FIGHTING HAGRITES AND OTHERS

FIGHTING HAGRITES AND OTHERS

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

1 Chronicles 5 devotes a relatively large amount of space to an incident that happened during King Saul’s reign. It involved the sons of Reuben, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh waging war with a people identified as “the Hagrites, Jehur, Naphish, and Nodab” (18-19). The contested area of land was east of the Jordan River in the territory allotted to the Israelites mentioned in verse 18.  At least some of the people they fought seem descended from Hagar and Ishmael. The focus was on the large land grab made by these Israelites in battle. They won this war in terms of spoil (21) and casualties (21-22). 

Today, we wage war of a very different type. New Testament writers describe it. It is not according to the flesh, but is intense nonetheless (2 Cor. 10:3-5). It is a fight of faith (1 Tim. 1:18). It is against world and spiritual forces necessitating our adorning spiritual armor of God (Eph. 6:10ff). We can feel overmatched and overwhelmed by this enemy. What can help us stay in the fight? There are four statements back in 1 Chronicles 5:18-22 that we can legitimately apply to our spiritual warfare today. Will you remember these?

You Will Be Helped (20).

The chronicler says this of the Israelites. “They were helped against them,” and it is implied in this verse that their help came from above. There is no way we could overcome the world (1 John 4:4; 5:4) without Divine help. God gives His help generously, gently, and graciously (Jas. 1:5). He tells us that all we need to do is ask (cf. Mat. 7:7). God’s help is THE difference-maker! 

Cry Out To God In The Battle (20).

If we are striving to be faithful, we will be in a battle. What can be done? These Israelites were helped because they cried out to God in the midst of the strife. I love how Paul says it to the Philippians: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (4:6-7). Don’t neglect prayer in the thick of the fight. Paul follows up his description of our spiritual armor, urging “all prayer and petition…at all times” (Eph. 6:18).

God Answers Those Who Trust In Him (20).

To me, nothing is more beautiful to consider than an army bowed in prayer to God to help them. As a citizen of this nation, it is wonderful to consider our military filled with men and women doing that. But, the most beautiful picture of all has to be of God’s Holy Nation (1 Pet. 2:9) filled with spiritual warriors who so put their trust in God that they are constantly before His throne in prayerful petition. Revelation 8 describes in beautiful imagery how carefully and preciously He handles the prayers of the saints brought unto His throne. It is likened to sweet-smelling incense. God is a loving Father who is pleased when His children demonstrate trust in His leadership and guidance. The promise of Scripture is that those who trust in Him are delivered and are not disappointed (Ps. 22:4-5). 

Understand The War Is Of God (22).

We often sing, “The battle belongs to the Lord.” This passage tells us why the enemy was slain. “The war was of God.” The result was that they settled in their place until the exile, which was over 300 years later.  As great as that was, we stand to experience a far greater victory. God disapproves of unworthy battles–“foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels” (2 Tim. 2:23), “foolish controversies” that “are unprofitable and worthless” (Tit. 3:9), or quarrels and conflicts that are fueled by our giving into the sins of our flesh (Js. 4:1ff). Be careful not to be a foot soldier carrying out the agenda of the foe. But if we are on the Lord’s side, we can be assured that He will gain the victory and we’ll be fighting on the winning side. 

Maybe we wonder why God recorded events like this in Scripture. It certainly shows His mind, nature, and power. But it also helps us understand His point of view and His desire in our lives today. The church has “Hagrites” to face. You and I have our own “Hagrites” to battle. How they won is how we’ll win. May the song on our hearts and lips ever be, “Faith is the victory that overcomes the world!”

Communication Landmines

Communication Landmines

Neal Pollard

Paul writes two letters of instruction to Timothy, the preacher at Ephesus. As his father in the faith (cf. 1 Tim. 1:18), Paul wanted the younger man endowed with the wisdom and courage to be God’s man.  Timothy would face pressures and temptations from many different directions. The apostle’s words also provide some common sense to help him do the sometimes difficult task of preaching and ministry.

