I wore flip flops and shorts to church last Sunday, something I haven’t done since leading youth retreats back in college. Judy and I attended church at the beach, a small, enthusiastic congregation formed some 20 years ago to offer a witness to the beach crowd that descends on Navarre every vacation season.
I was impressed with their friendliness, and their sense of community. Most resort churches operate on the basis of offering attendees a brief vespers experience that they can work into an otherwise busy vacation schedule. But this group is serious about doing much more. Their heart is to form a true community so that attendees who need deeper connections can find their place within the fellowship they have forged.
The music was contemporary in style, led by the pastor and his wife. The pastor had a Jimmy Buffet quality about him, which seemed perfectly suited for his ministry context. I had to chuckle to myself when as he played the first chords to the popular chorus, “Trading My Sorrows,” he muttered an introductory comment about Pat Benatar. Sure enough, the opening bars could have just as easily led into “Hit Me with Your Best Shot” than “Trading My Sorrows.” What the pastor probably never realized is how that 80’s song would end up unconsciously framing the theme of that day’s ninety minute worship experience.
The pastor’s Memorial Day weekend sermon was based on the “good soldier” text in 2 Timothy 2. Because Navarre is a military community, most of the message centered on the prevalence of demonic powers in this world that seek to frustrate believers’ efforts to serve the cause of Jesus. But because the God we serve is greater than the aforementioned powers, our spiritual authority in Christ enables us to make whatever sacrifices are necessary to advance his cause and defeat them at every turn.
The pastor’s best illustration was of a former witch who was converted during the famous Brownsville Revival in nearby Pensacola. In her conversion testimony she recalled how every committed Christian she would encounter in her old way of life always had an “aura of authority” about them that would always scare her away.
My takeaway from the service was that we Jesus-followers most definitely have a level of authority that we too often fail to claim. In Christ we are more powerful than we realize, perhaps because we are almost afraid to weld what has come to us through our faith in him. But when we dare to employ the full measure of the resources that God has made possible, we can live confidently and securely knowing that Satan can “hit us with his best shot” and never succeed, not even in the least.
By chance that spiritual authority may steel your soul as you go out into a world that doesn’t have your best interests at heart. As Jesus said, you can go into that gnarly world “in good cheer” as you know that he has overcome the world, and through the power of his Spirit living in you, the best news of all is that come what may, so can you.
“You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus…. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him” (2 Timothy 2:1, 3-4).