Ask RC: How Do We Learn to Best Pick Our Battles?
The devil, who is more crafty than any of the beasts of the field, is well aware of the nature of our warfare. He knows that eternity is at stake, and delights first to make us forget the reality of the war. As we identify with the world we lose sight of the antithesis, and find ourselves at home in Babylon. If, however, we are rightly conscious of the battle, such doesn’t mean we are rightly focused on the issues that matter most. If the devil can distract us, encourage us to focus our energies on peripheral issues, it’s almost as good for him as if we weren’t fighting at all.
There are, after all, innumerable problems in our world. We live under a rapacious and irresponsible government. The evangelical church is sliding swiftly toward theological liberalism. Souls remain under the wrath of God, and babies are being murdered in broad daylight as I type. All of these issues matter, but some matter more than others.
The temptation (there’s the devil showing up again) we all face is to measure the relative importance of this battle or that based mostly on what we’re good at, or what merely interests us. Reformed people are apt to be more passionate about theological looseness than abortion. Broad evangelicals are going to be more concerned about lost souls than political issues. There is an element here of body life, that some in the church are called to be eyes and others are called to be hands. As we all serve the same Master, and will answer to Him, we don’t want to be looking down our noses at His calling on another.
So how can we tell what issues matter most? First, consider what is actually at stake. I believe passionately in limited government. I hate it that the state thinks itself God, and confiscates more than a third of all that I make. I have friends who have devoted their lives to toppling not the state itself, but its idolatrous self-aggrandizement. Some of them are persuaded that income taxes are not only immoral (I agree) confiscatory (I agree) and intrusive (I agree) but are illegal, or not required (I don’t pretend to know.) The irony is that these same people understand quite well that our entire system is based on worthless paper. They risk their liberty and their families in order to protect Federal Reserve notes. Should my passion be more over the state’s unbacked paper, or its backing of the wanton destruction of God’s littlest people through abortion? Jesus tells us where to place our priorities when He reminds us that our money bears Caesar’s image. Our children bear His image.
Second, if the issue is regular fodder in sundry forms of mass media, it is likely it doesn’t much matter. Conservative talk radio is a virtual propaganda department for the devil, not because what they teach is wrong, but because it isn’t nearly as important as they make it out to be. Talk radio is a mildly more sophisticated soap opera, as we tune in each day to find out what the villain at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. has done this time. And like soap operas, if you tune out for a week or twenty you’ll find the same drama, the same issues are still being addressed with the same hysteria. If conservative talk radio were conservative, how could a day pass that isn’t devoted to the 3500 babies that will die on that day?
Finally, if worry is causing you to lose sleep, whatever is the source of the worry isn’t an issue that should concern you. If, on the other hand, guilt is what keeps you up at night, that’s what you need to be focused on. Repent, rest in Christ’s provision, and then get to work. You’ll sleep much better.
Jesus’ priorities include political issues, life issues, cultural issues, family issues, theological issues, evangelistic issues. But most of all His priority is that we would seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, that we would grow in grace and so tell the world that His kingdom has come.