In a letter full of the theme of godliness, 1 Timothy, Paul gives him some intriguing encouragement in the sixth chapter. He says, “If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain” (6:3-5). In this brief admonition, he gives Timothy several tips to help him be a useful communicator of God’s truth. He urges Timothy to avoid:

  • Compromise. Not only here, but throughout the letter, Paul urges Timothy to teach the pure doctrine of Christ, those sound words and that godly doctrine. If we bow to pressures and change the revealed word of Christ, we become deadly communicators.
  • Conceit. Ironically, the conceited often look down upon others. Yet, Paul ties the arrogance to ignorance (“understands nothing”). When we encounter one who condescendingly communicates, we are prone to tune them out even if they are telling the truth. It is incongruous to have a pompous preacher speak of the lowly Jesus. It’s a credibility killer.
  • Controversy. We live in the age of controversy. It is splashed all over the traditional media and social media. It is often manufactured, and it is the mark of a morbid (literally, “sick”) mind. The controversialist will be found at the heart of disputes, ever seeking to dig up something, hash and rehash it, and keep it going. We can be accused of that for simply trying to communicate God’s will, especially when unpopular, but some are never far from contention. It is characteristic of them.
  • Constant friction. This is listed last among several other results of controversy, along with envy, strife, abusive language, and evil suspicions. Have you ever been around someone who keeps up an atmosphere of tension? The chip is always on the shoulder. Their communication is always confrontational. It appeals to the depraved and deprived, according to Paul.

Paul was so bold that he would die for preaching the truth (cf. 2 Tim. 4:1-8). Yet, he urged Timothy to be peaceable, kind, adept, patient, and gentle when communicating it (2 Tim. 2:24-25). Is it possible to courageously stand with the Christ but do so using the precise scalpel of Scripture (Heb. 4:12) rather than the reckless explosives of excess? Yes, and each of us must predetermine that we will do so no matter how others act and react.

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Giving Up Ground To the Enemy

Giving Up Ground To the Enemy

Neal Pollard

On at least three fronts, there are major battles occurring—ISIS and the existing governments in a handful of Middle Eastern countries, Israel and the Palestinians, and Ukraine and Russian-led rebels. In each of these conflicts, both sides are trying to gain ground or at least hold onto what they already have. They are trying not only to win the actual battles they are fighting, but they also seek to win the battle of public opinion.  With the money and lives invested, neither side in any of the conflicts can bear the thought of losing.

While “our struggle is not against flesh and blood” (Eph. 6:12) and “we do not war according to the flesh” (2 Cor. 10:3), we face a deadly adversary (1 Pet. 5:8).  He is the enemy, though he has a great many who have “been held captive by him to do his will” (2 Ti. 2:26). They are fighting his battles for him of their own free will (Js. 1:13-15), and they are more than willing to engage those of us who would steadfastly resist him (1 Pet. 5:9).

In this media age, the devil’s soldiers have used means previous generations did not have at their disposal to spread his ideas across the nation and all over the globe.  But because there have been people willing to battle him, he has not gained ground all at once. The moral erosion has happened slowly over time, attitudes about foul language, alcohol, modesty, sex outside of marriage and living together, adultery, homosexuality, and much more.  Doctrinal erosion also occurs subtly and gradually, but denominationalism has given way to modernism, post-modernism, and emergent theologies.  The Lord’s church is impacted by assaults on its distinctiveness, and elderships, pulpits, classrooms, and memberships can gradually lose their militancy, courage, and resolve to stand up for God’s revealed will.  It is easy to be cowered by charges of extremism, hatred, or sanctimoniousness, especially when there are examples of such to be found.

Yet, we cannot forget that we are in a battle.  God needs us to stand in the gap and continue fighting for His truth, even in the face of opposition and resistance.  Paul reminds us that “the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh” (2 Cor. 10:4). The weapons in our left and right hands is righteousness (2 Cor. 6:7).  We press on in spiritual armor (Rom. 13:12; Eph. 6:11ff).  When each of us as soldiers in the Lord’s Army arrive at the time when we must lay down our armor, may it be said that we gained ground and served the Lord’s cause successfully. May it never be that we gave up ground to the enemy!