CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Are You in the Trenches?

Mar 12, 2020

It can get lonely and discouraging doing pitched battle in the trenches:

In an age of computer-driven weaponry and long-distance warfare, the older methods of man-to-man combat is becoming less and less necessary. Why bother with one-on-one fighting when a remote-control guided cruise missile can take out an entire platoon in a matter of moments?

So talk of trench warfare may not be all that familiar with many of my modern readers. But let me discuss it a bit further anyway. This was of course a main form of fighting back in WWI. Here is a bit of description on this from one war history article:

At least initially in World War I, forces mounted attacks from the trenches, with bayonets fixed to their rifles, by climbing over the top edge into what was known as “no man’s land,” the area between opposing forces, usually in a single, straight line and under a barrage of gunfire. Not surprisingly, this approach was rarely effective, and often led to mass casualties.

Later in the war, forces began mounting attacks from the trenches at night, usually with support of covering artillery fire. The Germans soon became known for effectively mounting night-time incursions behind enemy lines, by sending highly trained soldiers to attack the trenches of opposing forces at what they perceived as weak points.

If successful, these soldiers would breach enemy lines and circle around to attack their opponents from the rear, while their comrades would mount a traditional offensive at the front. The brutality of trench warfare is perhaps best typified by the 1916 Battle of the Somme in France. British troops suffered 60,000 casualties on the first day of fighting alone.

And conditions in the trenches were awful:

With soldiers fighting in close proximity in the trenches, usually in unsanitary conditions, infectious diseases such as dysentery, cholera and typhoid fever were common and spread rapidly. Constant exposure to wetness caused trench foot, a painful condition in which dead tissue spread across one or both feet, sometimes requiring amputation. Trench mouth, a type of gum infection, was also problematic and is thought to be associated with the stress of nonstop bombardment.

As they were often effectively trapped in the trenches for long periods of time, under nearly constant bombardment, many soldiers suffered from “shell shock,” the debilitating mental illness known today as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). www.history.com/news/life-in-the-trenches-of-world-war-i

I mention all this because I want to use the term ‘trench warfare’ as a very apt metaphor for the spiritual battles we are in. Every single genuine Christian is in a war whether they know it or not – whether they want to be or not. It is totally unavoidable. To be a Christian means you have been thrown into pitched spiritual warfare, and the powers of darkness are arrayed against you. Thus you must put on the whole armour of God and engage with the enemy.

I am reminded of all this for several reasons. One, I am again reading the book of Joshua. This is all about the Israelites taking possession of Canaan, the promised land. On the one hand they had to go in and fight for the possession of it. But on the other hand, they were told by Yahweh that he was giving them the land. Consider just one passage which so clearly demonstrates this divine/human interplay – Joshua 1:1-11:

After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them–to the Israelites. I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates–all the Hittite country–to the Great Sea on the west. No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. 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.” So Joshua ordered the officers of the people: “Go through the camp and tell the people, ‘Get your supplies ready. Three days from now you will cross the Jordan here to go in and take possession of the land the LORD your God is giving you for your own.’”

That God is giving them the land and that they have to take the land are both said repeatedly not just in the book of Joshua but throughout much of the Pentateuch as well. God is giving the land to the people as a gift, but they must go in and take possession of it.

And all this is also a type of the Christian life: God by his grace gives us what we need to fully grow in Christ and become what we are meant to be. But at the same time, we are meant to act, to take steps to make this a reality. It is a cooperative effort. See more on this here: billmuehlenberg.com/2020/02/28/cooperating-with-god/

But a second reason for my article is this: I just looked up something on my site as part of a response to someone else on the social media. With well over 5000 articles on this site (this one is the 5061st), I often do not need to go far to find something that I need – I have usually written about it already in the past!

So as I found some articles to share in this online discussion, it suddenly occurred to me that I have been slugging it out in the culture wars for a long time now. CultureWatch began 14 years ago, but I have been involved in these sorts of battles for at least 35 years now – the last 31 years being here in Australia.

