Encouragement in the Face of Battle

Christians hold two passports. We are citizens of this world, but also of the next. Thus there is always tension in this life. Indeed, there is an ongoing struggle, a spiritual war which we daily find ourselves in. Those who take their faith seriously and seek to make a difference for Christ and his Kingdom will know firsthand of the many struggles, and will have their share of battle scars.

Those who are fighting the good fight very much need encouragement along the way. That is why it is so vital that we actively and continuously encourage one another. I have written up the importance of this elsewhere: billmuehlenberg.com/2007/08/15/in-praise-of-praise/

But we can also be involved in self-encouragement. We need to be able to stir ourselves up, especially if external encouragement seems to be in short supply. And I suppose we all have different ways in which we can do this. I have mine. For what it is worth, let me share a few of these with you.

First, a bit of personal disclosure and self-revelation. I am involved in a sort of prophetic ministry with CultureWatch. As such, I may have a bit of a prophetic personality, if such a thing exists. The prophets of old tended to be somewhat lonely, melancholic, withdrawn and isolated. Think of Jeremiah, the weeping prophet. I may be a bit like that.

Such people, especially when they are on the front lines and facing the heat of battle on a regular basis, can easily get depressed and bummed out. They may easily want to throw in the towel and give it all away. So they certainly need a lot of encouragement and praise.

One way to keep one’s self buoyed up of course is the usual set of spiritual disciplines: spending time with God, prayer, reading Scripture, fellowshipping with other believers, and so on. But aside from that, let me share with you a few things I do when down and discouraged. They might prove to be helpful for you as well.

One thing that has often strengthened me for the battle and picked up my spirits is to read – or now, watch – Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. It always reminds me of the battle we are in, how high the stakes are, and the need to persevere and to keep on keeping on. It is stirring stuff, and always revives my spirit and stirs my soul.

Even listening to the music from the film’s soundtrack can be a powerful antidote to discouragement and weariness. I especially like the closing song of the last film, Into the West, performed by Annie Lennox. Of course neither Peter Jackson, the film’s creator, nor Lennox are Christians, but there almost seems to be an anointing to the song.

It was certainly popular in non-religious circles. It won an Oscar, (along with 10 others for the final film) in 2004. (Only two other films, “Titanic” and “Ben-Hur,” won that many Oscars.) Simply playing that song in tough times will lift my spirits – and often drive me to tears! There are various places where it can be found in video form. Here is one:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=shdiTRxTJb4 

(OK, so call me a soppy old fool, but watching and listening to this again has just once more turned on the water works!)

Indeed, I have been so impressed by Tolkien’s trilogy (he was of course a Christian), that I have put together an audio-video PowerPoint presentation which I usually share with my students at the end of a week or semester of teaching. It is based on quotes from both The Lord of the Rings and Scripture. I don’t know if my students derive much benefit from it, but it always stirs me powerfully, and again usually reduces me to tears as well.

Another thing that encourages me greatly in heavy times is to recall how God is in the business of raising up mighty leaders when things seem the darkest. God will always rally the troops, even in the most difficult and bleakest of days.

Consider the Cold War for example. Atheistic Communism was intent on conquering all of Europe, and eventually the entire world. Anyone who still has any delusions about the true nature of Communism should read The Black Book of Communism.

Image of The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression
The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression by Jean-Louis Panné (Author), Andrzej Paczkowski (Author), Karel Bartosek (Author), Jean-Louis Margolin (Author), Nicolas Werth (Author), Stéphane Courtois (Author), Mark Kramer (Editor), Jonathan Murphy (Translator), Mark Kramer (Translator) Amazon logo

This is a movement that in the name of creating a godless utopia on earth slaughtered 100 million people. It was evil incarnate, and needed to be stopped. Fortunately for all of us, God raised up a triumvirate of leaders to meet the challenge. These of course were US President Ronald Reagan, English Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II.

These three warriors were the means by which the horrid Iron Curtain was finally brought down. Just when it seemed that times could not get much worse, these three remarkable leaders were, I believe, providentially raised up to save the world from a new dark ages. And they succeeded wonderfully.

When I was just recently visiting with my family in the US, I asked my aging father if I might take just one of his photos back home with me. He graciously agreed. It is a picture of Thatcher and Reagan walking together, deep in serious conversation one cool winter day at Camp David in 1986.

