LIFE ON THE FRONTLINE
PART 2: THE FRONTLINE COMMISSION
When Jesus commissioned His disciples to their calling to go and make disciples of all nations, He chose the mountains of Galilee as the place to challenge them, prepare them, and send them out. Maybe He brought them back to Galilee to show them that their life was to be on the frontline – where they lived, worked, related to others…and where the battle lines were laid out in the war of God’s people against the enemy of mankind – the devil and all his demons.
THE FRONTLINE COMMISSION
When a soldier accepts their commission from the monarch – now King Charles III – they swear (or promise) to serve their king and their country – even if it means giving up their lives to do so. *
What we are going to see in this second session of “Life on the Frontline” is that our commission from Jesus means that life is very often going to be tough as we live on the frontline. Like a soldier we would love to stay safe in barracks, looking good in our uniform, delighting in our travels around the globe and the ceremonials like “The Trooping of the Colour”. But it’s not going to be like this all the time.
I am currently reading a book by John Nichol called “Tornado”. It is subtitled “In the eye of the storm” – referring to “Operation Desert Storm” – the First Gulf War of 1991. In this book he describes his love of being in the RAF, flying in Tornado bombers. It was exciting and it was glamorous. BUT in this war “the rubber hit the road” and he describes the fear – the terror – of having to fly into the hostile environment of an almost impenetrable wall of “triple A” (Anti-Aircraft Artillery) that the Iraqis threw up at them and which led to his plane being destroyed and him ending up in horrific captivity for the duration of the war. Accepting the commission to life on the frontline can be very difficult indeed…
When life is going relatively smoothly, knowing that you are making a difference can feel great. But what about when the going gets rough, when you don’t feel in control, when simple survival is your most pressing concern? These are the times when it’s not so much about whether God can use me
this week; it feels as if it’s more about whether I can get to the end of it in one piece. What about times like these? How can we survive on our Frontline and maybe even thrive there as well?
Our “Life on the Frontline” film clip begins to explore this issue.
Let’s look at the experience of the Jews at the time of the Babylonian Exile (about 597bc) to get a Biblical perspective of what our frontline commission really looks like…
LIFE ON THE FRONTLINE FOR THE JEWS OF THE EXILE
We love the promises of God to those who are Christians. There are few more delightful than that of God given in Jeremiah 29: 11
For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’
…but take time to reflect on the context in which it was written:
2 Chronicles 36: 15-21 tells us:
15 The Lord, the God of their ancestors, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling-place. 16 But they mocked God’s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the Lord was aroused against his people and there was no remedy. 17 He brought up against them the king of the Babylonians, who killed their young men with the sword in the sanctuary, and did not spare young men or young women, the elderly or the infirm. God gave them all into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar. 18 He carried to Babylon all the articles from the temple of God, both large and small, and the treasures of the Lord’s temple and the treasures of the king and his officials. 19 They set fire to God’s temple and broke down the wall of Jerusalem; they burned all the palaces and destroyed everything of value there.
20 He carried into exile to Babylon the remnant, who escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and his successors until the kingdom of Persia came to power. 21 The land enjoyed its sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested, until the seventy years were completed in fulfilment of the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah.
Judah as a kingdom is in its death-throws. The Babylonians are closing in. Although false prophets are claiming that God will deliver the Jews, Jeremiah is declaring that they shall be defeated and would be carried away into exile for 70 years. He is predicting an extremely tough and uncomfortable time ahead where the people would be tested to the limit. It is in the midst of this prophecy that Jeremiah sends a letter from God to the exiles who have been taken to Babylon (you’ll find this in Jeremiah 29: 1-14):
4 This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 ‘Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. 7 Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.’ 8 Yes, this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. 9 They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,’ declares the Lord.
10 This is what the Lord says: ‘When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfil my good promise to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
God tells us that He knows the plans He has for us to prosper us, give us a hope and a future. When life feels like this for us…remember that God knows the plans He has for us.
