The book of James gives us some insights into the supply chains we must attend to for spiritual success.
In 2023, we are living in relatively the safest time in human history, yet men are more battle-torn and battle-worn than ever before. Why? Incessant change is exhausting, performance pressure is consuming, and the overwhelming desire for approval is suffocating. The result? We are continuously seeking relief and healthy supply-lines.
On June 25, 1950, a 135,000-man North Korean Army attacked South Korea. At the time, the North Koreans had more tanks in their army than the U.S. had in the entire Far East. Within four days Seoul, the South Korean capital, fell. That was also the day the American contingent went into combat and sustained the first of more than 103,000 casualties in the Korean War. The North Korean army was well-armed and well-trained. On July 7, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, the military governor of Occupied Japan, was ordered to assume command of all United forces fighting in Korea. By this time, North Korea had captured more than half of South Korea; however, the tenor of the war was changing. Gen. Walton Walker, commander of ground troops, had a strategy of trading territory for time. During the month of July, he had skillfully retreated toward the South Korean port of Pusan, what would later be known as the Pusan Perimeter. Please allow me to oversimplify their strategy in order to get to the point: As the American troops retreated toward their primary supply-line, Pusan, they stretched the North Korean’s supply-lines beyond their limit. As a result, the North Korean army became vulnerable. McArthur took full advantage of that vulnerability. He went behind the North Koreans to eliminate their supply-lines; he cut off their ammunition, food, fuel, medical supplies. and replacement troops. Meanwhile, the allied forces were being sufficiently cared for as they retreated to their primary supply-line at Pusan. This effective strategy eventually suffocated the North Korean army, forcing them to surrender.
Three things need to happen in a man’s life to maintain flourishing in the battle. One, we always need to cut supply lines which drain us from life and godliness. Second, we need to consistently retreat to supply lines which provide nourishment, support, and fuel. Third, we need to continually consider the most effective strategies for situations we face.
The first chapter of the Book of James offers Biblical wisdom on healthy, life-giving supply lines. Prior to James offering his wisdom on healthy supply-lines, he reminds readers that every person is tempted when lured and enticed by his own desires. James, certainly, is reminded of what Jesus said in Matthew 26.41, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation.” Note that Jesus draws the line at temptation rather than sin. Humanity has the tendency to walk right up to the line of sin - by that time, it’s hard not to give into our desire. Jesus says, cut sin’s supply-line at temptation. Therefore, may we be men who cut away any supply-lines that don’t bring glory to God!
As we continue to explore the rest of the first chapter of James, we see four principles that are worth absorbing into our life. These are supply-lines that bring us flourishing and vivacity…
The first is to surround yourself with wise counsel (v. 19-21). Two forms of counsel are implied here: The Body of Christ and the Word of God. He says, “Be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” Naturally that is some of the best wisdom men can heed. We all know that the multiplicity of words usually leads to the multiplicity of sin (Proverbs 10.19). Obviously, in verse 19, the picture is of a conversation. The implication is this: All of us need people to speak into our lives. Who have you given permission to speak into your life? I know shame and pride can make it hard for us to submit to others’ accountability or even maintain a teachable spirit, but Scripture indicates that submission to wise counsel is life-giving. It’s a supply-line that must be sourced. James goes on to make the point (v. 21) that when we “receive with meekness the implanted word,” it can save our souls. It can save our souls! Read that last sentence five times, emphasizing the individual words contained in the sentence. The Psalmist said, “Your word is my delight; they are my counselors.” The Word not only empowers us but gives us boundaries that bring flourishing to our life.
The second supply-line we’re encouraged to source is similar to the need for counsel. It is to be Word-saturated (v. 21-25). When we are Word-saturated, we become obedience-activated. In the battle, you and I both know how critical it is to be resourced with authority and power, and God’s Word is that weapon (Eph. 6.17). Think about it like this…Your practical perseverance is directly tied to your Biblical saturation. Essentially, if you want to thrive amid the hits of life, being saturated with God’s Word is indispensable.
Next, James emphasizes this: We can’t make our ritual worship a substitute for sacrificial service. Rather, sacrificial service authenticates true worship. So, here’s the supply-line…Serve people who can’t serve you in return. It’s easy to make worship fabulous within the church at the expense of neglecting worship outside the church. James isn’t saying that one shouldn’t have fabulous worship, but he notes that it is empty worship if there isn’t sacrificial service accompanying it.
Lastly, never fight alone! Note that James is writing to a community. And, like most of the New Testament letters, they are written to the local church community. Why? You cannot survive the battlefield in isolation. Victory in the battle will always be achieved in the context of Biblical community. One of God’s primary remedies for our repeated struggle in the battle is community. Consider this…
Separation + Exhaustion = Failure
Note that you’ll experience your worst temptation when you’re alone. You cannot fight alone!
If you’ve seen the movie 300, you know it depicts the Battle of Thermopylae and the ruthless, yet unified tactics of the Spartan Army. When the Spartans went to battle, it wasn’t like the gentlemanly way some battles were fought where opposing armies line-up and trade shots at one other. Rather, they would form up in ranks, press their shields into the backs of the men in front of them, and when the signal was given, run forward as a unit. This made them into a massive, human-battering ram, plowing through enemy lines which resulted in the Spartans being feared above all. As a unified force, most armies could not withstand them. Jesus created the church as a supply-line that gives you strength, as well as other men to fight the battle with…Never fight alone!