Fog of War

Fog of War

Sun Tzu was a Chinese general, military strategist, writer and philosopher who lived in ancient China in and around 500 BC. Sun Tzu is the author of The Art of War, an influential work of military strategy even to this day. Even though Sun Tzu described it in his book, mainly how to cause it, the 19th century Prussian military genius Carl von Clausewitz coined the term the “fog of war,” defining the uncertainty commanders face in battle. The term gives us a mental picture of what happens in the mind of the commander and his soldiers when faced with the uncertainty and unpredictability inherent in war. In war, almost nothing ever goes to plan. As General Eisenhower once said, “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.” So what happens when a military operation doesn’t go as planned? That’s correct. It contributes to the “fog of war.”

The fog is thickest when commanders don’t have clear information concerning the status of their own forces due to a break down in lines of communication as well as lacking accurate intelligence about the location and capability of the enemy. Knowing this, when the United States military engages a country or coalition in battle, the primary target list includes command and control centers. Why? When you destroy, or at least limit, communication between commanders and their troops, you cause “fog of war.” The commander is unable to know the status of his forces. Furthermore, he is unable to direct and redirect forces to deal with the attack. This results in individual soldiers and squads taking action that may, in fact, put their own forces in greater peril. You might liken this to driving in dense fog on switch back roads in the mountains. You simply can’t see to anticipate curves and turns resulting in a loss of control causing you to careen off the road and possibly down the side of the mountain.

Sun Tzu and Carl von Clausewitz may be geniuses when it comes to military strategy, but how does the Christian successfully fight the spiritual battle when we know demonic forces are constantly causing “fog of war?” As we read in Genesis 3, Satan is a master at causing deception, confusion and doubt. After all, he is the thief that comes to kill, steal and destroy that the Apostle John describes in John 10:10. John also labels Satan as a deceiver and a destroyer in Rev. 12:9. As a result, we must be humble and admit that we are vulnerable to spiritual warfare like a nation is vulnerable to military warfare.  However, even though we are prone to spiritual warfare, the Apostle Paul describes the way to victory.

EPH 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

Our success in spiritual battle is based in the strength of the Lord. That’s right. We must rely on Him. He has the necessary strength. How do we do this? EPH 6:11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. Putting on the armor, of course, is a metaphor for obeying the Scripture. When we have obeyed the instructions contained in Scripture, we have donned the full armor of God, and then we can resist Satan’s attempts to deceive and destroy us. The reason this spiritual armor is necessary is that our struggle is not against flesh and blood. The picture of warfare here implies that we do not face a physical army. We face a spiritual army. Therefore, our weapons must be spiritual.

So then, what are these weapons that we are given to fight spiritual warfare? Paul uses the physical battle dress of a Roman soldier as a metaphor to describe the spiritual weapons we have to stand against the schemes of the devil.

EPH 6:14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,

How do these weapons help us in the battle as we face the fog of war?

  • Belt of Truth — Accept the truth of the Bible and choose to follow it with integrity.
  • Breastplate of Righteousness — Refuse to harbor and nurture sin. Instead, strive to be like Christ and live according to his ways of righteousness.
  • Shoes of Readiness — Believe the promises of God and count them to be true for you.
  • Shield of Faith — Reject temptations to doubt, sin or quit, reminding yourself of the truth and choose to do the right thing.
  • Helmet of Salvation — Rest your hope in the future kingdom and live in this world according to the value system of heaven.
  • Sword of the Spirit — Apply Scripture in life’s situations to fend off attacks of the enemy and cause him to flee.
  • Praying in the Spirit — Ask God for your needs in the battle, and pray for the spiritual victory.

Please take note. We are given weapons but we must use them to be victories against the enemy. Just as a soldier must effectively use his rifle in combat, the Christian must put on his armor to see through the fog of war and be victories in battle. Sun Tzu writes, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself, but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” Admittedly, he wrote this specifically for military warfare. However, it helps us understand the complexity of spiritual warfare and the fog of war. Allow me to explain.

