On February 19, 1945 at 08:59 a.m., the first wave of Marines landed on the beaches of Iwo Jima. Although the marines expected stiff resistance, they found the beaches deserted. Ahead lay 15-foot-high slopes of soft black volcanic ash. The ease with which the Marines came ashore gave them hope and a false sense of relief that things would be easier than expected. It wasn’t until later, after the third wave arrived and Marines packed the beach, that the enemy attacked.
In many ways the modern church is facing their Iwo Jima moment. Many have enlisted to serve Jesus and call him Lord. We’ve promise to serve him, follow him, and trust in him with our life. But we don’t really expect the enemy to attack. Sure, we might encounter some difficulties, but nothing that will cost us our soul. The soft ash on the church beach leaves sand in our shoes and perhaps even a smile on our face.
But we’ve failed to consider the lengths to which the enemy will go to defend his home, this earth. (Revelation 12:12).
Lieutenant General Tadamichi Kuribayashi knew that Japan could not win the battle on Iwo Jima, but he hoped to inflict as many casualties as possible so the allies would reconsider carrying out their invasion of Japan’s Home Islands.
On Kuribayashi orders, the enemy created an extensive maze of tunnels that connected bunkers and pillboxes. The Nano Bunker which lay east of Airfield Number 2, had enough food, water, and ammunition for the Japanese to hold out for three months. The bunker was 90 feet deep and had tunnels running in various directions. Approximately five hundred 55-gallon drums filled with water, kerosene, and fuel oil for generators were inside the complex. Gasoline-powered generators allowed for radios and lighting to be operated underground.
Our enemy also has an extensive infrastructure in place. For years he has trained spies in seminaries to infiltrate our ranks. His soldiers have built a maze of tunnels which connect outposts that can take out believers. Often these tunnels run under and around churches with access points that can quickly be filled when one of their own, falls. Many times, due to camouflage, we can’t even tell that the movements within the body are directed by the enemy. Our enemy anticipates positions to be bombarded and pulpits cleaned out, but with his series of tunnels he can quickly reoccupy each pulpit, each committee chair with fresh troops.
All the while those brave souls on the beach, lounging on pews, anticipate an easy victory.
Shortly after 10:00 a.m. on February 19, 1945, sporadic machine-gun fire began to quickly intensify. Bullets, first over the heads of the Marines, gradually began to find their targets. Unable to stand or kneel, the men on the beach scooped out ash-sand as if digging their own grave
Mortars and heavy artillery began to rain down on the crowded beach, quickly turning the wide band of dark shoreline into a surreal image of machine and men being blown into the air. Shells screeched, then crashed, carving out large divots where men lay moments before. As men sought to run for cover in the soft-ash sand, land mines exploded underfoot, sending body parts skyward. Desperate, scrambling soldiers crumpled and fell.
What had seemed so easy an hour earlier now became a living hell. Despite careful planning, the high command had failed to account for the ferocity of an enemy defending their home.
Rather than fight us on the beachhead, our enemy allows us to wade into a church with seeming ease. Once lulled into complacency and thinking the battle won, he attacks with truth wrapped in a lie, our good intentions twisted into shrapnel that spares the body but damns the soul.
The Marines on Iwo Jima eventually captured the island but because they did not anticipate the underground infrastructure of the enemy, they paid a heavy price.
Satan knows his time is short. He knows the victory belongs to Jesus. And before he’s swept away by a word from the Word, the Truth, the Life and Light of men, he wants to take as many souls with him to hell as he can. It is time we stop looking for the enemy on the landscape and begin to anticipate that he might be beneath us in a tunnel, beside us in a rock, behind us in a cave.
This is our Operation Detachment—our time to expel the enemy before he can take out more of our brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, family, friends, and neighbors.
If walking with Jesus is too easy: be warned. The enemy may have his sights on you.