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Point of Reference

    by Fred Price

ONWARD CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS?
Date Posted: January 23, 2004

"Stand up, stand up for Jesus, Ye soldiers of the cross. Lift high His royal banner, it must not suffer loss. From vict'ry unto vict'ry His army shall He lead, 'Til every foe is conquered and Christ is Lord indeed."

Stirring words, exciting strong emotions, inciting us to action.

"Stand up, stand up for Jesus, the trumpet call obey. Forth to the mighty conflict in this His glorious day. Ye that are men now serve Him against un-numbered foes. Let courage rise with danger and strength to strength oppose."

But what kind of action? Can we force people to believe?

"Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war. With the cross of Jesus going on before. Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe. Forward into battle, see His banners go."

How can we effectively encourage people to believe?

"Like a mighty army moves the Church of God,… Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war. With the cross of Jesus going on before."

Do images of soldiers and Christians seem contradictory? I suppose that might depend on your definition of a soldier; one of which by Webster's Dictionary is particularly fitting for Christians: a person who works for a specified cause. Don't we share the qualities of commitment, perseverance, and a willingness to sacrifice? But FIGHT?! I recall abortion clinic bombings, homosexual beatings, strident "prophetic" preaching against drugs, drinking, and sex by self-appointed preachers on college campuses. How productive is that? And yet, we have a responsibility to speak up for things we support and against things that run counter to Christian teaching. How can we "fight the good fight" as Christians should and have a positive impact on society? (1 Timothy 1:18)

Paul addresses this in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5. "…though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world… We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ," (See also Ephesians 6:10-12) What's that mean? Our battle is principally of ideas and ideals. Not a force of will but a change of heart! We must speak out, we can demonstrate, we should vote, we have to exemplify; one on one – one to one - won by one. We can't save everyone but we can save some; they can then do the same. Therein lies the impact of Christianity - caring, being, doing the "little" things that people are impacted by and appreciate.

The Bible's allusion to fighting addresses the character aspects of soldiers; committing to a cause, being prepared to respond at a moment's notice, realizing abilities and developing capabilities to be used for the greater good – doing so in spite of the cost. (1 Corinthians 15:58; 2 Timothy 4:2; 1 Timothy 4:12; 2 Timothy 4:15 CHECK THESE OUT!) "Endure hardship… like a good soldier." 2 Timothy 2:3 "Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called…" 1 Timothy 6:12 (See also 1 Timothy 1:18) To be effective we must be aware of the risks as well as the potential for victory; for as any good soldier or professional knows – there is a price to be paid and we must realize what it is before we set out to conquer in Jesus' name. We must be willing to give our all for Christ; our reputation, our comfort, our preference in friends, jobs, possessions. For we could be called to lose it all, (by the world's standards) for the opportunity to gain everything, (by Chirst's standards).

"Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.'" We must be aware that if we bring ridicule on ourselves and our mission – we bring ridicule to him who sent us on that mission. "Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? …In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple." Luke 14:28-31 and 33. And yet, Psalms 33:6 declares, "No king is saved by the size of his army;" and an angel of God told Zerubabbel that his mission to rebuild Jerusalem would succeed, "Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord…" Zechariah 4:6 We realize the power of living in the Spirit by being, "…strong in the Lord and in his mighty power."; done by outfitting ourselves, "…in the full armor of God…", which consists of truthfulness, righteousness, a ready desire to spread the gospel, faithfulness, assurance of salvation and the word of God. (see Ephesians 6:10-17)

Does the fact we are called to wield the sword of the Spirit rather than a sword of steel make us less "dangerous", exciting or productive? Is it more appealing to imagine oneself charging the battlefield, scoring the winning basket, crossing the finish line in the lead rather than kneeling in prayer, witnessing out of concern for people's spiritual welfare, sharing our time and wealth out of compassion? Why is it permissible for us to jump, shout and act crazy at a game; something that may or may not really matter in the long run, but not get excited at church over our salvation? Acknowledgment of the crowd and praise from our peers is some of what we crave; a sense of accomplishment, which is not always readily seen in ministry, is what we often desire as well. At the core is a sense of control; we feel more in control when making something happen. In ministry that's often not the case – we struggle to make ourselves do right! But Paul reminds us that we are fellow-workers with Christ – that even as he who plants the seed – or the one who waters that seed – may not see the harvest, we all have a function in partnership with God; being rewarded by him for our own individual labor. (1 Corinthians 3:5-9)

Be aware that we will be misunderstood, misrepresented; lied about. But does that matter? We may not gain acknowledgement or fame; but should we care about those? F. Scott Fitzgerald once claimed, "Show me a hero and I will write you a tragedy." Yet is even that a reason to hold back from full involvement? For the kingdom of God is often advanced in unseen ways by simple kindnesses, an invisible power opening doors and making others receptive to the gospel. Jesus commands his followers to be good people, to do kind things for others in order that they might believe. (See also James 2:14-17) We are told to, "…run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning it's shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." Hebrews 12:1-3 (see also 1 Corinthians 9:24-27) As a result, you too will be able to say, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness…" 2 Timothy 4:7,8

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Biography Information:

Fred Price - married (48 years), father of two grown children, grandfather of six.

Fred retired earlier this year after 42 years as a factory worker.  He has always had a heart for young people and the challenges they face today.  Over the years Fred has taught Discipleship Groups for High School and college students.  

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