The most effective way to pursue the beaten enemy in physical war is to hit him from his unprotected flanks. If a direct pursuit is carried out, the victors run into the deadly sting of the rear guard and into many roadblocks and blown bridges, and so the retreating enemy gets away. To avoid these, the victors should travel a parallel path, outrun, and intercept the retreating enemy. To continue direct pursuit after the battle is won is to lose the retreating enemy. In order to effect an interception in the pursuit, mobility is needed. If immediate pursuit is undertaken, as many more captives as were taken in the battle can be secured.
Prior to the Megiddo battle in September 1918, Allenby promised his cavalry thirty thousand prisoners of war. His staff thought he was presumptuous. In reality he ended with fifty thousand prisoners, having reduced the Turkish Seventh and Eighth armies to a few columns.
Let us consider the “how” of spiritual pursuit. First, we must be convinced that many people are ready to receive Christ and will receive him if they are cut off and confronted with their sin and the Savior. When a man begins to run away, he is ready to be captured. This does not mean that he will not put up a last desperate struggle or will not continue to run. Thus it is important to cut off his retreat.
To outrun fleeing, convicted sinners, God-directed mobility is required. As in Gideon’s case, it might take a small, well-disciplined, courageous group to make a breakthrough in the spiritual conflict for souls. Once the breakthrough has been made and many have received Christ, many others will be convicted of sin, righteousness, and judgment, and will begin to flee. Then we will need more than our hard core of trained men. We will need, like Gideon, all of the Christians who were not prepared for the battle but who are necessary in the pursuit. If we depend only on the core of Christians who seek to follow hard after Christ, we will win many battles, but there will be no complete rout. There will be successful evangelistic campaigns, but no awakening. If pursuit is practiced, every successful evangelistic campaign is a possible prelude to a general awakening.
If we study spiritual awakenings from Pentecost to the Welsh Revival of 1901 and the Korean revival of 1905, we notice the battle and the breakthrough centered around one man or a small group of men. This was only the start. After that, many Christians witnessed and testified of saving grace, and more people were converted. Christians got right with the Lord and entered the chase. The whole church was in the awakening. Evan Roberts was not responsible for the seventy thousand new Christians in Wales; he was only the leader. God’s revivals may start with God-picked people, but they continue only if every Christian, weak or strong, joins in the pursuit.
It is the responsibility of the leader not only to make the breakthrough in the battle with his picked men, but also to call in all of the reserves for the rout. Our greatest mobility is in the quantity of Christians who can testify of the saving grace of Jesus Christ. At that time, every Christian should testify to everyone he or she meets.
Another means of mobility in pursuit is literature distribution—booklets, tracts, books, and Scripture portions—all of them on the judgment and love of God. The literature may be offered without charge and distributed at meetings, through personal contact, or by direct mail. A corollary to this is use of the internet and/or apps to communicate the same information.
A third factor essential to effective pursuit is the manner and content of our appeal. In preaching Christ to the people just prior to the breakthrough, it is possible to be somewhat removed from one’s audience. But in pursuit, we must be clearly identified with the people. Let there be compassion and understanding in our approach.
Furthermore, an ultimatum should be used in our message, citing the judgment of God on the unrepentant. This is the only effective means that will cause a fleeing man to surrender to Christ. Judgment is the reality he cannot escape if he persists in fleeing from Christ, and therefore, it has great force in causing a fugitive to stop in his flight. Yet our warning should be given in love and joy.
The church in Thessalonica witnessed to their countrymen in the true sense of pursuit. True, they were not established Christians like those of Ephesus. They did not have two years of Bible school with Paul as the teacher. They had heard the gospel only three Sabbath days. Nevertheless, Paul writes to them a few weeks later: “For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak anything” (1 Thess. 1:8).
Will we follow their example? We must if we are to win!
*Excerpted from Principles of War. To purchase, visit ccmbooks.org/bookstore.