Soldiers


We have already pointed out that life was not intended for us merely to have a good time, to seek pleasure and to enjoy ourselves. It is a time for building Christian character and for accomplishing things. Some people think a Christian ought to have no trouble, no conflict,, no difficulties. Some who become Christians expect to have a joyful, easy, satisfying time as Christians. There is joy in becoming a Christian. There is much inner satisfaction. There is peace, rest, victory. But the Christian life has another side. The young Christian who starts out joyfully with God's blessing upon him finds sooner or later that life will challenge him. It will take strength, courage, and determination to meet its many problems and difficulties and to conquer its enemies.

  It has been said, "When we are converted we mount up with wings as eagles, then we run and are not weary, and later we must learn to walk and not faint."

  We are in the midst of a great conflict. The hosts of good and evil are in deadly combat. The sound of this battle comes to our ears from every direction. Whether we will or not we are in this conflict upon one side or the other. It was said that on the battlefields of France the larks would sometimes fly up into the heavens and sing even amidst the roar of battle. Likewise the Christian  can ascend to the heights of God and sing even in this world of conflict. His song need not be quenched; his spirit need not be broken. He is in this battle and he cannot help himself; so he should be worthy soldier.

  It is impossible that we be neutral. Jesus said, "He that is not for me is against me." The weight of our influence, the result of our actions, the force of our example, are on one side or the other. We must "show our colors." The cry that echoed in the camp of Israel still echoes in the world, "Who is on the Lord's side?"' Those who really are on one side yet pretend to be upon the other are hypocrites. There is a line of clear distinction, in life, spirit, and character between a true Christian and a sinner no matter how moral that sinner may be. That distinction is always clear to the eyes of God. Sometimes it may be obscured to the world but the distinction is real just the same. We are on Christ's side and with him against all evil, or we are against him.

  There are some who desire to be secret Christians. In my youth I was very timid. I desired to be a Christian, yet I feared to say anything about it; so I thought I would be a Christian in my own heart and take no part in the public worship of God. This was an unsatisfactory life, but I counted myself a Christian. Later when I was brought face to face with the facts I found that I was not a Christian at all. When I truly became a Christian through the saving grace of God I was ready immediately to identify myself with the Christians of my community. I was no longer ashamed to be called a Christian.

  Jesus said that if we be ashamed of him before men he shall be ashamed of us before his Father and the holy angels. A truly loyal Christian does not want anyone to think he is on the world's side. In our Civil War it was a great offense to question the loyalty of an individual. This was also true in the World War. I remember a fine Christian woman saying years ago publicly, "I do not want anyone to mistake me for a sinner." That is the spirit that ought to animate us all and that will animate us if we are vigorous, courageous Christians.

  Paul speaks of the conflict being waged: "For we wrestly not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places" (Eph. 6:12). The forces of evil beset every Christian. They are animated by an intense hatred of God. They cannot attack God directly; therefore they attack his children. There is a devil in the world. Verse 11 says, "Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil." According to this text we shall be able to stand against him no matter if he may have power and use it in a wily way. One thing is sure—if we put on the armor of God and boldly face our foes the outcome of the fight will be victory for us.

  Many people fear the devil. The Bible does not say to fear him. It says, "Fear not." Many people have wrong ideas of the devil. They imagine he is almost if not quite as powerful as God. They imagine that he is everywhere at the same time. In other words, that he is infinite and omnipresent. He is finite; therefore like all other finite personalities—very limited in his powers. There are many evil angels—how many we do not know —but they also are finite creatures, evil, yet limited. Many people lose sight of the fact made plain in the Scriptures that tho the evil angels work against us and try to destroy us "the angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him" to protect and keep them.

  The conflict is real, not only with the powers of Satan but with the evil influences that come from the unsaved people about us. We cannot but be influenced by these; therefore we must stand steadfast against them and overcome them.

  Then, too, there are those things within ourselves that we must fight. Paul said, "I keep under my body and bring it into subjection." No matter how good Christians we become we shall find within ourselves some troublesome things that will give us occasion to exercise our strength and courage. Full salvation takes all sin out of us but it does leave our disposition, our physical desires, and the desires of the mind, to be brought into subjection and governed. All these things make life a battle. But it may be a winning, not a losing battle, all along the line of life. It will be a battle of victory if we do our part.

  It is not God's will that a Christian be on the defensive all the time. He should not be cornered fighting for his life. He should wage aggressive warfare against his many foes. God gives us offensive and defensive weapons sufficient that when we use them properly we need fear no foe. "The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds" (II Cor. 10: 4). We do not use natural weapons but since our foes are spiritual foes we fight them with spiritual weapons. The "sword of the Spirit," we are told, is the Word of God. Jesus used it triumphantly against Satan in the time of Jesus' temptation. It will often serve us to put our enemies to flight Sometimes we can quote Scriptures as Jesus did. At other times we can use them as bulwarks of faith. We can anchor our faith in them.

  Our mightiest weapon of all is faith. We are to "fight the good fight of faith" (I Tim. 6:12). Paul fought a victorious fight all through life and when nearing the end he said, "I have fought a good fight" (II Tim. 4: 7). The writer of the Hebrew epistle has something to say about this warfare. He calls to remembrance "the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions, partly, whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of those that were so used" (Heb. 10: 32-33). Paul told Timothy to "endure hardness as a good soldier."

