Spiritual Warfare Basics: Five Principles: Military Doctrine

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, February 20, 2015 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

“Therefore measure in terms of five things: use these assessments to make comparisons, and thus find out what the conditions are. The five things are the way, the weather, the terrain, the leadership, and discipline.” ~Sun-Tzu, Chapter 1.

The fourth key principle that Sun-Tzu talks about is military doctrine or discipline, depending on the translation you are using. This principle deals with how soldiers and officers should behave and how instruction and discipline are enforced. When one thinks of the Army, very often the first thing that comes to mind is discipline. And the goal of basic training is to get soldiers to obey orders without question or hesitation. A general cannot have soldiers questioning orders, because if he allows it, a lack of confidence in the general will spread throughout the camp. And most of the time, the general knows quite a bit more about what is going on than the soldier does. No matter what, if a general gives an order, that order needs to be followed.

But not every general is a good one. That is another aspect to this principle: how officers and soldiers should behave. My post last week on leadership illustrates what a good leader should or should not do. But as soldiers, we need to submit to our leaders no matter how good or bad they are because they are leaders whom God installed in their place. As I said last week, we need to respect the position of authority, no matter who sits in it.

God is concerned not just in matters of obedience but the manner of obedience. He cares about how we obey him, not just that we do obey him. Jonah is a fine example of this. God told Jonah to preach to Nineveh so they might repent. Jonah did not want to do it so he ran away. After the large fish incident, Jonah did obey, but we see after the fact that he was not happy. I easily see Jonah preaching a “turn or burn message,” because we see Jonah waiting for the destruction to happen. But God told him that he did not want to wipe out people and that he had the right to give mercy for those who repented. God was not pleased with the manner of how Jonah obeyed, but he still showed his grace and his mercy.

One thing God totally despises, however, is partial obedience. He sees it the same as outright disobedience. Look at 1 Samuel 13 and 15. God told Saul to wait for Samuel before going to battle against the Philistines. But Saul grew impatient and offered the sacrifice. God then told Saul to destroy the Amalekites, but instead Saul mostly destroyed them, saving the best stuff and the king as trophies. Because Saul disobeyed God’s orders twice, God rejected him as king and for the rest of his tenure on the throne, Saul lived in terror of David, whom God chose to replace him.

How are we obeying God? I heard one man say this: “Self-control is the instant obedience to the initial prompting of the Holy Spirit.” Is that not what the Army wants for its soldiers—instant obedience to the initial orders of the commanding officer? The military demands order and structure. As Christians, we are enlisted in God’s army. I know most of you did not ask to sign up for that, but that is part of the territory of being a Christian. Yet, so often we hear God’s orders, we don’t like them, and we often flat out refuse to obey them. And then we wonder why God doesn’t come through when we need him to. This is not rocket science.

Sun-Tzu says, “If the orders of the General are not clear, it is the fault of the General that the troops are routed. If the orders of the General are clear, and I have made them clear, then it is the fault of the subordinates that the troops are routed.”

Many people try to think that God’s orders are not very clear. But in the reality, they usually are. We usually know exactly what God is telling us to do or not to do. Do not try to feign ignorance. With Worldview Warriors last month, we talked about how we are without excuse because God’s character and nature are clearly revealed through the Creation. This week, I want to point out Romans 2:13. In a military context, you are a soldier to the army you swear fealty to. But which army you really serve is told much better by whose orders you follow. Romans 2:13 tells us that it is not enough to hear the Word to be justified. We actually need to be doers of Word. What does this mean?

It is not enough to say, “I believe.” While Romans 10:9-10 says “believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord,” we need to understand that “to believe” is a very different word than we really understand today. Here “believe” is actually the verb form of “faith.” And faith requires action. This is not a causal belief where I will claim it and think of it on occasion. This is a conviction that you hold to be so true that you will act upon it as though it is true. That is all God is asking for us: obey.

There are times where we don’t obey. There is a word for that: sin. Every military has a standard of discipline for soldiers that fail to follow orders. The same is true in our Christian walk. God, however, is a good Father. And he will discipline us, not because he is a vengeful, wrathful judge, because he loves us too much to let us stay in our sin. But if God does not discipline us, then we are illegitimate children and we are not actually saved. When we sin, how God treats us will depend on our relationship with him. Are we under him as adopted children, or are we out from under him and subject to the Law? When we look at God, do we look at him as Father, or as Judge? God wants what is best for us, and the best for us is the removal of self, the removal of our sinful self. And one of the reasons God allows us to be in the battle is to both expose us to our shortcomings, but also to work them out of us. Another reason for putting us into the battle is for God to show his glory through us. Obey him, even if it comes at a cost. There is no cost here on this earth that we are not going to lose at some point anyway. So do not fear losing things like your reputation, your social friends, your money, your job… or even your life. You will lose it all anyway by the time you die. But what you gain for obeying Christ is above and beyond anything we can imagine.

Follow Christ, obey him, and there will be a reward in heaven. Next week, we wrap up this mini-series on the five key principles of warfare: The Way, or the Moral of the People.