So I have spent a fair bit of time in the trenches. I have experienced quite a few battles over the decades. I have plenty of old wounds and scars to show for my time at the front. I have plenty of enemies who have been and still are arrayed against me. Thus I do know a bit about what trench warfare (metaphorically speaking) is all about.

While I do not expect all Christians to be engaged in the culture wars – at least not as much as I am – I do expect that they all should be aware of some of the key battles and should be supporting those who are called to be involved in trench warfare.

For example, just as Wilberforce and many concerned Christians took an active role in dealing with the evil slave trade, so too today there should be numerous believers taking part in dealing with the evil abortion trade – either actively, or in a supporting role.

Of course I realise that I am not all alone in the trenches, thankfully. God has raised up a number of other brave fighters who are fully engaged. I know it is woefully remiss of me to name names, because so many could be mentioned. Forgive me then, but let me run with just three: the former and current heads of the Australian Christian Lobby: Jim Wallace, Lyle Shelton and Martyn Iles. Champs all three, as are many others.

But still, far too many Christians are sitting on the sidelines. Too many are just wanting to sit all this out, and leave the fighting to a handful of other Christians. Too many believers are either too cowardly or too unconcerned about the battles taking place all around them.

This should not be my friends. We all have a role to play. At the very least, we all can be praying. We all have various gifts, talents and callings that God has given us that should be used in the many wars happening all around us. We dare not try to remain neutral in a time of war.

Let me finish with two quotes. The first is from Numbers 32:6-7: “Moses said to the Gadites and Reubenites, ‘Should your fellow Israelites go to war while you sit here? Why do you discourage the Israelites from crossing over into the land the LORD has given them?'”

The second is from Tolkien’s The Two Towers, part of The Lord of the Rings trilogy (at least the film version of it):

Theoden: I will not risk open war. 
Aragorn: Open war is upon you whether you would risk it or not. 

So who will join me in the trenches? It can get a bit lonely out there, and having some fellow warriors by my side would encourage me greatly. Who is with me?

[1567 words]

24 Responses to Are You in the Trenches?

  • Well said brother

  • I’m with you Bill. I’m fed up with the weak gospel being preached in a lot of places; the social justice warriors; the “just be Jesus – that’s all you have to do” message that was forcibly preached to a few of us who took a stand again our minister who did not believe in the Trinity any more; the neglect by preachers of basic theological doctrines. I was taught the TRUTH in love when I walked into a pentecostal church in 1983 as a 32 year old unbeliever who was totally miserable with her life. The truth didn’t scare me off! I welcomed it as a way out of the mess I was in. We’ve watered down the truth so much these days because we don’t want to offend anyone. Good grief – how’s it working for us? It’s not!! Keep it up Bill – if I didn’t have your articles to read I’d think I was the crazy one. Rant over.

  • Thanks Ernest and Margaret.

  • We love & so appreciate your work Bill & the amazing way you are gifted by God to write so clearly that anyone can understand & learn. You are a blessing to so many of us in these turbulent times of extreme Culture Wars that sees society devaluing the truth of Gods principles & His infallible Word.
    This article is a stark reminder for us to pray for you on a regular basis & my husband & I commit to doing this.
    Keep up the good work & ‘May the Lord bless you & keep you, may His Face shine upon you & give you peace!’
    Blessings – Evelyn & Graeme Denning

  • Many thanks indeed Evelyn & Graeme.

  • I’m fighting alongside you, brother.

  • Praying for you, Bill. How else can we actively be fellow warriors by your side?

  • Thanks Suzanna. Prayer is always tops on my list. Otherwise the sky is the limit in terms of how we all can get involved in the various battles. That I have often written about. As to practical helps to keep the troops motivated, you have often led by example here in offering words of encouragement, etc. Those kind words always can help offset the many criticisms one gets! And not really wanting to raise this matter here, but those of us in faith ministries are trusting God (and his people) to help us pay the bills, put food on the table, and so on. Bless you.

