Living off the land
Very often for any army engaged in conflict the issue is not so much victory, but how to get there. In fact, what often determines victory relates to logistics.
It amounts to living off the land well, right where you are, before the conflict ever starts. The best armies have a sense of what they are trying to do on the larger scale, but they must also come to grips with the fact that it won’t be easy. They will most likely be moving through areas with which they are unfamiliar, dealing with ever-changing scenarios that will challenge their resolve.
Every soldier expects to have hardships in what they are doing and trying to accomplish. It is expected, but it can also be minimized somewhat by being aware of it from the start.
Suffering (difficulty) is never desirable but is necessary if we are to achieve anything worthwhile. Christ knew what it was to “live off the land.” He came with nothing but his objectives. In order to achieve them, he would have to get it straight in his mind that there were a lot of dusty, uncomfortable roads to travel first.
Trouble is coming
Every soldier in the field knows that trouble is coming. They will either find it as they move forward or it will find them, either way they know it is coming. Part of the great sacrifice of Christ is that he knew he would face staggering opposition, but he accepted the challenge.
Working entirely within the confines of human limitation, Jesus knew what it meant to feel pain and bleed long before he went to the cross. As he worked as a carpenter/blacksmith, he would feel sore muscles, bumps and bruises, the occasional cut and perhaps worse. Hebrews 4:15 is all about relationship in suffering. Jesus doesn’t just relate — he knows. He knew from the very start that “living in the field” meant hardship.
Living off the land
Jesus knew that he was stepping into unfriendly territory when he began his mission of peace through truth. He faced opposition from the very start. When you look at the life of Jesus, it reads a bit like a military campaign and perhaps that is exactly what it was.
The recruits he had with him (the disciples and other fickle followers) were constantly demoralized. They were a bit naïve in that the opposition they faced seemed unnatural, but it was to be expected as Jesus told them on numerous occasions (Psalm 69:4 & John 15:25).
Both John 15:25 and Psalm 69:4 say: “They hated me without a cause.”
Living off the land means realizing where you are and that the opposition is going to be stiff. It is finding spiritual resources right where you are and dealing with the hardships in a way that will bring benefit to what you are trying to accomplish. It means taking a close look at what is available to you in your present circumstances.
Primary to the campaign
Our primary responsibilities as followers of Christ are training, improvement and engaging. Without the first two (training and improvement), the third (engaging) will not be possible or advisable. Truly, if you aren’t constantly involved in the first two, step aside because you are going to hurt yourself and the others that are around you.
Suffering is part of what it means to be in the field and moving forward in life’s campaign. Most people could relate to Psalm 69:20: “Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none: and for comforters but I found none.”
However, we must not limit God to our ideas about what should be done or even our assessment of the current situation. To effectively deal with harsh circumstances we must be mentally persuaded, in full agreement and productive right where we are.
Ezra 10:4 expresses the campaign well: “Arise; for this matter belongeth unto thee: we will also be with thee: be of good courage, and do it.”
Dr. M. Hildon Guy is President of the University of Christian Studies and Seminary in Eagle River, Alaska. www.universityofcss.org.