I find it to be such a moving picture of two great leaders the entire free world owes so much to (along with the Pope). I now have that photo proudly displayed under my computer monitor, to regularly encourage me and stimulate me to keep going, even when it seems like things are getting increasingly out of control. For those interested, the picture can be seen here: 1.bp.blogspot.com/_RaRg5_v_Eus/SaY_crWugZI/AAAAAAAACi4/FTn77Lgg9qA/s400/ThatcherReagan.jpg

Speaking of encouragement and recent past world events, also of great interest is the moving eulogy delivered by Thatcher at Reagan’s funeral: www.margaretthatcher.org/speeches/displaydocument.asp?docid=110366
These are the eloquent and uplifting words of one very great woman delivered to one very great man.

We all need encouragement and uplifting as we seek to make progress as a pilgrim in this world. I have shared a few ways in which I receive that. You might like to share some ways in which you find refreshment and consolation for the journey. Feel free to post them here for the benefit and edification of others.

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34 Replies to “Encouragement in the Face of Battle”

  1. Thank you, Bill, for your uplifting words and prophetic ministry.

    I followed your link to the Annie Lennox song “Into the West”. It had exactly the same effect on me as it has on you!

    Thank you also for making available to your readers that wonderful photo of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.

    To see those two great leaders of the Free World reminds me of that famous World War II meeting between Winston Churchill and President Roosevelt in Placentia Bay, Newfoundland in August 1941.

    Both leaders organised a Sunday church parade aboard the British battleship the HMS Prince of Wales. Both American and British servicemen joined in this solemn worship. The hymns chose by Churchill and Roosevelt were “O God Our Help in Ages Past”, “Eternal Father Strong to Save” and “Onward Christian Soldiers”.

    A thrilling account of this historic event may be found at URL: http://www.winstonchurchill.org/support/the-churchill-centre/publications/finest-hour/issues-109-to-144/no-112/688–sixty-years-on-the-atlantic-charter-1941-2001

    Lest we forget.

    John Ballantyne, Melbourne.

  2. Many thanks John

    It is reassuring to know that I am not the only sentimental-type around!

    And thanks for the great link to the great story. We need to keep reminding ourselves of all the great men and women who have gone before, and all their wonderful endeavours on our behalf.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  3. Thanks Bill. Really appreciate and am encouraged amidst the seemingly overwhelmingly odds and the overturning of priorities in our communities and nation today. History, even recent history like the great efforts of two world leaders and one religious one, is not remembered by many people now.
    I also would like to add a fourth leader, Lech Walesa, the trade union leader of electricians at the Gdansk shipyards. He needs to be made a role model, along with the other tradesmen he followed – Our Lord Jesus Christ practiced carpentry having followed the trade of his foster father St Joseph.
    Michael Webb

  4. Hi Bill,

    Really appreciate your sharing your heart here, it enriches your whole message to hear you share from your heart like this.

    Mark Burnard

  5. Dear Bill, You have given us an intimate picture of yourself and the means acceptable for you to walk peaceably with your Lord. Thank you for integrity.
    How He helped me? 50 years ago, I commenced a study/prayer time on saturday morning. We studied the Word of God word by word, for one hour and prayed for the second hour. Before accountability became fashionable, that was my accountable hour. One fellow prayed for 14 years, another for 35 years, 8 men crammed into our spare room. No babies were born over those reserved hours.
    The prayer continues, God used those fellows.

    While I cherished my bible in my consulting room, I loved Tozer, Oswald Sanders, Spurgeon, Martin Lloyd Jones, McArthur, Jeremiah, Swindoll. God allowed these writers to dispel gloomy or miserable moments. It was all His work, Bill.
    Harrold Steward

  6. I recently saw Phylis Shlafly speak. She reminded me of both Reagan and Thatcher. I am of the same opinion as you about LOTR. I’ve watched it at least ten times. My wife never understood why until your post. It is inspirational to me. We all need inspiration and support. You are spot on with this post. In these hard times we need encouragement and help to fight the good fight. Recall the Council of Elrond when all were divided, and the little hobbit steps up. We are all should be inspired by Frodo. Even when he fails at the end and is saved by Sam the message of LOTR is that we cannot fight these fights alone, we must do it together.
    Bravo, sir.
    Daniel Locke, USA

  7. Do you see what this means Frodo—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it and never quit! Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. When you find yourselves flagging, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls! The Message.
    Yea, Frodo! Thanks, Bill.
    Lachlan Dunjey

  8. Many thanks Dan and Lachlan

    It is always good to find like-minded souls here. Yes there are many important lesson in the LotR for life in general and times of battle in particular. Working together with others is certainly one of them, as is perseverance. In my PowerPoint talk I list twelve such lessons, although many more could be mentioned.

