My friend "Bill" (not his real name) works in a counter-terrorism center. Here's the stated mission of his team in their handbook:
To integrate threat intelligence and provide for intake, analysis, fusion, synthesis, and dissemination of that information. The center will convert that information into operational intelligence to detect, deter, and defend against terrorist attacks within the seven counties assigned to this unit.
Bill’s whole job is to integrate, analyze, and synthesize "threat intelligence" so that he can identify patterns, trends, and what he calls "potentials" which might indicate an emerging threat. When Bill gets a “hit” and the information coalesces into an emerging threat he supplies the relevant and actionable intelligence to prepare a preemptive response to the threat. The next time you hear about the threat level being raised to Orange or Red by Homeland Security think about the men and women like Bill who focus solely sifting through complicated and convoluted data to get a threat picture. Then think about having the personal courage to act on that data without hesitation or trepidation. This is what a counter-terrorism agent is trained to do. They are good at putting the pieces of suspicious activity together related to terrorist plots.
God's man and Bill have this is common: both are tasked with integrating intelligence on terrorist threats. Then they must have the courage to sound the alarm and put a preemptive response in motion. Intelligence provides the clues and smells they need. In fact, the Apostle Paul acted just like the spiritual counter-terrorism expert we are describing in helping the Corinthians. As he gathered information about all the conflict amongst believers and over various issues, he saw an emerging pattern and trend as he analyzed the data. Low and behold the fingerprints of the Evil One were popping up in his mental database. Finally, after various roadside bombs had gone off in Corinth with the intention to divide and destabilize unity amongst believers, Paul integrates and then acts on his intelligence to combat the terrorist threat against the body like a true Terrorism Liaison Officer (TLO). He supplies actionable intelligence for the believers.
“The reason I wrote to you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes,” (2 Corinthians 2:11 NIV italics for emphasis).
Translation: based on the intel, we know who's really behind this and we are going to take the necessary steps (join in forgiving people) to stop this terrorist threat. The sledgehammer application is this: if you are unaware you will be outwitted by evil. If you are outwitted, people around you get hurt and the cause of the Kingdom suffers. The opposite scenario is equally valid. If you are actively integrating your intelligence and matrixing that intel with what you know to be true about how evil operates, you will preempt and shut down the Devil’s terrorist schemes against you, other believers, the church, and the world. Here’s the scary part, we have the actionable intel straight from Jesus himself, the terrorist playbook in the Word of God, and the Holy Spirit available to help discern and coordinate the tactical pieces. And yet, we are unwilling and/or failing to integrate these resources in order to take preemptive action against "the" Terrorist and his schemes.
God’s man is duty bound to integrate the intel God has provided. Versus what? Neglect, dismiss, or be ambivalent about it. God hasn’t provided Satan’s file to us for nothing. We need to learn everything we can about him and his methods of operation. Then we need to raise our threat level to RED and keep it there.
Grow an Aggressive Awareness
Predators thrive on their prey being unaware of their presence. Spiders spin translucent webs. Sharks have sensors running the length of the bodies that detect unsuspecting “lunches” before them detect them. Alligators and crocodiles rely on their stealth and stillness while their prey unwittingly walks to the porch of their vice-like jaws. Birds of prey fall out of the sky with talons fanned out and ready to clinch. All their victims did not see their end coming. Other times in nature you see the exact opposite. Birds spot predators and call out a warning. Monkey or baboon troops have a sentry network and give the universal “get outa here, predator is in the house” yell that activates the flight response of the group. Other animals use their sense of smell, sonar, visual awareness or other God-engineered warning systems to avoid an untimely end. Most animals know whose menu they’re on, who represents a threat, and when things aren’t right—hopefully in time. When you are a potential meal at any moment, let’s just say you develop a little “sensitivity” to certain characters and factors occurring in your environment.
Here’s FIGHT fact: A proactive awareness betters the odds of survival.
The wild kingdom metaphor is one God thought we should learn from as God’s man in terms of growing an aggressive awareness of evil and it’s opportunistic method of eating believers alive. "Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up" (I Peter 5:8 MSG). Heady. Alert. Guard up. This might be termed an aggressive awareness based on the recognition of reality. Any other attitude toward the active and present threat of evil is, by default, suicidal. When you are not awake and aware you are asleep and vulnerable. All you are left with is to react the best you can and reactive spiritual warfare usually means late. Late usually means overwhelmed with fangs deeply imbedded in the back of your neck. This style of spiritual living might be labeled an indifferent laziness rooted in ignorance or apathy or both. A not aware God’s man is a biblical oxymoron. Key word: moron. Bend over a watering hole in front of a salivating lion and watch what happens.
General Douglas MacArthur had a propensity for noting the obvious when it came to wars, winning battles, and avoiding defeats. "D. Mac's" wisdom is telling for every God’s man. "All military defeats," he notes, "can be summed up in two words: too late. You lose battles when you are too late to discern the danger and too late to act against it."
It’s not too late… yet.
Kenny Luck is the Men's Pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. He is also the Founder and President of Every Man Ministries which helps churches worldwide develop and grow healthy men's communities. Please visit www.everymanministries.com for more information.