6th a. Pentecost: Independence Day weekend. “Where are the Heroes Today?”
July 4, 2021 2Timothy (& other verses)
Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,
In Paul’s 2nd letter to Timothy we read: “Endure hardship like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.”
Christian musician Steve Camp wrote a song with the following words: “Oh we learned of Abraham, who was ready to give his son. And Noah who kept on ‘till his job was done. Moses led his children safely thru the wilderness, these men of God were here to carry on, but tell me, why are we in such a mess? Where are the heroes now, when we need them so desperately? Who will step out from the crowd, and be strong enough to lead? Who will teach the children; who will show them how? Oh, I’m asking you, where are the heroes now?
(Repeat: …..where are the heroes now?)
In a movie titled ‘The Presidio’, actor Sean Connery portrays a retired war-hardened army Sgt.Major, who is called on to investigate a murder at a military base. In one scene, he laments how he & his fellow soldiers have been mistreated; and he has a theory about it, ‘the mean dog principle.’
When there’s trouble & danger, everyone wants a mean, ugly dog to fight for them, protect them, even kill for them, or die for them. But when there is NO trouble, no danger, they’re embarrassed of that dog. They yell at it, & lock it in a shed so that neighbors won’t see it. Sometimes that’s the way people view our military. (& in our day, the police) When there’s peace, our armed forces are looked down on as uncivilized, icky, & ‘toxic-masculinity’. But when an enemy attacks, people suddenly cry out for a tough, armed, trained & forceful protector from harm.
As Christians, we may also be treated in those two ways. When there’s NO trouble, or hardship or sorrow, people want us to be quiet, stop judging behaviors as ‘wrong’ or sinful & harmful; and be out of sight, & mind our own business. But when evil rears its ugly head, sorrow overflows, & charity is needed, those same people cry out for answers, for comfort, & for help. They ask the Church for firm & right guidance toward God’s own hope & peace until the trouble is passed.
There are some other similarities between the military and Christianity. For centuries God’s Church has been defined like this: the saints in heaven are called the church triumphant; and the saints on earth are the church ‘militant.’ You & I are the church militant; we are God’s ‘military’ of faith, in the best sense of the word. We are the part of the Church still battling with the enemies of God‘s kingdom who want us to turn from God & join them in hell. Militant is an accurate Biblical description, from places like Exodus 15 and Ps.24 it is written: “The Lord is a warrior; he has shattered the enemy. The Lord is strong, and mighty in battle.”
And our Commander is the Son of God = Christ Jesus; who came to overthrow those enemies too strong for us = sin, death, & the devil with His evil followers. Every week we muster & celebrate the fact that our Captain has done real battle; He has disarmed our enemies & guaranteed our victory. So WE are the Lord’s Army, and we are still AT WAR, fighting the good fight of faith, says Paul. That’s why he told Timothy: “Endure hardship like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.”
We can think of 3 other similarities between the military & the Church: #1: This is a true war we fight, and it’s the most important of wars; because we fight for eternal things, eternal souls. So says God thru Peter: “Dear friends, I urge you, as sojourners & strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which WAR against your soul.” (2:11)
“Be self-controlled and alert. Your ENEMY the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of suffering.” (5:8-9)
So, it IS a war. God says thru Paul: “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. For our struggle is NOT against flesh and blood, but against the rulers …& the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil…” You & I are in ‘the mother’ of all wars: the war between heaven & hell; /between right & wrong; /between holiness & sin; /and that means between life & death. There are only two sides; we’re on one or the other; no one is neutral or innocent == it’s victory …or death.
Similarity # 2 (between the military & the Church) The Church militant also has a uniform. It’s not a physical uniform. It’s real, but invisible. It’s not a minister’s collar, or a robe, or a nice Sunday dress or suit coat.
It’s not the wearing of a cross. Our uniform is the living of righteousness = a righteous heart & life. Our Christian uniform is our words & actions, born of faith, in obedience to the Commander of Life. Our uniform is an attitude of trust, and a godliness in our behavior.
