“The Lord is a man of war; the Lord is his name,” – Exodus 15:3
Life has often been called a battle. The Word is the Book of Life. Wars and battles are a striking feature of its story and everyone can recognize in it – particularly in the Psalms – his own history. We may think that some go through life without cares, anxieties, and struggles, but they themselves know better. There may indeed be an occasional one who like Moab “hath been at ease from his youth,” but such a one is satisfied with merely natural blessings, does not take life seriously, and so does not really live at all. And however it may be with others, we know about our own lives. We have to be on constant watch.
There are two ways of looking upon life. One may see life as a burden, as a struggle against impossible odds, and become discouraged. Or one may see it as a challenge and a perpetual exhilaration.
There are many types of conflict. Those who are engaged in the work by which the earth is subdued to the use of man are waging a conflict with nature. The sailor on the sea, the farmer in the field, the miner digging into the earth, the woodman in the forest, all of these are wrestling with the outer forces of the earth. The merchant is seeking in competition to make a living. The legislator is fighting against the wrongs which harass social and civil life. And then there is the war against ignorance. It is in these latter conflicts that we come in contact with the real enemy.
The world of nature was created to bring forth and develop the capacities of the natural mind and body, and in the conflict with the earth we gain strength. Life is not marred by it but increased in beauty and satisfaction. But there is a conflict of another nature. Paul writes, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” The real conflict is against evil, the selfishness in human nature, the forces of wickedness in the world. Insane rivalries, corruption, imperfect institutions, disregard of others are the real enemies. Our war is against principles and powers not flesh and blood, against unseen but very real enemies.
There are spiritual forces at work in the world both good and bad. The heavens and the hells are both in contact with the earth. This is pictured throughout the Bible, and especially in the book of Revelation, where the Divine love and wisdom is at war with the evil and falsity from the hells which seek to overcome and to enslave mankind.
Although today belief in this relationship between the spiritual world and men on earth is questioned by many, yet it is fundamental to the understanding of life. To acknowledge the Lord as He has revealed Himself in the Scriptures and in the truths given for this new age is the first condition of all real strength. We cannot of ourselves overcome any evil. To put ourselves in conjunction with the Lord is to ally ourselves with the forces of the universe, and is our first necessity. We read, “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.” God is infinite love, wisdom, and power. He never changes. Man is finite and constantly changing; when his changes are for the better, there is progress, when for the worse, there is retrogression.
When men learn and obey the laws of God, they acquire a sense of security and stability. They are able to see and meet their needs, to solve their problems, and to make life more pleasant and satisfactory. Changes are continually taking place in us. Without knowledge of the Lord and His laws these changes take place in the wrong direction, for we are then without compass or goal. There is the tendency to think of this little world apart from the unseen powers of the spiritual world with which it is connected and from which it exists. But the universe is larger than this little earth. With knowledge of God and the spiritual world and obedience to the Divine laws we put ourselves on the side of the great currents of universal life and on the side of the Lord and of all the good in heaven and on earth.
In this struggle of life we should realize that the battle is not against men but against principles and that everyone, while in this world, has some good in him. The battle cannot be won through personal enmity.
This leads to the truth that inside the battle that is going on in the world at large, which the leaders are waging, there is the battle within ourselves. There will not be peace in the world if there is not peace in the individual heart. We can be of little assistance in correcting evils in the world if we are in these evils ourselves.
Recall the Lord’s life. Before He entered upon His active ministry He passed through long and desperate struggles within Himself. The Lord’s struggle with His human enemies was not against them but for them, to enlighten their minds and to lead them to see and to repent of their evils.
We all have our conflict with conditions in the outward life, the effort to get on in the world. This is necessary and good. Then we have a more personal conflict which, however, is still an external one: we have to guard against evil associations, and care for our moral life. We should not cheat or lie, and should keep our external life pure. This too is good. Yet the real struggle of life is not with our associations or with our external habits. One may be a good man in every respect outwardly and not come into contact with the real enemy, for he may still be proud, arrogant, and self-satisfied. It is when one enters upon the conquest of self that the real battle begins. Here one finds the need of the Lord’s help. It is in humility, in dependence upon the Lord that the crown of victory is won.
With this victory comes the love of others, faith in them, hope for them, and joy, for it is not alone our own battle that we are fighting but the Lord’s, that we may become conquerors with Him. Without Him we have no power.
“Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth’s sake.”