  Actually, more often than not, it's get through a day of work/school, rush through afternoon tea, get changed, zip out to netball with the girls while figuring out how to get Sam to basketball, watch the games, zip back home, decide there's nothing to eat, crash with a glass of wine for ten minutes, zoom off to get Takeaways, and then the mad rush of tidying the lounge (forget about the bathroom) before our friends arrive.

We have had to cancel the odd study due to sickness or someone being away, but generally, despite the craziness of Fridays, we've met together, opened our Bibles, discussed everything at length, prayed and enjoyed fellowship together until nearly the wee hours.  Every study has been thought-provoking, in a "I need to dwell on that a little longer" sort of way.  In a potentially life-changing sort of way.

I almost cancelled the study on Friday night.  A tummy bug has ripped through my workplace and my stomach was beginning to make itself known.  Not in a good way.  We got home from sport and I realised I couldn't cancel so told Paul he was cooking sausages and leading the study and I crawled into bed.  A little rest helped a lot and the strange stomach gurglings never amounted to more than some quite furious cramps.  By the time our guests arrived I was good to go...although Paul still had to lead the study.  I knew we were in good hands.

The entire series focuses on Living In Christ and the title of Friday's study was "Overcoming Rejection: from John 15:18-16:16.  It was heavy and for most of us, hit a sore spot.  Some of us shared the rejection we've felt, even in the church, and how much that hurts.  But there was some comfort in knowing that we are to expect this rejection and in fact to rejoice in it because it is actually Christ in us that is being rejected since "they have not known the father or me" (John 16:3). We also talked about the different ways that we can be "killed" and "hated" by those who reject us.

Hard-hitting.  Not very uplifting.  A little encouraging to know we are not alone but rather sombre.  As Jesus said, "no servant is greater than his master.  If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also"  (John 15:20).  Why should we expect happy clappy "everybody loves me" lives?

And then Paul hit us with the final question:  "Where do you see yourself in the cosmic battle that Jesus describes in these verses?"

Um...sorry, I think I may have missed something. 

Cosmic battle?  We knew there was one, but in these passages?  So we went through it again in that light but still couldn't quite get it.  I encouraged Paul to read out the note relating to that question from the back of the study guide.

"There's notes at the back?"  He queried.


So he read:  "Jesus said in 15:19, 'I have chosen you out of the world' which sets those who respond to this call in direct conflict with 'the prince of the world' described in 16:11.  Even today's followers of Jesus must accept the possibility of rejection by people important to us...We need to maintain awareness of the forces of evil, and that our mission is of eternal significance."  (Packer and Nystrom, Living in Christ, p 59)

The key is obviously that Jesus has chosen us OUT of the world.  We can expect conflict.  We can expect rejection, even in the church, because the prince of the world is still very much at work.  And indeed, I knew this.  I had experienced it first hand.

Then one of our friends said he sees it like a war zone...say, Sarajevo in the 1990's.  There's crumbling buildings everywhere, sniper fire, shells and explosions, burnt out cars.  Battles and skirmishes going on constantly.  A city in siege.  He sees himself hiding behind a wall or in a building, occasionally peering out at the battle and aware of the danger but really just hiding in supposed safety.  Another of our group said he's the same and in fact he tries not to see what's going on around him, beyond the wall behind which he is hiding.  Another friend said she's hiding in the burnt out car, ducking for cover and fearing for her life, truly frightened.

I felt deeply sad but I loved the image.  I shut my eyes and imagined it all.  I could see the faces of my friends hiding in burnt out cars and behind crumbling walls in that city under siege.  I even saw other familiar faces who weren't with us that night but I could picture exactly where they would be hiding in the scene.  One or two of them held a sniper rifle, taking careful and well-aimed shots at the enemy once in awhile, but acting on their own.  I could also see looters risking their lives on the street in order to feed their egos and greed.  I could see children darting through places only they could fit, rummaging for food and necessities, aware of the danger but fuelled by a greater need, sometimes caught in the crossfire.

And then suddenly I saw a group of people walking down the war-torn street, arm in arm, like they were on a Sunday stroll in the park.  They were completely blind to the dangers around them.  Some of those hiding tried to warn them and beckoned them to find a place under cover.  Others tried to throw them some weapons, urging them to arm themselves, but these people waved them off and...they simply smiled.  They stood up straight and tall and they smiled!  "Look at how beautiful it all is," they said.  "There's no danger here.  You're imagining things." 

I gave my head a shake and opened my eyes before the first shots rang out.  

The image was perfect and real and frightening and I knew exactly where I was in it, where I used to be, and where I was headed.  But I wasn't completely honest with my friends that night.  I didn't want to freak these people out completely.  Some of them are new friends and I did not really know where they sit on the whole spiritual warfare continuum.

