Most of the time, when we think of a sportsman or fighter, the image appears in our mind of a strong man who knows different fighting techniques, who can easily defend himself and everyone around him. We also imagine a victorious man who can overcome any obstacle that lies ahead. I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about it, but all of the above qualities belong to God in the first place. The Bible says: “The Lord is a warrior; The Lord is His name.” (Exodus 15:3 NASB)
I want us to look together at Deuteronomy 20, a chapter in the Bible that is inspired by the Lord, the mighty Warrior, and to learn from Him what the character and qualities of a true warrior must be. God is a fighter who has never known defeat. So let us learn from the Invincible, how He describes to us the character and qualities of a true fighter.
The fighter must not be afraid of his opponent
Looking at the history of the people of Israel, we see that they had many struggles until they conquered what God had promised them. Sportsmen fight in a championship, peoples fight to conquer, others fight to defend themselves, but we all fight. We, the children of God, are soldiers of the Lord Jesus, as Paul calls us in 2 Timothy 2:3, soldiers in the army of the Lord Jesus. The question is how do I fight to finally win? What character or qualities does God expect from me?
“When you go out to battle against your enemies and see horses and chariots and people more numerous than you, do not be afraid of them” (Deuteronomy 20:1 NASB)
One of the principles that every sportsman must learn is not to be afraid of his opponent, even when he seems to be stronger. The Bible says, “When you see horses and chariots and people more numerous than you, do not be afraid of them.” Horses, chariots and many people in fact demonstrate how strong the opponent’s army is. However, no matter how strong the adversary may have been, God says, “Do not be afraid.” The quality of a fighter is that he never lets himself be frightened by his opponent, who seems to be stronger than him.
The fighter listens and receives motivation from his teacher
There are very rare cases when someone has become a good sportsman without having a teacher. A wise sportsman will understand that without a teacher who can teach, motivate and encourage him, he cannot achieve much. In Deuteronomy 20:2-3 we find the following words:
“When you are approaching the battle, the priest shall come near and speak to the people. He shall say to them, ‘Hear, O Israel, you are approaching the battle against your enemies today. Do not be fainthearted. Do not be afraid, or panic, or tremble before them.” (NASB)
If we look closely at the time expression in verse 2, we see that the Priest was to come “near the battle” and speak to the people. Why not a few months before the fight or a few days after the fight but at the approach of the fight? Because then, as the fight approaches, the sportsman or fighter faces the biggest battle, namely the battle in his mind. The fight, before it occurs physically, will occur psychologically and emotionally in the mind of the fighter. If the fighter does not learn to win the fight in his mind, then he will not be able to win it physically. Just as this fierce struggle is taking place in the mind of the fighter, God says “the priest shall come near and speak to the people.” How beautifully God has arranged them all, and how well He knows us! He knows exactly why and when we need it. The priest’s duty at this time was very important. As important as the priest or “officers” (v. 5) were to the people of Israel, it is just as important for a sportsman to have a teacher, a leader who encourages him to never give up in battle. The teacher’s duty is to talk to him, the sportsman’s duty is to listen and do exactly according to the instructions received.
The fighter foresees the psychological knockout
When the priest had to come and speak to the people, he first told them 4 basic things, namely:
“Do not be fainthearted. Do not be afraid, or panic, or tremble before them” (Deuteronomy 20:3 NASB)
There is an order in this verse, namely, first of all, “Do not be fainthearted.” In the Russian Bible it says “do not weaken your heart” or in other translations “be shy” or “do not soften, do not make your heart soft.” After that he says: “do not be afraid” and then he says “don’t panic and don’t tremble before them.” Understanding all this, we actually perceive the deep meaning of these 4 warnings. If we do not notice them, whoever we are, we are in danger of a psychological knockout, of a mental paralysis. So what’s the connection between them? If you let your heart be troubled or, according to some English translations, let it be intimidated, fear will come after it (2nd warning). If you let fear come into your heart, then the third warning is “panic”. You will start to panic so that, panicking, you already see yourself “terrified,” trembling before your opponent.
A good fighter will understand these four key warnings and will never let himself be intimidated by his opponent, he will not let fear defeat him, but he will overcome fear, then it will protect him from panic and horror in front of his opponent.
You will say, “I want to be brave, but I can’t, I don’t know how, I’ve always been a fearful person, what can I do in this case?” Read the following quality assigned to a fighter and you will learn how to overcome fear.
The true fighter will overcome fear
Brave is not the one who says he is not afraid, but the one who can overcome his fear. From this chapter we can learn how to drive away or overcome fear, namely:
- Seek to know God as closely as possible. Seek to know Him from the experiences of your life. And if you have any life experience in which the Lord has given you help and delivered you, then do not forget, but always remember Him and encourage yourself through Him. Here in this verse it says, “the Lord your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt, is with you.” (Deuteronomy 20:1b) God didn’t just tell them that He will be with them but also: “The Lord your God who brought you up from the land of Egypt” to remind them once more and not to forget what God had done for them in the land of Egypt, and that the great God who had done great things in Egypt was still with them today. So never forget what the Lord has done for you. If you do not have such experiences, the Bible, which is God’s inspired Word, is full of events where God miraculously acted for His people, events that you can take as encouragement. As a fighter in sports wrestling, call on God before any fight, so that He will guide you step by step and He will be the One to give you the victory. Any victory will be an accumulated experience, which you must not forget, but make it a stone of remembrance in your mind, which will remind you of what God has done for you.
- This whole verse teaches us to trust in God’s promise. Believe what God has promised when He tells you that “He is with you.” Believe that He is faithful as He says, believe that He can do more than you can ask or think, just believe! Believe God’s promise when He says He will go with you to battle (v. 4). Interestingly, He does not say, “I will be with you,” but says, “The Lord your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt, is with you.” He is now and will always be, He is going now and He will always go with you in the fight, either a sporting fight or in the fight of the Gospel to which we have all been called to go. As a fighter, believe in God’s promise that He has promised to be with you and go with you, and then you will be able to overcome any fear.
- Another principle of always keeping yourself encouraged and motivated, so that fear does not enter your heart, is in v.9, namely: look at your leaders, who stand in front of you, who follow in the footsteps of the Lord Jesus and who lead their lives according to the Word of God. Look at your leaders, who not only talk about courage, but they themselves are a model of courage in deeds and words and looking at them, cheer up. Do not look at examples of cowards, seek to make brave friends and do not build relationships with cowards, so that you do not become one like them.
May God bless us all to be true fighters, first and foremost in the gospel battle and then in any other battle to which we are called!
Translated by Olya Trikolich