Next week will be the 70th anniversary of D-Day. On June 6, 1944, at 6.30 am, the Allied invasion of Normandy began. Having just been in England and Europe days ago, this historical moment especially stands to the fore in my mind and spirit.
And as always, it speaks to me so deeply of vitally important spiritual truths, such as the fact that we are in a war, in enemy-occupied territory in fact, and in desperate need of men and women who will enter the battle, put away fear, and stand strong with the Commander-in-Chief (King Jesus), and fight the good fight with courage and determination.
For those of you perhaps too young to recall the major details of this momentous day, let me pass on this brief account of some of the amazing facts and figures:
The assault was conducted in two phases: an airborne assault landing of 24,000 British, American, Canadian and Free French airborne troops shortly after midnight, and an amphibious landing of Allied infantry and armoured divisions on the coast of France commencing at 6.30 am. The operation was the largest amphibious invasion in world history, with over 160,000 troops landing on 6 June 1944 – and 195,700 Allied naval and merchant navy personnel in over 5,000 ships were involved.
The invasion required the transport of soldiers and material from the United Kingdom by troop-laden aircraft and ships, the assault landings, air support, naval interdiction of the English Channel and naval fire-support. The landings took place along a 50-mile (80 km) stretch of the Normandy coast divided into five sectors: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword.
Approximately 10,000 allies were injured or killed – 6,603 American, of which 2,499 were fatal, 2,700 UK soldiers and 1,074 Canadians, of which 359 fatal. Between 4,000 and 9,000 German troops were killed – and it proved the pivotal moment of the war, in the allied forces’ favour.
This of course was just the beginning, and horrific and costly fighting would take place for an entire year, before Victory in Europe was finally declared on May 8, 1945. So much blood was to be spilled during this year – so many lives lost.
But the future of the free world was at stake, and there simply was no other option. Either Hitler was fought to the last breath, or the entire world would be enslaved by Nazi tyranny. There was no place for sitting on the fence here. One either fought, or one effectively caved in to the other side.
The spiritual war we are in is really no different. Our spiritual enemy Satan has sought to enslave the entire world, robbing us of our freedom, our dignity, and our humanity. 2000 years ago a spiritual D-Day was launched. At Calvary God through his Son Jesus declared that a major fight back was now under way.
What he began then he has entrusted to us, his foot soldiers, to carry on with. We are part of the mopping up operation. The victory Christ won at Calvary is not fully finalised, and we are part of the ground assault – his troops who are re-taking enemy territory.
It is a hard and difficult campaign, and there have been many casualties along the way. And the real V-E Day will not fully take place until Christ comes again. So in the meantime, we engage, we fight, we soldier on. We do not have the luxury of sitting on the fence.
We cannot tell our heavenly commander that we prefer to just sit this one out. He expects every single one of us who are called by his name to get involved, and to fight until we can fight no more. This is not the time for cowardice and timidity. This is the time to stand on the Lord’s side, and by his grace, to fight the good fight of faith.
We dare not do otherwise. All around us we see men and women and children held captive by the evil enemy. People are dying, and bleeding, and deceived, and enchained. The work is great, but the soldiers are few. Many in fact have actually deserted to the other side.
Those who are standing strong seem to be few and far between. But even if we are down to a handful of fighters, we must carry on – we must persist. Jesus went all the way for us, even to the cross, so how dare we do anything less for him. The servant is not above his master, and if he spared nothing for us, then the least we can do is return the favour.
And of course Scripture speaks so much about the need for courage, and how God will be with us in these battles. It is said that the words “Fear not” are found 365 times in the Bible – enough for every day of the year. If God is on our side, we can do valiantly.
It is not by our might, or our power, or our strength, but by his Spirit that we can succeed and triumph (Zechariah 4:6). Simply consider the words of Yahweh to Joshua as found in Joshua 1:5-9:
As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.
Courage is the need of the hour. In these exceedingly dark days, we need more than ever men and women of courage. And remember, our courageous stance will always inspire others to do the same. As Billy Graham once said, “Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.”
Let me close with the account of one American GI who like all the rest of those men 70 years ago, needed to muster some real courage to embark upon that incredible and supremely daunting campaign. The story goes like this:
An American veteran who was part of the D-Day invasion described meeting Churchill prior to the launch of that bloody offensive against the forces of Nazism. He said D-Day was the most frightening experience of his life. “In fact,” he said, “I don’t think some of us would have been able to do what we did if it weren’t for a visit we got just before we crossed the English Channel.” That visit was from Winston Churchill. He rode up in a jeep, got out, and mingled with the troops. “He shook hands with us and even hugged some of us,” the veteran recalled. “He spoke of his own wartime experience and identified with our emotions. Then, he stood up in his jeep and gave a five-minute speech. He spoke the whole time with tears in his eyes.” Here’s what Churchill said:
“Gentlemen – I know you are afraid. I remember being afraid when I was a soldier. I had the privilege of defending my country…through dark days when we didn’t know whether we would accomplish what we had been given to do. But this is your moment. We are counting on you to rise to the occasion and achieve everything you have set out to do. The fate of the free world rests on your shoulders. May this be your finest hour.”
The veteran said, “Needless to say, our group of frightened soldiers turned into a band of men who were ready to take on anybody.”