July 5, 2020 Strength for The Battle
Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,
Imagine in your mind ~ Arlington Nat’l Cemetery in Washington DC. Maybe you’ve been there. You would cross the bridge over the Potomac River, walk quietly past the Iwo Jima Marine Memorial, and enter our nation’s most revered military burial grounds.
Recall how many lives have been sacrificed for the freedom for our nation In round figures, the numbers are like this: /in the Revolutionary War, 4,400 dead; /the Civil War, 500,000 dead; / WW I, 116,000 dead; /WW II 407,000 dead; /In Korea, 37,000 dead; /in Vietnam, 58,000 dead; /in Iraq & Afghanistan, 7,000 dead; of course, thousands severely wounded from all the wars.
The nations of our sinful world cannot get along; they never have -for very long- and they never will – completely. In this fallen creation, death is the price of having freedom; and the blessing of freedom will always be threatened. True freedom can allow for protests & disagreements; but freedom is NOT for joining in chaos & violence; for forcing others to agree with your opinion; or to destroy property, businesses, or statues & history.
Freedom is NOT for lawlessness, rioting & anarchy; & not for taking over neighborhoods & claiming them as our own little kingdoms. Those things might feel like freedom to one person, but they cost other people their freedom. The cause of true freedom & the price of death is worth it when people use their freedom /to be good & decent & peaceful; /in being religious & moral; /in being charitable & helpful to the neighbors & fellow citizens.
The blessing of freedom is for righteousness, not wickedness. We know these things about earthly freedom because God-our-Creator has made them compare to spiritual freedom.
Whether visiting at Arlington, or Ft. Snelling, or whether you’ve just seen pictures, you recognize a military cemetery by the neat row-upon-row of white headstones that stretch over hill-after-hill. You can stoop down and read the names, the years of service given, and whether or not they died during the war they fought in or died later. I’ve seen young children try to count the number of headstones; they shouldn’t bother ~ it’s too many.
So many that it stirs our hearts, because it’s a visual reminder of the sizable price paid to establish & keep ourselves as a nation which has a free people.
The price was paid with Admirals & seamen, Generals & privates; different in rank but equal in value-of-life. They all lie side-by-side so that we won’t forget their sacrifice and their devotion to duty which has bought the blessings & liberties we enjoy.
Especially when in a military cemetery, our mind can be overcome by the thought that ‘all lives end in death.’ It doesn’t matter how courageous a person is on the battlefield, no matter how big, strong, or brave in the face of the enemy; all lives will be laid to rest, and they don’t return to fight the battle again. …all except One = of course; the One the whole world needs to know about & trust. He is Jesus of Nazareth; who is the Christ, the Son of God.
Jesus is the world’s premier warrior; He is the powerful ‘right-arm’ of God. He’s the only one in the war-torn, battle-scarred, death-filled history of the world that purposefully left His heavenly throne to come to our rescue; and He did not hesitate to go face-to-face with our enemy. He was armed with the Word of our Father, & with His battle plan. Jesus was mocked & beaten, crucified & killed; but now He is resurrected & alive. This was the chief ‘World War’, and Jesus IS the Victor. Because of His atoning sacrifice for us, and His recruitment of us, we are receiving His own strength in all times of our trouble. As His own Spirit-filled Word declares thru Psalm 46 = words meant for every human being to know & believe: “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord almighty is with us, the God of Jacob is our fortress.”
More than one hundred years ago, from 1901 to 1909 Theodore Roosevelt was our nation’s 26th president. There is no such thing as a perfect president, or a perfect king or queen. Only One was ever perfect. But Teddy Roosevelt work as a leader was well-worthy of being remembered by statues, and by being the 4th face on Mt. Rushmore. He came into office in the wake of an act of terrorism = the assassination of Pres. McKinley. It’s said that Roosevelt was a bull-moose of a man, filled with courage & energy; he accomplished more than most people before he died at age 60. /He was the Colonel who led the Rough Riders in the charge up San Juan Hill in the Spanish-American war. /He was the visionary & organizer of our Navy’s Great White Fleet of the early 1900s = the most powerful peacekeeping navy in the world at the time. /He secured the Panama Canal treaty and rite of passage. /He won the Nobel Peace Prize (back when it meant something) for his negotiating skills to end the war between Russia and Japan.
