The use of surprise is always quite handy in any war. If the enemy can catch you off guard, they have a real advantage. This was certainly the case on Sunday December 7, 1941 at 7:48 a.m. when 353 Japanese airplanes attacked Pearl Harbor.
The two waves of Japanese attacks were over in an hour and a half, but America paid a tremendous price during this brief but ferocious period. All up nearly 20 warships were sunk or run aground, including five battleships. Some 2400 Americans were killed, as well as 1200 wounded.
Of course 60 years later in another surprise attack on American soil, 3000 lives were lost. I mention all this because moments ago I was lazing on the beaches of Hawaii. Although it was Waikiki beach, it was also a Sunday morning. I, along with plenty of other folks, was enjoying the beach, the ocean, the views, the weather, the lifestyle.
Everyone was absorbed in this amazing strip of beach in Honolulu, with Diamond Head in the background. I could not help but think that things were much the same 74 years ago. Although it was a bit earlier in the morning, people back then were also enjoying the beach life, having a quiet Sunday morning, and just going about their business.
But all that was shattered as the Japanese planes did their worst. Things forever changed that morning. Within hours the US had declared war on Japan, and for four bloody years, war was on, ending on August 14, 1945, when Japan formally surrendered.
There could be no more business as usual after that fateful December morning. Things had to change, for the very survival of America and the free world was at stake. The same can be said of the spiritual realm. Planet earth is now under enemy occupation.
The Christian believes there is a real personal spiritual enemy, who attacks at will, often with surprise attacks. Yet most believers live as if there is no enemy, and there are no spiritual attacks. We just go about our business, enjoying what life has to offer, oblivious to the war going on all around us.
Because we are not on war footing, and are not even aware of the battles waging all around us, we are not even attuned to the moves of the enemy. So attacks come and go – whether surprise or not – and most of the church just sleeps through it all.
There are incessant attacks on marriage and family, on the sanctity of life, on the concept of truth, on morality, on the Christian faith itself. But how many believers live as if it were December 6, 1941, instead of December 7? We act as if we are in a time of peace, with no enemies.
We think life is a beach, and we can just take it easy. But the Christian life is never presented this way in Scripture. The Bible throughout presents the life of God’s child as one of conflict, of battles, of attacks, of incessant warfare. We have an enemy who is ever vigilant, ever seeking to derail our faith, silence our churches, and crush our spirituality.
Are we even aware of this? Or are we just living the good life on the beaches, unaware that a fleet of enemy aircraft are heading our way this very moment, seeking to inflict as much damage on us as possible? If we are in tune with the Spirit and the things of God, we will not be caught out by enemy attacks.
We will know that we have an aggressive enemy, we will be aware of his plans of attack, and we will have taken pre-emptive steps to deal with such attacks. We will not be blind-sided by the enemy, but have our own plan of attack put in place.
All the great saints have known of these truths. All have known of the place of battle and warfare in the Christian life. Because of this, they have not been surprised by enemy attacks, but have been properly prepared to fight for the faith. Let me cite a few of these great champions of the faith:
“The saddest symptom about many so-called Christians is the utter absence of anything like conflict and fight in their Christianity. They eat, they drink, they dress, they work, they amuse themselves, they get money, they spend money, they go through a scanty round of formal religious services once every week. But of the great spiritual warfare – its watchings and strugglings, its agonies and anxieties, its battles and contests – of all this they appear to know nothing at all.” J C Ryle
“The Church of Christ is continually represented under the figure of an army; yet its Captain is the Prince of Peace; its object is the establishment of peace, and its soldiers are men of a peaceful disposition. The spirit of war is at the extremely opposite point to the spirit of the gospel. Yet nevertheless, the church on earth has, and until the second advent must be, the church militant, the church armed, the church warring, the church conquering. And how is this? It is in the very order of things that so it must be. Truth could not be truth in this world if it were not a warring thing, and we should at once suspect that it were not true if error were friends with it. The spotless purity of truth must always be at war with the blackness of heresy and lies.” C.H. Spurgeon
“Every Christian life is a constant fight against the pressures and pulls of the world, the flesh, and the devil; and his battle for Christlikeness (that is, habits of wisdom, devotion, love, and righteousness) is as grueling as it is unending. To suggest otherwise when evangelizing is a kind of confidence trick.” J. I. Packer
“The Christian life … is a warfare, it is a struggle. There is no grosser or greater misrepresentation of the Christian message than that which depicts it as offering a life of ease with no battle and struggle at all.” Martyn-Lloyd Jones
“When a nation calls its prime men to battle, homes are broken, weeping sweethearts say their good-byes, businesses are closed, college careers are wrecked, factories are refitted for wartime production, and rationing and discomforts are accepted—all for war. Can we do less for the greatest fight that this world has ever known outside of the cross—this end-time siege on sanity, morality and spirituality?” Leonard Ravenhill
Lastly, consider carefully the words of Charlotte Elliott’s Christian, Seek Not Yet Repose (1836):
1 Christian! seek not yet repose, Hear thy guardian angel say;
‘Thou art in the midst of foes: Watch and pray.’
2 Principalities and powers, Mustering their unseen array,
Wait for thy unguarded hours; ‘Watch and pray.’
3 Gird thy heavenly armor on, Wear it ever night and day;
Ambushed lies the evil one; ‘Watch and pray.’
4 Hear the victors who o’ercame; Still they mark each warrior’s way;
All with one clear voice exclaim, ‘Watch and pray.’
5 Hear, above all, hear thy Lord, Him thou lovest to obey;
Hide within thy heart His Word, ‘Watch and pray.’
6 Watch, as if on that alone Hung the issue of the day;
Pray that help may be sent down; ‘Watch and pray.’