I can remember the smell of the Royal Canadian Navy ship on which my father sailed, a pungent blend of diesel fuel, marine paint and salty sea air. Once a year the crew’s families were invited on board for a tour. My brothers and I clambered on the large guns mounted on the fore and aft decks, never thinking about what they were for. HMCS Mackenzie was a destroyer escort class warship, commissioned to the Pacific fleet of the Canadian Navy after World War II. She carried impressive armament and electronic equipment, ready to defend Canada’s west coast against enemy attack. But she was never called to do so. She had an uneventful career, spending most of her time as a training ship or performing general duties, such as port visits and naval exercises.
Neither the Mackenzie nor my father ever saw active war duty, yet they were both vitally necessary to the safety of the country. My father is recognized as a veteran because of the risk he assumed by wearing the uniform of the Canadian Navy and pledging allegiance to protect his country. The ship’s motto, “by virtue and valour,” set the standard for what was expected of him if war should break out again. He was to be ready at all times.
As a Navy veteran, my father was honorably released from service upon retirement, but those who serve under the command of Christ will never be veterans until they reach heaven. God has equipped us with spiritual weapons to prepare us for the ongoing battle against spiritual forces of darkness.
“So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long.” – Eph. 6:10-18 The Message
Every weapon God has given us is battle-ready at all times, supernaturally created to vanquish the enemy of our souls. But we have a part in this battle too, which is to be prepared to put them to use. My father’s naval duties involved many days of battle exercises; “playing war”, as he called it, so in the event of a real conflict at sea, the crew would know what to do. The same is required in spiritual battle. Often in my own prayer time I pray through the passage above, figuratively donning the armor of God, preparing myself for whatever battle the day may hold. And I know without doubt there will be battles. But I also have an advantage which helps me when the combat heats up, and that is the knowledge of who wins. Before Jesus gave up His spirit on the cross, He declared, “It is finished.” (John 19:30) His death and resurrection brought about victory over death, the weapon of the enemy. “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” – 1 Cor. 15:57 NIV
I am thankful my father never had to engage in active battle during his naval career, but I am also proud that he would have done so readily if needed. He was trained, equipped, and fighting fit, ready to defend his country with his life. There is something for me to learn from him, about doing spiritual warfare “by virtue and valour”. It is by Christ’s virtue and Christ’s valour, not my own. I just need to be a willing volunteer.
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