"Soldiers of the Cross: Stories from the Frontlines of Faith" (1 Timothy 6:12a)Feb 11, 2024
12 Fight the good fight of the faith.
At age 19, Harry Read joined the military in his native England, and went to war to defeat Adolf Hitler and his Nazi regime. His service included parachuting into Normandy on D-Day. A few years later, he joined a different army - the Salvation Army - as an officer and pastor. We met him when he was Chief Secretary (second in command) in Canada. He has lived quite a life, including parachuting into Normandy again to celebrate 75 years since D-Day - at age 95! He knew what it was to be a good soldier. It was this life-long experience that led him to write:
God’s soldier marches as to war –
A soldier on an alien shore,
A soldier true, a soldier who
Will keep the highest aims in view.
God’s soldier goes where sin is found;
Where evil reigns, his battleground,
A cunning foe to overthrow
And strike for truth a telling blow.
We’re going to fill, fill, fill the world with glory;
We’re going to smile, smile, smile and not frown;
We’re going to sing, sing, sing the Gospel story;
We’re going to turn the world upside down.
Every year when a new session of Cadets enter The Salvation Army's College for Officer's Training, they receive a name that is used in every training college throughout the world. When we marched into 2130 Bayview Ave. in Toronto in September, 1979, we were welcomed as "God's Soldiers." Commissioner Read's song became our unofficial sessional song.
Growing up in the Salvation Army meant being quite fluent in the military terminology which was, and still is, used. But I think the most powerful part of this metaphor is the recognition that we are part of a spiritual war that has real-world consequences. I'm afraid much of the church has missed this. The war that began in the garden of Eden continues to this day, and it will not end until Jesus returns to reign for all eternity. Until then, there will be skirmishes and battles and injuries and martyrs.
When King David was still a shepherd boy, he brought lunch to his brothers, who were at the battlefront, taking on the Philistines, led by a giant of a man named Goliath. The Israelites were being shamed by them, and David's impression was that they were cowering in fear. His response was to say to his brothers, "What are you thinking? They are not more powerful than our God! You know the story. David stands before Goliath, armed only with a sling a 5 stones, and cries out,
“You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”" (1 Sam. 17:45-47).
If it was up to us, in this battle against the powers of darkness, we would lose. Period. But it's not. Trust him, and be a good soldier!
Commissioner Harry Read was Promoted to Glory on December 21, 2021. I have a feeling that when he arrived in the presence of God, he reported for duty.
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