Equipping Heroes of Faith Who Live and Speak God’s Word

In Genesis 3: I5 God issued the challenge to Satan: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, / and between your seed and her seed; / he shall bruise your head, / and you shall bruise his heel.” God has declared total war against everything that stands in opposition to his holiness, his righteousness, his justice, and his love. As far as he is concerned there can never be any compromise between good and evil. God is not very diplomatic in this regard. God is a warrior, and he calls his people to spiritual battle.

Spiritual warfare is raging all around us today. It’s not just the house churches meeting illegally in China, or Christians who are forbidden to proselytize in Muslim countries, who know its reality. In fact, it’s sometimes easier to stand firm and fight when war has been openly declared! But all of us face this battle from every side. We see it in the seductive and popular appeal of the New Age Movement; in the way “responsible sex” (i.e., using contraceptives) has replaced sexual purity; in the way abortion and euthanasia have been “re-phrased” to sound acceptable and compassionate; in the way “personal fulfilment” is replacing “commitment” as a priority in marriage; in the way “freedom of religion” is coming to mean “freedom from religion”; in the way materialism and self-interest has numbed our sensitivity to those who suffer around the world – and in our own backyard; in the way drug traffickers are leaving a trail of ruined young lives for personal profit; in the way we put our trust in a nuclear arsenal.

A battle needs heroes who are willing to put their lives on the line, and spiritual warfare needs heroes of the faith willing to do the same. 

That is what this book [A Time for Heroes] is about. The people in the Bible whom we’ve called heroes of the faith – all those men and women of God who were used so mightily by him – were people engaged in spiritual warfare. These biblical heroes seem larger than life to us today – Moses, the great emancipator! David, the king after God’s own heart! – yet in their time, they were just ordinary people who were willing to stand up for the truth of God, speak the truth, and act on it. And that is what we are called to do today.

But to fight this battle, we need to be equipped. We must know God’s Word, we must live God’s Word, we must speak God’s Word, we must put God’s Word into the hands of all peoples.

Equipping the Heroes of the Faith 

Anyone who stands up and boldly proclaims the Word of God today will not only have a following but, in most cases, opposition as well. That is why the need is greater than ever for people to be trained in the Word of God. In Ephesians 6:10-17, Paul the warrior describes how God equips us for battle:

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace; besides all these, taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

Ephesians 6:10-17

No Provision for Retreat 

It is important to note that in all this equipment there is no protection for our backs. God has not equipped us to run away from conflict. This reveals much about God’s whole approach and the role he expects us to fulfill. If our objective were to avoid conflict with the enemy, we would never win the battle. Instead, we are to be warriors, aggressively and offensively facing the enemy, not trying to escape.

A famous Czech communist once said, “I can only honor my opponent in a debate if he makes an all-out effort to convert me.” But because so few Christians are willing to stand up and openly challenge the communist philosophy with the Word of God, they despise us. We do not win our opponent by refusing to debate him, but by openly confronting falsehood with truth.

This is one reason we Christians in the free world must help provide what every suffering Christian in the world needs most – a copy of the Bible. It is our mission at Open Doors to give the suffering church the weapon it needs to wage spiritual warfare.

Only One Weapon

Paul tells us to take up the “sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” All the other parts of the spiritual armor are defensive. The sword is offensive. By it we make forward progress in defeating the enemy.

The weapons God has provided for the Christian to use are not bombs and guns, not economic leverage and boycotts, not even education or diplomatic negotiations. This is because, as Paul says, “we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this pre sent darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Those evil forces do create tangible earthly suffering and oppression, but the weapon God has empowered us to use is the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.

Quenching Satan’s Darts

The devil also uses weapons. To be effective warriors we must know our enemy and understand the kinds of weapons he uses. The devil’s main weapon is to sow doubt in our trust of the Word of God. The first time he employed this weapon was in the Garden of Eden. He opened with a challenge: “Did God say … ?” (Genesis 3:1). If he can disable our only weapon by questioning its reliability, he gains a great advantage in undoing any hero of the faith.

