Celebrating VE Day and winning the spiritual war

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Today is VE Day, short for “Victory in Europe.” On this day in 1945, Great Britain and the United States celebrated their victory over Nazi Germany and its allies.

German troops throughout Europe laid down their arms. Surrender documents were signed in Berlin and eastern Germany.

But there was much more fighting still to come.

Six hundred Soviet soldiers died the next day in Silesia, a region now in southwest Poland, before the Germans fighting there finally surrendered. The war would continue in the Pacific until Imperial Japan surrendered on August 15 (now known as VJ Day).

Hundreds of battles preceded VE Day as well. We owe the men and women who fought this horrendous war an undying debt of gratitude. They won the victory, not in a single day or in a single battle, but in stages.

It is the same with our war against “the spiritual forces of evil” today (Ephesians 6:12).

No war is won in a day

For people who try to live by Scripture, these are frustrating days.

According to a new survey from Public Religion Research Institute, 65 percent of young people in America agree that abortion should be legal in most or all cases. This compares to 51 percent of seniors who agree. Nearly seven in ten young people believe that at least some health care professionals in their community should provide legal abortions; this compares to 46 percent of seniors.

Seventy-three percent of Americans support euthanasia, the highest level since 2005. Support for euthanasia is nearly double what it was when Gallup first polled on the question in 1947.

According to Pew Research Center, acceptance of gay marriage continues to rise in our culture, growing from 35 percent in 2001 to 62 percent today. Only 31 percent of American adults think homosexuality should be discouraged.

Here the difference between evangelical Christians and those without religious affiliation is especially striking: only 36 percent of evangelicals believe homosexuality should be accepted, while 83 percent of the unaffiliated agree.

We could discuss pornography, sex outside of marriage, drug and alcohol abuse, or a host of other issues. The bottom line would be the same: our culture clearly needs moral and spiritual awakening.

But these are not days for discouragement. No war, whether military or spiritual, is won in a day.

Following cloud and fire

Numbers 10 finds the people of Israel, more than two million strong, setting out from Mt. Sinai. Rather than give them a road map to their destination, the Lord led them “by stages” (v. 12).

They would follow God’s pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night. When the cloud or pillar moved, the people moved. When they stood still, the people stood still.

There were many stages to come–travels through the wilderness, failure to take the land, forty years of wandering, and the death of Moses–before Joshua would lead them through the flooded Jordan River and into their Promised Land.

It was the same for Abraham as he left his home to follow God’s call and “went out, not knowing where he was going” (Hebrews 11:8). It was the same for Joseph, as his journey led from his father’s home to Potiphar’s prison to Pharaoh’s palace.

When Moses was growing up in Pharaoh’s court, who would have imagined that he would one day defy Pharaoh’s power and lead his nation to freedom? Consider Jesus’ disciples–who would have dreamed these Galilean fishermen would lead the mightiest spiritual movement the world has ever seen?

Three reasons to live in stages

But if you’re like me, you don’t really want to live in stages. You want what you want, now. Our culture has conditioned us to be consumers who can shop in any store, eat in any restaurant, and buy nearly anything online. Our existentialist worldview constantly tells us that it’s all about us.

Why must we fight the spiritual battle of our day in stages?

One: Cultural transformation takes time. The transition from the Industrial Revolution to the Information Revolution has encompassed decades and is continuing today. The movement of God’s Kingdom from Jerusalem across the world (Acts 1:8) took decades and is continuing today. Alfred North Whitehead was right: great people plant trees they’ll never sit under.

Two: God provides what we need when we need it. The Israelites had only enough manna in the wilderness for the day at hand (Exodus 16:4). We are likewise to pray for our “daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). God’s will is not a floodlight that reveals our final destination but a flashlight that reveals our next step.

Three: There is joy in the journey. We are to “run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2). As glorious as it will be to enter heaven, we can know the joy of Jesus every day we follow him on earth.

Why “the true soldier fights”

VE Day was celebrated in a day but won over years of loss, sacrifice, and victory. Every day we live in God’s power for God’s purpose is another day we extend God’s kingdom on earth.

G. K. Chesterton noted, “The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.” Jesus measures our love by our service (John 14:15).

Let’s do the same.