Saturday, January 30, 2010
M.I.A., P.O.W. or A.W.O.L.?
During the wars that have taken the lives of so many of our brave men and women, their families dreaded that day when that feared telegram would arrive announcing that their loved one was M.I.A., Missing in Action!
Though it left a margin of hope that they might still be among the living, the anxious hearts and minds would not allow for any normalcy of life or closure until some more definite word was given. Long after those wars ended, many still had no confirmation of the life or death of their M.I.A.s. And history’s record of some who were considered dead but found to be P.O.W.s long after the fighting ceased simply added to the lack of closure and the continuing grief for their families. Such is one of the great horrors of war.
As I thought about the spiritual application of this example in the life of the church and its people, I was reminded of the many references to the Christian’s place and task. The Lord’s “army of believers” daily fight against the enemies of God, the devil and his band of destroyers of all that is good. It is an ongoing war that requires more and more “soldiers of the cross” in the midst of the action.
One of the blessings of spiritual warfare, however, is that when those who are fighting lose their lives in sacrifice, become M.I.A.s as it were, responding faithfully to the orders from their Heavenly Commander, their WHERE.ABOUTS is truly known. It is a matter for rejoicing, for their part of the battle is won and they have reaped the reward of heroes, a crown of victory. The testimony of their lives is an inspiration for those left “in the trenches” to press on in the fight against sin’s domination of their lives and others’, too!
James, the brother of Jesus, writes this about the man who is tried and truth through the battle against sin’s temptation. “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.” (1:12) The Psalmist adds his word of hope. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” (116:15) And Paul, too, gives his take on it personally. “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing.” (II Timothy 4:6-8)
The application of the term P.O.W. in the physical warfare of men is a symbol of those who have fought bravely, but been captured in battle. We honor their service and the sacrifice of freedom that their lives in such captivity’s cruel cells undergo. In the spiritual sense, the term P.O.W. has not the same connotation. It is not so honorable a position. In fact, it decries a willful, though sometimes deceived, submission to the enemy’s hold. They become PRISONERS OF WAR because they do not continue to WALK after the Spirit of Christ, taking their orders from His command. WALKING after the flesh, they commit such sins of OMISSION and failure to keep the faith as His good soldiers.
Paul’s words of positive challenge reveal the nature of their P.O.W. status. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2) And again, in Galatians 5:1, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.”
The term A.W.O.L. does have the same connotation in both the physical and spiritual sense. ABSENT WITHOUT LEAVE is the status of one who leaves his post, be it as a deserter from the battlefield, his assigned post as a guard or watchman with the duty to maintain the security of a camp or any other duty or place of assignment. And of equal import is the serious infraction of “sleeping on watch.” Being A.W.O.L. or S.O.W. brought with it stiff penalties for those who were discovered and/or apprehended.
In the war against spiritual darkness and the arch enemy that broods over it, the army of Christ called the church, I am ashamed to say, has many who are the ABSENT WITHOUT LEAVE. The evidence is found on any given Sunday’s worship or Sunday School’s study of the Scriptures. When less than half of the church’s membership is ABSENT, and most without good cause, the battle goes not well overall. And though the remaining “troops” continue to faithfully carry-out their orders, the enemy’s forces wax stronger, and more of the souls of men are captured and doomed to an eternity of punishment in death. The evidence of a lack of “troop-strength” is found not only in those who are absent, but those who attend in a mock-loyalty, but in fact, do not listen nor apply the instructions given on how to better overcome the enemy and rescue his captives. They are like those who S.O.W. (i.e. SLEEP ON WATCH).
Paul addresses this circumstance with a call to don our armor and do our duty. “Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.” (I Thessalonians 5:5-9)
A final word of counsel comes from Paul regarding our position. “Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please Him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.” (II Timothy 2:1-4)
BE ENCOURAGED, MY FRIENDS, THE BATTLE VICTORY IS SURE!