By Roland W. Keith
Most of us have heard the old refrain about the power of positive thinking, but have you ever considered the fact that positive thinking isn’t really worth much if it is not followed up with positive actions? In the same sense football coaches develop game plans that they believe will result in the best outcome come game day. But unless those plans are put into action on the field, they’re just a list of plays, and a bunch of x’s and o’s on a piece of paper. Success in an endeavor requires more that good thoughts on the matter, it requires more than good planning as well, as important as that is. Success demands that we implement our battle plan with effective and sustained effort.
In the Bible we see two plans of action being brought to fruition under one master plan. The Old Testament contains the Law of Moses and the Prophets which foretold and prepared man for the coming Messiah and a new covenant. In the New Testament Messiah established His new covenant or law which is guiding us to God’s final resolution regarding sin and the devil and his followers on the one hand, and salvation and the followers of Christ on the other. Both of these plans have taken centuries to develop and implement. One plan of action has run its course culminating in the birth of Jesus Christ. The other is still being actively executed. Over the ages millions, even billions of people have been involved in the carrying out of God’s great purpose for mankind in one way or another. Individuals, from peasants to kings, and entire nations have been actively engaged in the war of good and evil, with the welfare of every man, woman and child hanging in the balance.
God’s grand plan centers around an event that occurred almost two millennia ago. As Jesus explained to Nicodemus, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Talk about taking action to accomplish a goal. God sent His Son to earth to walk among us, and enlist and prepare a group of disciples to carry His plan forward, and then to give His own life on a cross so He could overcome death through His resurrection and in so doing ensure the eternal salvation for all those who call on His name in obedience. Woe to those who seek to overthrow God’s plan or abuse it for gain (Matthew 23:1-39).
What Jesus the man did is remarkable. It is not in our nature to put ourselves in harms way. Adrenaline junkies aside, most of us have a strong predisposition to survive along the lines of least danger. To act contrary to that requires overriding our normal survival instincts under extraordinary circumstances (such as protecting self or family). To do so to benefit another, outside our circle of loved ones, is even more exceptional. Paul once wrote, “For one will scarcely die for a righteous person— though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:7-8). In the prime of life, against a strong desire to live (Matthew 26: 39, 42: Mark 10:45), Jesus put Himself in harms way— to face certain death— so that He might save others, though we are not worthy of His sacrifice. Given the nature of His sacrifice and how it benefits each of us we should not consider it remarkable that He calls each of us to follow in His footsteps— “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His steps” (I Peter 2:21; John 15:13).
The Israelites fought many battles with God as their ally. Today Christians fight a different kind of war. Their battles had a spiritual and national foundation. They fought for an earthly land promised to them. Ours is for a kingdom not of this physical realm. The church is its type on earth, but the home we seek is a heavenly one. Nonetheless, we are soldiers after a manner, as Paul wrote: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm” (Ephesians 6:10-13).
We have a war to wage. It may cost us emotionally with the loss of family and friends (Matthew 10:37), it may cost us financially when we have to turn away from a particular way of earning a living; we may be persecuted politically and socially, we may even face death. Regardless, as Paul told Timothy, we must “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (II Timothy 2:3). In an earlier letter Paul had told his young protégé, “This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith… Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (I Timothy 1:18-19, 6:12). If we reject God’s call to arms, we may shipwreck our eternal salvation. When it comes to the fundamentals of life, we cannot serve the world and heaven, we either stand with Christ or against Him (Matthew 6:24; 12:30).
It is our responsibility to contend for what God has entrusted to us (Jude 1:3; II Corinthians 10:4), giving our all even as Jesus despised the shame of the cross for us (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 2:8; Mark 8:34). We should never lose sight of the fact that what Christ did for us far outweighs anything we can do in response. On the judgment day we will stand or fall not in accordance with what we have done for Christ, but because we have obediently confessed what He has done for us (I Corinthians 15:1). Just as the Philippians stood with Paul in the defense of the gospel so should we (Philippians 1:7). To turn from the gospel would be a betrayal of the grace that God has extended to us, as Paul wrote the Galatians, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:6-9).
Peter also noted the severity of turning from the gospel: “For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. What the true proverb says has happened to them: "The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire” (II Peter 2:20-22). Both those who make false claims about the gospel and those who reject it having previously embraced it will suffer the consequences of their actions.
There are those who will fall by the wayside. That is a sad fact. Knowing this we understand that as soldiers of Christ it is our task to avoid such a calamity and to do our best to help others avoid it as well, as Paul explained: “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him… Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with Him, we will also live with Him; if we endure, we will also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He also will deny us; if we are faithless, He remains faithful— for he cannot deny Himself. Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (II Timothy 2:3-4, 7-13; Jude 1:23).
As Christians let us endure as faithful soldiers for our own sake as well as for the sake of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Hi! I'm Roland. I began writing after retiring from the Navy in 2015. I believe that we each should strive to learn from one another, by sharing our thoughts and ideas. As a writer my goal is to help other seekers of truth to find and grow in Christ.