In response to my post, Gather The Troops, I was asked to create a list of the Christian rules of engagement. What follows is a condensed version of what God taught me in the Valley of Divorce. It's equal parts bible study and blog post.
Rules of Engagement
2. Watch Your Words
3. Choose Companions Wisely
4. Do Not Rely on Your Own Understanding
5. Do Not Be Double-Minded
6. Stay in Your Lane
7. Suit Up & Trust God
Keep first things first.
James 4:7 is often misquoted and misunderstood, or at least it was by me. “...resist the devil, and he will flee” is only part of the verse. In context, James gives us a crucial element to victory,
So be subject to God. Resist the devil [stand firm against him], and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and He will come close to you. [Recognize that you are] sinners, get your soiled hands clean; [realize that you have been disloyal] wavering individuals with divided interests, and purify your hearts [of your spiritual adultery]. [As you draw near to God] be deeply penitent and grieve, even weep [over your disloyalty]. Let your laughter be turned to grief and your mirth to dejection and heartfelt shame [for your sins] (Jam. 4:7-9, AMPC, emphasis mine).
In a nutshell, when we repent and become submissive to God, we have drawn near to Him. In response, He comes close to us. The safest place during spiritual battle is in the secret place of the Most High – in the shadow of the Almighty who will be your refuge and fortress (Ps. 91:1-2). You may be thinking, I was the one sinned against! While that may be true, none of us are sinless. So, ask the Lord to reveal any hidden sins and keep you from presumptuous sin (Ps 19:12-14).
Watch Your Words
Be careful what you say (silence is golden)
Be careful what you say and how you say it. Below are Biblical examples of the power related to these choices.
When Gabriel delivered the news to Zachariah that he and Elizabeth would have a baby boy (John) and Zachariah questioned the prophesy, he lost his ability to speak until after John’s birth (Luke 1:11-20). Being “struck dumb” was a gift as it kept Zachariah from speaking his doubts and unbelief.
Shortly after Jesus was born, the shepherds came to the manger to praise God and tell of all the angels had proclaimed at the birth of Jesus; Mary kept silent and “weighing and pondering” these things in her heart (Luke 2:8-20). She did not voice the fears that being the earthly mother of the Son of God surely must have generated.
Ten of the 12 spies that Moses and Aaron sent to scout the Promised Land returned an “evil” report, i.e., they voiced their fears and not faith in God. Their negativity spread throughout the Israelites! Only the two spies with faith-filled reports, Joshua and Caleb, lived to enter the promised land (Num. 13-14).
The battle of Jericho depended entirely upon faith and obedience. A strange battle plan was handed to Joshua from the Angel of the Lord. When Joshua shared with it with the Israelites, it came with this command, “You shall not shout or let your voice be heard, nor shall any word proceed out of your mouth until the day I tell you to shout. Then you shall shout!” (Josh. 6:10). I’d say he learned a valuable lesson and kept negativity and fear from once again spreading throughout the camp.
When Michael disputed with Satan over the body of Moses, “he dared not [presume to] bring an abusive condemnation against him, but [simply] said, The Lord rebuke you!” (Jude 1:9). If Michael can’t get a little ugly with Satan – how careful we must be when we dispute with a person made in God’s own image (Gen. 1:27)!
“In a multitude of words transgression is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is prudent” (Pro. 10:19).
“But I tell you, on the day of judgment men will have to give account for every idle (inoperative, nonworking) word they speak” (Matt. 12:36).
Choose Companions Wisely
Be careful with whom you share
When Gabriel informed Mary that she would give birth to the Son of God, she immediately went to Zachariah’s to visit his wife (her cousin) Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-40). Zachariah and Elizabeth “were righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord” (Luke 1:6).
“He who walks [as a companion] with wise men is wise, but he who associates with [self-confident] fools is [a fool himself and] shall smart for it” (Pro. 13:20).
Jesus had 12 disciples and thousands of followers. He spoke in parables for the crowd but explained them in private (Mark 13:10-13). His inner circle consisted of only three – Peter, James & John.
Do Not Rely on Your Own Understanding
We always think we are right – and it’s not always about our pride. I believe very few people set out to be wrong. But it happens – and pride is a snare. We need to be open to correction and the idea that God might have a better way (I Thess. 5:14).
“Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs and tries the hearts” (Pro. 21:2). Our hearts are deceitful (Jer. 17:9), so adhering to the world’s “follow your heart” adage is not wise.
Do Not Be Double-Minded
“Only it must be in faith that he asks with no wavering (no hesitating, no doubting). For the one who wavers (hesitates, doubts) is like the billowing surge out at sea that is blown hither and thither and tossed by the wind. For truly, let not such a person imagine that he will receive anything [he asks for] from the Lord, [For being as he is] a man of two minds (hesitating, dubious, irresolute), [he is] unstable and unreliable and uncertain about everything [he thinks, feels, decides]” (Jam. 1:6-8).
Watching your mouth and choosing wisely with whom you confide are two disciplines that help
you preserve your faith and avoid being double-minded.
Stay in Your Lane
Don’t Let Pride Take You for a Ride
We get ourselves in trouble when we think we’re so special that the “rules” don’t apply to us. I know AA (rehab, NA, et cetera) has worked for thousands of people. But I don’t need it. I can kick it on my own.
I know we are supposed to forgive, but you don’t know what they did to me! God can’t expect me to forgive that!
They sinned against me! They owe me!
The truth is nothing is so unique about you or your situation that the “rules” don’t apply (I Cor. 10:13); God will not overlook your sin because you were sinned against (Rom. 2:11). Ultimately, no matter how personal it is, every sin is a sin against God. Vengeance belongs to Him (Rom. 12:19). As far as it depends upon you, live at peace with everyone, i.e., don’t instigate or retaliate (Rom. 12:18). Humble yourself, understand your limitations, rely on God, and He will
exalt you when the time is right (I Pet. 5:6).
Side note, be clear about forgiveness – what it is and what it is not. We are forgiven as we forgive others (Matt. 6:12, Matt. 18:32-35). Forgiveness is not pretending the offense never happened or that you are okay. Nor is it letting them off the hook for their sin against you. Neither does it equal reconciliation.
Forgiveness is turning the offense over to God and trusting Him to settle accounts. Only He can draw people to repentance or bring about justice without collateral damage. Forgiveness is about cleansing your heart and reconciling yourself with God, not the offender.
Suit Up & Trust God
Know Who Your Enemy Is (It is not the person/relationship/addiction that you think it is.)
Satan is the true enemy of believers (I Pet. 5:8). He uses others to do his dirty work. Like when he used Peter, who loved Jesus, to tempt Jesus to abandon God’s plan. Jesus did not deal with Peter. He dealt directly with his enemy, “But Jesus turned away from Peter and said to him, Get behind Me, Satan! You are in My way [an offense and a hindrance and a snare to Me]; for you are minding what partakes not of the nature and quality of God, but of men” (Matt. 16:23).
Satan often attacks our minds. Cognitive distortions, negative automatic thoughts, fear, anxiety, trauma, and the like spring from Satan. His goals are simple – kill, steal, and destroy (John 10:10). He can’t snatch you out of God’s hand (John 10:29), but he can steal your joy, peace, and victory on earth if you let him. He can tempt you with choices that destroy your health and relationships.
So, I repeat, know who your enemy is.
We have a spiritual enemy, so fight a spiritual war. “For the weapons of our warfare are not physical [weapons of flesh and blood], but they are mighty before God for the overthrow and destruction of strongholds, [Inasmuch as we] refute arguments and theories and reasonings and every proud and lofty thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God; and we lead every thought and purpose away captive into the obedience of Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One),” (2 Cor. 10:4-5). Strongholds are areas when Satan has dug in – thoughts patterns and habits that are destructive and run deep. They become so automatic we don’t think about them anymore, which is why we are to renew our minds with the Truth; as we do, our thoughts and behaviors come into line with God’s will (Rom. 12:2).
Put on the whole armor of God (Eph. 6:10-18). Get prayer support from strong Christians to whom you can confess your sins and struggles and receive help and healing (Eph. 6:18, Jam. 5:16). Trust God for deliverance (I Pet. 5:10), for “Faithful is He Who is calling you [to Himself] and utterly trustworthy, and He will also do it [fulfill His call by hallowing and keeping you]” (I Thes. 5:24).
What has God taught you in your spiritual battle? Please share in the comments and encourage your brothers in sisters in Christ who are fighting the good fight.
Angela W. Startz, MAHSC, CCLC