Many would be aware of how a gallant Australian soldier was recently awarded the Victoria Cross. Last week Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith received the honour for his courageous actions in the field of battle in Afghanistan as he took on Taliban insurgents.
The brave SAS soldier in effect single-handedly saved his fellow soldiers in a major fire fight. Back in June of last year he helped to rescue his team which was pinned down by heavy enemy fire. He saved them by taking on a number of enemy machine gunners.
All up some 60 Taliban were killed in a six-hour battle. The high point involved Roberts-Smith and two others pinned down close to the machine gun nests. His two comrades were unable to engage the enemy, so Roberts-Smith moved ahead, taking on the machine gunners. His heroic actions saved the day – and his companions.
Part of his citation reads as follows: “For the most conspicuous gallantry in action in circumstances of extreme peril. … His acts of selfless valour directly enabled his troop to go on and clear the village…” The details of his exploits are recounted in detail in the citation.
But what I especially wish to highlight here is what he said, as he reflected on being in the thick of the action. This is what he said: “I saw my mates getting ripped up, so I decided to move forward. I wasn’t going to sit there and do nothing.”
I quite like that. Not only is it a great attitude to have in the field of combat, but it applies much more widely. I am thinking here about the Christian life. The Bible consistently portrays the believer’s life as one of battle, warfare, and constant fighting. I have written about this often, eg:
The New Testament frequently provides military imagery in describing the Christian life. We are in a continual state of warfare with sin, self, and Satan. We are clearly told that behind all the action in this life is a cosmic battle which we are all involved in.
It is a spiritual warfare which we daily engage in, but this of course manifests itself on so many different levels. The battles believers take part in are too numerous to list here, but let me just mention a few obvious ones. Consider some of the many external threats we face:
-Attacks by unbelievers
-Moral and cultural challenges
-Various assaults on the Christian faith
-“The world, the flesh and the devil”
And then there are all sorts of internal battles as well, which include:
-False teachings and doctrine
-Apostasy and backsliding
-Lack of church discipline
These are just a few of the battlefields that we find ourselves in. Every day we are engaged in some sort of battle, some sort of attack or some sort of assault. And the casualties are high and continue to mount. All around us we find believers who are burnt out or worn down or fed up.
Every day pastors around the world are giving up the ministry. They have had enough. They are sick of all the criticism and ingratitude and abuse. Every day believers are being shot down in defeat or discouragement or immorality or pride or worldliness or liberal theology or men-pleasing, etc.
Indeed, believers are falling like flies all over the place. If they are not falling to pornography, family breakdown, various addictive behaviours, or besetting sins, they are falling to false doctrines, pseudo-spiritualities, worldly ideologies, or New Age mumbo jumbo.
All over the battle field our brothers and sisters are fallen, tied down, outgunned and overwhelmed. All over the world Christians are wounded, under attack, outnumbered, or putting up the white flag of surrender. But the most tragic reality of all is that many believers do not even know we are in a battle.
So many believers seem to think the Christian life is like a cruise ship instead of a battle field. So many believers think the Christian life is supposed to be all about their own happiness, comfort and satisfaction. Few believers realise that the Christian walk is a continual state of warfare.
As Leonard Ravenhill lamented, “Many believers live as if this world were a playground instead of a battleground.” Or as he also put it, “The Church used to be a lifeboat rescuing the perishing. Now she is a cruise ship recruiting the promising.”
A.W. Tozer also spoke of our soft, mushy and gutless Christianity: “Yes, if evangelical Christianity is to stay alive she must have men again, the right kind of men. She must repudiate the weaklings who dare not speak out, and she must seek in prayer and much humility the coming again of men of the stuff prophets and martyrs are made of.”
Today on all sides our brothers and sisters are engaged in various levels of heavy fighting. What are we going to do about it? Are we going to get involved in the battles of the day, or will we just attempt to sit on the fence, watching the carnage all around us?
In the context of our many spiritual battles, I again remind you of what this brave Corporal said: “I saw my mates getting ripped up, so I decided to move forward. I wasn’t going to sit there and do nothing.”