The Humble Warrior


I [Paul] therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
—Ephesians 4:1-3 ESV

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
—Philippians 2:3 ESV

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.
—Colossians 3:12-15 ESV

He must increase, but I must decrease.
—John 3:30 ESV

There is much talk about manhood today, but I don’t see much of it in practice. Contrary to popular opinion, it’s not about hunting bear with a pointy stick and never has been.

Many bestselling Christian writers talk about being warriors. They sell truckloads of books and inspire the creation of thousands of men’s groups in countless churches. Men go on “advances” (don’t EVER call it a “retreat”—too girlie) to learn how to develop their inner warrior, or if the group has more of a business focus, their inner leader.

Despite the millions of books sold, speaking engagements across the world, and a guaranteed bestselling sequel when the sales of the latest warrior tome peak, one arrow is routinely left out of the warrior author’s quiver: humility.

By nature, humility and war are a hard marriage. The examples don’t come as readily as the images we get of tough, swaggering men in bullet-shredded uniforms, each with a cigar firmly clenched between his teeth, mowing down one wave after another of Nazis, flamethrower in one hand, tank gun ripped off a flaming Sherman in the other. Such men ascend through the ranks and become twelve-star generals, husbands to nubile movie starlets, and CEOs of multinationals that consume lesser companies no matter how many poison pills are consumed. That’s the role model of manliness we Americans hallow. (In the American Christian world, the model’s pretty much the same, though the cigar is suspect.)

I’ve thought long and hard about some examples of humility and warrior spirit, the best example I can toss out there (besides the obvious ones) is that of the man after whom the city near where I live is named, Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus.

The story is told that Cincinnatus, a farmer well-liked by his neighbors, was called to serve in 458 BC during a time of great threat: enemies were advancing against Rome. Despite the fact that his family might starve as a result of his decision, Cincinnatus accepted a call to lead the armies of that great city. He was declared dictator, swiftly defeated the invaders in just sixteen days, and immediately resigned as dictator, going back to his farm. Nineteen years later, he was called out of retirement to meet a new threat to Rome. And again, he fought the fight and promptly gave up the throne to go back to rural life.

That’s not the kind of example we are given too often today.

Less often than that do we have examples of men who never picked up a sword or gun, who never spilled blood, but spent most of their time on their knees. Prayer WarriorGeorge Mueller was such a man. A lot of the testosterone-laden out there wouldn’t think much of Mueller; he was concerned for orphans. Sounds kind of womanly compared with the examples we see held up in bestselling men’s books. But Mueller prayed. That man sweated out big prayers that met big needs and overcame ferocious principalities and powers that sought to destroy little boys and girls, demonic forces that wanted nothing more than to grind up children in the hardscrabble streets of England. And the one thing that people said about Mueller besides the fact that he was a praying man? That he was humble.

As much as the bestseller shelves are loaded with books jam-packed with bone-chewing examples of manliness, the dearth of books featuring meek and humble men speaks volumes. Simply possessing a penis and knowing every great line from Spartacus, The Green Berets and the king of all warrior movies, Braveheart, doesn’t qualify you for warriorhood. Making prideful, snarky assertions about someone’s eternal security on the God-blog flavor of the week doesn’t make you God’s man, either. It takes a humble man to walk into his prayer closet (where, it should be noted, there are no ticker-tape parades), kneel in humility before the Lord, and start assaulting the powers of darkness through prayer. Your average street dog can easily sink his teeth into a flesh and blood foe, but only a meek man devoted to prayer can tear down demonic strongholds in spiritual places!

The problem with Christian manhood today is not that there aren’t enough villages to plunder, it’s that humble, stooped grandmothers are out there on their knees fighting the battles that “real” men are too proud (or lazy or weak) to fight. Too many men in our churches moan that someone stole their warrior badge. Meanwhile, Satan is plundering OUR village. And he’s doing it not in the obvious places, but in the spiritual realms, the very place that prayer alone works.

John the Baptist prayed (you didn’t realize it was a prayer, did you?), “He must increase, and I must decrease.” Men, that’s meekness and humility right there. That prayer is the true warrior’s marching order. Likewise, our call to honor is found in Ephesians 4:1-3. If the Savior emptied Himself and became a servant, dying in the utmost humility, meekly refusing to justify Himself before men, how can we be any different? Only after Christ fully humbled Himself was He exalted and given The Name Above All Names.

