General Rick Hillier, Canada’s former chief of defence staff and former top soldier has just released his memoirs entitled "A Soldier First: Bullets, Bureaucrats and the Politics of War."
In his book General Hillier takes dead aim at the bureaucracies both in Canada and NATO, criticising them for their preoccupation with internal issues and infighting and their failure to give priority attention to the real war in Afghanistan where Canadian soldiers were fighting and dying.
This is not unlike the situation in many churches and Christian organizations. Often our focus is upon solving internal differences and dealing with issues relating to organizational survival and growth, rather than giving priority attention to the real spiritual war that is being waged around us.
When our Lord was on earth, He knew where the real war was and gave it top priority.
He spent the bulk of His time going through towns and villages, teaching in synagogues, preaching the Good News of the Kingdom, casting out demons and healing every kind of disease and sickness (Matthew 9:35). Looking at the harassed and helpless crowds, He was filled with deep, deep compassion. He likened them to sheep without a shepherd. After reminding His followers of the magnitude of the harvest and the scarcity of reapers, He commanded them to beg the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest field (Matthew 9:36-38). He then laid down their marching orders, commanding them to personally answer their prayers and to do exactly as He was doing (Matthew 10:1-8).
Later our Lord called another seventy-two of His followers, sending them forth to exercise the same ministry where they would experience the same results (Luke 10:1-9).
Nearing the conclusion of His earthly ministry our Lord left specific commands to His followers as to the key results He expected.
“Go and make disciples (apprentices) of all nations”, He commanded, “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:18-20 NIV). “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation” were His express directions (Mark 16:15). His instruction was that “repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name to all nations…” (Luke 24:46,47). His final words prior to His ascension were: “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8)
When the Apostle, Paul was on earth, he, too, knew where the real war was and he, too, gave it the place of preeminent priority.
He emphatically stated: “…I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel (Good News) of God’s grace “(Acts 20:24). In Colossians 1:28 He adds, “We proclaim Him, counselling and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all the energy He so powerfully works in me.”
He knew that the real war was “not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12).
The real war in Afghanistan is fought with bullets and bombs and deals with issues of life and death. The real war in the heavenlies is fought with prayer and truth and deals with issues of time and eternity.
Surely the highest priority in the local church and every Christian organization should be the motivation and mobilization of every believer in fulfilling his or her role in the completion of our Lord’s great and compelling commission. Evangelism and discipleship should and must be our preeminent priority. In Philippians 1:5, the Apostle Paul speaks about his partnership with the Philippian believers in the Gospel. Proclaiming the good news of Christ was not his responsibility alone, it was theirs, as well. Spreading this amazing message is not the privilege and responsibility of this believer or that believer. It is the commission and command of our Lord to every believer—to me, to you, to the pastor, to the elder, to the deacon, to every Christian worker, to every church member. Sharing in the partnership of the Gospel is the solemn and binding obligation of every single believer. Every one of us has been assigned a role in communicating the greatest message ever preached to every single individual on the face of planet earth. This is our task and raison d’etre. It is our clear and solemn obligation. It is our personal responsibility and the basis of our accountability. Therefore it should and must be our preeminent priority.
Politicians and bureaucrats in Canada and NATO have already felt the sting of the verbal bullets fired by General Hillier in his latest literary missive.
Are we impervious to the sting of the written words of Holy Scripture dealing with the preeminent priorities of Christian life and service?
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