I wish I had learned about spiritual warfare an article by missionary David Cox revealing how the ministry is a spiritual battle.
This post is my own response to an article in “Askamissionary.com”
“What do Missionaries wish they had known before they first went?”
“I wish I had learned about spiritual warfare.”
I grew up in a Fundamental Baptist Church, and went to a Bible College, studying Christian Missions and a Masters in Bible. As I consider my life and ministry as a missionary for the past 30+ years, I reflect on the lack of knowledge or importance as I understood things in my past.
The essence here, is to understand how the ministry is not so much activity, but spiritual fighting. Prayer is the weapon of choice here. I understand how important it is to get people to come to your church and engage in that church, but what I do as pastor, missionary, teacher, is or should be more importantly focused on praying to change people morally.
We have had our own run of great shining lights in our ministry, you know, somebody who suddenly “discovers” God and wants me to offer them 4, 5 or 6 Bible classes and services each week. They are all over everything wanting more and more extreme things. They are the church’s brightest and most dedicated servants. Then the month is over and as suddenly as they appeared, they are gone. As a pastor, I provide the principle activity of our church on Sunday AM, 10:00 AM Sunday School, 11:00 worship service, 6:00 PM Bible Study, and Wednesday 6:00 PM prayer service. It irks me greatly when we have these services, and somebody want a Monday, Tuesday and Saturday services also, yet these dedicated servants will not be faithful in the services as scheduled. It is like they want me to give them and their ideas special attention, and overrides whatever other things we have already establish.
Equally a problem, I have seen many people who somehow think that activity is the same as spirituality. Many pastors suffer from this delusion. They have a bus route, AWANAS, etc, and basically church competitions most of the days with people’s normal daily life. But then a bus worker or AWANAS worker comes up with the problem of alcohol or sexual infidelity to their spouse, or divorce. Somehow people seem to think because they are busy with things of the church, with “a ministry”, that they are spiritual, examples, etc.
It is interesting to me that Jesus spent the night in prayer at times. Why? Wouldn’t he have used his time to gather all the people in a prayer meeting, or go to bed early and have a prayer breakfast instead? What I see as lacking is the connection between ministry and talking with God. Jesus is God, and therefore he had absolutely no need to be informed as to anything in life. He knew what he should be doing. But then his prayer life was a way or method to pour God’s power into his ministry. This prayer time was long, very long, and alone. It was him and God. But we ministers today don’t seem to gravitate towards this communion with God as “how we do the ministry.”
All of this is a general lack of understanding by “us” ministers in what is the real ministry that we are here to do. We are to effect moral change in people. This is principally a person being saved, and then walking a holy and pious life in the way of God. But most ministers somehow connect knowledge with being saved or being a holy example of Christ. Knowledge is part of that, but there is another moral aspect to living for Jesus. This moral element is very simply you learn from a local example that walks a holy life with Christ. What you are in the pulpit and in your daily life is caused by you relationship with Jesus in your prayer closet and your devotional time and study times.
But while these things “make you spiritually”, they are more important than how polished and “shiny” your sermons and Bible teaching is. A close walk with God is much more preferred than a professional preacher/pastor ministry. If we survey the key ministers of God in the Bible, so many really had personal problems, and we would probably not advise them to enter the ministry today, but God greatly used these people.
David fell into sexual sin, and killed somebody over this. Moses likewise killed somebody in his uncontrolled zeal. Peter denied the Lord on the night of his being delivered to evil men. Later he attacked Paul and sided with the Judiazers. What pastor would recommend these kind of people to the ministry? Probably none.
But God saw in them a person with a close walk with God. David was a man after God’s own heart. With Moses, God used him to deliver Israel from Egypt.
Your Walk with God is as Important as your Preparation of a Sermon
Over the years, I have made a lot of sermons. Some good, some bad. Some of the most terrific sermons I made were duds. I wonder why. The reason was not the message really, but I was not spiritually ready when I had to preach it. I was distracted with so many other mundane things of my life. There is spiritual preparation necessary before preaching.
Moreover, when a preacher preaches a message from God, “where he is” spiritually at the moment of entering the pulpit is very important. At that point, I don’t care about my wife, my kids, my family, or even other things going on in my church between members. My focus is the message and getting it across to these people. I will deal with the rest of these things afterward.
But it is very important to understand that Satan uses all of those things to distract and make you unprepared for your task. This is spiritual warfare. As with so many Christians, they ruin their worship of God by arguing with their spouses on the way to church. At one point, I told my wife, “don’t rehearse problems with me Sunday before the services.” I don’t want my heart’s focus on problems, conflicts, things we “really have to do on Monday.”
An effective preacher is an example of the principles he preaches, and only by being an example will he transmit morality to other people.