LIFE ON THE FRONTLINE FOR YOU AND FOR ME
Maybe…just maybe…God WANTS us to be in this difficult frontline position. Maybe…just maybe…God is going to use this place as a time to change us, improve us, challenge us, purify us. Maybe…just maybe…this horrible place (where we certainly don’t want to be) is the place where God wants to use us – to be His voice and hands and feet to those we are with – praying for them, encouraging them, telling them about Jesus and of our faith. Maybe…just maybe…this hard, unpleasant place where we live our lives is just where God wants us to be. Returning to our Ukraine simile – those young soldiers can’t be enjoying life on the frontline – can they? – but it is where they need to be in order to protect their people and defeat the enemy.
Do you remember that in our first session (“The frontline call”) we learned that Jesus wanted to meet His disciples where they actually lived and worked – in Galilee, on their frontline – to give them the call to serve on the frontline. We see the same here – hundreds of years earlier. God took the Israelites to Babylon – to a new frontline, where He wanted them to serve. Let’s not moan about where we are living, where we are working, and who we are living and working with…for this is our frontline commission. God is saying “serve here…you have accepted your commission to go into the world and make disciples of all nations – this is your frontline”.
Maybe…just maybe…what I am about to say now will not be too popular…but I want you to note that God continues to state that they will remain in exile for 70 years. This would be a real time of protracted testing and strengthening and purifying for the people of Israel. In our context we must understand that if life is hard for us on OUR frontline then there might be no “quick fix” – rather there might be a lifetime of struggle for us, years of battling for the LORD…but the promise of God remains the same – He knows the plans He has to prosper us. All will be well!
But you might say that it is IMPOSSIBLE for you to live for God on the Frontline any longer – that you are imprisoned by your circumstances (your health – or lack of it, your relationships, your abilities, your finances)…be encouraged! Look at Paul…let him be our hope and example here…
When Paul was placed in prison it would have been easy for him to feel (and act on this feeling) that his ministry was over, that his time of usefulness to God was ended. But instead…writing to the Philippians, Paul reflects on his situation as a prisoner. He is clearly uncomfortable but is determined that the mission that God has given him will continue to be his priority. As part of his encouragement to the church in Philippi he urges them (Philippians 1: 27):
‘Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.’
Paul knew that he was called to live on the Frontline – even if that frontline was in prison. What a challenge for us!
AND SO, FINALLY…
Our commission is to serve God on the Frontline – where is YOUR frontline? Is it in the home? With you unbelieving husband, wife or child? In a dull and boring factory? At the bedside of a sick patient? Alone in your empty room? At the school gate? In the school room? Wherever it is, our commission is often tough to carry out. When you feel that all is going wrong, that there is too much pressure, or all is too dull, remember that you are called to serve on the frontline wherever and whoever we called to be and be with. And we are called to serve on the frontline until our Mighty General – Jesus – calls us to move somewhere else or calls us home to be with Him in Heaven.
And what gives us the motivation to accept the commission of living on the frontline? And what gives us the strength to endure on the frontline? It is the knowledge that Jesus loves us, that Jesus died to save us, that Jesus rose to give us new life, that Jesus is always with us and has promised never to leave us. It is our gratitude to Him for us this. It is our gratitude to Him that He has made us citizens of the Kingdom of God. For Him we will do anything. For Him we will go anywhere. For Him we will endure all things. For without Him we have nothing and are nothing and have no hope. With Him we have everything, and are significant and have all hope. THIS is why we accept our frontline commission – whatever it is and wherever it is and with whomsoever it is with.
Without Him you will never be able to serve on the frontline, never be able to endure on the frontline. Do you know Him? Do you need to come to Him? Don’t delay – do so today.
*BRITISH ARMY OATH OF ALLEGIANCE – APPENDIX 1
Known as the Attestation Ceremony, each recruit reads aloud their promise to be loyal to the monarch:
“I swear by almighty God that I will be faithful, and bear true allegiance to his Majesty King Charles III, his heirs and successors, and that I will as in duty bound, honestly and faithfully defend his Majesty, his heirs and successors in person, crown and dignity, against all enemies, and will observe and obey all orders of His Majesty, his heirs and successors and the generals and officers set over me.”
A SIMILAR PROMISE FOUND IN THE NEW TESTAMENT – APPENDIX 2
18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us…
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose…
31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:
‘For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.