On the Front Line (III): Knowing and Serving Our Commander
Adapted from lectures by Vuthy Nol-Mantia—Dallas, USA
There are several prerequisites we must have in order to fight
effectively on the front line. First, we must clearly understand and establish our
identity as soldiers of Christ. Second, we need to understand the formidable
enemy we face. In this final installment, we focus on how we can better know
and serve our mighty Commander.
NOT BY MIGHT NOR BY POWER
The simplistic storyline in many
action movies is about how the lone tough and courageous hero ultimately
overcomes all odds and enemies, almost single-handedly saving his people and
country. However, it does not work this way in real life. Overcoming
difficulties and winning battles often result from collective effort. All the
more, when we fight on the spiritual front line, we do not “wrestle against
flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers
of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the
heavenly places” (Eph 6:12), it would be certain disaster and death if we were
to trust and rely only on ourselves. The human fighting spirit—no matter how
valiant—does not suffice; we must be filled with the Spirit of God.
However, even as we strive, Satan is
working tirelessly to deceive the soldiers of Christ. In order to protect
ourselves from his deception, we must have the mind of Christ. Try as we may to
have the mind of Christ, setting ourselves resolutions to be closer to God,
Satan will do even more to dissuade us. He will tempt us with secular
attractions and appointments, occupying us so fully that we seem to have little
time left for God. For example, immediately after a spiritual convocation or
church camp, when we feel spiritually-recharged, we enthusiastically set
ourselves a target of waking up early to pray for an hour. However, when we
want to actually implement it, we find that things crop up. Either we oversleep
or we get a call from friends to meet. Then over time, the initial resolve to
have a longer and deeper communication with God wanes and disappears.
UNDERSTANDING GOD THROUGH A HUMAN LENS IS
Another weakness of man that Satan
exploits is man’s desire to dissect God and understand who He is in our own
limited ways. This is tantamount to trying to bring God down from heaven. The
danger of adopting this rationalist approach to our faith often means that if
we cannot understand God, our faith falls apart.
The Bible—God’s revelation of
Himself—is very clear about God’s nature and His love. However, with natural
human curiosity and logic, we can think of many other questions about God which
appear unanswerable. The Scriptures remind us that, “[the] secret things belong
to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to
our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deut 29:29).
This means there are things about God that we will not be able to understand
because of our limited human minds. Let us just consider this: if we were
indeed able to know everything about God, would we not be equal to or even
superior to God?
To reiterate, God is not a
specimen that we can put under the microscope and can understand with our human
intellect. For example, the Bible may tell us that “God’s eyes are upon us” (Ps
33:18) or that “the Lord regretted [His actions]” (Gen 6:6). We should not
interpret the former literally as evidence that God’s eyes function like ours.
Nor try to imagine or speculate about what God’s eyes are like. In the latter
example, we should not infer from God’s regret that He can make mistakes, and
is thus “imperfect.” As another example, God describes Himself as a jealous God
(Ex 20:5, 34:14). It would be wrong to interpret His feelings as the same type
of corrosive jealousy that human beings feel.
In essence, we need to have a
strong simple faith as our foundation. We must thoroughly know our basic
beliefs and what we have to do in order to be saved. It is good to also be
thoughtful and analytical about our doctrines and know the Bible very well.
After all, the word of God is a double-edged sword (Heb 4:12), which can help
us battle on the evangelism front line. But do not fall prey to Satan’s
temptation to view God through the human lens.
UNDERSTANDING OUR COMMANDER ON HIS TERMS
There are, however, several things
that our God does want us to understand about Him.
He Is an Awesome God Who Surpasses All Things
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne,
high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. (Isa 6:1)
This verse depicts two contrasting
kings. One was King Uzziah—an earthly king who died. The other was the LORD, the glorious king who will never
die. This is the almighty God we worship and serve today. He is the Creator of
the heavens and the earth, whose throne is high and lifted up far above puny
man. Yet He is willing to reveal Himself to us (Jn 14:9) and to first love us.
We are blessed indeed.
If we want to know more about Him,
we must enter through the door that He opens (Rev 4:1–2). On four occasions
listed in the Book of Revelation, Elder John was in the Spirit of the Lord. And
each time, God revealed great things to him. Hence, the best way to know God is
to be in the Spirit, i.e., by praying and reading His word.
