Benchmarks in the Battle
October 25, 2018
by Andre Van Mol, MD
So many of the important things in life happen, as we see in Scripture, “along the way” of pursuing other priorities. Valuable opportunities are perceived as nuisances and distractions when obscured by the urgent. Opportunities that matter can be very inconvenient.
Early this year I found myself transitioning from 23 years of solo family practice to employment by a big company, which is enough change for any season. My usual load of being husband and parent, teaching a bioethics course, meeting writing deadlines, serving on some boards and task forces and such were all still in play.
Then came the request to help small teams fight big bills in my state capital of Sacramento, California. It would include lobbying, submitting written testimonials, testifying in legislative committees and doing media interviews. I said, “Heavens no!” the first time, but after more prayer and seeking counsel, three days later I agreed to the second request. What I wish to share with you are broadly practical principals I ended up applying to encourage the teams and myself to stay the course and finish well. Each point is hugely meaningful to me, and they are biblically sound, strategically and tactically effective and battle tested.
- Rest in the Lord and let your adversaries exhaust themselves.
Resting in the Lord is not static, but it is still rest and its own avenue of refreshment. God is our ever-present source and provider. He is never caught off guard or surprised. Lean hard into Him, pray always (talk to Him), listen and be confident in His sufficiency in all things rather than our own.
The mere fact that adversaries are making noise and calling you out is no mandate to lose time and energy doing the same. Learning not to react to every provocation is strengthening and stabilizing. Take the lesson from Nehemiah and his mission to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. His opponents tried to derail him with ridicule, threats, discouragement, extortion, compromise, slander, treachery and religious arguments. Nehemiah’s message to them was, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” (Nehemiah 6:3, NKJV). Again, let them get spent. Unless adversaries are directly in your way, addressing them takes you off track.
- Co-labor with Christ.
It’s mentioned about a dozen times in the New Testament, and it’s glorious. God is the way maker, making a way where there is none. He makes the impossible possible. Working with the Lord the Lord’s way is blessed. Honoring biblical spiritual protocol—aka warfare by honor—bypasses needless hindrances and battles so you can be better equipped for the needful ones.
In co-laboring there is God’s part, which He is unbelievably good at, and our part, which can be tricky to discern. We are created for good works in Christ (Ephesians 2:10). The same grace that saves us empowers us for righteous living. As Dallas Willard clarified, “Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning. Earning is an attitude. Effort is an action.” Also, no Lone Rangers, please. We are members of the Body of Christ and therefore function poorly disjointed from the same (Romans 12:4-6; 1 Corinthians 12:12-13; Ephesians 4:15-16).
- Just get the message out.
I told myself this often before walking into legislative chambers, politician’s offices and media interviews. It was my answer to the frequent urge to flee. Your message is yours and yours alone to promote. Stay on that message. You aren’t responsible for the reactions of others (unless your delivery was the problem), and expecting to control others is how sound-minded people become otherwise. If you don’t live by the approval of people, you won’t die by their rejection.
As is said about court cases, do not repeat charges against you. Use false claims as further occasions to get your message heard. Your message is your responsibility. People tend to remember your responses rather than accusations or questions posed to you, so staying on topic pays off. Nehemiah provided a case study in handling slander: “No such things as you say are being done, but you invent them in your own heart” (Nehemiah 6:8, NKJV). He didn’t repeat the charges; instead, he turned the tables.
- Conviction delivered with compassion, civility and courage.
This is the grand goal of all Christian interpersonal discourse. I call them the 4 Cs: conviction delivered with compassion, civility and courage. By conviction, I mean truth. By compassion, I mean love. By civility, I mean respectfully and calmly interacting, especially in the presence of disagreement (Galatians 6:1-2; Ephesians 4:29; Colossians 4:6; 2 Timothy 2:23-25; 1 Peter 3:15). And by courage, I mean tenacity without belligerence, standing firm without hostility (Proverbs 15:1; Proverbs 29:11; James 1:19-20). Turning the other cheek means you are still there to be dealt with, not running away.
And those were and are my benchmarks, my touchstones in the fight. May they serve you well.