Living with a “Wartime Mentality”

A few years ago, while attending a pastors’ conference in Los Angeles, I had the opportunity to visit the “RMS Queen Mary.” For those of you unfamiliar with the Queen Mary, listen to how one author, Ralph Winter, describes it:    

“The Queen Mary, lying in response in the harbor at Long Beach, California, is a fascinating museum of the past. Used both as a luxury liner in peacetime and a troop transport during the Second World War, its present status as a museum the length of three football fields affords a stunning contrast between the lifestyles appropriate in peace and war. On one side of a partition you see the dining room reconstructed to depict the peacetime table setting that was appropriate to the wealthy patrons of high culture for whom a dazzling array of knives and forks and spoons held no mysteries. On the other side of the partition the evidences of wartime austerities are in sharp contrast. One metal tray with indentations replaces fifteen plates and saucers. Bunks, not just double but eight tiers high, explain why the peace-time complement of 3,000 gave way to 15,000 people on board in wartime. How repugnant to the peacetime masters this transformation must have been! To do it took a national emergency, of course. The survival of a nation depended on it. The essence of the Great Commission today is that the survival of many millions of people depends on its fulfillment.”

When you visit the Queen Mary, it is almost impossible to miss the contrast that Ralph Winter describes. During peacetime, comfort was the name of the game for the Queen Mary and her affluent guests. During wartime, efficiency was the name of the game. Yes, packing 16,683 people on one ship (a record that has never been broken) back in 1943 does not translate into passenger comfort, but everyone knew it was necessary. 

Over the last couple weeks, as the crisis in Ukraine has continued to unfold and escalate, it has become clear that wartime living is an entirely different ballgame. Millions of Ukrainian people have been forced to leave their homes and pursuing “comfort” is simply not an option. Their concern at this point is safety and survival. 

As a pastor, I am concerned that the Church in America has in many ways lost her way and abandoned her mission. Instead of having a “wartime mentality” where everyone knows what is at stake and rightly pursues the cause, the Church has operated more like a cruise ship where the comfort and pleasure of her guests is the chief mission. 

The church would do well to heed the words of the apostle Paul. “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16). 

Consider the following: 

-Why isn’t there more of an urgency to reach the lost with the gospel of Jesus Christ (Romans 1:16-17)? 

-Why isn’t there more of a focus on holy living in the midst of these evil days (Hebrews 12:14, 1 Peter 1:16)? 

-Where is the fear of God among Christian’s (Hebrews 10:31)? 

-Why are we not more invested in making disciples and building up the Body of Christ (Matthew 28:19, Ephesians 4:12)? 

-Why isn’t there more urgency to provide care for “the least of these” (Matthew 25:40)?  

I am quite certain that over the past two years, the vast majority of us have lost someone close to us to Covid or some other illness. This earthly life is short (Psalm 90:10). None of us knows what tomorrow holds (Matthew 6:34) and there is a great need for wisdom and discernment in how we live our lives. 

When the Ukrainian refugees left their homes, they all knew they could not take all their possessions with them. They knew their future was uncertain and they would have to travel light. As Christians, sometimes we forget that this world is not our home (Philippians 3:20). We are journeying to a much better place (Hebrews 13:16). The last thing we want to do is get bogged down with the cares of this world and forget what really matters. 

One of the blessings of wartime living is that trivial things start to fade away. Suddenly, the question of “who won the game last night?” doesn’t seem so important. Our hobbies and favorite pastimes start to fade in favor of things that actually matter. 

The people of God need to wake up! There is a spiritual battle raging all around us. Countless souls needed to be rescued from their sin. The true people of God know well that there is NO salvation outside of the gospel of Jesus Christ (John 14:6, Acts 4:12, 1 Timothy 2:5).  

Right now, there is a massive effort to help people and save lives over in Europe. I praise God that Christian’s are on the frontlines of that work and that many are, in fact, being saved. But in the same way, the Church needs to get serious about fulfilling the Great Commission and saving souls from eternal damnation (John 3:16-19, Romans 2:6-11). The fact is, we should be more concerned about the eternal comfort of men and women than their present and temporal comfort. 

My prayer is that there would be an awakening among the people of God. We all know that there should be an urgency in our step and a deep sense of mission and purpose to our lives. The Church needs to awaken from her slumber and do the bidding God has called us to do. This is no moment for “peacetime living.” Rather, we must be gripped with the greatness of God and do everything in our power to spread the gospel of His Son (Mark 1:15). 

“Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?” Psalm 85:6     

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