43 years ago I was a rifle platoon leader engaged in battle in Viet Nam. Fortunately, I was but 23 years old. I know I do not have the same physical energy four decades later. There were no front lines in this war. The Viet Cong, unlike the North Viet Nam Army, wore civilian clothes. The enemy was all around, and their mostly undetectable booby traps could be unleashed anywhere, anytime. All of this required an incredible intensity of awareness and vigilance, especially when you were responsible for 44 of your own men. But no human being can keep such vigilance indefinitely. There has to be a time to let-down, rejuvenate, and renew to survive the grueling grind of combat. This is the very reason for the critical necessity of unit cohesion in battle. Your fellow soldiers must at times be your ears, eyes, and arms. Uriah, an excellent soldier in King David’s army, found this out the hard way when his fellow warriors withdrew from him in the pitch of battle, and he fell to the enemy. We simply do not believe the Lord in our present environment when He tells us graphically of the severity of the battle and enemy which wars against your soul, fiercely seeking your humiliation, shame, and ruin. Just look at his spoils spread around you in the culture, so close to your doorstep.
Our text tells us the environment in which we live and work and play is no less deadly than the Viet Nam jungles, or any other field of physical battle. There are no frontlines and the enemy surrounds us, as it were, in civilian clothes; shrewdly masquerading as angels of light. The intensity and energy of vigilance and alertness is required far more to overcome this unwearied enemy. The Christian’s greatest protection is God Himself; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But He has provided means for you to wrap yourself in His grace; namely, undiminished prayer, Bible study and meditation; the Sacraments: improving your baptism and feeding on the real presence of Christ in the Supper; and hearing the Word preached, repenting, and obeying. But God has also given you your fellow believers as a means of protection against Satan and his fallen angels.
The writer of Hebrews wrote: “And let us consider how we may spur each other on to love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as we see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25)There is the strongest implication that the enemy’s attacks will increase in intensity as the Day of the Lord’s return draws closer. I believe the focus of the proper application of this instruction is the more intimate, accountable relationship of one or a few fellow believers rather than the relative anonymity and distance permitted in the larger crowd that constitutes the church. Peter spoke in the same chapter as the above verses of his close relationship with fellow elders and particularly with Silas and Mark (see vs. 1, 12, 13); Paul at the end of his epistles always made mention of the few who stood closely by him in the faith and in his work. Jesus gathered 12 around him for a more intensive relationship than with the crowds who constantly sought him out.
James tells us we are to have a relationship with some believers in which we confess our sins to one another; a relationship where you have the confidence to ask the right questions and in turn give forthright, non-glossed-over answers. Our text tells us that the biggest obstacle in calling on a few to draw near to is our own pride. It is precisely why humility is a necessity to a successful defense against the lion that stalks you. Peter reminds us, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble! Close, honest, accountable relationships require humility, which produces a heart in which there is no guile. Truth dies in the face of pride, but flourishes in the heart of humility. Our spouses ought to be our greatest human confidant and fellow warrior in this fight, but there is increased strength in one, two or three others of your gender to encourage you in the battle. It is worth your earnest prayer and search that God would bless you with such fellow warriors.
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