    One important lesson is there is always the danger of falling away, of going over to the enemy’s side (think of Saruman). But the positive lessons need to be emphasised, including the fact that we are never alone in this struggle:

    “‘And now,’ said Gandalf, turning back to Frodo, ‘the decision lies with you. But I will always help you.’ He laid his hand on Frodo’s shoulder. ‘I will help you bear this burden, as long as it is yours to bear. But we must do something, soon. The Enemy is moving’.”

    Or as Jesus said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  9. Hi Bill
    No you are not a sook. You have a heart and it works. I grew up in days when it was almost a sign of weakness if a man shed a tear. I must say I have on many occasions, mostly through moments of joy, relief or amazement and I am not in the least embarrased.
    I often feel that way on Good Friday afternoon when I dwell on the Passion of Jesus and realise what he did for each one of us.
    I find when things get me down that one way of attacking the down “thing’ is to go do something good for someone else (oftern very small) and it is in that giving that I feel I receive the encouragement to get going again.
    David Grace

  10. There are some very odd things to watch which can be motivational.

    The Dark Crystal is one, watching the gelflings struggle against the forces of darkness in search of light is a highly abberant model of Christianity, but still a model.

    The Life Of Brian does actually have some real messages tucked away in it.

    Like… the implied attack on legalism blended with school days with Brian writing Romans Go Home all over the building, the guy (Simon) whose Vow of Silence he interrupts after 18 years, the factionism (“The People’s Front of Judea” vs “Judean People’s Front”), the discussion of how one is classified as a Messiah, “Always Look At The Bright Side of Life” etc.

    Not missionary material, per se, but these can easily be used as discussion-starters (“Why do you think he did that?”) with kids (even serious teenagers).

    Leon Brooks

  11. Thanks Leon

    While care is certainly needed here, yes there are often redemptive analogies or bridge-building materials to be found in non-Christian works of art, literature and so on. I regularly suggest to my students that they see a recent non-Christian film with a non-Christian friend, and afterwards discuss its worldview, and any themes that might illustrate, explain, counter, or make room for the gospel. Of course such an exercise presupposes that the believer has a firm grasp of his own faith and biblical worldview first. But we need to find ways to build bridges with our unbelieving friends, and use those bridges to share the gospel.

    And of course because of God’s common grace, there will be traces or elements of his truth and grace in all sorts of places. We need to mine those nuggets, and utilise them for the gospel’s sake, and on occasion, even for our own encouragement and edification. As I say, the non-Christian song ‘Into the West’ can be used by God as a means of grace – although not ultimate saving grace of course, but as a means to an end.

    And by the way, many of us as non-Christian hippies of the past loved Tolkien’s trilogy, little knowing or caring at the time that he was a Christian. Thus it was a double blessing, after we were saved, to learn that Tolkien too was a Christian.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  12. Dearest Bill, If it wasn’t for you I probably would not be doing what I do today and have done for the past 5 years “saving babies and their beautiful mothers and fathers” outside the Melbourne abortion clinics. I will never forget listening to you more than 6 years ago…you have an amazing gift…you motivate and therefore empower a person’s mission. CultureWatch is like a “spiritual petrol bowser” – I fill up everytime you send a message! Please dont feel yukky Bill, that’s exactly what Satan wants!
    God Bless!
    Jane Byrne

  13. Many thanks Jane

    I certainly appreciate the kind and encouraging words. And keep up the great work on your end. Blessings,

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  14. I share your experience and methodology. For me the music is “The Mission” and the book is “To the Golden Shore”.
    Stuart Robinson

  15. Excellent article Bill and very much needed.
    I have found watching the DVD, “Churchill’s War” to be inspirational and something that has rescued me a few times from giving up. As we all know, Sir Winston Churchill was in an ‘impossible’ situation when he took over as Prime Minister on the eve of the Second World War. But against all odds he battled on through thick and thin until victory. Thanks be to God that he never gave up and that he left us such an inspiring example.
    Geoff Harvey

  16. After reading your article about encouragement and the films that helped encourage you I could not help but think about a child like one that spoke to me in the very beginning of my walk with our Lord. It is called “The Lion King”. From memory I saw the Father Lion sacrifice his life in order to save his son’s only to have the son lose his inherance and his father’s kingdom to his evil Uncle by listening to his lies. The son then went into hiding and carefree fun living while his Father’s Kingdom was turned into darkness by his Uncle and his demon hyenas. It was not until there was a cry for help through his Lioness friend that he started wrestling with his conscience. It was then that his Father’s spirit spoke to him. As his father was speaking to him the young lion looked into a pool of water and saw his own reflection in the water. He was no longer a lion cub but a fully matured lion who was the exact image of his father. It was then and only then that he realised who he truly was. His father’s son! He then when back and fought for his Father’s Kingdom. The ending was wonderful because he won the battle and that dark Kingdom was turned into the Kingdom of Light again and his evil Uncle was destroyed by the very ones who followed him.