  The life of a soldier in many respects is a hard life. Likewise the life of a Christian has its hard elements in things to be endured, things that will try courage and endurance. But what are we—dress parade soldiers or real soldiers? What are we—courageous Christians or cowards? What are we—people of spirit and vigorous manhood, or do we dwell in the caves of fear? No, we shall "quit ourselves like men." We shall be good soldiers of Christ Jesus.

  But this fight is a fight of faith. It is through faith we conquer. Faith gives confidence. We must believe that we shall win. General Marion said of his men in the Revolution, "If I saw my men sitting up on their horses straight, with their heads up and with their eyes flashing, I knew I could attack a greatly superior force with certainty of success." Gideon's three hundred are examples of what all God's people should be. "Confidence is half of conquest, but only the first half." We must have confidence that we shall win; then we must do the things that bring victory. We must fight man. fully. This we can do, and doing it we shall win.

  A soldier's life does not consist altogether in fighting. Battles are fought only at intervals. There are things to be endured by a soldier besides the perils of battle. When Garibaldi led his troops to fight for the freedom of Italy he stood before them and said, "I will give you hunger, wounds, death, but Italy shall be free." They followed him enthusiastically and won. If we have the love that endureth all things we shall not be deterred by the comparatively few hardships of the Christian life. We shall have the courage to meet them and to go through them.

  Before a soldier is ready for battle he must be drilled. He must be taught to cooperate with others. So God puts us through the drilling process in life. Soldiers often get tired of their drills, nevertheless they must keep them up if they would be good soldiers. So the Christian must have the drill of the daily repetition of the little troublesome things of life. He must go through the various processes of becoming a soldier, and these drills must be kept up continually through life.

  Sometimes in our Christian life we seem to be making DO progress. We mark time. At other times we find it necessary to go upon the doublequick. We then realize we are making real progress. But running is often no more important than marking time. So whichever we are doing let us be content to obey our Commander.

  Soldiers are often kept in garrisons. Frequently it is as important to hold some position without fighting as to be at the battlefront. Garrison duty often becomes irksome. In like manner there are irksome things in the Christian life. There is the daily recurrence of the same duties; things must be repeated over and over. Perhaps we cannot always enter into these things with zest, but it is just as much a test of our loyalty and our soldierly qualities to do well the uninteresting things of life, the things that come again and again, the things we weary of, as to do those that interest us most.

  Again, soldiers are often held in reserve. The battle is raging in front of them. They are doing nothing. Sometimes it is harder to be held in reserve than it is to fight. There are times when God lets us be in reserve. For a time at least we are inactive. We may not understand why. We may think we are useless; but not so. God is only waiting for the time when he can use us effectually. He is only waiting until he needs us for some definite thing.

  It is important that we have soldierly qualities. The demand of a soldier's life is for the manifestation of the sterner side of his nature. The coward may make a pretty good soldier until he faces the enemy. Only the man of courage faces unfalteringly what may come. Therefore we have need of courage. The old song says.

"Sure I must fight if I would win,
Increase my courage Lord."

  Well, the Lord is ready to do that if we take the right course. How can we be courageous, even tho we ma, not feel courageous? Marshal Foch said, "Don't stop to have any fear, but when you are sure that you are right approach the issue with confidence and fight and fight on until victory." Marshal Foch won enough victories to know how it is done. If we follow his advice our victories will be won and we shall know no defeat.

  Good soldiers do their part everywhere. They are not merely good soldiers when no enemies are in sight. They are ready, obedient, confident. Of one thing we can always be sure—we have a good General. We need fear no foe when we follow him. We need fear nothing but that we may not properly follow him. He requires nothing more than he ought to require. He leads us nowhere but where we ought to go. He goes forth "conquering and to conquer." Let us follow him through life's conflict without fear, with the assurance that we shall be filled with his might, that we shall be kept by his protecting power, and that nothing shall by any means hurt us while we obey and trust him.

  The fact that there are dangers and hardships and wearisome toil in the army does not stifle its song. There are songs in the camp, songs on the march, songs in the battle, and songs of victory. These songs differ.

  In life we have the songs of the camp. There are songs for the quiet hour, songs of safety, songs of contentment, songs of a restful soul. There are songs of anticipation, of hope, and of fellowship. These songs may gladden our hearts day by day even tho we are in God's army, for God's army is a joyful army.

  In life there are songs of the march, songs of accomplishment, of endeavor, of determination. There are songs that make us forget our weariness. There are songs of the land that lies before us. Let us learn to sing these songs on the march so that as we go onward in our Christian journey it shall not be a dragging forward through the difficulties and sometimes darkness of the march, and up through discouragements and fear, but looking beyond the things that surround us we may see the end of our march and the great review after the campaign is over.

  Then there are songs of the battle, songs of courage, of determination, songs of the power of our Leader, of his greatness, of his glory, and of his care of his soldiers. There are songs to encourage us, to create in us enthusiasm, to inspire us. There are songs that flow from the will to win. Let us learn to sing the songs of battle. They will help us on the Christian way. They will cause our foes to fear us.

  And, finally, there are the songs of victory. These are the songs we all desire to sing. We may sing these songs in our anticipation of victory but it is when the victory actually has been won that we can sing them from our hearts and have them mean something to us. These are ever glad songs, songs of rejoicing and triumph. The Christian life is a victorious life. It could not be victorious without battles. So we shall face its battles, march its marches, do our garrison duties, and whatever may come to us through the will of our Leader, and then from time to time we shall sing the song of victory and shall at last when the war is over and we have laid down our weapons, join with those above in singing the grand hallelujah chorus of victor, through all eternity.