My topic implies that this article is written mainly for our young men now serving in the armed forces of our country. Therefore I consider it quite appropriate to address this article directly to them. Perhaps you young men say: What does a spectator or one who stands on the sidelines know about our problems? After all there is no comparison between the views of one sitting in an easy chair and one who is confronted by these things in actual warfare. My answer to this is twofold. In the first place I would readily admit to be at a complete loss if I were to write on the problems of an ordinary soldier. But the problems of a Christian soldier are to a certain extent known to all of us, partly from your reports but above all from Scripture itself. Essentially every Christian has the same problems to face and solve, even though their nature and degree may radically differ. In the second place this article does not come to you young men as from one superior in faith or experience, as if I’m going to tell you something new. I can come only with the Word of God, and in the light of that Word 1 can at least know some of your problems and difficulties.
If you therefore are not a Christian soldier this article has nothing for you. But the question is: who and what is a Christian soldier? In short he is a soldier (or sailor) who is a Christian in the various spheres of life. It implies not merely that he was such merely at home, but that also now in the armed forces of our country he fries to be and live as a Christian. And this he must do not only in respect to his walk, in his relations to his buddies, but also in respect to his God. A Christian soldier is one who in his particular place, with the cross he has to bear, the battles he has to fight lives as a Christian.
You understand then that when I now speak of his problems, I am not referring to all the difficulties of army and navy life from the natural viewpoint, the horribleness of battle, the monotony of army life, or the manifold adverse conditions with which you have to cope. But I am referring to your problems as a Christian. Such problems you all undoubtedly have. They are legion in number. Every Christian has problems throughout his entire life, but your problems undoubtedly far exceed ours both in number and difficulty. At this point however, you perhaps ask a question. Of what avail is it to have someone tell us our daily problems in the Standard Bearer? Don’t we know them only too well? Which Christian soldier does not experience problems in respect to the many, many temptations surrounding him, to pray not my will but Thine be done, to confess his Lord at all times even in the face of open mockery, to pray all alone at the table, to let his light shine, to bear up with all the cursing, gambling, drinking and immorality of many men perhaps in his own barracks? These things you have all undoubtedly experienced. Therefore I don’t have to tell you about these problems. But the purpose of this article is to speak about some problems which you yourself perhaps do not see. Don’t consider this strange because many people at home don’t even see their own problems, nor feel themselves confronted by them. Perhaps the biggest problem of all is to make people see their own problems.
A problem now is an obstacle or hindrance placed before us which we must overcome. For the Christian it means that he must strive to overcome them, otherwise he’s no Christian. Now you young men undoubtedly have obstacles placed before you so big that it seems well-nigh impossible to master and conquer them. One of these, to my mind, is to love your enemies in your particular work. Almost impossible, and yet a demand of God. Difficult that is for every Christian in civilian life. But in times of war it is almost beyond our reach and apparently very improper. Moreover, you young men are trained to kill; all kinds of methods and devices are employed unto this end, and all kinds of propaganda is spread to make you hate the Jerry and the Jap. And the more you hate and despise and revengeful you become the better soldier you are supposed to make. Yet God says: Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you. Matt. 5:44. You must love the German and the Jan. Love them who try to kill us? Be kind to those who are out to kill you, who commit the most ruthless and atrocious deeds with innocent men, women and children, and raise havoc and destruction? This stands diametrically opposed to our nature. What an obstacle! But try to overcome it you must. Indeed a problem of a Christian soldier.
In close connection with this stands the problem of doing our work in obedience to our government. The command comes to us: Thou shalt not kill. Never may man kill, i.e. as man. God has given the power of the sword and punishment to the government. The government of each country wages war, hence the responsibility of waging a righteous or unrighteous war lies upon her shoulders. It is the American government that kills Germans and Japs. Or do you do so, or intend to do so? If you hate them and are filled with revenge then you certainly are committing murder. But right we stand with God as Christians only when we do our duty out of obedience to our authorities. But again well-nigh impossible for the flesh. So big are your problems. How hard it must be to do such when in the midst of bursting shells, whistling bullets, the roar of the cannon and the screeching dive-bomber?
Moreover another big problem for you men is to bear your cross submissively unto the end, whatever that may be. Many of you who have participated in actual warfare have undoubtedly catered to the desire to die rather than go and endure untold misery, toil and grief. The future seems dark. You would like to returns home where your heart is, but there’s no silver lining in the dark clouds to that effect. All you see before you is war, blood, misery and toil. How easy it is for us here, at home to understand your words that you’d rather die than go on. And how we suffer with you! Besides, how blessed it is for men in the youth of life to have the desire to be with their Lord, and be delivered from all the misery of this life. In those things we see how our God through His Word and Spirit has applied war with all its realities unto your hearts. But. . . .is it right to eater to such desires? In the final instance we must give a negative answer. In reality those desires are resignations to the service of our God. Elijah too fled from his scene of labor. He was totally discouraged and wholly dissatisfied with the service of Jehovah, and therefore desired to hand in his resignation to the Lord. But such we cannot do with God. When our work is done He calls us home, not before. So too the Christian soldier must bear his cross. The way of the Lord with him and for him is through war, fighting, and all kinds of difficulties. Through and by means of these things God is preparing you. May you then resign when you get tired of it? Of course not. But O how hard when physical and spiritual endurance seems almost impossible! I’m sure that we at home here have but an inkling of the difficulty of being willing to bear that cross submissively unto the end.
And finally you must find a tremendous problem in being able to view your life and cross as given in God’s grace. You know Scripture tells us that all we have and receive is given in grace. The good things are given in that infinite love, but also those that we call adverse. The apostle Paul says that it is given us (in grace) not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him. Phil. 1:29. All things are given the child of God in His grace, be it a way of prosperity or of suffering, sickness, pain and sorrow. Even war with all its horrible implications is for the Christian grace of God. It is the grace of God when He leads you through ways of combat and suffering and grief. But can you imagine that? Can you believe that and view your life in that light? Again almost impossible! What a problem!
The solution of all these problems is to be found in the Word of God. “And this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith”. I John 5:4b. Through Christ and faith in Him are we able to do these things. In Him we see God’s love to us and what we have deserved, namely, eternal death and desolation. With this no war or battle is to be compared. Sometimes we hear say that war is a living or miniature hell. The truth is however, that the most terrible war is not even to be compared with hell. Such terrible punishment we have deserved. How great then is the grace of God given us in Christ Jesus. Through the means of faith it is possible in principle to love our enemies while we by nature hate, be obedient to those above us while we by nature are disobedient, be willing to serve our God who has redeemed us while we by nature live for self, and finally can view all thing’s as given in His grace realizing that we have deserved nothing but eternal death.
These obstacles can be overcome, Christian soldier, by living close to your God, being redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. For him who seek and serves sin it will forever be impossible to solve these problems. “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.” II Tim. 2:4. A good soldier has his mind fixed on the one thing he is called to do, not on the things of this life. Therefore, Christian soldiers, you are and can be when you seek not the things below but are single-charted, seeking the things above. And finally remember that the fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. May you daily meet one another before the throne of God’s grace to live, to fight and to die if necessary as Christian soldiers.