After two successful terms in the nation’s highest office, Pres.Roosevelt was willing to ride off into the sunset. In fact, when he left office, he took almost a whole year to tour Europe & be on an African safari. But then within a couple of years he was so disappointed with the lack of leadership of President Taft that he formed a third party, and presented himself as a candidate for a third term of office. In a campaign speech, he said these words: “It is not the critic who counts. The credit belongs to the man in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly, …who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions of life, who spends himself in a worthy cause…”
We hear in there a line that’s become famous, & bolsters courage: ‘the credit belongs to the man in the arena.’ *Are you & I in the arena? *Are we in the fight? You may not want to be in the arena to be president of the United States; but there is a fight you ARE in, whether you like it or not: the spiritual arena & the fight of faith.
+If Satan can rip true faith & spiritual courage from your heart, he will do it. He is your chief enemy & this is the fight of your soul for life. +If the world & worldly people can seduce you away from the true faith, /with its toys & technologies, /with a selfish focus, /impure pleasures, /& temporary things, they will do it. These are our enemies, & they are real = the Lord Jesus has said so. So, you ARE in the arena, but *are you striving valiantly & on the right side? Jesus has told us: you cannot serve two masters. In James 4, the Spirit says it this way: ‘Do you not know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God?’
*What are we to DO in this fight of our life? God says, hear it, /bind it, / obey it, / teach it, /talk it, / & write it. And *what is this ‘it’? The Word of God. The Lord of the Heavenly Armies has recruited you & me into His Church; His earthly Church we call the ‘church militant’ ~ ‘salvation’s army.’ He has called us by the gospel, & made us His disciple-soldiers by His Holy Baptism. So, by grace & thru faith He has put us on His side, as we are in the arena of life’s battle.
Because this is true, so now this fight for our life is the daily battle of listening to the voice of our Commander, and marching according to His Commands. It is a combat & a danger for us, because we live in enemy territory, surrounded by their many false gods & tempting ways. And we are simple foot-soldiers; we don’t see the big picture, so we’re constantly needing the directions of our Commander, and to train in His ways. It’s difficult, because the battle is long, and we get tired; but our Lord intends for us/to fight, /to follow His orders, /to live right, /and -then- die to win.
This is our great challenge this side of heaven. We worry about dying, but we shouldn’t, because that’s a given & unavoidable; that’s the reminder of row-after-row of headstones at Arlington & Ft.Snelling. The Lord has spoken: the wages of sin is death; we’re all going to die. So the real concern is not about our dying, but about our living. So our Captain has spoken both truth and courage: ‘the wages of sin is death; but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ Because of His words, we will not give up, & not give in.
Our Master has said, “whoever loses his life for My sake, and for the gospel, will save it.” St.Paul heard Jesus’ words & took them to heart while he was in the arena in his day. His response for living sounded like this: “I have (already) been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me… and so I press on toward the goal to win the prize
for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Gal.2;Phil.3)
And so, Teddy Roosevelt’s words, while they may have just been meant for our earthly life, sound a lot like the way our Heavenly Commander fills us with courage for our spiritual battle. Since death will happen to us, our real focus is on our life of faith; and our faith is alive because our Commander is alive forevermore. We hear that courage in Ps.46: “Therefore we will not fear, tho the earth give way; … Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; but the Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”
So, the worldly-critic doesn’t count; The credit belongs to the disciple in the arena, whose face is marred with the dust and sweat and blood of the battle; who strives faithfully, who knows the things of God; whose life is spent in the worthy cause of the gospel of Christ.
Blessed are you, as a soldier-of-the-Lord. You have been recruited for the worthy cause of the soul-saving gospel, and you have joined Christ in the arena, and He is with you always, with His unstoppable Word and Spirit. He is already sharing His victory with you.
Our world seems more crazy now than it has been in a long time. We have battles to get honesty out of politicians, & truth out of the media; / battles of what words in our language mean; / we’re forced to redefine gender, & can’t agree on morals & family values; / some want to fight over our history & eliminate it, rather than to acknowledge the bad & honor the good.
Will we now have to fight to keep our police-force protection? Do these agitating groups really want to judge people just by the color of their skin? Will our state leaders force us to close our businesses, livelihoods & churches out of fear of one virus? These are issues that relate to the subject of freedom. And freedom is one of the chief blessings of God for mankind, and one of the costliest = either for our earthly freedom, or our spiritual freedom.
But, *what’s new? Our world has always been on the edge of chaos because of its rebellion against the world’s holy Creator. The solution is that God has made Himself known to us thru Christ Jesus; and He has spoken truth & courage to all His disciple-soldiers to know & to live by, and to encourage others. Words like: “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” And our response is: “Amen! The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”