  • I’m with you in spirit Bill. Your articles are very articulate and give a good perspective of what’s happening on the natural and spiritual levels regarding worldly affairs. Prayer is my only weapon, weakest souls can wield it best. Shoot those hurtful arrows upwards to God and he’ll hear the matter. God bless.

  • *Waves from a trench to the South…*

    We’re with you brother! God bless you and Godspeed as you continue the fight.

    David Gee

  • Bill, thank you for reminding us all of this important matter re your ministry being a faith ministry. And sincerest thanks for your faithfulness.

  • Great job Bill we really appreciate your work, words and faithful actions, i do pray that the Lord would raise up many people on the fight for saving babies lives. last year in NSW there was a great surge of effort & prayer around the legislation but the Church has fallen silent now. Australian Christianity has fallen silent and is mute we need to fear God and loose of fear of man, “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” We all need to follow this command as you rightly point out. Keep up the good fight brother, Christs sacrifice on the cross means we should all be fighting for truth much more. God bless you and lets all pray much harder on this issue of faith and works.

  • This is certainly a call to arms that all who are genuine Christians should be answering!

  • Thank you so much Bill for your perseverance and courage. Our household is with you. It certainly is a lonely place and I often experience shell shock at the waves of both evil and irrationality I see each day.

  • May I endorse all the comments above. I think your ministry is unique, for you not only write the articles but you are engaged in the discussions which follow. Moreover it is a post on the battle field to which we can briefly retire, exchange news from other parts of the arena, rearm with intelligence given to us from other combatants and head off once again into the fray. God bless and protect you Bill and as Winston Churchill said, “KBO”

    David Skinner UK

  • I’m with you, Bill. What’s most interesting, though, is you are with us. While we are ruminating on the problem, you are writing about it – giving words to our thoughts, which we can then share and send out with a prayer.

  • As a Christian there is no other choice but to be in the trenches! We all have our part to play, some of us have bigger public roles than others, but we are all on the same side! Support in anyway is important, it can make such a difference to our courage on the battlefield, we know God is there, but to be reminded that others are with us makes a huge difference, especially when they are visibly with us! I’m scared of the future and what is in store, I know there will be a time when we, who call on God, and have Jesus Christ as our Lord, will have to be public about our belief, and although those times are uncertain and frightening, they will also be times that the strength and power of our creator will shine through us, and give us what we need to do his work! I thank you for what you do, you certainly have a way of writing that makes difficult to understand topics become clear! Yes we are in a battle like it or not, aware of it or not, and we have to choose which side we stand for, and it is an honour to stand with you and all others on this side of the battle, may we encourage each other, be there for each other, and pray always for each other! Keep up the great work and know that we are by your side!

  • I have been in the trenches for years and have actual scars to prove it. I agree with you Bill 99.9% of the time. This article is spot on! Thank You

  • This was used in WWII to rally the home front perhaps Christians need a similar saying/poster: http://bir.brandeis.edu/bitstream/handle/10192/23819/ww2.14.jpg?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

    These articles are important. Too many speak of revival which yes we want BUT hardly anyone is preparing people for life under oppression. Christians regretted not preparing people for the persecution that was coming while the Lord did help those people perhaps we try to help this time while we still can.

  • my last paragraph referred to missionaries in china prior to Mao’s revolution.

  • Indeed Paul. How many churches hold prayer meetings for the persecuted church? The vast majority of church goers live in blissful ignorance of what is happening to their Christian family in Muslim and Marxist dominated countries. They might put on a cake stall day to raise money for such causes or invite a speaker on the topic but they avoid the Open Door or Barnabus Trust prayer days – least of all writing a word of encouragement to them. As for the poster you put up, I shall grab one of those thank you very much and rush once more into the breach.
    David Skinner

  • I’m with you 100% Bill.

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