Bring it on!
It was the late 90s. Myself and two friends didn’t know much, but we knew we were serious about Jesus. We were young men on a mission, although we couldn’t have spelled out the specifics of that mission. All we knew was that it was about – and for – Jesus.
We would meet to worship, to pray and to study the bible and to encourage one another in sharing our faith with others. We’d also share with one another songs we’d found. The memory of one of those songs communicates an inner stirring I’m feeling at the moment.
‘Bring it on’ contains these lyrics:
I didn’t go looking for trouble
And I don’t wanna fight needlessly
But I’m not gonna hide in a bubble
If trouble comes for me…
So I will not retreat or surrender
So bring it on!
(My suggestion is that you pause reading and click here, turn up your speakers and have a listen!)
Maybe the three of us were naïve. Maybe we didn’t understand the implications of what we were singing fully, but it became an anthem. We meant it. We knew we were in a battle and we knew we were called to fight. Called to warfare. The spirit was good, even if the motives were infected by inflated self-view and other unhealthy teenage flaws.
I’m 42 now, and as I remember that version of me, there’s much about me that makes me cringe. I was cocksure and was certain that I knew best. I didn’t tolerate weakness (as I saw it) in others and I was prone to unkindness. To call late-teen-me me a rough diamond would be a kindness. And yet, I miss the fearless, give-it-a-go-for-God spirit I see looking back. The intervening 20-plus years have domesticated the ‘bring it on’ spirit. The teenage ‘warrior’ has put on slippers and taken up a proverbial pipe by the fireside, reflecting on what was, not prayerfully dreaming what could be.
This isn’t written for nostalgia’s sake. I’m writing because, deep down, I’m registering a stirring, a call back to something of that late-teen attitude… to a biblical mindset. A call to warfare; a call to the front line.
I don’t believe I’m alone in needing to hear this.
I’m convinced that the church at large has taken a ‘back foot’ mentality. We’ve conceded ground, we’ve backed down when we ought to have stood firm. We’ve yielded when we needed to fight on. Our mentality has shifted from advance to retreat. In honesty that runs the risk of upsetting some, the western church – by and large – has run back to the safety of its buildings, locked the doors and cowered. Bunker mentality.
We’ve traded spiritual conflict for comfort. Warfare for warm fuzzies. Battlegrounds for biscuits dunked in tea with familiar faces.
We appease our inner sense of awkwardness about the place we find ourselves by focusing on our meetings. Safe. Sanitised. Unthreatening. Comfortably familiar. No risk.
John Wimber is credited with popularising the phrase “Faith is spelled R-I-S-K”. Let me ask - how risky is your faith? How much does it have you pop your head above the parapet?
Who are you sharing your faith with such that you risk ridicule and rejection? To whom are you practically demonstrating the love and compassion of Jesus in ways that cost and where there’s risk involved? Who are you praying face-to-face with, asking God for miracles and a great demonstration of the Spirit’s power, rather than simply committing to pray for someone in the safety of your home?
Confession time… My faith is less risky, less ‘If-God-doesn’t-show-up-this-is-doomed-to-fail’, less out there than it once was. It’s more managed, more calculated. A little more ‘I’ll stay in the boat, thanks, Jesus’ than is comfortable to admit.
That’s not an easy thing to admit, let alone to write, and I’m not happy for it to remain the case.
Call it a midlife crisis if you will, but I’m not content to be comfortable. It’s not sitting comfortably (pardon the pun) to maintain or at worst to shrink back.
To use first World War language, I want to go over the top. How about you? I want to see the Kingdom of God advancing, and can’t shake the feeling that we have a part to play.
The Devil has had his own way for too long. He’s taken too much ground. He’s ruled through intimidation long enough.
In CS Lewis’s book, ‘The Screwtape Letters’, the devil (known in the book as Screwtape), admits to his underling apprentice, Wormwood (a junior demon) that their “best weapon [is] the belief of ignorant humans, that there is no hope of getting rid of us except by yielding.”
We don’t need to yield when the enemy presses; there’s a better way. A different way. A ‘front-foot’ way.
“When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him.”
Strap on your armour, let’s go to war.
Be warned - you’ll be assailed and assaulted. You’ll have fiery darts shot your way. You’ll be bombarded with the most vitriolic, demonic crud you would never even dream of, but don’t step back!
Do you remember what Paul instructed the Ephesian church to do, “…having done all”? Stand firm!
Shakespeare’s Henry V issues this cry to his troops:
Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
In peace there's nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour'd rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Let pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon; let the brow o'erwhelm it
As fearfully as doth a galled rock
O'erhang and jutty his confounded base,
Swill'd with the wild and wasteful ocean.
Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,
Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit
To his full height. On, on, you noblest…
…Christian! (not the author’s original ending!)
If those words were enough to rouse an army for a flesh-and-war battle, how much more the command of Scripture to us?
Friend, like it or not, we are at war. A time of peace awaits, but it is not yet.
The bunker is not safe. There is no place to flee. Will you rise and fight in a Power beyond your own? Will you take your stand for righteousness with an immovability that transcends your best natural resistance? Will you stand on behalf of others with an unswerving commitment you could not muster of your own self?
The day is urgent; the hour is short.
We have cowered from a beaten foe for too long.
The victory has already been won, though the backlash be fierce. Do you hear the Spirit’s call to rise up?
Friend, “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labour is not in vain.”
Would you pray, with me, ‘Lord, let your kingdom come, and use me in any way you will in that’? It may prove to be a costly prayer, but it will be worth it.
Shun comfort. Resist ease. Stand firm. Don’t shrink back.
No surrender, no retreat. Bring it on!
Soli Deo Gloria!