Elder John also saw a throne set
in heaven, and One (the King), sat on the throne, a throne of judgment. This is a reminder to
us to be careful and always reverent towards our almighty and awesome God. Importantly,
when we serve God in church, we do not elevate ourselves to the throne. There
can only be ONE on the throne, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ.
He Is a Just and Holy God
Many people like to believe that
God is love and thus He will save everyone. Regrettably, these people have
overlooked the other aspects of God, namely, that God is holy and just. If God
was not just, He could have just declared Adam and Eve to have been forgiven
when they sinned. However, because God is just, if man wants to be forgiven, he
needs to be redeemed.
In His love, He became the atoning sacrifice for our sin. However, in response
to His initiative, we need to demonstrate that action of faith through our
willingness to be baptized for the forgiveness of sins, and our resolution to
lead a sanctified life. Many Christians today have the misconception that God
is love and everyone can be saved. They do not or are not willing to see the
other side—God’s justice.
In his vision, Elder John saw God sitting
on His throne of judgment. But there was also a rainbow around the throne (Rev
4:3); a sign of God’s grace, mercy, and
love (Gen 9:13–16). Our God is loving and merciful but is also just. Do not
think that we can keep sinning against God because the loving Father will forgive
us infinitely; we will definitely have to bear the punishment!
If we have erred and are punished, we ought to rejoice and praise God because
He chastises those whom He loves. But if nothing bad happens to us, perhaps God
has already given up on us and is just allowing us to pursue our sinful
desires. God forgave David after he sinned, but God also punished David.
David’s four children died, his kingdom was split, and he had no peace in his
old age. When we have transgressed, let us quickly pray for forgiveness and
BECOMING THE SOLDIER THAT GOD WANTS US TO BE
Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: “Whom shall I send, and who
will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me. (Isa 6:8)
Good soldiers must strive to be
soldiers suitable for the Commander’s deployment. The prophet Isaiah was
already serving God. But such a question from God to him indicates that Isaiah
was not yet the soldier God wanted. So what was still missing from Isaiah’s
service and service attitude? What needed renewing?
Know that Service to the Lord Is Eternal
In Isaiah 6:1, Isaiah highlighted
the contrast between God and other, earthly kings. On the one hand was King
Uzziah—an earthly king who died. On the other hand is the LORD—heavenly king, and
the almighty God who will never die. Serving earthly masters well may earn us
recognition and benefit. However, when these secular individuals or
institutions pass away, so would our privileges; any glory from academic and
career excellence we enjoy today is also transient.
In contrast, God is eternal. His surpassing glory fills the heavens and the
earth (Isa 6:1, 3; Hab 3). Not only is it an unmitigated honor to serve Him,
any service we render to Him, even the smallest or most menial, has eternal
value. In the busyness of our lives in this world, we must always remember who
our true and most worthy Master is and what work is most needful and deserving
of priority. Remembering this will compel us to volunteer boldly for the front line.
Motivated by the Love of God
Recognizing what an extreme
privilege it is to be called to serve the Lord God is the first step. Just as
important is keeping the flame of such zeal to serve alive. During a war, there
may be soldiers who lose motivation; they end up deserting the army. Understanding
how much our Savior loves us will drive us to courageously fight, and faithfully
remain, for Him on the front line. In fact, such burning zeal for Him will give
us extraordinary courage.
After God gave the Ten
Commandments to His chosen people, He also gave them the law concerning
servants. A Hebrew servant who is bought has to serve six years; his master
then has to freely release him in the seventh (Ex 21:2). However, this servant
has the option of remaining with his master (Ex 21:5) if he realizes how
wonderful his master is.
The Old Testament servant who
chose to remain with his master had to undertake a physical and permanent
commitment. His ear was pierced as the sign of the agreement, the covenant, between
him and his master (Ex 21:6). The Lord Jesus left us an excellent example in
this respect. Knowing that obedience pleased His Father more than sacrifice,
Jesus was determined to do His Father’s will and keep the latter’s law within
His heart (Ps 40:6–8; Lk 2:49; Jn 4:34, 6:38).