    In this particular film I saw Jesus as the Father Lion and we the church as his son. We will one day. soon I hope, be like Jesus and with him in command we can win the Kingdom back! But for now I just feel like the Lioness who is crying out for help to the church who is still slumbering and enjoying the ways of this world. I am waiting for the true saints to come marching in, and praying that I am one of them.

    Ingrid Hall

  17. Thank you for this Bill! We all need encouragement…both from others as well as ourselves. A good friend of mine challenged me to develop the discipline of self-encouragement and I am continually reminded of that valuable lesson.

    For me, meditating on 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 is very helpful: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

    This verse reminds me of the battle that we are going through, but also the fact that our struggles are “light and momentary” in the grand scheme of things. The things that seem insurmountable now are really nothing in light of the future…especially compared to what God is building in us and through us. And Bill, the work that God is doing through you is especially inspiring. I imagine that it can get quite draining to do what you do and depression is an easy temptation to give in to. Your work, however, brings a great deal of insight and Truth into our world. We need what you have to offer and I certainly appreciate it!

    Thank you for this reminder…it was a great encouragement to me to press on and keep going amidst the struggle as well!

    Jenna Raynes

  18. Bill,

    As much as Psalms 139:9 says “May your saints sing for joy.” I’m sure this coming Saturday at about 5:15pm you’ll have reason to be encouraged. Go Cats! 😉

    Mark Rabich

  19. Ah, but two problems arise here. After last year’s loss, one has to be prepared for the worse this year. And amazingly, I have been asked to speak this weekend in Queensland, so I won’t even get to see the game! Oh well, the sacrifices one has to make…

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  20. I have changed my mind, or, rather the Left changed it for me. In hindsight, I see both Thatcher and Reagan as champions of reason and now see their oponents as unreasonable. Thank you for bringing them and Pope John Paul together.
    As for encouragement I turn to ‘The Mediation of Christ’ by T.F. Torrance.
    Stan Fishley

  21. I hope this article written in 2006 by Sarah Hey, entitled “Little Stone Bridges & Why We Fight for Them” is not off topic. Though it is principally about the battles taking place in the Anglican Church, with a little imagination we can look past that and see that it talks to us all, wherever and whatever situation we are in.

    http://www.standfirminfaith.com/index.php/site/article/469

    David Skinner, UK

  22. Hi Bill

    I’ve long been a fan of the Lord of the Rings and generally re-read the book once a year. The movies are also great, although I’ve always been disappointed about 2 things. Why no Tom Bombadil? And why no Scouring of the Shire – to my mind that is the most inspiring part of the book, where we see how the hobbits have grown and matured as a result of their experiences.

    Is there anywhere we can download your powerpoint presentation – it sounds good!

    Chris Cullen

  23. Thanks Chris

    Yes, the films, as good as they are, could never do full justice to the books. Tolkien purists will always find something amiss in any film version.

    No, my PP show is not online, and is too big to email. But it is a good idea. It goes for about 11 minutes, so maybe it can be put on YouTube or somewhere. Thanks for the thought. I will see what I can do.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  24. One thing that has often strengthened me for the battle and picked up my spirits is to read – or now, watch – Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy.

    Yes! I do this for the same kind of reason.

    Somehow it makes me happy to know I’m not the only one who does this.

    Louise Le Mottee

  25. I find the movie Amazing Grace very inspirational and uplifting. Its my favourite movie and reminds me particularly of the battle with abortion today.
    Christina Schumann

  26. Thanks Christina

    Yes it is a terrific film and certainly inspirational. Wilberforce was a wonderful example of perseverance and tenacity. We can learn so much from his life and activities. And yes, the abortion battle today is so very similar to the slavery battle back then.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  27. I am always inspired by LOTR trilogy and for the same reasons you write about, Bill. Thank you.
    The following is my all time favorite verse in scripture. I cannot even express what happens in my spirit when I read it, but it’s good, very good, though often, well, always, accompanied with much weeping. It has been encouraging me since I was a teenager when I read it for the first time and my heart leapt for joy!
    Revelation 19 11-16
    “Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped ind blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.”

    Now, lately, 2 Thessalonians 2:8 has been giving me great encouragement, “Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming”
    Often, though now in part, this verse seems to highlight what the Word of Truth does to the Enemy whenever it is spoken! Keep speaking, Bill!!
    Appreciatively,
    Karen

  28. We should organise a big BBQ one day and get together and praise God and have some fun.

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