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October Newsletter

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THE HERALD

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Rev. Stephen Snodgrass

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Spriritual Battle Fatigue

Following World War I, many soldiers returned to the safety and comfort of their homes, but the scars upon their bodies, hearts and minds were to be there forever. Doctors called it “shell shock.” It might have been noticed when a clap of thunder was heard, or, simply, a door closed; and the memories and scenes of war would come like a flood and leave its victim with shattered emotions. It was called “battle fatigue” in World War II and Korea. And out of Vietnam it was called “PTSD” (post-traumatic stress disorder). Call it what you will, but the effects of war are real.


In fighting the battle for right, the Christian faces much of the same personal and emotional battles. That is why Paul in his final words to the Ephesians, challenges them to “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.” (Ephesians 6:10) Wesley said this about this passage, “This is the only place in this epistle where he uses this compellation. Soldiers frequently use it to each other in the field. Be strong—nothing less will suffice for such a fight: to be weak, and remain so, is the way to perish. In the power of his might—a very uncommon expression, plainly denoting what great assistance we need as if his might would not do, it must be the powerful exertion of his might.” The apostle goes on to point out the fact that the Christian is fighting a deadly spiritual battle, “…against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (verse 12) Paul instructs us to "…endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ." (2 Timothy 2:3) As physical warfare causes battle fatigue, so does spiritual warfare. If a battle weary soldier does not overcome that fatigue, he will not be a good soldier. That is true in both physical and spiritual warfare.

Paul was not the first recorded person who suffered. We have the life of Jeremiah the prophet who complained about the distress and persecution he faced because he proclaimed God's Word. The people of Judah did not want to hear God's truth. God pointed out their sin and His coming judgment. The people tormented Jeremiah because he was the messenger. Jeremiah became disillusioned with serving the Lord and said, "I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name." (Jeremiah 20:9) He later overcame the fatigue and reentered the fray. We find the prophet Elijah also suffered fatigue from the spiritual battle. He had stood alone against wicked Ahab. After the three year drought, he faced the false prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel as God's representative. When God sent rain in answer to his prayer, Elijah ran to Jezreel which was almost thirty miles away. He was spiritually and physically drained as he read Jezebel's message that she was going to kill him. Elijah fled to a juniper tree where he gave up. Spiritual battle fatigue overcame him.

Then there was Martha who became weary with spiritual fatigue when she "was cumbered about much serving." When she complained about not having any help, Jesus said, "thou art careful and troubled about many things." (Luke 10:40, 41) John the Baptist experienced spiritual weariness when Herod imprisoned him. He had believed Jesus was the Messiah, but suffering because of his obedience to God planted doubts in his mind.

There are many godly people who are overcome with spiritual exhaustion for a wide variety of reasons. It might come when one has served so faithfully without any visible results of the labors. It may come when we experience personal troubles, heartaches or fears. Physical weariness can lead to spiritual weariness.

There are several things to remember when fighting “weariness in well doing.” First, remember the battle is not yours but the Lord’s. Next, you do not have to fight alone—not even on your own strength. Third, the battle is nearing the end.

When a military medical team recognizes the symptoms of battle fatigue in a soldier, they will pull him from the lines to rest. Jesus saw the need of rest from the Lord's work. He told his disciples to "…Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while." (Mark 6:31) When spiritual weariness rolled over David, he asked himself, "Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me?" He answered, "hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance." (Psalm 42:5)

Paul, knowing the battle was overpowering, frequently advised his pastor friends, "Take heed unto thyself." (1 Timothy 4:16) In these days of spiritual battle, we can be strong and fresh if we heed Paul's instruction to the Galatian believers. "And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." (Galatians 6:9)

When faced by the enemy, and your soul is weary, remember the words of Isaiah in chapter 40, verse 31, "But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."

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