The devil will try that tactic with anyone. He even tried it with Jesus. When he knew that Jesus was weak after fasting and praying in the desert for forty days and forty nights, then Satan came and tried to make him doubt the reliability of the Word of God. 

The greatest weakness in our churches today is the lack of assurance. We do not know what we should know. We do not know our God. We do not know the power of the blood of Jesus. We do not know how to quote the Scripture. We do not know how to wield the Sword of the Spirit. When Jesus was tempted, his every defense was the Word of God: “It is written …,” he countered.

Anytime we try to argue with the devil on any other basis than what is written in the Word of God, we are sure to lose. The devil has had thousands of years of experience with people, plenty of time to think up a confounding answer to any smart remark we might devise. We have only one effective weapon and that is the Word of God. Only that will make us heroes of the faith.

Walking in the Path God Has Chosen for You

There is another lesson that can be learned from Jesus’ struggle with the devil in the wilderness. Satan challenged Jesus to prove that he was the Son of God by leaping off the pinnacle of the temple. This challenge was based on Psalm 91:11-12 which promised that the angels would protect him. Sounds good, doesn’t it? A sure way for Jesus to prove that he was the Son of God. And yet the context of Psalm 91 includes an important qualification. The person of whom the psalmist spoke walked in the way of God in three important areas:

He was in the right place. Verse 1 speaks of the one “who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, / who abides in the shadow of the Almighty.” 

He was doing the right thing. Verse 9 says the protection is “because you have made the Lord your refuge, the Most High your habitation.”

He was in the right relationship. Verse 14 commends the fact that he “cleaves to me in love.” 

Satan actually left out one little phrase right in the middle of the Scripture he quoted. The verse said that the angels will guard him “in all your ways [or paths].” Satan left that out. Maybe he didn’t want to remind Jesus that the only paths with God’s protection are the paths of God’s will.

Why are so many Christians weak and ineffective? With all of the accumulated knowledge we have of the Scriptures and church history and counseling and psychology and psychiatry and everything else, many are still trying to be heroes along paths God has not led them.

If God calls you to become a warrior, become a warrior. If God calls you to become an intercessor, become an intercessor. If God calls you to be a Bible smuggler with Open Doors, become a Bible smuggler with Open Doors. But if God calls you to raise a family for him, or be his witness in the marketplace, don’t try to do something else.

I remember when I was a very young Christian, my first desire was to be a missionary. I went to an old pastor in Holland and I said, “Pastor, I want to go to the mission field.”

I thought he would pat me on the shoulder and say, “Good boy, Andrew.” But no. With a very serious face he said, “Well, Andrew, maybe that is the only place where God can keep you from backsliding.” I didn’t like that message because it didn’t seem to reflect a very high opinion of me. But the older I grew the more I came to agree with him. The question is, are you in the right way? – the way God has chosen for you?

God has a way for each one of us where we can become a warrior for God, and that is the only place where God can protect you. If Jesus had followed Satan’s suggestion when he misquoted Scripture, if Jesus had jumped, I believe he might have lost his life and would never have gone to the cross that he came to embrace.

Dangers to Avoid

The son of a friend of mine is very interested in medieval history. He likes to dress up like a knight and, using wooden swords and shields, have mock battles with his friends. More than once he’s come in from the back yard with a scrape or bruise from a whack with a wooden sword.

But real swords present real dangers – just like any modern weapon. A person who uses a weapon to hunt or for self-defense or in the army can be infinitely more hazardous to himself or others if he is not aware of the dangers to avoid. This is true of the Sword of the Spirit, as well.

Misuse of Scripture

The experience in the Garden of Eden referred to earlier is instructive in another way. Not only did Satan introduce doubt about the reliability of God’s word, but Eve made a mistake in the way she handled God’s word. She misquoted God. God had said, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die” (Genesis 2:16, 17). However, when Eve quoted God’s words, she added a little: “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die” (Genesis 3:3, emphasis added).

It’s just as dangerous to add to the Word of God as it is to take away from it. In this case, there is no record of God telling Adam and Eve not to touch the tree, so when Satan responded, “You will not die,” he had the strategic advantage of a half truth. Indeed, when Eve touched the tree she didn’t die, so, she reasoned, why not go ahead and eat the fruit?

