The old man kept to himself as the two younger men took their seats in the gym sauna adjacent to his, following their workouts. Loud, proud, cocky, ripped and tattooed…they were the children of the noise. Safety off, half-cocked, ready to go…these were the Young Americans. Full of themselves, on edge and untested, “bad combination” the old man thought to himself as he sized them up. “Whatchoo lookin at old man?”, the bigger of the two asked. “Future wounded warriors.”, the old man replied with a force of expression that caught the younger men off guard. “I can see you’ve got it here…” he said, pointing to his own flexed bicep. “But I cannot see what you have here and here.”, as he pointed to his own head and heart. The two younger men looked at each other, rolled their eyes, got up, and walked out of the sauna. He thought he heard them mumble “crazy old man” as they were leaving…Bon Jovi Cowboys, he smiled inside, knowing…
We Christians know that Jesus, following his baptism by John in the Jordan, went directly into his own silence and fasting for forty days…alone…in the wilderness. Lent is our forty days every year, to reflect on the amazing retreat of silence (solitude), prayer, and fasting in the harshest of conditions, in preparation for the greatest supernatural battle the world has ever known. Today is the twelfth day…
Reading Robert Royal’s sage advice in They Also Serve was the splash of cold water I hadn’t realized I needed. Most of us think of ourselves as physical beings who, on occasion, have a spiritual experience. Whether or not you accept that we are actually spiritual beings having a physical experience, the fact remains that “we are in a battle, as St. Paul says, with diabolical principalities and powers.”…a spiritual war. No different really, than the battle our Lord fought at the very end of his…forty-day-training. And yet most of us, like the Bon Jovi Cowboys, are training for physical battle only. They have no idea what is coming, and/or what they are up against. Hint ~ Laughter, applause, and celebration while signing infant death warrants in Albany. Diabolical…Baal…pure evil. The “Gathering Storm” Churchill alone saw coming in the last century has nothing on this one. But even he had Chartwell.
Think of the stages of Jesus’ life in the context of the book Fathered by God we’ve spent the past several weeks reviewing. His boyhood stage spent with family learning and developing into the cowboy who went off on his 3-year adventure, baptized into his warrior self now armed with the Holy Spirit, tested in battle and received in Jerusalem as the king who came to save the world. The Holy Bible tells us every last bit of all we need to know about who we are, why we’re here, and the very hour we are now living. If I am preparing myself for the ultimate test of my physical fitness, be it ultimate fighting or a triathlon, I am reading books by the coaches and trainers who know the steps I need to take to be successful. And then I’m following their steps in the actual regimen of training they recommend. The preparation for the ultimate spiritual test…spiritual war, is no different. I am reading God’s word to learn from He who knows best, the steps I need to take to be successful. The good news is that God, unlike all the other coaches and trainers, knows me, my adversary, and the field of play/battle/contest better than any of them because He created it all. And, he’s a thousand times more invested in my victory than any coach and trainer could ever possibly be, as the Father who loves us beyond our comprehension. Who wouldn’t hire this trainer and read His book? The bad news = far too many of us. Why? It’s in the book…you’ll have to read it to understand. Hint ~ Our adversaries have a very good coach and trainer too!
Here are some steps to consider in the 28 days of Lent remaining:
- Turn off or significantly reduce the noise. Spring is here on Wednesday, and most of us are close enough to the country and/or parks to seek the same nature and solitude Jesus sought.
- Fast and pray. A twenty-four-hour fast is ideal, unless your doctor advises against it. Fasting actually strengthens your immune system. Fasting and praying together are the spiritual equivalent to the best exercise equipment in the world for physical training. Three days per week is ideal. One is better than none. Do what you can do.
- Find and commit to a good Bible/Torah study group. Most churches/temples have them. I used to have to drag myself. Now I can’t wait for Thursday nights! I start my day with Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost Devotional Bible…on most days. Nourishment.
If you haven’t seen the movie 300, I highly recommend it. Why? Because it is one of the most powerful visual experiences of the boy>warrior>king transformations I’ve ever seen. Like Jesus, young Leonidas is sent by his father into the wilderness. The boy ventures out; finds, tests, and proves his warrior-self…and a king returns. There has never been, and never will be, a better ending. Well…OK maybe there will be. But I don’t want to give it away…you’ll have to read the Book. See you at the Gym.