A War of Attrition
Lately I’ve been reading books about the Revolutionary War of the United States: a Biography of Benjamin Franklin, a book on the year 1776, and now a book entitled “George Washington’s War.” In this latest book, the author points out how Washington was basically waging a war of attrition. The basic concept of this type of war is to wear out your enemy politically and emotionally. It is often employed against larger armies. The smaller army will hit and run and then regroup and return to hit and run again. This keeps the larger army always on the defensive. So long as supplies and money are available, a smaller army can keep up this practice as long as they remain ambitious. The larger army is then deprived of lives and money thus creating political unrest back home. These tactics eventually forces the larger army to withdraw. Obviously this is an oversimplification of the Revolutionary War, but, in large part, that was what contributed to the victory. In considering this type of warfare, I thought that I would note some similarities to our spiritual warfare (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).
First, God’s people have always fought in the smaller army. Noah, for example, waged a spiritual warfare as a preacher of righteousness (2 Peter 2:5), yet only eight souls were saved through his efforts. Moses was vastly outnumbered by Pharaoh’s army, yet he was able through God’s strength, to lead the nation of Israel out of captivity (Exodus 14:8). Elijah was just one prophet among hundreds of prophets of Baal, yet he prevailed (1 Kings 18:39,40). Indeed, Jesus told us that we would be traveling the strait and narrow way which few find (Matthew 7:14). He told us that the world would hate us (John 15:19) and that we ought to prepare to be in that minority. But we have the greatest ally that can be had, greater than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4). He promises us the victory to overcome the world through the faith (1 John 5:4). So while we may be in the minority, we cannot be defeated; we are more than conquerors (Romans 8:37).
Second, God expects us to never give up. This is a must if one is going to wage a war of attrition. If the smaller force gives up, then the war is over. Winston Churchill said it well: “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never, in nothing, great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.” But the principle is biblical. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58). The word “can’t” simply isn’t in the Christian’s vocabulary because we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength (Philippians 4:13). Let us then press the battle and engage the enemy as a good soldier of Jesus, the Christ (2 Timothy 2:3).
Third, we must continually battle the enemy again and again. Satan is a tough adversary. He doesn’t give up either, but God has promised that if we resist him, he will flee (James 4:7). Jesus faced Satan and prevailed because he trusted in the power of God’s word (Matthew 4:1-11). Peter tells us that we must withstand him steadfast in the faith (1 Peter 5:9) and Paul tells us to equip ourselves with the entire panoply of God so that we can resist him (Ephesians 6:11). God has given us the tools in order to do spiritual battle and it is up to us to war the good warfare (1 Timothy 1:18). If we continue to attack, then Satan will be defeated.
George Washington was not merely a commander in chief consigned to his desk. There were several occasions where he mounted his horse and led his troops into battle himself. We too have a great leader who has Himself led our army into spiritual battle, the Captain of our Salvation, Jesus, the Christ (Hebrews 2:10). He has lead the charge and fought and conquered the enemy (Hebrews 12:2) and through Him we will prevail!