Do you know your enemy? Satan and his demonic forces are our enemy and NOT our brothers and sisters in Christ.  EPH 4:12 “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

Do you recognize the fog of spiritual warfare and who is behind it causing the confusion? Again, Satan and his demonic army are behind it. EPH 4:12 “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

What is the enemy’s chief weapon?  Deception. This is confirmed in Genesis 3. Revelation 12:9 also describes Satan as a deceiver.

What power does the enemy have? He is subservient to God but a foe too powerful for us without God’s help. “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them.” (Job 1:6) “And the LORD said to Satan, ‘Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person.’ So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.” (Job 1:12)

What does our enemy know about us? Weaknesses, vulnerabilities and sin. “And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.” (Rev 12:10).

Do you know yourself?  What are your weaknesses? What are your vulnerabilities? What are your doubts? What are your temptations? What are your premeditative sins? You better know the answers to these questions because this is where the enemy will attack and is attacking. Beyond that, you must fortify and defend these weak and broken areas of your life through repentance and God’s power to heal. Satan will use his weapons of warfare, namely deception, to overwhelm you with the fog of spiritual war and, at a minimum, render you useless. Furthermore, his goal is to destroy you. It appears that Satan knows and employs what Sun Tzu taught his warriors, “You can be sure in succeeding in your attacks if you only attack places which are undefended.”

Another aspect of knowing yourself is knowing your purpose? Can you imagine a soldier going into battle not knowing his purpose? What about you? Do you know that you are a disciple of Jesus Christ and your purpose is to make disciples? The fog of war on the battlefield is at its worst when soldiers stand around, dazed and confused, not knowing what to do. In comparison, there is a dense fog of war in the church because there are a considerable number of people who consider themselves Christians but don’t know their purpose and therefore, don’t know how to follow Christ and show others how to follow Christ. We must always remember, in the good times and the bad we always have the same purpose. Regardless of how we feel and what the circumstances may be, we always have the same mission. However, as goes the idiom, we seem to “snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.”

Besides knowing our enemy and knowing ourselves, we must know our weapons. Do you know your weapons of spiritual warfare? Early in my military career, I was well training in the use of the M-16 Rifle. I could even take it apart and clean it blind folded. In the same fashion, we need to know our spiritual weapons with that kind of familiarity. Our weapons are the Belt of Truth, Breastplate of Righteousness, Shoes of Readiness, Shield of Faith, Helmet of Salvation, Sword of the Spirit and Praying in the Spirit. Are you employing them? So then, what must we do to defeat our enemy and overcome the fog of war?  EPH 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. Simply put, know the Scripture, believe it, agree with it and put it into practice. This will certainly clear the fog and lead us to victory in the battle.

Let’s be encouraged and full of hope. There is no need to fear if our armor is in place. As President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, “The Only Thing We Have to Fear is Fear Itself” How do I know? Scripture! “The one who is in you [Jesus], is greater than the one [Satan] who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith” (1 Pet. 5:8–9). Scripture is utterly consistent. If we have our armor in place, if we are firm in our faith, we can resist the devil. If we do, he will flee from us.

How can we recognize that we are confused by the fog of spiritual war? It all can be explained by one word. What is that word? Deception.

  1. You don’t read, study and practice Scripture regularly
  2. You aren’t guided day-to-day by Scripture
  3. You lack a sense of purpose guided by Scripture
  4. You rely on emotion and feeling to act and react to circumstances in your life
  5. You don’t regularly seek God in prayer for wisdom, direction and discernment

There have been numerous military strategist and leaders in every generation, some have been good and others not so much. Some, like Sun Tzu, have been studied and revered for centuries. In contrast, the God-breathed word has keenly guided us in recognizing and knowing how to see our way through the fog of war and fight the spiritual battle. Even though the devil seeks to destroy us, the good news is that we have an abundant life in Christ!   JN 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

A Work in Progress,

Pastor Gene