January 10, 2021
This past Thanksgiving, my son, John Paul, and his family were visiting us from their home in Lowell, Arkansas. We had a great time of fellowshipping and eating Sandra’s great cooking. During the day, John and I had a conversation that somehow made me think of one of my seminary class-mates from 35 years ago.
I told John about this man named Jim who was from West Texas and seemed to be obsessed on the subject of war. Jim was a great preacher and used many war-type analogies in his sermons.
During our first year, Jim and I were eating breakfast together in the dining room and as we were alone at the table, I asked Jim why he talked so much about war?
He said that he had had to drop out of school after the sixth grade to help his family by working on their farm at very hard manual labor. As soon as he turned seventeen he joined the Marines. Like so many back then, as soon as he finished boot camp he was sent to Vietnam for two years.
He was in combat often. One night he approached his captain and some other men in a tent discussing strategy for the following day’s mission in the jungle. He asked if he could sit nearby and just listen. They told him he could.
Jim told me as the men discussed a strategy that his captain brought up a strategy that he had read about in a book titled THE ART OF WAR by Sun Tzu.
Jim interrupted his story and asked me if I knew who Sun Tzu was? I said no, but that it sounded like a Chinese name to me.
He said you are right, he lived around the fifth or sixth century A.D. and was excellent in all manner of war and had been in demand to be general several times in his life. Jim said Sun Tzu had also collected many stories and strategies about war dating back to B.C.
Jim asked his captain if he could borrow the book and read it one night as it was a short paperback version? His captain did let him borrow the book and he said he read it straight through in about three hours. Jim said his captain had the book marked at many places in either red ink or green ink.
Finally, Jim told me he was amazed by the book and when he left the Marines, he bought a book for himself.
Then he told me a real shocker (but shouldn’t have been). He told me he used the same strategies that the book taught about war to use against our enemy, the devil. He asked me, doesn’t the Bible teach us that we wrestle not just against flesh and blood but also against spiritual wickedness in high places?
I answered yes. Then doesn’t the Bible also teach us to put on the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit? Again I answered yes. Then he got to his main point. He said the Bible itself taught us how to use all the strategies of war that I read about in Sun Tzu’s book.
Jim said the enemy is all around us and has been since the birth of humanity. He said that too often wolves come among us dressed in sheep’s clothing. And then he said that also the devil may appear as an angel of light.
It was a learning experience for me discussing the book and how Jim used the content of the book in his preaching.
The following year Jim won an award in the conference he was pastoring in for the fastest-growing small membership church in his district.
One of my Christmas gifts from Sandra for 2020 was a nice gift card from Barnes and Noble. I ordered the book THE ART OF WAR by Sun Tzu. I was amazed by it, as Jim was, and read it through in two sittings. It does teach about bloody war and conquering enemy nations, but it also teaches the best strategy of all is to avoid war altogether if possible.
Sun Tzu wrote the book in 13 chapters. You can buy the book in a longer version where the commentator explains the many different points of the book mainly written with numbers by each strategy.
I want to write a few of the things in this book as they are found in chronological order:
- In war, then, let your great object be victory, not lengthy campaigns.
- Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence: supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting. (Avoid war, in my opinion. Remember the Bible tells that sometimes it’s better to use ambassadors instead of going to war? And remember the Geneva Convention of July 1929 which states how to treat prisioners.)
- Hence the saying: If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle. (Remember the engraving in stone entrance going into Apollo’s temple in Delphi, Greece? It says KNOW THYSELF.)
- Do not swallow bait offered by the enemy. (I have admonished many times in my ministry that the devil will give you 99 good apples to slip in 1 bad apple.)
I have also discovered that the contents of this book have been extrapolated to other things other than war and ministry.
Many great businessmen have been very successful by using the strategies of this book.
I read one such book many years ago that was a best-seller on many book lists. The author admitted that he referred to this book very often in his business strategies. I can’t tell you the author’s name as all the censorship we are having from so many sources may not let this post get published at all. But you can quickly look up the author’s name if you don’t know it. The title of the book is THE ART OF THE DEAL.
I won’t comment about the author further than to say he became a very wealthy man employing the strategies in this book.
Back to my friend, Jim. He told me that every non-Christian was our enemy as no telling what they may do if they do not know and employ the principles of Christianity. How many countries and civilizations have failed after kicking God out?
I don’t know who said it first that war was hell, but how true that statement is. War is all around us. How horrible it must have been that during our Civil War that often brother fought against brother due to different beliefs.
And how about even today in so many families we see war when children won’t obey their parents and go to Church with them to learn about our Savior? Yes, That’s war too.
I could go on and on about this topic, but I’m sure you understand that America, and indeed the whole world, is at war.
I do hope you enjoyed this post. If you did, please share.
God Bless You,
Spencer and Sandra Plumley