Memorial Day 2022
We must thank God and the men and women who gave so much so we can have the freedom to worship and the many other blessings that we enjoy day by day as Americans. Truly freedom is not free. We must never forget the cost of that precious freedom or the men and women who in the past gave everything to secure it, along with those who are still in harm’s way to ensure we retain those freedoms and blessings.
Also remember the many in the history of the church who have given everything so that you and I might know the gospel that gives us freedom from the penalty and power of sin, a gospel message that gives assurance of rich blessings not only now but throughout all eternity.
Paul wrote in II Timothy 2:3 that as Christians we are to be good soldiers. (See also Philippians 1:2.) The Bible talks of God’s people as being His soldiers, just as literally as those who serve in our military. We rightfully remember the men and women of America who gave their lives for us, and we ought to remember those who gave their lives as God’s soldiers.
Read about Stephen in Acts 7:54-60. The history of the church records literally thousands of Christian soldiers who followed Stephen in sacrificing everything in witness to the truth of who Jesus is and what He did for us on the Cross.
Early church history records that every one of the disciples except John died a martyr’s death, some of them dying in an ugly way. James the son of Zebedee and Paul were beheaded. Several crucified in a manner similar to that of Jesus. Luke was hanged and Mark dragged to death behind a horse. And it continues through the centuries. Weekly we read of Christians in various parts of the world who are imprisoned or slain for no other reason than they are soldiers of God.
Read the description of how biblical soldiers died in Hebrews 11:35-37. History records that many men and women who were faithful soldiers of God have been pulled apart on the rack, dropped alive into boiling water or oil, burned at the stake, fed to wild animals, cut apart and left to bleed to death, skinned alive etc. But in the end the faith they had and died for as witnesses for has come to us. As we remember American servicemen and women let’s not forget the soldiers of the Cross.
In thinking about soldiers of the Cross read II Timothy 2:3 and 4 and note the following:
First, Paul implied what is taught elsewhere, if we are Christians we are automatically soldiers of Jesus. Paul did not give Timothy an option of serving or not. Paul did not discuss enlistment but simply notes that as a soldier, which he was, he was expected to act accordingly. When Jesus called us unto Himself, He called us to be His soldiers.
Elsewhere God’s Word records that as recruits in His army He has promised to train us and equip us for the battles that will be ours. In addition, He has assured us that when the war is over, we will be honored appropriately. Even more importantly, He has assured us that we are on the winning side regardless of what we may suffer here. The book of Revelation gives an insight into the fate of the martyrs and declares they are at God’s throne rejoicing in their victory and praising God with a new song of thanksgiving. God has declared that no one who has left home or family, given up anything or suffered in any way for Him will ever be forgotten. One minute after the Lord returns no one will remember the American patriots but for the rest of eternity the sacrifice of Christian soldiers will in some way not only be remembered but be rewarded.
Second, Paul noted that it will not be easy in God’s army. Jesus never said being a Christian would be easy or without a price. In fact, He said that if the world persecuted Him then certainly it would persecute His soldiers. So, Paul wrote, “Endure hardship with us like a good soldier.” Everyone who has ever served in a military will tell you it is not a picnic. Everything from basic training to actual combat is demanding and potentially dangerous. You don’t enlist for a party but for war. The same ought to be true for every one of us as Christians. We don’t become a Christian to party our way into eternity. We enlist in a winning army knowing it will be tough and maybe extremely costly for a time but in time we are going to enjoy the promised and assured victory.
Third, we are not left on our own to fight in this army. One of the neat things about being a soldier of the Lord is that our Commander and Chief has all of the details of our battles worked out and He has promised to fully equip us for both the hardships and the battles. Paul wrote in II Corinthians 10:3 “For 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.” And then in Paul’s letter to the Christians in Ephesus he detailed how God’s soldiers are to fight and win. Read Ephesians 6:10-17 on the armor of God.
If we follow God’s plan everything is completely under His control. Following His plan means we have His presence along with His strength and power. It can’t get any better than that for a soldier.
While we realize that it will not be easy, we know we will ultimately win. Paul wrote, however, that if we are going to win, we must avoid the temptation to follow our Commander half-heartedly but instead we must give Him our all. Paul puts it this way, “No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs.” Paul was suggesting that in a real sense we don’t live in this world that is going to pass away so we must avoid making this world our primary focus. Paul supported himself as a tentmaker, but he was determined to not being committed to that which only lasts for a time at the expense of that which lasts for eternity. We read in Scripture that we are in the world but not a part of the world since our citizenship is really in our heavenly home. (See I Peter 2:9-12.) We live temporarily here and have responsibilities here but ultimately all we are and do should be focused not on here but on there, not on today but on eternity. Read Romans 12:1 and 2 and I John 2:1517. If as soldiers of the Cross, we hold the things of this world too closely we will focus on them and not on the spiritual battle before us.
Finally, Paul wrote that a soldier of the Cross is committed and faithful because he wants to please our Commanding Officer.
American servicemen and women have given so much to us because they love America. Soldiers of the Cross should be willing to give everything to God because as Commander in Chief He has given so much to us. A good soldier of the Cross knows the price our Commander paid to enable us to be in His kingdom and serve in His army. A faithful soldier in God’s army knows that when the end comes, he will hear his Savior declare, “Well done” and with that he will know it has been worth it all.
This Memorial Day we definitely should pause as Christians and pray for our nation. We should thank God for the freedoms we have and blessings we enjoy. We should pray for our men and women in the military as well as others who serve as protectors of our nation. At the same time, we should thank God for the Christian soldiers of the past who have faithfully served as God’s soldiers, witnessing to the truth of the gospel often with their lives. We should offer a special prayer for the persecuted church, the persecuted soldiers of God in so many parts of the world. And we should re-commit ourselves to serving faithfully in His army where we are.