"The more we sweat in training, the less we bleed in battle." - Sign outside the US Navy Seals training camp.
My wife and I were discussing spiritual warfare recently, as our home, our health, our family, and the church we are currently attending seem to be the focal point of a spiritual attack. We have determined that, instead of asking God "Why us?" or "Deliver us" we have started praying - as the church in the book of Acts, chapter 4 prayed - for boldness, and for spiritual authority.
It so happened that yesterday evening, on the heels of our discussion about spiritual warfare, I heard the above quote: "The more we sweat in training, the less we bleed in battle." (A Google search gives all sorts of origins of the quotation, so I'm not sure where it actually originated.) When I heard that statement, I immediately related it to spiritual warfare, and the devastation that is being reeked among Christian churches today.
Ladies and gentlemen, you cannot wait until you're in the middle of combat to suddenly decide you need to attend Basic Training. You can't wait until you're going head-to-head with the enemy and discover your sword has grown dull, or that your shield is brittle and cracked, or (using more modern technology) that your M16 needs cleaning and, oh, by the way, all your magazines are empty, so good luck out there.
I didn't learn to play golf on a driving range, because I'm impatient, and just hitting a ball with seemingly no goal in mind was boring; I went straight to a course and started hitting the ball. (Granted, I had a lot of questions along the way, but my golfing buddy was very patient with me, and allowed me to "learn" as I went.) No such thing with combat. When I joined the Army, I spent the first 8 weeks in "Basic Training", learning to fire a weapon, learning hand-to-hand combat, learning how to wield a knife, how to disable an enemy, how to maneuver through combat situations in varying terrain, how to read a map. We even took a few trips through the gas chamber (literally), being instructed to remove our masks while inside the chamber so we could acquaint ourselves with the effects of the gas, and better learn to re-acquire our senses while still feeling the effects. (Fun times, believe me!)
My point is simply this: Far too many people of God are finding themselves locked into an attack by the powers of Hell, and find themselves woefully unprepared, untrained, and unfit for battle. The state of the church seems to be one of sickly, anemic, lethargic Christians who have been lulled into a false sense of security, thinking that everything was under control, that the church was doing great, that we're all happy and heaven-bound and the preacher's watching out for us. You can almost sense the bewilderment on some folks as to why folks are disappearing from church as fast (or faster!) than new ones are coming in; yet the answer is simple, ladies and gentlemen: the Church - as always - is under attack, and we are engaged in spiritual conflict.
Keep in mind that, in his letter to the Ephesians (ch. 6, vs. 12) the apostle Paul said, "We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but..." We DO wrestle! In another place, he stated, "The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God..." (2 Cor. 10:4) As I mentioned to my wife, "If you have weapons of warfare, that's because you're going to war."
Jesus Himself taught the disciples "From the days of John the Baptist until now, the Kingdom of Heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force." (Matt. 11:12) Salvation is free, friends and neighbors, but getting to Heaven will cost you. The "New Birth" experience is exactly that: a birth. It's the starting point, not the finish line. From the moment you make that decision to give your life to God, Hell determines to do everything it can to prevent you. And the Devil will use whatever means necessary to stop you.
Don't wait until you're in the middle of a spiritual assault to suddenly decide you need to pray more, read your Bible more, fast a meal now and then, go to church faithfully, etc etc. The more you pray now, the more you strengthen yourself with the Word of God, the more you set aside your own desires, and start looking to the things of the Spirit, the better equipped you'll be when Hell throws down the gauntlet. And it will throw down the gauntlet, sooner or later.
The more we sweat in training, the less we bleed in battle.
Sharpen your sword while you can.