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Volume 16, Issue 4: Virga

Forest Armories

Matt Whitling

Two soldiers in full camo approached the door of a small log shack overshadowed by a mature grove of black walnut trees. Filtered light danced a pattern through the leaves as a crisp breeze pushed firmly on each leaf and branch, forcing the grove into a creaking sway and dance overhead. The shady cabin sat low and silent. Dust circulated in and out of a small patch of light in quiet eddies just inside the door. Both paused, looking at one another, and then dove into the small room, weapons blazing toward every dark corner-empty silence. An open window along the left wall, pane long since broken out and removed, pointed out at the obvious escape route. "Chicken," one of them hissed.

In a previous article we discussed the war that all Christians have been called to fight in described by the apostle Paul in Second Corinthians 10. In order to be effective, soldiers must understand a few foundational issues, and in this light we considered who our enemies were (world, flesh, devil) and the objective of the war itself (complete victory on every front). We will now move on to consider the nature of the war—what kind of warfare is this?
"For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10).
Paul says that we do not war according to the flesh, and it is important at this point that we understand the distinction between warring according to the spirit as apposed to warring according to the flesh. Spiritual warfare is fighting that is motivated by and in submission to the Spirit of God. Warfare according to the flesh finds its horsepower and direction in man. The fundamental distinction is not whether flesh will be involved in the conflict or not, for if we are involved, our flesh will be also. Instead, the difference is seen in who we take our marching orders from, and where we look for strength and comfort in time of need.
Many times Christians look to pop novels for their understanding of what spiritual warfare should be like, and as a result we end up keeping an eye out for angels with swords of lightning chasing demons through dark forests just outside quiet little farming towns. This is simply an example of warring according to the flesh—man's idea about the nature of the war. Instead, we are called to understand spiritual warfare by looking to the Word of God.
"Then David said to the Philistine, `You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. Then all this assembly shall know that the Lord does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord's, and He will give you into our hands'" (I Sam. 17).
David did not come against Goliath in the name of a sling and rocks, but he did come with a sling and rocks, and it was most certainly a sword that cut off the giant's head. When David buried that smooth stone in Goliath's forehead, and then used his own sword to cut through his enemy's neck, the psalmist was engaging in spiritual warfare. We tend to focus on the fact that David rejected Saul's own sword and armor, drawing the conclusion that he was above such "fleshly" weapons, when in fact the clear implication is that had David "tested" Saul's weapons and had he been able to walk with them on, he would have used them just as he used the sling and stone against the giant (I Sam. 17:39).
Later in his life, when David wrote songs about the Lord's deliverance, we see this same disposition toward physical weapons, "For not in my bow do I trust, nor can my sword save me. But you have saved us from our foes and have put to shame those who hate us" (Ps. 44: 6-7). David, was most certainly a man who used a bow and a sword, but he understood that warring according to the spirit means trusting in God, not in your weapons. At the same time we see him trusting in God while he uses his weapons, not repudiating physical weapons in the midst of conflict.
So, from David we learn that fighting according to the spirit does not exclude conflict between real live individuals with faces and names—spiritual warfare has physical manifestations. In the next article we will consider the example of Christ, and what we should learn about the nature of the antithesis from Him with the goal of training up our children to wage warfare faithfully.
Disappointed and hot, both boys walked out under the trees again throwing their guns back into the forest where they had found them. Those tall dark trees continued to sway and gaze down through their own cool shadows. A few steps further and they both spun around hearing the hurried approach of footsteps on the grass. "Kablam!" a pinecone grenade whizzed past the second boy's nose and landed firmly in the temple of the first. "You guys are both dead, I got you!"

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