Do we get it? Or are we going to keep on blathering about our warrior birthrights while we pick off the “weak” through our clever arguments, our mocking haughtiness, and our brutal gracelessness?

True Christian warriors are men of humility and grace. They understand that only when they are weak are they strong.

Which kind of warrior are you?

The Battle for Brokenness


A few years ago, we were confronted with the twisting of our language by forces seeking to redefine everything we believe when the most powerful politician in the world said, “It depends on what your definition of ‘is’ is.”

We continue to fight for the vitality of our language because, for Christians at least, words have real meaning. Co-opting words and finagling definitions have brought us to the “Newspeak” days of George Orwell’s 1984. How else can quoting from the Bible be branded “hate speech” except that we have altered the very definition of love itself?

The Church is not immune to this. One of the current trends in many Christian circles is to confuse brokenness with, well…brokenness. The rise of inner healing ministries in the 1970s resulted in a modification of the definition of “brokenness.” What has occurred is that we now consider brokenness to be a reflection of all the painful events we’ve incurred in life rather than the traditional, Biblical meaning of brokenness.

The Lord speaks through the prophet Isaiah:

For thus says the
One who is high and lifted up,
who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
“I dwell in the high and holy place,
and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly,
and to revive the heart of the contrite.
For I will not contend forever,
nor will I always be angry;
for the spirit would grow faint before me,
and the breath of life that I made.
Because of the iniquity of his unjust gain I was angry,
I struck him; I hid my face and was angry,
but he went on backsliding in the way of his own heart.
I have seen his ways, but I will heal him;
I will lead him and restore comfort to him and his mourners,
creating the fruit of the lips.
Peace, peace, to the far and to the near,” says the LORD,
“and I will heal him.
But the wicked are like the tossing sea;
for it cannot be quiet,
and its waters toss up mire and dirt.
There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.”
—Isaiah 57:15-21

True spiritual brokenness is a reflection of a life given to humility, a contrite spirit, and an understanding that we are like brute beasts before God unless we allow Him to break us like the horseman breaks a stallion. Real brokenness is the man who acknowledges that he is no longer his own; he has been bought with a price. Such a man yields himself to God to be broken and formed into the image of Christ.

See how this plays out in the life of the prideful man who experiences true brokenness:

All this came upon King Nebuchadnezzar. At the end of twelve months he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, and the king answered and said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” While the words were still in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, “O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you, and you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. And you shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.” Immediately the word was fulfilled against Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven from among men and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers, and his nails were like birds’ claws.At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever,
for his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;
all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
and among the inhabitants of the earth;
and none can stay his hand
or say to him, “What have you done?”
At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my majesty and splendor returned to me. My counselors and my lords sought me, and I was established in my kingdom, and still more greatness was added to me. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.
—Daniel 4:28-37 ESV

Here is the natural man broken by God. His pride is broken, his position is broken, his self-worship is broken. And in the place of all these comes praise to God for being broken by Him.

Contrast this with the “brokenness” we so often hear spoken of today in Christian circles. We are fragile not because they are being broken by God, but because we dwell in the pain of our circumstances. This is not to say that God does not use circumstance to break prideful people, but too often we who revel in our pain exhibit a pride in displaying just how broken we are! No one has been as hurt as badly as we have been. No one has endured the tragedies we have endured. In short, we become immune to the very brokenness God desires to instill in us so long as we make an idol of our pain.

Acolytes of this “new” brokenness must always talk about it, wear it as a badge of honor, and retreat into it whenever anyone questions the need to dwell in the pain. Worse yet, we can use our pain as a way to assuage our guilt before the Lord. We make ourselves appear downtrodden when we are anything but, refusing true brokenness and holding instead to the mire of our own making.

Such is not God’s brokenness, but a counterfeit that leads us away from real healing and growth in Christ. Dying to self means abandoning even our pain, no matter how great, to take on the image of the Savior. Only then can the scales drop from our eyes and we be raised up to stand in true brokenness before God.