“Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” 1 Corinthians 16:13
I make my living as a security officer. While I perform a variety of tasks, my job can really be summed up rather simply: I am paid to be alert. That’s it. Nothing else. I am here to be aware of what is going on to be prepared at any moment to respond to any threat, emergency, or suspicious variation in the normal patterns of work life on site. Sometimes it is a medical emergency within, and I need to have my first aid supplies ready, my CPR certification up to date, my personal protective equipment on me, a phone on hand to call emergency responders, and be in the frame of mind to put all of this to use when even seconds might mean life or death. It could also be a suspicious person on the premises outside whom I may need to confront or, if prudence dictates, observe from a safe distance. It may be a fire, or a power outage, or a simple spill, but it is my job to be aware of it and then to do what is needed so that no one gets hurt. Most of the time, I am not actually responding to any of these things. On most days, no situation actually happens. But as tempting as it can be, I cannot let my guard down, lest I fail to be ready on the unexpected day when something actually does come up. Complacency, a sense of ease or security, comfort, and distraction are the enemies of a guard. An emergency by itself is often easy to handle, but these agents of weakness and unreadiness will turn a problem into a crises every time. It is the duty of a guard to be on guard. If he is failing at this, any trial will overtake him.
In the earliest days of sinful man, God warned Cain before he killed his brother Able, “sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4:7b) Sin is an enemy ever present, an inclination in our hearts, pulsing through our flesh all through the journey this side of eternity. James warns us, “Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” (James 1:14-15) It is against this desire, this temptation, this selfish tendency toward sin and rebellion and against the devil who exploits this in us that we are ever at war with. We must be ever on guard, ever alert. “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) We are at war. We are watchmen on the wall always awaiting battle, and there is never a safe moment to lower out gaze.
Paul says as much in Ephesians 6 when he warns us to take up faith like a shield and to where righteousness like armor, and to take up his word as a sword for war! Indeed “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 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. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” (Ephesians 6:11-13) and again to the Romans, “Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy.” (Romans 13:11-13) and to the Thessalonians, “But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.” (1 Thessalonians 5:8) To resist sin is a fight. To be obedient and do right is to be a soldier, ever vigilant, ever devoted, trusting in our commander and ever ready for the enemy. Paul similarly compares it to a boxing match when he writes to the Corinthians, “I do not box as one beating the air, but I pummel my body and make it my slave.”
Our Lord also emphasized our need to be awake, watchful, and ready. In Luke 12:35-48, He gives the analogies of a slave awaiting his master’s return, staying up all through the night if needed so that he open the door to his master and serve him at a moment’s notice; and of a man who stands ready to defend his home from a thief at an unknown hour; and likewise of a servant who stays faithful and consistent in keeping his master’s home, even while the master is away on a long journey for unknown duration of time. In each scenario, he compares readiness and watchfulness to avoiding sin and doing good. Similarly in Matthew 24 and 25, after speaking about His coming, Jesus gives several parables that echo the warning each time, “Be on the alert then!” and display the foolishness of those who are unprepared. In each of these chapters, watchfulness and readiness are equated with diligence in service, with humility, meeting the needs of the lowly, and putting others before ourselves.
Humble, selfless acts of charity and sacrifice may not sound like valiant warfare, but remember that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood.” This is not a physical fight but a struggle against our sinful desires exploited by a spiritual enemy. When we put others first, when we “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” and “love your neighbor as yourself.” (on which someone once said hangs the whole law and the prophets), and when we therefore feed the needy, cloth the destitute, house the orphan, help the weak, visit the sick and imprisoned, and preach the gospel to the those still lost in there sin, we are shifting our focus from ourselves and therefore striking a blow against the enemy of selfish desire. Here in the life of the Christian disciple, the gentleness of compassion and the fury of soldierly valor come together in the heart and acts of self sacrificial love in a sin sick world.
As a security officer, my purpose is to see to the safety and well being of everyone else on the premises. I have to be uncomfortable so that they can be safe. I have to be concerned for them, and to be so in a way that brings no attention to myself, and that ideally goes largely unnoticed. The work is not glamorous, and is in fact the butt of many jokes, but I am to bare it with a smile and diligently look for when I am needed. This is what Jesus is calling us to, to service of others as if to Him. “That which have done to the least of these, my brothers, you have done also to me.” (Matthew 25:40)
Of course, we cannot do this on our own. It is arrogant to try, and arrogance (self centered pride) as actually the very enemy we are fighting against! We have, however, been send a counselor, a general, an empowering guide in the war who gives us a strength not our own. He transforms our heart through His presence within us, His providential work around us, and through the Scriptures that He inspired. This is the Holy Spirit of God Himself sent by the Father and by our Lord to equip, embolden, teach, and guide each of us and to unite us to one another while convicting the world of sin and therefore fighting with and for us.
Qualities of selflessness and of self control are His gifts to us and His necessary work in us throughout our lives. So take heart, resist every inclination to sin trusting that your strength and resolve do not come from within your weak and imperfect self, but from the immortal, invincible, unchanging God of all creation! If God is for us, who can be against us! To battle! And as you go:
“Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.” (2 Peter 1:2-4)
Luke Wayne is a bi-vocational Baptist missionary in Utah and the chief editor for Perilous Trails. He holds an MDiv from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and an MA in Theological Studies from Midwestern Baptist College. He has served as a church planter in Olathe, KS and a Homeless Shelter Manager in Kansas City, MO. He is also a husband, father, fisher, hiker, security officer, and raiser of livestock.