The Soldier Analogy

You find yourself huddled in a hand dug trench filled with pools of stagnant water, mud, and slimy bugs that are probably poisonous. It is possible that the bugs are harmless but they have two hundred extra legs and you don’t want to take any chances so every time one tries to climb up your leg you scream like a little girl and rapidly do jumping jacks. Hopefully the centrifugal force will prevent the evil bug from taking up residence in your loincloth which you fashioned out of ferns and ivy – an ideal bug habitat now that you think about it.  You clutch a banana, your only weapon, with your right hand while swatting hordes of mosquitoes with your left. Sweat is streaming off of your forehead and stinging your eyes. You wipe your face off yet again, which gives the mosquitoes an opportunity to swarm closer. You regret not appreciating winter last year more than you did. The steaming jungle is so full of humidity you could swim through the air if you flailed your arms fast enough. In fact, you’ve already reached levitating RPM’s several times while fighting off the blood sucking mosquitoes and had to slow down your arm waving so you wouldn’t lift out of the trench into the enemy’s line of sight.

You hear a rustle in the bushes. You cock your head at an angle and poke one eye above the dirt shelter. An enemy soldier pops out of the bush a hundred yards away. Your heart starts pounding. You control your breathing, calm yourself, and pull out the instruction manual you were given two weeks ago at boot camp. You flip to page 105, Section 2: Handling Enemy Combatants. “Kill bad guys” is scribbled in blue crayon on the page. You shrug your shoulders and clutch your banana tighter. With a heroic cry you step up out of the trench and throw your banana at the bad guy’s head as hard as possible. It hits him right between the eyes. He takes a step back, shocked by a madman covered in bug bites and wearing a loincloth who is hurling bananas at him. He soon recovers himself and shoots you. You’re dead!

What’s the lesson here?

A soldier is useless without the army of logistical personnel behind him. He needs to be equipped with a gun, the proper clothing, and the right equipment to do the job or he won’t last five minutes.

“Duh, Josh,” You say, “We’re not stupid! We all know that already.” But then when it comes to spiritual warfare, we change mindsets.

We often think of missionaries as superheroes charging into the unknown wielding only a Bible and a strong stomach for unusual foods. We clap at their stories and admire their effort, then move on with our normal lives not realizing anything is expected of us. They got it. They have a missionary organization giving them money and I listened to their story so my job is done here. However, like soldiers, missionaries require a support structure or they’ll get gunned down in spiritual battles.

We often put an emphasis on the missionaries.

We hold them up as the end goal for all Christians. They come back with the testimonies, the supernatural stories, and the pictures of exotic lands. They’re better Christians than me so I can’t really help them. If anything, they should help me.

Senders are just as important.

A successful soldier needs quality gear such as boots, guns, ammo, backpacks, and underwear. Gear is made in factories which are full of staff doing their jobs. If the guy machining the firing pin for the M16 is having a bad day at work, the soldier will have a bad day on the field when he tries to shoot at the enemy and nothing happens.

A soldier needs training. This is discipleship. Without discipleship missionaries lack the wisdom to navigate the many difficult situations that come up. Missionaries need to be learning from seasoned Christians who have been there, done that.

A soldier needs a vision. Vision comes from his culture back home and also his relationship with Jesus, the Commander in Chief. The reason of engaging in the conflict has to be answered in the soldier’s mind or he’ll lose resolve when he needs it the most.

A soldier without a cause won’t see the purpose in his efforts and won’t put much effort in his purpose.

A soldier needs assignment. God is the commanding officer and as such he directs his soldiers to their assignments. Maybe God isn’t calling you to the “mission field” so to speak. Instead, you could be the manager at the factory that makes the P-51 Mustangs (which were great at destroying Nazi tanks). In other words, you’re a sender. You enable the missionary to take the fight to the enemy on the battlefield, whether it’s foreign or domestic. Of course, maybe God is calling you to the be on the front lines of the mission field. You have to pursue his direction with honesty and submission. That brings me to my next point:

A soldier needs to be submissive. We don’t always get to do what we want when we want to. But, like any good Commander, God notices when a soldier shows a willingness to tackle any task given him without complaining. You had better bet that the soldier will get bigger assignments in the future. But, in the meantime, just keep sweeping the warehouse, cleaning windows, and learning all you can from those who are returning from the battlefield. Remember Job? His life inexplicably took a turn for the horrific and yet he yielded to God because he know God had a bigger vision.

Senders need to supply the missionaries with a vision, the training, and the quality gear he needs to do the job right. The missionary is a spear but he still needs a strong body made up of sinews, bones, muscles, eyesight, and fingers, all working together correctly, so he can be delivered to the target in an effective way. That target may be adoption, inner city youth outreach, or African bushmen.

Church Politics

Just like war, the politics back home can devastate a soldier’s morale or call into question his purpose for being on the battlefield.

It’s important for a nation to support their soldiers. During World War II, hundreds of thousands of women poured into factories and made the bombs, planes, and tanks that defeated Hitler. The nation came together and unified in a way that changed the world. It’s when this iconic image came into being:

Rosie the Riveter urged women to help the war effort.

I’ve seen over and over again that mission minded churches are healthier churches because everyone pulls together and fights for a common goal. It happens in the physical world and it happens in the spiritual world as well. Instead of focusing on politics or the differences among them, they focus on their nation as a whole. The war crystalizes who they are and what they’re fighting against. It promotes unity and helps us remember what’s important in the world.

When missionaries and senders work together, the sending churches will be blessed and the receiving nations will be changed.



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