Eve may have had an excuse for misquoting God. His commandments were not yet written down. But we have no such excuse. We can turn to the Bible and see exactly what he has said or didn’t say. Therefore, we have a great responsibility to handle the Word of God properly. Think of the consequences of that first mishandling of God’s Word – the whole human race fell into sin!

Satan’s Misuse of Scripture 

As we noted earlier in the instance of Jesus’s temptation in the wilderness, the devil can also quote the Word. But be careful when people who are not true believers start quoting Scripture. You may be asking, “How am I supposed to know who to trust when so many people back up their views with Scripture and yet hold such different opinions on things?” 

I cannot offer a solution for resolving all the debates among genuine Christians. But we would be far ahead if we would discern that some of the turmoil comes from decidedly non-Christian sources, even though they may quote the Bible. The apostle John said: 

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God.” 

1 John 4:1,2

To consistently apply that basic litmus test would remove a lot of confusion.

For instance, when Jesus responded with the Word of God during his temptation in the wilderness by saying, “It is written …,” Satan tried quoting Scripture, too. But from the moment he opened his mouth, the devil disqualified himself according to John’s test. Satan’s first words questioned Jesus’ divinity: “If you are the Son of God …” (Matthew 4:3). Anyone who does not clearly confess that Jesus is the Christ, the only begotten Son of the living God, is suspect from the outset in terms of what they might teach us regarding matters of faith. No matter how innocent, educated, or religious, they unknowingly may be the mouthpiece of a much more sinister force.

Trying to Go It Alone 

As we accept God’s call to become a hero of the faith, a fighter for the Lord, each of us may wonder how we can develop the confidence to face the enemy singlehandedly. In a world full of hatred, rampant sin, and evil ideologies, can you go in alone and establish a work for God?

Let’s first establish that going it alone is not the ideal way. God has called us into a fellowship –church congregations and ministries – and together we are part of the army of the Lord. That is why God gives different gifts to different people, so that we can work together to build up the Kingdom of God. It is as Christ’s Body that we should move out into the world and win the world for Christ, not as individual Lone Rangers.

However, I believe it is possible to stand alone for Christ. Throughout the Scriptures we see many men and women who had to stand alone in order to accomplish something important for God by faith – just read Hebrews 11. We need to know that we can because there will be times when we have to stand alone – or at least it may feel that way, as it did to Elijah, even when there were still seven thousand in Israel who had not bowed their knee to Baal (1 Kings 19:18). We may feel like the only parents who won’t let their son or daughter stay out all night – stand firm! You may feel like the only guy at work that doesn’t tell dirty jokes – stand firm! You may be the only member of your family willing to give up an impressive salary to serve the poor at home or overseas – stand firm! 

We need to know that God has equipped us through his Spirit and with his Word to be fully capable soldiers, fit for any combat into which he sends us. Without that confidence, our nerve won’t be steady under fire. We’ll be looking to the right and the left for help from others when we should be facing the enemy head on.

Where You Can Enter the Battle 

Not only has God declared jihad, so has the devil. In Revelation we find something very interesting: 

“These are of one mind and give over their power and authority to the beast; they will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.” 

Revelation 17:13, 14

Jihad originated with God, but all the enemies of Christ temporarily unite together to make war on the Lamb. They may hate each other, but their common hatred for the Lamb is greater than their hatred of each other, so together they declare jihad on the Lamb.

Be a Worthy Target 

Notice that this passage in Revelation does not say that they will make war on the church as an organization. Even today there are hostile places in the world where some expressions of the church are not really persecuted. If you compromise enough, let the state regulate your activities, don’t evangelize or make any waves, then there is the possibility of continuing to function without much persecution.

It’s not even the individual believer who is automatically the target of persecution. One may be a nominal Christian and get along quite well with a very evil system. Take, for example, many so-called Christians under Hitler and the Nazis. They kept their mouths shut, they closed their eyes, and they were not persecuted. But what happened to the “confessing church?” It had to go underground, just as Corrie ten Boom and her family went underground in their attempts to shelter the Jews in obedience to Christ.