Says Paul in Eph. 6 : “Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, / with the breastplate of righteousness in place, / and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. / In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, …to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation…”
Our uniform & armor also includes one weapon. It’s not a tool of physical force or violence, and not a certain form of government; it’s not democracy, & there are no treaties of compromise with the enemy. Our only weapon is the truth: the very words of God himself. The Bible is called the ‘sword of the Spirit.’ Our only weapon is a faithful confession & practice of God’s Holy Scripture. That’s where this war is won or lost.
From the Bible, we hear our Commanders instructions. We believe & follow our leader as we battle between thinking & doing right vs. wrong. Christ has led His people in victories in the past, and now. Since He laid down His life to save us, we desire to please our Commanding Officer.
And #3 similarity with the military, is that the world will oppose us for being on God’s side, as defined by His Word. Even members of our own family may fight against us simply because we follow our Captain & His daily marching orders. But even in this, we take heart.
Our Captain says: “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of ME. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. All men will hate you because of Me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”
If you’re going to do what is right in a world that is doing wrong, your life will look different than the world. If you stand firm on God’s unchanging Word of Truth, you will be despised & spoken against.
You may have to stand firm against your own flesh & blood; and it will be like a ‘civil war.’ In Matt.10 Jesus says, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.”
He goes on to say (I paraphrase) ‘those who ignore My word just to ‘get along with’ father or mother, are not worthy of Me; those who compromise My truth to not offend a son or daughter, are not worthy of me; and if you will not take up your cross and follow Me, you are not worthy of Me.’
This is why it’s not enough -in this life- merely to say: “Oh, I believe in God = I know Jesus; I go to church at Christmas & Easter.” There is a declaration of WAR between the Holy God and the sinful world; we were born into it, & we can’t avoid it; it’s our battle, and our soul is at stake. Any compromise we do with the enemy will threaten our self, our family, & our fellow soldiers. To be a faithful soldier of our Lord we must die to ourselves, and keep our eyes & ears open to our Commander. And in the end, that’s what a hero IS in the Lord’s Church. To the ‘loyal soldiers’ the Captain will say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” And in Rev.2:10 he says, “be thou faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” In the church militant, *who will be the heroes in our day?
Hebrews 11 tells us of some of those faithful heroes that have gone on before us as our examples: such as Abraham & Sarah, Moses & David, Abel & Job. They were not the elite of the world, not the popular or successful people, but they were God’s chosen army, whether educated or ignorant; rich or poor; healthy or sick, old or young; they were faithful to the Lord above all. In the world they were the despised, rejected, made fun of, and killed; but they were faithful in standing against wrong, so that among them God’s name was known & His commands were honored. As Jacob announced: ‘Choose this day whom you will serve. As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.’
They would not compromise God’s right & wrong, no matter what the cost. God’s Church Militant has been built on the sacrifice & service of loyal soldiers who cared more about His Word of Truth & eternal things than their own lives.
*Why did they do that? Because they were a reflection of the ultimate sacrifice made for all: God-the-Son came to earth, and died on the cross to defeat our enemy = Satan = and rose on Easter to win the victory for us; which is forgiveness and life. Having those gifts, now we are called to follow Him, and to imitate those other faithful soldiers. We do it in the name of The Hero of Heaven = Jesus Christ.
God’s army is not made up of ‘part-timers’ or ‘weekend warriors.’ He ‘calls to arms’ soldiers who will rise each day to obey Him, and live right = no matter what. In other words, He still needs heroes. And He has ‘enlisted’ all those He has baptized. That means God has set YOU apart from the world by His own gracious washing of rebirth & renewal in His Holy Spirit. In drafting you, He is calling you into a true life that will last forever.
Steve Camps’ song concludes like this: With our eyes on the Author of our faith, … he’s put us here to make a stand, he’s calling on us today… he’s calling us to be heroes now, when we need them so desperately. Will you step out from the crowd, and be strong enough to lead? Will you teach your children, will you show them how? ‘cause they’re asking you, where are the heroes now?
As we celebrate our nation’s independence, and are thankful to God for those who have
-and are now- serving in our nation’s Armed Forces, we also ask the Lord of the church militant to give US soldiers of faith His own Spirit, so that we can be HIS kind of heroes now!