When we were baptized, we made a
covenant with the Lord Jesus. We pierced our hearts and made a commitment to
serve Him for life. We were willing to make such a commitment because we know
that He first loved us (2 Cor 5:14–15). Although He is the almighty Creator and
we are far beneath Him, He loved us enough to come to this world, suffer and
finally die for us. Remembering this always will motivate us to love Him in
return and give us strength to continue battling on the front line. If we try
to serve God without truly loving Him, we will not have the strength to persevere
Emulate the Seraphim
Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered
his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. (Isa 6:2)
Cover Faces with Wings
As humans, we like appreciation,
especially when we have put in a lot of effort. Hence, on occasion, when we are
working hard for God, we may be tempted to want others to know about our
effort. At these moments, we must emulate the seraphim. Their faces would have
been glorious and beautiful. But even so, they covered their faces. They neither
promoted themselves nor their work. Their service was completely God-centric.
Satan was a stark contrast (Ezek 28:11–13). He was so beautiful that God said
he had the seal of perfection. But he did not cover his face. The word “I” featured
prominently in his existence and service; his overweening pride in his attributes
and achievements ultimately led to his downfall (Isa 14:12–15).
As workers of God, we must be ever
careful not to let God’s abidance with us lead us to pride. Imagine we had
performed miracles such as Peter and Paul had—our shadows and the handkerchief
we use could heal the sick. Imagine that—like Elijah —our prayer had brought
down fire from heaven. Would we be able to avoid feeling that small sense of
satisfaction that we did it? As
ministers, when we lay hands and scores (if not hundreds) of people receive the
Holy Spirit, are we tempted to feel vindicated that God has chosen to perform
such mighty works through us? Do the
visions that we see make us feel that we are an elite group to whom God gives
special gifts and revelation?
To avoid Satan’s folly and fate,
we must have the mind of Christ (Phil 2:7–10). Jesus was God Himself. But He
made Himself a weak and lowly man. Despite being in the flesh, He overcame the
temptations that Satan dangled before Him: the lust of the eye, the lust of the
flesh, and the pride of life. In particular, He humbled Himself to the point of
His death on the cross.
Before we go to the front line and even as we battle there, cover up our faces.
Cover Feet with Wings
The seraphim covered their feet
with another two wings. In fact, angels do not have feet (nor faces) as they
are spiritual beings. But God wanted to emphasize to Isaiah what He wanted to
see in His servants.
Bare feet leave footprints. Good
servants serve quietly and leave no mark of their presence behind (Lk 17:7–10).
Paul was gifted in so many areas and labored tirelessly since the day he was
called to service by the Lord, yet let us see what he says of himself.
Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press
on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of
me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do,
forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things
which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of
God in Christ Jesus.
He does not rest on his laurels.
Despite having travelled far and wide for the sake of the gospel, established
churches and trained future workers, he was not complacent. He was determined
to strive forward still to attain the crown of righteousness.
For those of us who have believed
in and have served God for many years, we have doubtless left many footprints
behind us. Let us cover these and take every day as a new day. We are unworthy
servants whom the Master has favored. We love because He first loved us. We
serve because He gives us opportunities. If we have been a good and faithful
servant and have done many things for our Lord Jesus Christ, let it be stored
up in heaven.
If we keep looking back and
admiring our own beautiful footprints, we will not be aware of the dangers that
may lie ahead of us. And if having served God faithfully for thirty years, we
fall on the thirtieth year, all our past labor would have been in vain. The end
of a matter is better than its beginning (Eccl 7:8). Thus, let us cover our
feet and erase our footprints.
Covering our feet applies not only
to the good things that we do, but also the bad things that we have done. It is
easy to be spiritually-minded in spiritual convocations. These Bible camps and
training seminars provide good opportunities for us to repent before God. Without
access to television, secular music or the Internet, our minds and hearts are
clear and purely focused on God and God’s word. But when we return to our daily
lives in the world, we face the onslaught of the world and its pernicious
influences. We must then ensure that all the bad things we discarded during the
spiritual convocation stay in the trash.
Every day that we are able to
live, is one extra day to fight for our Lord Jesus Christ. But we must guard
our steps very carefully. Our feet may leave many and deep tracks behind. If
these are good deeds, let us not rest on our laurels and be proud. If these are
bad deeds, quickly repent. Do not sin against God to the point that we cannot
continue to walk.
