Usually when we hear the word veteran, we think of it in a military context. We understand a veteran to be someone who has served in one of the branches of this country’s armed forces.
This year, Veterans Day, a national holiday, falls on November 11. The purpose is to honor all those who have served in such a capacity at any time. Ceremonies will begin with a special service held in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., followed later in various other chosen locations.
The word veteran is also used when referring to people who have given long and distinguished service in a given occupation or position. An example would be a veteran sports figure who has had an outstanding career for a surprising number of years. A veteran congressman has usually served with distinction for some decades. Being called a veteran broadcaster, a veteran actress, a veteran teacher implies noticeable service over an extended period of time.
When times are rough, people tend to turn for help to those with greater experience … to the “proven warriors,” the “seasoned veterans.” That’s in contrast to looking to novices, “greenhorns” or rookies.
When a battle is critical, it’s good to have veteran troops to call upon. In Scripture, it’s interesting to note that when soldiers begin coming over in mass to David’s side from Saul’s former kingdom, they were referred to as “experienced soldiers prepared for battle with every type of weapon” (1 Chronicles 12:33). So the question was not so much which side had the most troops, but where were the really good units. Even today when countries go to war, generals want to know whether they have tested fighters at their command.
The same is true regarding spiritual warfare. Where enemy territory is being invaded, you don’t want your attack to be directed or carried out by new recruits. Those in charge of the big picture should be battle-tested. It’s why Paul writes to Timothy that those given leadership positions in the church “must first be tested” (1 Timothy 3:10). This doesn’t mean that all in spiritual leadership should be older individuals. Just being up in years doesn’t automatically make someone a spiritual leader. It’s experience in battle that’s important.
Battle-tested spiritual leaders understand that the enemy likes to go after those in charge. The truth is that all leaders have their own peculiar weaknesses, and Satan will do all he can to exploit these if at all possible. Time and again in our own day he has proven his skill in this regard.
The devil also likes to target the weak in a congregation or an organization. Like a predatory animal looking for a wounded sheep, or one that’s obviously older, or a very young lamb he can separate out of the flock, the enemy of the church is always on the lookout for an easy kill. Veteran leaders in a congregation are fully aware of such tactics and are often able to protect against this happening.
Would you believe that churches seeing rapid advances are another likely target of spiritual attacks?
(Why worry all that much about a congregation that is shrinking, or long ago lost its edge, or a Christian organization that isn’t cutting-edge anymore?) It’s the places where the Lord is most proud of what’s happening that can expect nasty counterattacks.
These are not interesting thoughts that help fill out nice devotionals to be given when the church staff gets together once a week. They are ever-present realities seasoned leaders are constantly aware of. If two key individuals in a formerly well-operating ministry are now not on speaking terms, who do you think is looking to exploit the situation?
Battle fatigue is another of the enemy’s favorite tactics. It occurs when troops have not paced themselves well. Maybe in their spiritual enthusiasm they attempted too much. Possibly a leader pushed everyone too hard. Such things happen!
Well, the list is long regarding Lucifer’s tactics. In 2 Corinthians 2:11, the Apostle Paul writes, “For we are not unaware of his schemes.” Paul is referring to the devil and says so directly in the first part of that verse, “in order that Satan may not outwit us.”
Way back in time, Job wrote that it was his desire when tested by God that “I will come forth as gold.” This didn’t mean he was faultless. But it was his earnest desire to be a strong believer, even when under severe testing. Restated, he was a veteran, not a spiritual beginner.
To some, the term “spiritual warfare” may sound somewhat unreal, especially when Veterans Day is about brave men and women who faced actual enemy fire and knew only too well the realities of modern-day warfare. For all too many, in our military ranks, their wounds have been long-standing, and those wounded warriors are most deserving of our respect. Others are gone from this earth. They paid the ultimate price for us to know the freedoms we do.
We in the religious community honor these people who certainly deserve our appreciation this Veterans Day AND ALL DAYS.
But let this day also be one where we are reminded that the clash still continues between good and evil, light and darkness, God and Satan … and I believe when the spiritual battle is critical, like in our lifetimes, it is good to have experienced veterans to call on for their special service.
Click here, to read more articles on Patheos by Dr. KP Yohannan Metropolitan.