For a little while** in high school I played football. I loved it…LOVED it (a little too much actually). I played several positions, but my favorite was linebacker. There was this warrior mentality at that particular position. We were given the responsibility to stop the flow of the ball as it came across the line. We stood to defeat the advance of the opposite team. I got to be aggressive. I got to tackle people. I stood side by side with my other linebacker and did everything in my strength and skill to stop the other team’s advance, and the more we played together, the better we got. We knew what the other was doing. We worked together more seamlessly. It fits nicely into the battle image, doesn’t it? Comrades in war, standing shield to shield, weapons at the ready; striving for the victory side by side.
Paul uses the same imagery in this passage:
Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. Philippians 1:27-28a
Paul likens the defense and advance of the gospel to an athletic/warrior mentality. We are to STRIVE in UNITY for this one purpose and goal: honoring Christ by spreading the truths that:
- The Creator-God is absolutely holy.
- We, because of the fall, are absolutely not.
- But Christ has, by His blood, opened the way of salvation and begun making all things new.
- And if we trust in/live unto Him we can be assured of forgiveness, salvation and the promise of glory.
So then, let us press “onward Christian soldiers marching on to war with the cross of Jesus going on before!” We are not a people who are called to live lavish lives of complacent, easy Christianity. We are called to stand side by side and fight to advance and defend the gospel. What makes this more solemn and terrifying is the knowledge of who/what we are striving against. It is not against those who are not Christians. It is not even against other people on earth who work against, defy, and hate the gospel. No, it is for the sakes and souls of those very people that we strive for the gospel to advance! Though people may hate, reject, persecute, and mistreat Christians, it is FOR them that we strive, not AGAINST them.
So who are we striving against?
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12
This knowledge reminds us that the fight is more serious. Eternity hangs in the balance of our unified struggle for the advance of the gospel, and we are opposed by every foul and wicked device that Satan can invent. And he is more powerful than us. He is too strong for us. He WILL defeat us…unless we stand in the power of Christ and struggle in HIS name! We are incredibly weak and feeble, and our arms can’t even lift the sword of the cross. We could never stand against the malice and wickedness that hates us. BUT!
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31
So then, brothers and sisters, let us strive side by side, unified, in one mind for the advance and defense of the gospel so that the lost may come to know salvation and our God might be glorified as HE wins the battles for us!
Blessed be the name of the Lord!
**It was only “a little while” for several reasons. I started off high school at an academic magnet that didn’t have football. I transferred to play, and was injured once my sophomore year (left knee meniscus sprain), and again at the beginning of my junior year (right knee ACL tear). However, I could’ve come back and played after the ACL, and started to in the spring after my recovery. The biggest reason I didn’t continue and only played for “a little while” is because God made it clear that:
- football was not in His plan for me.
- football was becoming an idol which I needed to renounce.
- deciding to continue playing would’ve been a rejection of what God wanted to do in my life.
This isn’t true for everyone, of course. God calls some people to play sports, gifts them tremendously in those areas, and uses them for His glory. That simply wasn’t His plan for me. Whatever it is you’re doing, make sure it is because God has placed you there and not because you decided that’s where you want to be. The belly of a fish is no place to spend your time.