Everyone listened Wednesday morning as Ben spoke to the men’s breakfast group about an observation he made regarding a two-phase process of the rise and fall of kingdoms:
“In the 13th century,” he began, “tribes united to mass a Mongol empire that would conquer most of Asia-Eurasia. Genghis Khan consumed nations and any resistance in his path. But when wartime was over, and ruling was required, things changed. When you think about the size and influence of empires, you have to wonder, ‘How did it end?’”
Ben went on to explain how the Persian Empire conquered, expanded and ruled for generations. Eventually it fell after ruling for so long.
Fear and death were part of the conquering-war phase. The ruling, responsibility and “keeping the peace” phase are when these great empires deteriorated into time. A state of mind and embracing the values associated with the two. Those two phases: war-time and peace translate to an individual as well.
These two phases are reflected in my life as well. Over the past year, God has been doing some amazing things in my life. Good things, during good times. The handful of difficult years prior to that, issued a set of different forms of trials and tribulations. The attack of sin and self-indulgences were noticeably visible and relatively easy to identify. Presenting themselves as points to pray for and grow stronger against. I was in a war with deliberate and calculated obstacles, ones that had a name and guided my pursuit of victory. Much like conquering warlords, my enemy was on my mind all the time. I was focused on being satisfied, happy.
When war had ended and peacetime reigned, I worshiped. The Spirit convicted me of my sin and stirred in my heart a longing for the presence of God. Ushering in a new phase of vulnerability and heartache, as well as of fellowship and forgiveness that I pursued. I asked that the Lord purified me from the past of self-righteousness, for when I was in the time of war. For several months I had peace. I was given those joys, because it was that for which I was suffering. I was convinced that victory meant being happy.
This peacetime was similar to the second phase these nations had undergone. It was a time of ruling and “keep the peace”. Likewise, it was a time in my life that the sovereignty of God, in my mind, was contentment. Being satisfied in the value and design of His joys, lessons and His words made new. Biblical stories becoming fresh with the character of God; Joy multiplied. I truly thank God for that.
Comparatively, the second phase that led nations to tragic dismantlement occurred in my life as well. I was content in the joys and promises alone, satisfied in the good things described in scripture. I embraced theological depth in order to grow. I grew. The joys and promises satisfied me. I was content. The wartime victory was being satisfied in the joys of God, which is absolutely self-centeredness, if that’s my only drive. Therefore, “victory” became no different from “wartime.” I had embraced the things God has made as good, as the only value I needed. Focusing on myself.
There is nothing more damaging to a Christian’s walk with Christ than being content. The idea that I may be satisfied in the good things that God has designed should never be “it.” It is destructive. It is poisonous. It is the dismantlement of a foundation built on the idea that “because of the Lord, I know what is good, and that’s all I need”. Don’t misunderstand me. Being satisfied in Christ is totally different from being satisfied because of Christ.
Allow me to expand a little: If I pursue to embrace the majesty and apex of God’s character every day, it has to be because of who God is. This pursuit is fueled because I desire everything through Him, funneling that joy outward to appreciate and apply Christ in all His creation. You will want to see just how magnificent God is by observing His creation. Pray that the Lord reveals Himself in people, and it will change your life. That’s another blog for another time.
I was in one of the classes for my chaplaincy training when the instructor gave an interesting statistic. The majority of suicides that occur in the U.S. are males at the age of 65 and up. Men, more than women, associate their identity with their occupation. When it’s time to retire, to be content, that loss of identity is devastating.
There’s a lot of conclusions that we may draw from the psyche of men because of this (ladies, try not to get too carried away). One important aspect of this fact that men closely identify with is ceasing to do something. The same is what happens in a spiritual “peace time.” We get wrapped up in a single aspect of what makes God so amazing and make ourselves vulnerable to devastating loss when we lose sight of the rest of His character.
During peace time, if joy is your only pursuit and doubt swallows up that joy, your spirit is crushed. If embracing the promises of God is the only thing that battles corruption, faith is made weak. If the gifts of the Spirit are the only thing that affirms salvation, you will be rocked to your core. These are the dangerous examples of a hollow substance when we place our mind in the “peace time” of our lives.
My sister, Hannah, coined a phrase that I’ve found very insightful: “Don’t wish war. Wage war”. As humans, inherently sinful, we seek to be satisfied, to be content. When we realize that the immeasurable riches of Christ surpass our scale of happiness, then we are able to wage war on sin – not just talk about it when things are going well.
“This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith” (1 Tim. 1:18).
“…wage the good warfare.” Strike hard with every blow against sin, by pursing the full character of God in prayer, scripture, and community. Narrowing the view of the blessing of God will only lead your faith to a “shipwreck.”