In my last article I talked about our adversary, the Devil and how he walks around, like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. We also noted in Peter’s warning (1 Peter 5:8-9) that we are not alone in this conflict … all believers are under the attack of the evil one. Is it any wonder there are so many wounded soldiers on the battlefield! It is my concern that all to often our churches turn their backs on wounded warriors and leave them to die of their injuries! Perhaps it is because we feel uncomfortable at the sight of blood (spiritually speaking) or perhaps we are of the opinion that God must be punishing the fallen fighter for some hidden sin known only to him. It amazes me how critical some well meaning Christians can become at the sight of a fellow believer who has been hurt in the battle! I’ve had some of those flaming arrows aimed at me when I was most in the need for comfort and consolation; a gentle hand and a tender word to enhance the healing process.
But make no mistake about it … you will be wounded in this Epic battle to which we have been called. Of course, the level of conflict you engage may alter the intensity of the wounds you receive but that’s no reason to hold back. You have a weapon (The Sword of the Lord) and you have a shield (The Shield of Faith). You are equipped with everything you need to engage the enemy in hand to hand combat (Ephesians 6:10-20). And the protective gear provided for you is all for defense of the front of the body. No provision is made for a retreat. As soldiers of the Cross we are expected to be on the offense. “Upon this rock I will build my church;” said Jesus, “and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18) The implication by the Captain of our Salvation is that the Gates of Hell will not be able to withstand the attacks of God’s people powered by His Spirit.
But unfortunately, not everyone who wears the uniform of Christ wants to take their place in the battle! There is a place in line assigned to you and if you choose not to fight … if you are AWOL from your allocated point of duty, there is no one allotted to take your place! And what do you suppose that does for the person standing next to your empty spot?
William Gurnall, in his classic writings The Christian in Full Armor, enlarges upon this great truth.
Persisting to the end will be the burr under your saddle – the thorn in your flesh – when the road ahead seems endless and your soul begs an early discharge. It weighs down every other difficulty of your calling. We have known many who have joined the army of Christ and like being a soldier for a battle or two, but have soon had enough and ended up deserting. They impulsively enlist for Christian duties … and are just as easily persuaded to lay it down. Like the new moon, they shine a little in the first part of the evening, but go down before the night is over.
“Be strong and courageous,” the Lord said to Joshua,“the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” G. K. Chesterton aptly said,
” Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die. “He that will lose his life, the same shall save it,” is not a piece of mysticism for saints and heroes. It is a piece of everyday advice for sailors or mountaineers. It might be printed in an Alpine guide or a drill book. The paradox is the whole principle of courage; even of quite earthly or quite brutal courage. A man cut off by the sea may save his life if he will risk it on the precipice. He can only get away from death by continually stepping within an inch of it. A soldier surrounded by enemies, if he is to cut his way out, needs to combine a strong desire for living with a strange carelessness about dying. He must not merely cling to life, for then he would be a coward, and will not escape. He must not merely wait for death, for then he will be a suicide, and will not escape. He must seek his life in a spirit of furious indifference to it; he must desire life like water and yet drink death like wine.”
I love the words of William Wallace when he rode in with face painted blue and challenged the men who would do battle with the forces of Edward the Longshanks at the Battle of Sterling; “All men die, few men ever really live.”
Or consider the words of Henry V at Agincourt as he was about to lead his men into battle,
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother …
And gentlemen in England, now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here;
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us.
You will receive wounds! There’s no way around it! We are in a war with the forces of evil and the battles are real! Take pride in the wounds you have taken in the Cause of Christ. Wear them with honor for you have earned them. King Henry V encouraged his men,
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian …
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say, “These wounds I had on Crispin’s day.”
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day, then shall our names …
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember’d.
Our Lord Jesus made a comment that has caused a great deal of controversy. Imagine that, Jesus saying something to stir up a storm! I have asked many people what they thought he meant by this statement and the response is usually one of perplexity. “The kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force.” Matthew 11:12
John Bunyan, in his classic work Pilgrim’s Progress, visualizes this perfectly.
Then the interpreter took [Christian] and led him up toward the door of the palace, and behold, at the door stood a great company of men, as desirous to go in, but [dared] not. There also sat a man at a little distance from the door, at the tableside, with a book and his inkhorn before him, to take the names of them that should enter therein; he saw also that in the doorway stood many men in armor to keep it, being resolved to do the men that would enter what hurt and mischief they could. Now was Christian somewhat in amaze. At last, when every man [fell] back for fear of the armed men, Christian saw a man of very stout countenance come up to the man that sat there to write, saying, “Set down my name, sir,” the which when he had done, he saw the man draw his sword, and put a helmet upon his head, and rush toward the door upon the armed men, who laid upon him with deadly force; but the man, not at all discouraged, fell to cutting and hacking most fiercely. So after he had received and given many wounds to those that attempted to keep him out, he cut his way through them all, and pressed forward into the palace.