Onward Christian Soldier

by Stephanie Shin

A stroll down America’s timeline quickly shows that our country’s history is rife with war—you’d be hardpressed to find a generation that hasn’t lived in an era unaffected by one. Rarely are the cultures that result from these wartime periods as the crow flies; they flow from the wellspring of political, economic and social change. It’s arguable to what extent public support can determine the success of a war, but it’s unquestionable that the home front can govern the morale and purpose of a wartime era A short 5 year stint in the early 1940s in the U.S. is a prime example of this. World War II was a significant time in American history: iconic figures such as Rosie the Riveter, and similarly noteable establishments like the Salvation Army and the YMCA and YWCA were created in the WWII era.

What was most striking about this period was the solidarity in which the American people banded together. There was little to no revolution against decisions to curb production of certain items that we today have come to rely on as necessities: cars, houses, new appliances. Rationing of food items and other basic necessities were met with hardly a blink of an eye. Labor unions took a hiatus on their strike over wages, coming to a temporary arbitration with the government in light of the war. The women who stayed at home rallied around their men across the seas by planting Victory Gardens and joining the American workforce. Roosevelt stated that the efforts of civilians at home to support the war through personal sacrifice was as critical to winning the war as the efforts of the soldiers themselves. The support of the average Joe combined with the discipline and bravery of the military uniform made WWII a hopeful time rather than a dark one.

On March 25th, 2008, news headlines underscored the 4,000th fatality since the March 2003 invasion of Iraq. The stark contrast between the WWII era and the Iraqi War that we’re presently a part of is unmistakably clear. It’s a sad testament to the apathy to how this war is seen that many are unaware that there’s a war still going on. Unlike the unity of cause during World War II, the Bush administration is facing deep malcontent and antiwar movements from a large portion of the American people. The majority are content to remain blissfully unaware and to only occasionally churn out rhetoric to disparage or support. Meanwhile, the weight of this war on American morale and the world’s perception of the United States is devastating. The war is still being fought bravely by the soldiers we send overseas, but the home front remains disconcertingly inert.

Oftentimes, I find that I fight the spiritual battles of this life as if they were part of a war that I was forced to be a part of. Rather than a patriot for the cause of glory that God saved me for, I fight like a conscripted soldier who is unsure of the means and purpose. But it’s clear in the Word that this life is one not only meant to be lived with joy (“O come, let us sing for joy to the LORD, Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation” Ps 95:1), but with an unflinching purpose and resolve to be a light in the darkness. 2 Timothy 2:2-4 says: “Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs—he wants to please his commanding officer.” John Macarthur in his commentary writes, “Just as a soldier called to duty is completely severed from the normal affairs of civilian life, so also must the good soldier of Jesus Christ refuse to allow the things of the world to distract him.” Our purpose is clear: “Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever” (1 Timothy 1:16-17). As sinners saved by a merciful God, we are not to be like hired mercenaries whose loyalties stop at the point of personal sacrifice and are fickle at best; we are slaves who have been freed by a merciful King who equips us with the whole armor of God to fight for Him. We are to pray at all times in the Spirit, be on alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.

What does it mean to fight the war on the home front as a Christian? It means to recognize the day-to-day choices that we make that will either give God the glory or not. This varies from person to person as God chooses to convict people in different ways. As shown by the war mobilization of civilians during WWII, a foundation of support at home helped to create a unity of purpose. “The main purpose was to remind people that there was a war on and to provide activities that would engage the civil spirit of millions of people not otherwise involved in the war effort.” That purpose is given to us in the Word! We can often get caught up in the stories of men who have fought the visible spiritual fight and have died for the cause; I read the stories in Foxe’s book of martyrs, the journalled testimonies of David Brainerd and Jim Elliot and became caught up in flames of zeal and conviction to go abroad and do the same. But the reality is that this isn’t the type of spiritual warfare that most of us will have to face. Rather than looking abroad to where the ammunition can be seen and heard, we confront an enemy who is much more internal, infiltrating, and increasingly unnoticed.

To submit to Christ the seemingly mundane things in our lives and to discipline and train our minds and bodies to determine to know nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified is the daily battle that we are entrenched in. Will we rejoice when circumstances seem to exact otherwise, to desire humility when our sin clamors for acclamation,to love when it hurts, to sacrifice when our flesh desires more, to consider all the things of the world as loss for the surpassing value of knowing Him as bondslaves of Christ?

At the end of his run, the apostle Paul was able to say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8). Will we able to say the same? We fight the fight for the promises He mercifully gives in His word.

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The Beacon is the monthly newsletter for Lighthouse Bible Church in San Diego, California. It covers a variety of subjects including LBC events, church history, current events from a Christan perspective, ministry profiles, and messages from our pastors and elders. To join the Beacon ministry, please contact Stephen Rodgers.

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