In this post, I am writing an analogy that I use sometimes when I teach about the the Kingdom of God. Just like all analogies, it is imperfect. But it seems to help people understand how some spiritual principles come together, and it also seems to get people fired up. It is inspired by a post I read several years ago on a blog that no longer seems to be active. This army analogy is basically my remake of a portion of that post.
Two Nations at War
Imagine that you are a soldier in the midst of a war that began before you were born. You heard about the war as a teenager, and you decided to enlist. You were provided with a training manual and you were told to read it. You were also instructed to attend training once a week for 90 minutes on Sunday mornings.
In the manual, you read that your army has weaponry that is capable of overwhelming the soldiers in the enemy army. The more you read it, the more excited you become.
However, in your training session each week, you are never taught about your weapons, or about how to fight your enemy. Instead, you are taught how to be nice to people, so that the general in your army won’t become angry with you. Your general, it seems, is very angry with just about everyone.
You are also taught that sometimes the general wants you to win, and sometimes he wants you to lose. Sometimes he wants you to die in an accident, or get sick, or maybe he wants your children to get sick. You are taught that your general somehow becomes famous when his soldiers get defeated, or run out of supplies, or run into misfortune.
This doesn’t seem to make sense to you. It seems very odd that a general engaged in a war would want to bring harm to his own soldiers. However, you quickly learn that it is viewed as inappropriate, or possibly even treasonous, to question the validity of the things you are hearing.
Any time that you start asking questions about the manual, everyone around you tells you that the amazing weapons you read about in there are no longer available because they are no longer needed. The way that the battles are fought now is that you allow the enemy to attack you, and then you attempt to send messages to the general. If he wants you to win, then he will come and fight the enemy for you. And if he wants you to lose, then your job is to just take a beating for the glory of your general and his mysterious strategies. But He won’t tell you which one…you are left to figure that out on your own.
You are taught that you should never expect any communication from the general, outside of reading the manual. This is because during the early days of your time in army, you were also taught that the general stopped communicating a long time ago when the manual was written.
In spite of this fact, you were also told to always send letters to the general every day. In your letters, you need to tell him about all of your mistakes, and how helpless you are, how you can’t do anything. You are also allow to ask for patience and endurance so that you can possibly survive somehow. But you should never expect to receive a personal response. You can just hope that he is in a good mood when he reads your letters, and that he doesn’t send any harm your way.
From the people you talk to, it seems that the main goal of a soldier is to study and acquire knowledge. It is especially important that you study all of the instructions in the manual. You need to memorize them and study them and talk about them with other soldiers…and so on. But you find this puzzling, because according to everyone around you, a lot of the stuff in the manual is no longer available or applicable.
You continue on like this for some time, but something is always bothering you about all of it. Something just doesn’t seem right. This is not what you were expecting when you enlisted. Your time in the army basically consists of listening to people talk and give lectures, and reading books about different ways to stay on the good side of the general.
There is more
But then one day you hear about some other soldiers. There are actually soldiers out there that train more than 90 minutes per week on Sundays. They train every day! And not only that, but they also seem to be having some success in their battles, which is very unusual based on everything you have been learning.
You become very curious. The excitement that you felt long ago at the time of your enlistment begins to bubble up inside of you.
You begin researching these soldiers. It seems that they are frowned upon by most of the people around you…especially the really smart people that give the lectures and write the books. But you keep on digging anyway.
You begin to learn some interesting things about these soldiers. First of all, they claim to receive communication and instruction from the general on a daily basis. Actually, it seems like they depend on it. The communications and instructions are very instrumental in winning their battles.
Secondly, they have found some of the weapons mentioned in the manual and have started learning to use them. Since there is hardly anyone around that has experience with the weapons, the soldiers make a lot of mistakes, and sometimes there are accidents and people are harmed.
But these soldiers don’t give up. They keep learning, practicing, and training. They begin to see some victories in their battles, in spite of all of the obstacles and mistakes and setbacks.
The people around you keep telling you to stop your research. They have many bad things to say about these soldiers you are researching. They call them ignorant or reckless, or even accuse them of working for the enemy (even though they are winning more battles than anyone around you ever has).
You finally get the nerve to contact these “rogue” soldiers and attend one of their training sessions. They explain to you that all of the weapons and equipment from the manual are still just as effective as ever, and they help you lots of ways. So you ask them where you can find some of these weapons. To your surprise, they show you that they are right there in your backpack that you received shortly after you enlisted.
The soldiers show you enough to help you get started, but they say the best training is on the battlefield, not in the classroom. They don’t know how to use all of the stuff in the backpack, but they are learning more and more every day.
They show you how to use your walkie talkie that allows two-way communication with headquarters, rather than just sending letters and leaving voicemails with no response. You also learn that you don’t have to go through a commanding officer…you have a direct line. And in fact, you don’t even have a commanding officer among these soldiers. Instead, other soldiers provide you with training in areas of their expertise, with the goal of showing you how to win.
Then the soldiers tell you something that makes you extremely happy and extremely sad at the same time. They tell you that the general is not the way that you were taught. The general always wants his soldiers to win every battle. He provides plenty of supplies for everyone, but almost nobody takes advantage of it.
You learn that the enemy has been sending in spies to bring deception and tell lies about the general. The spies are the ones that bring injuries and diseases and steal your food and your supplies, and then they blame it on “the general’s mysterious strategy.” In this way, they have been able to continually attack without any resistance. But you decide that is not going to happen any more.
You go back to your training manual that you have been reading and studying all these years, and it seems like it is brand new all over again. Now, it really does read more like an instruction manual than a history book. You begin training in a new way. You still read and study, but now you go out and use the tools and weapons according to the manual, and you take the battle to the enemy rather than waiting on him to attack you.
You begin to experience some victories, and also some defeats. You learn more each day, and become more and more effective. You find out about new pieces of equipment, and you also start recruiting others to come and join you. Your days become less about listening to lectures and reading books, and more about learning to communicate with the general, putting your manual and your weapons to good use, and defeating the enemy.
So what now
This is where the analogy ends, and real life begins. I hope this inspires you to seek the truth, even if it means letting go of some long-held traditions. God, our “general” is not distant and irritable. He is present, loving, gracious, kind, and generous. He has already given you all things that pertain to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3), and He is ready and willing to work with you to continue the mission of Jesus…namely healing and rescuing all that are oppressed by the devil (Acts 10:38). The battle is already won, but we get to enforce the victory. Learn how to cooperate with God and use the tools and power that He has given you. If this is new information to you, would suggest taking a look at any of these posts next: