What images does that phrase stir up in your mind? Maybe you picture armed troops moving into position on a battlefield. Or perhaps it brings up scenes of fighter jets flying into formation for a dogfight. Or you might envision leaders of nations announcing their intention to go to war against another power—much like Franklin D. Roosevelt did after the attack on Pearl Harbor, when he said to the American people:
Yesterday, December 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan…Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory, and our interests are in grave danger. With confidence in our armed forces—with the unbounding determination of our people—we will gain the inevitable triumph—so help us God.
Today, whether you realize it or not, you are also at war. Hostilities exist between you and your adversary. I have no doubt in my own life that the devil sends his demons to mess with me. But beyond this, I also know that I cause more than enough problems to keep myself occupied. I am my biggest enemy, and I desperately want and need to get out of my own way.
I am guessing that you can relate. I imagine that you, like me, have encountered struggles with your thoughts…or with your words…or with your actions. Left unchecked, these struggles will break you down—day by day—and fill your life with pain and suffering.
I was recently reminded of this truth while watching a segment on a news program about the Millennium Tower in San Francisco. Constructed in the early 2000s at a cost of $350 million, and standing at a height of 645 feet, its 58 stories boast every amenity possible to attract the tech moguls and venture capitalists of Silicon Valley. There is only one problem…and it is a major one: the building is sinking.
So far, it has sunk by seventeen inches, and it is tilting fourteen inches to the northwest. Slowly but surely, it is being swallowed up by the earth at the rate of one-and-a-half to two inches per year. The reason? Engineers failed to anchor the foundation in bedrock. The entire structure is built on concrete friction piles embedded eighty feet down into sand. But to get to the more secure layer of bedrock, workers would have had to have gone down to 200 feet.
The moral of the story? If you want to go up high and withstand the stresses of this modern life, you need to build your foundation on something solid. This is exactly what Jesus said in one of his more famous parables:
These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit—but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock. But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards (Matthew 7:24–27 msg).
To be fair, our lives often sway more than the Millennium Tower. We aren’t confident in who we are, so we hide behind masks. We embrace wrong thoughts that lead to hurtful words, which then lead to actions we wish we could undo. We’re wobbly from bad decisions. Worse, we’re sinking. The answer to such a crisis isn’t a new paint job. It’s a new foundation.
Today, you need to get serious about your thoughts, words, and actions that are keeping you down. You need to name those behaviors and declare war against them if you want to overcome them. And just as in the card game War—which you probably played with your friends as a kid—your victory will be determined by laying down the right cards.
You have an enemy who wants to keep you locked into the same patterns of negative and destructive behaviors. There is no blinking at the fact that you, your territory, and your interests are in grave danger from his attacks. Your only recourse is to declare war against him and all that is holding you back—on all the darkness, the demons, the anxieties, the narcissism, the selfishness, and all your self-sabotaging ways.
It is time to rise up and fight for what matters most—winning the war within yourself.