To be honest, I had given attending the Men’s Retreat this year only a passing thought. Having learned that the theme was “Walking in Authority,” I had already assumed it would be another take on a Wild at Heart theme, whose lessons I admittedly have only a vague recollection. As is typical for me, I’d signed up at the last minute, and only did so at Pastor Douglas’ prompting. Given my work schedule, I had even planned on arriving late, and hoped to leave early.
I did end up arriving late on Friday night, having left my house late, to avoid Friday evening traffic and also to spend time with my daughter, whom I hadn’t seen much of in the days preceding. I had not prepared myself, mentally or spiritually. However, after the Saturday morning message, I repented (inwardly) of being so presumptuous.
Pastor Mike’s messages over the weekend reminded me of three important principles:
- God has given us an assignment, and authority within that assignment (extrapolated from Genesis 1:26-28)
- The outcomes of spiritual battles often reveal themselves in the natural world…for good or for ill (implications of Romans 6)
- We are given an identity in Christ that is received, not achieved (explanation of “union with Christ”, as exemplified in Romans 6:5)
With regard to our authority in our assignment, two details that Pastor Mike had noted clicked for me. The first was that we should know what our assignment is, and the only way to do that is to know our Father intimately (through detailed study of His Word and through prayer, in which we both speak and listen). Only through this can we act and speak with authority – the confidence that we are doing what God has called us to do, and so to expect the victories to accomplish His goals. I realized for myself that my time with Abba has been perilously short, resulting in a lack of ability to hear from Him clearly.
With regard to spiritual warfare manifesting in the natural, Pastor Mike talked about Satan’s goal through demonization, and how anyone (believer or not) can be influenced to different degrees. He explained how Satan seeks to render individuals passive, unable or unwilling to act. He further noted how God chooses to accomplish His goals through people (à la Isaiah 6:8 [my note]), and Satan seeks to thwart the achievement of those goals by preventing individuals from taking action, particularly when the actions involve getting closer to our Father (via reading the Word, praying, worshiping, etc.).
In my case, I immediately realized a connection between a light level of demonization and my well-known penchant for being late to church-related activities. Not to absolve myself of all blame of course, but I could see more of how such influence had resulted in my treating Sunday mornings with greater indifference than work mornings, in spite of very obvious consequences, such as being a poor role model for my daughter and of abdicating the responsibility of getting to church on time to my spouse. With the support of several of my brothers at the retreat, I have rejected such influence in Jesus’ name. So far, in the 2 weeks’ since, I’ve been on time (or closer to it) for the first Sunday worship service.
Thirdly, with respect to “identity received, not achieved”: I personally found this statement to be the most counter-cultural from the weekend, and one I have found I must remind myself of often. Particularly here, our identities seem particularly hewn to our jobs and to our employers. Somewhat ironically, material success is as often attributed to “luck” as it is to individual effort, particularly when it comes to financial success and having joined the next unicorn-to-be start-up. The Gospel, as Pastor Mike reminded us, eschews all of that and teaches us that our identity as believers is with Christ, and it is an identity granted to us, not given to us as if it were our due. Truly understanding this reduces my sense of entitlement to nothing and increases my desire to draw closer to Him.
Finally, the weekend did turn out to be a genuine retreat. We had very little cell signal across most carriers, and I didn’t know the retreat site offered public wifi access. I saw wild turkeys while on a hike (at the peak of which we did get very strong signals, and out came the phones, not just for photos …!). Most importantly, I was reminded of the gift of in-depth study of the Word, and how such study can help elucidate themes that have not been so obvious to me. There was so much more detail to the points I referred to above; if you are curious, please find me and ask.
To God be the glory!