In 2005, I toured a museum in Warsaw, Poland, that was dedicated to keeping alive the story of the horrific treatment the Poles suffered at the hands of their Nazi occupiers. Those who lived during those destructive events knew that, with time, the city would most likely be rebuilt. New buildings would rise, trees would regrow, and new people would come to start their businesses and raise families. Hopefully, this museum would serve as a reminder that at one time the Poles were captives, living behind enemy lines as victims of a terrible adversary.
Later that same day, as we climbed the front steps of our host’s home, he stopped, turned, and pointed to a large tree on the edge of his front yard. He said, “Dan, do you see that tree?” He was pointing to a beautiful, majestic tree that stood right next to the street. Then he said, “That’s the tree the Nazis made my father stand against when they shot him.” As powerful as the museum exhibits had been earlier that day, the personal reality of what it must have been like for people living behind enemy lines came to life for me in that moment.
I have been very blessed in my lifetime to have never had to experience the realities of war. I’ve never gone to bed having the thought that, “I hope I wake in the morning without an enemy invading my country.” Unfortunately, people throughout the ages the world over have experienced what it means to live behind enemy lines. And the truth is that as Christians, spiritually speaking, we are doing just that—living behind enemy lines.
God’s archenemy—the Devil, Satan, The Adversary, or whatever other label you want to put on him—is the god of this world. This means that he is in control of all the systems of the world. The financial markets, governments, politics, news, media, entertainment, and even the religious systems. When we accept Christ, we change our citizenship from the world to God’s kingdom, and that means that we are in this world living behind enemy lines. The Enemy is constantly trying to trick us into forgetting this truth so that we will become weak and ineffective in the spiritual battle.
Here are three things that we must do if we are going to not just survive, but thrive, behind enemy lines.
Know the enemy
We must know who the enemy is, his nature, and his methods. Understand what he is doing, how he exerts control over the systems of the world, and his methods which are always aimed to “steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10). We must also be wise to his tactics of deception and secrecy as he intimidates and sows division through offense, hatred and discord. Like the Poles in WWII, we must know who the enemy is and what he is doing.
God tells us repeatedly to stay “alert” and to have “sober” (sound) thinking. The Enemy is constantly trying to distract us with the cares and pleasures of the world. We must be vigilant in our thinking, always aware of his propaganda (Col. 2:8).
Survival behind enemy lines in WWII required active resistance. Pockets of resistance fighters united with one another, shared resources, and fought collectively against the enemy. Similarly, we must not “forsake meeting with one another” (Heb. 10:24). Resistance also requires that we understand how to fight in the spiritual realm, and that we accept that our enemy is never “flesh and blood,” but is a spiritual entity.
Here is a simple acronym to help remind us what we must do in order to survive behind enemy lines.
S = Size up the situation; observation, vigilance (Be alert and aware)
U = Use all your resources (physical, mental, spiritual)
R = Remember who you are (Son of God)
V = Vanquish fear, trust always in God
I = Inspired action; learn to rely on the spirit
V = Value the lives of others and your own, serving and living in love.
E = Endure, evade, and we will escape