The Lamb of God is Satan’s ultimate target. And it’s the life of Christ in the believer and in the church – Christ in you – that is the target of persecution.

Unfortunately, some Christians unwittingly play right into Satan’s battle scheme, like a basketball player that sinks a shot into the opponent’s basket. When “big name” Christians fight and quarrel with each other over public airwaves, the Lamb of God is wounded. When a church ignores its needy neighbors, it is Christ that is ignored. When Christian organizations mismanage their funds, Christ’s name is defiled. When Christians drag other Christians into court, it is Christ that is judged. 

I’m so glad the battle doesn’t stop there. I’m glad we can know the end of the story, because the Lamb does overcome. Scripture doesn’t say that the enemy will break his teeth when he tries to chew on a passive Lamb. No. The Lamb will also fight! There is a spiritual war going on in which every individual Christian is invited to take part. And we can fight in confidence because we know who wins! The Lamb overcomes because he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with him are the called and chosen and faithful.

This, then, is the message that we have for the suffering church worldwide: “If you are persecuted, rejoice! It is just about the surest proof that the Son of God lives in you; otherwise you wouldn’t be persecuted. Take courage, go back to the Word of God.” As we share God’s Word and study it together, we will begin to understand that from the first declaration of jihad in Genesis 3:15 to the declaration of jihad by the devil in Revelation 17:13, the whole book is one record of warfare, conflict, and spiritual battle – fought by heroes of the faith. They are not heroes because they were born with some superior power; they became heroes because they yielded their lives to Jesus Christ. Taking the risk, they said, “Lord, your will be done in my life.”

Be Urgent to Spread the Word 

Most problems in the world are nor political issues but spiritual. It’s a battle for the minds and hearts of men and women. The enemy lies, intimidates, misquotes Scripture, or invents a new religion with a different “holy book.” The only answer is to rightly handle the Word of Truth which can make people free as individuals, and make nations free.

People need to know what the Scriptures say, but to do this they must have access to the Word of God for study and meditation. That’s why it is so important to make the Word of God available to every nation in the world. No military assistance, no diplomatic power, no economic aid or food we give to any nation is going to make a basic difference in the world situation because it does not change the attitude of people toward life, toward sin, toward the devil, and toward God. As Peter said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). And that is true for the whole world; only Jesus as revealed in the Word of God can bring real life. That’s why I have dedicated my life to spreading the Word of God as the only solution to man’s deepest problems, even when I talk about politics.

Horace Greeley, the famous American communicator and leader in the antislavery movement during the last century, made a marvelous statement: 

“It is impossible to enslave mentally or socially a Bible-reading people.” 

The principles of the Bible are the groundwork of human freedom. If we make the Word of God available, no evil ideology, no strange philosophy, no idolatrous religion can effectively take hold of any people in a permanent way. The Bible is the only book that does not need a defense; it has stood the test for centuries; it continues to change lives. It has the words of eternal life.

Exodus 15 records the Song of Moses, and in it is the line: 

“The Lord is a man of war;
the Lord is his name.” 

Exodus 15:3 

Interestingly, when we go to the end of the Bible, we find in Revelation 15:3 that the conquering saints are still singing the Song of Moses. Throughout this entire age, until evil has been completely banished, the Lord is identified as a man of war, standing in the gap, calling people to follow his example and do likewise.

Brothers and sisters, the time is now. The battle is all around us; are you feeling afraid? Look up – Christ goes before you, accompanied by many heroes of the faith who have gone before. Learn from their example. Pick up the Sword of the Spirit, learn to use it well, bring its light into the dark places, strike down falsehood with truth. Let us heed God’s call to become heroes of the faith, so that we can say with the apostle Paul, 

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

2 Timothy 4:7

This article is excerpted from A Time for Heroes, by Brother Andrew, Chapter 10, published by Servant Books, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA, 1988, © 1988 by Open Doors International. 

Top image credit: Artwork of a spiritual warrior with shield of faith and sword of the Spirit with Bible verse from 2 Timothy 2:3-4, by © FaithLife.com. Used with permission.

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