For over 60 years, our neighboring town of Alpharetta has had an “Old Soldiers’ Day” parade to honor those who have served our country in times of peace and war, and thus preserved our freedom. The title, “All gave some, some gave all,” refers to the fact that all of our service men and women have given their time and effort to serve, and some have given all, in that their very lives were given and sacrificed on the altar of freedom.
But is there not an application for us as Christians? We recall Paul’s admonition to Timothy: “Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier” (II Tim. 2:3-4).
Are not all Christians soldiers—soldiers of the cross? We sing the song “Am I a Soldier of the Cross?” How would you answer that for yourself? While those in the U.S. Armed Services can retire after years of service, I was not aware there was a temporal retirement for those in the Lord’s Army. Oh, we are promised a great “retirement” one day, but not in this life.
What do we expect of our soldiers—the Marines, Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard? We expect diligence, alertness, readiness. As Christians we have a Commander in Chief, not the president of the United States, but the commander of a great host. When young David approached Goliath, he said “I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel” (I Sam. 17:45).
What would happen to a soldier who went into battle, sought for a nice shady tree, and then sat down to watch the battle unfold? One of two things would happen. (1) He would quite likely end up dead, or (2) he would be court-martialed for “dereliction of duty.”
Why is it that so many Christians are content to sit on the sidelines? Oh, they faithfully attend church services, and are careful to avoid sinful conduct, but what are they doing in the way of being engaged in the battle for truth? Consider another of Paul’s admonitions to Timothy: “This charge I commit unto thee, my child Timothy, according to the prophecies which led the way to thee, that by them thou mayest war the good warfare” (I Tim. 1:18). The word “warfare” (ASV) is from the Greek “strateia,” which Strong’s Greek Dictionary defines as “military service, i.e. (figuratively) the apostolic career (as one of hardship and danger):–warfare.”
While most of us who read these lines may not be facing hardship and danger, that does not mean that we cannot be actively engaged in using the “weapons of our warfare.”
“Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints’ (Eph. 6:13-18).
This is more than filling the pews on Sunday, more than paying our taxes, more than obeying the traffic lights, and more than being nice to our neighbors. What do our soldiers do when one of their comrades is captured in battle? They set out to rescue him! What do we do about friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, store clerks, etc. that have been captured by our greatest enemy, Satan? Do we complacently go about our daily lives and make no effort to save them from eternal hell?
James encourages us to “prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves” (Jas. 1:22) “Let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (Jas. 5:20).
Yes, there are those in the world today who have given all. Many of the young girls who were captured by the Boko Haram in Nigeria some months ago were Christians. And there are Christians in other Islamic strongholds who are suffering slavery, torture and death.
While we may not be able to rescue them from temporal death, we can work to save souls from eternal death. God expects no less. He expects us to give, and give more than lip service.