A reason that we fall prey to
pride is because of our tendency to compare ourselves to the things and people
of the world. We feel we are doing well spiritually because the latter appear
to be worse than we. Inadvertently, we fall into the Pharisaic trap of pride
and self-righteousness (Lk 18:9–14). However, if we compared ourselves to
servants such as Moses in the Old Testament and Paul in the New Testament who
felt they were nothing compared to the almighty God, how much more undeserving
God chose Moses to lead two million
people. By Moses’ hand, God performed great miracles. Moses could easily have
let that get to his head. But he did not. Instead, quite often, we see him falling
flat on his face. Even when a group spoke against him, he fell flat on his face
(Num 16:4). For most of those forty years Moses led the Israelites, Moses was
flat on his face, in humility and in prayer to God. Little wonder God said that
he was the most humble man on the face of the earth. Therefore, Moses was a
successful soldier on the front line. He covered his face and covered his
footprints. He thoroughly understood that he was nothing compared to God.
Fly with Wings
Besides humility and continual
striving towards the finishing line, it is important for God’s good soldiers to
have wings that can fly. This means that our minds have to be kept in heaven.
And spiritually, we always have to be above the things of this world.
Isaiah saw the seraphim using two
wings to fly. In addition, he heard the seraphim proclaim: “Holy, holy, holy is
the Lord of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!” (Isa 6:3). The
prophet’s response was immediate—“Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a
man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for
my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (Isa 6:5).
The Bible used the word “holy”
three times. This reiterates its critical importance. Our God’s primary
attribute is His holiness, and He wants His people, His servants, and His
soldiers to be holy (Lev 11:44, 19:2; 1 Pet 1:13–16). For us to battle at the
front line and enjoy having God in our midst, our linen must be white and
When Isaiah saw the seraphim cover
the latter’s face, he considered his own face and realized the uncleanness of
his lips. Next, he saw the seraphim cover his two feet. The prophet looked at
his own feet and realized that he had been dwelling in the midst of a people
who were sinning against God. Although we appear to be doing better in terms of
our holiness compared to our peers, if we truly examine our lives in detail,
there are many areas in which we are unclean in the eyes of God.
In these modern times, swearing,
cursing or inappropriate dressing have become commonplace. If we voice our
shock at or objection to this, we may be mocked as old school. Yet, these are
the small areas in which we must strive to match up to God’s expected standard
of holiness. We are the chosen people of God. We must be holy. Even though we
dwell in the midst of a people who practice perversion, we must be holy.
After Isaiah had seen the
seraphim, he lifted up his eyes and saw the glory of the Lord. This is what we
must do as well. In God’s church, He is above all and over all. We are mere
servants and have no right to lord it over other brethren. The irony is that if
we puff ourselves up and consider that our service or our status has made us
superior to others, we have not used our two wings to fly. We do not see God’s
Be Purified by Fire
Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal
which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth with
it, and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your iniquity is taken away,
and your sin purged.” (Isa 6:6–7)
The name “seraphim” means “burning
ones” or “fiery ones.” If this were literally true, why did one of the seraphim
have to grab the coal with a tong? This is because the fire from the coal was a
consuming fire, i.e., the Spirit of God. In other words, when we know that we
are unclean, we must pray to God, and ask God to fill us with His Spirit. On
Isaiah’s prompt, positive, and repentant response to the call for workers, God
sent a seraph to burn and cleanse his lips. We may not yet be perfect and up to
God’s mark, but if we are willing, recognize our weaknesses and are prepared to
be purified, God can use us.
God has already told us that we
belong to the army of heaven. Given their crucial role in safeguarding their
nation, no soldier can afford to be idle—the army is engaged in an intense and
If we want God to use us on the
front line, we need to be prepared and equipped for service. Just as Isaiah was
burned by the seraph, we too have to have our hearts burned and set on fire. We
need to feel and be compelled by the love of God. Hence in the same positive
manner by which Isaiah responded to God’s calling, we too have to respond
eagerly and with repentance, “Here am I, send me.” It is important that we have
the motivation stemming from our desire to repay the love of God, since it is God’s
love that gives us strength to live, a strength that we can bring with us and
draw upon at the front line to help us survive.
The seraphim—the fiery ones—were
burning with zeal, but there are six wings always attached to them. They know
how important it is for them to have those six wings. Besides being zealous with
hearts burning to serve God, we must cover our faces, ensure we do not leave
big footprints behind us, fly above the world, and be constantly purified. So
when God says, “Who will go for Us? Whom shall I send?” We can say, “Here am I!