Towards the end of last year I caught part of a Radio programme discussing a statement made by the Whitehouse about the war in Iraq: The tactics have changed, but the goal and strategy remains the same. There was some debate on the programme as to what this statement actually meant and the subtle differences between these three words.
This is not a political blog, and I don't want to get drawn into what I think about George W. Bush or the war in Iraq, but this phrase did get me thinking about these three key elements to any military success.
Goal: The purpose toward which an endeavour is directed; an objective.
Strategy: A plan of action intended to accomplish a specific goal.
Tactics: The ordered arrangement and manoeuvre of units in relation to each other and/or to the enemy in order to use their full potential.
In general then, in the military sphere, a goal is decided upon by the political powers that be; the Generals with the overall picture and military skill determine the strategy; and the commanders on the ground employ the tactics they have learned and trained to get the job done. The strategy must be subordinate to the goal, and the tactics subordinate to the strategy, but all three are needed if a military campaign is to be a success.
This three-fold source of direction for the soldier on the ground got me thinking about our three-fold source of direction in our spiritual life as Christians: The Word of God, the voice of the Spirit, and our own sanctified wisdom and experience.
The Word of God, lays out every goal for our spiritual life, completely and sufficiently. There is nothing more that we need to know the eternal plan of God for our world or the part that we are to play in it. It is vital for us as Christians that we know our goals. The purpose for which God took hold of us. We gain this by studying God's eternal and sufficient word as recorded in the Scriptures.
The voice of the Spirit, that comes through prophecy, tongue and interpretation, word of knowledge, and the visions, dreams and promptings we receive from him, are like the radio communications from our General. They will always be subordinate to the Word of God; indeed that is our most effective way of testing them. The Spirit will never contradict the eternal word that he inspired. He is totally committed to achieving the ultimate purpose of God revealed in them. We vitally need these strategies if we are to succeed. They make sure we are doing the right thing at the right time, engaged in fruitful and not futile activities.
The man of God is also trained for righteousness. We are transformed by the renewing of our minds. We are given the mind of Christ. God gives us wisdom where we lack it. All of these things allow us, like good soldiers, to get on with the job we have been trained to do, without needing direction from a General to be told how to hold a gun or march from one location to another. We don't need to hear a voice from above to read our Bibles, pray, witness to our friends, bless our neighbours, give generously to those in need, abstain from sin, or fellowship regularly with other believers; all these things should be ingrained "tactics" that are part of our daily lives. However it is important that these tactics be subordinate to and directed towards both the ultimate goals laid out in Scripture, and the strategies and seasons revealed by the Spirit.
A good example of these things in the Scriptures is Joshua. First and foremost he was told:
Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. (Joshua 1:7-8)
Yet when it came to the Gibeonites, he made a mistake because:
"[They] did not ask counsel from the Lord." (Joshua 9:14)
This was not because God's direction in his word was insufficient, but because Joshua's grasp of the situation was insufficient. It was also direct revelation from the Lord that gave Joshua the strategy with which to defeat Jericho.
Yet when it came to the battle of Ai (the second time), we see Joshua employing his own military tactics (laying an ambush) in order to secure the victory.
All three are needed, goal, strategy, tactics, to be successful.
I had an online interaction on another blog recently where it was suggested that all we need "these days" for success is our "goal" and our "tactics". The scriptures and our own sanctified understanding and wisdom. That we should go into battle with our radios switched off because God doesn't broadcast on that frequency anymore! How sad, and how foolish. The Scriptures are not insufficient, but our grasp of the big picture and our place in it certainly is. How we need, as much now as ever, the strategies of the Spirit if we are to succeed.