But I was honest about two things.  I explained to them that several months ago I was living in denial of the cosmic battle around us.  I wasn't one of those people walking blindly down the street about to get shot, but I was sitting pretty in my lounge in my happy little house in a country thousands of miles away.  I would occasionally come across images of battle during the 6:00 news and I would quickly change the channel.  It was happening, but not in my corner of the globe, so I was okay.  

I was okay.

I was okay until a missile blasted through the walls of my unprotected lounge.  I think the enemy must have somehow found me and decided I was someone worth attacking.  And he'd also figured out I had left myself undefended.  

It probably wasn't a great big missile that woke me up.  It was more like lots of pot shots that wounded but never maimed or killed me.  It is the storm to which I refer in this post and in this one .  These pot shots (we survived shots to our health, our finances, our jobs, our relationships) went largely unnoticed until I looked at the sum of them and asked myself, "what is going on here?"  How many of us have looked at our lives and said we must be in a season of bad luck.  We decide that things just aren't going our way but it will pick up.  I might have been the same and might have blamed it all on circumstances and coincidences.  

Except that I discovered the route the enemy took to find me and attack me.  That discovery led me to enlist the aid my allies.  They were all overseas because at the time I could no longer distinguish between friend and foe closer to home.  As soon as they heard my cry for help, they started supplying me with weapons.

In other words, they started to pray.

And the effect was immediate.  I'm talking, Frank Peretti and This Present Darkness sort of immediate.  A novel that I now believe is more fact than fiction.  The darkness lifted and everything began to turn around for us and our family.  I began my journey of healing  and have continued to look to Jesus first in my life so that I know my armour is well and truly in tact.  I am determined never to be complacent to the danger again.

So I told my friends that I now see myself as the war correspondent in the cosmic battle.  I know that while the war is won through Christ's victory, battles still rage and the danger is very real.  I have taken it upon myself to stay in the battle zone, well protected, because it is my calling to tell others that they are in danger.  I carry the burden and responsibility to show them how they can defend themselves and even how to fight.

This part was also true.  

What I didn't say to my friends that night was that my role was about to change.  Paul had talked about having the feet of readiness and I realised this was for me.  I was ready.  My heart was beating wildly that Friday night knowing that I had almost cancelled this study and yet I so desperately needed this picture of the cosmic battle and this encouragement for what was about to take place just two days later.

Yesterday I put my armour on as always.  But I also took up weapons.  I was well armed with the Sword of Truth...scriptures that God had given me, and the Word, Jesus.  I cannot write the specifics of the battle, but I knew I was well protected and well armed.  I was confident that the flaming arrows of the enemy would not penetrate my shield.  I have held this confidence for quite some time.  But as far as the others in the battle-field, the innocent children, those caught in the cross-fire, I wasn't so sure.  I felt it would go one of two ways:  the resistance put up by the enemy might be so strong that while he wouldn't gain any ground, we might end up in a stale-mate and some people might get hurt.  Or, knowing that I was entering the battle-field not in my own strength but out of obedience to God's call, and also that I was not alone, perhaps we would actually gain some ground for Jesus.

And we did.

We gained some ground for Jesus. The enemy was sent packing with his tail between his legs...for now.

It is not a complete victory and the battle will continue.  But importantly and excitingly, more soldiers came out from hiding behind their walls, confirming that God is doing a good thing and indeed raising up an army of fighters that are readying themselves.  I now have a brother and sister in arms equally entrenched and at my side every time I enter the field.  They will be loyal to me and I will be loyal to them.  Always.  We have a medic to whom we can turn when we need our wounds mended.  And I can't tell you how grateful I am for our medic because we will be wounded.  We are not perfect and we might let our guard down.  But I know there are other soldiers watching our backs and covering us in prayer.  We may have even uncovered our captain.  Someone who might organise us.  Someone who might bring us together and encourage us with a battle plan.  

Ultimately, we demonstrated the power of prayer and readiness.  We will continue to pray and be ready.

So where do you see yourself in the Cosmic Battle?  Do you have your armour on?  Have you put on the belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness?  Are your feet fitted with readiness? Have you taken up your shield of faith?  Are you wearing your helmet of salvation and carrying the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God?  

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms  (Ephesians 6:12).

I am thankful for those pot-shots that woke me up.  It was a difficult journey and there was a lot of hurt but I look at where I am at now, how much I have learnt, how significant Jesus is in my life, how many blessings I have received and I would not change a thing.

Mind you, it would have been much better not to have needed to be shot in the first place.  I guess there is still a bit of the war correspondent in me.  I am a writer after all.  Writing for a purpose.

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