A few minutes watching the TV series, "Tour of Duty" brought to mind a brief stopover at San Diego on a flight to Mexico in 1962. San Diego has a large naval base so the airport was full of sailors and other military personnel. Some were on their way out, some on their way back from the war in Vietnam. It was easy to tell them apart.
The young soldiers going out were about 18 years old, peach‑faced, a few wide‑eyed in cocky anticipation, the rest round‑eyed with fear. They sat waiting for their respective flights, one arm around mom or their girl friend and the other clutching their duffel bag.
Someone told me the normal tour of duty was two years. I looked again at the incoming soldiers. Yes, it was possible ‑ they looked over 30 but were actually still in their early twenties. War had made them older.
The Christian also is at war. The battle is often entered by fresh‑faced babies in Christ, full of new confidence, a few perhaps apprehensive, clutching their Bibles and clinging to the power of God. The battle is not physical but spiritual, against an unseen enemy who would take away the freedom given to them in Christ, if he could.
The apostle Paul said that the weapons of our warfare are not physical weapons nor is our enemy flesh and blood. We fight the one Jesus called "the father of lies", Satan himself. Satan is defiant of God, rebelling against Him and determined to destroy the testimony of His people. His demonic army is referred to as "principalities and powers and rulers in heavenly places." These fight with far more cunning than any jungle guerrilla or Vietcong. Often we are engaged and defeated without even recognizing there is a battle. Too often we fight each other, becoming pawns of our enemy instead of striking where our blows will count.
To fight, Paul said that we need to "put on the whole armor of God" and stand firm in that which has been given to us in Christ. Each skirmish develops our ability to first recognize the enemy, and secondly to counter what he tries to do. Just as muscles become stronger with use, we become stronger with each battle and like the soldiers, we mature. However, there is a difference... the Christian's tour of duty lasts a lifetime.
Spiritual warfare is not an enjoyable experience. In fact, some Christians hesitate to even talk about it, especially after taking a loss or two. Everyone else "looks" so trouble‑free. Battle tactics are not normally explored in the average Sunday sermon either. Somehow we wind up feeling like other believers never go through what we go through ‑ thus the enemy successfully divides our army, making individuals easy victims.
Besides feeling alone, these battles can be so intense and so exhausting that there is little energy left to call in reinforcements. We just want to hide in a foxhole at a time when we most need each other.
God says that, "No temptation happens to you except those commonly experienced by all..." We are not fighting a war that others do not experience. All Christians know what it is like. We win some, and we lose a few; it is unfortunate that we get the idea that to even have such experiences somehow makes us inferior or less spiritual.
One thing we can be sure of ‑ we are winners. The battles we fight against the father of lies is won by the Truth written down and the Truth that lives in our hearts.