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“Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 2:3)

It is at this time of the year when we remember those who fought for our country, allowed themselves to be put in harm’s way, and who we have come to observe on a special holiday known as Veteran’s Day. The phrase “in harm’s way” has been attributed to the American Revolutionary War hero John Paul Jones, forever known as “The Father of the American Navy”. In 1778, American Navy Captain Jones went to France, hoping to persuade the French government to give him a ship to use in the American colonies’ rebellion against the British. In a letter dated November 16, 1778, he said: “I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast, for I intend to go in harm’s way.” Unfortunately, the best that the American agents in France could find for Jones was a slow, refurbished, 14-year old vessel. Jones proceeded to sail into harm’s way with his tub of a ship and motley crew, and that led to his most famous battle.  With his ship sinking and burning, guns wrecked, and half his crew dead or wounded – John Paul Jones had a chance to surrender which any normal person would have taken. But Jones himself answered with the call that he had “not yet begun to fight.”

Those who serve in our armed forces understand that freedom comes at a cost. And since the birth of our nation, brave men and women have stepped forward, weighed that cost and chosen to lay down their lives in service to their fellow countrymen. When one of them dies, the words extended “on behalf of a grateful nation” seem inadequate at times. These days, it is not only those in uniform who occasionally  march into harm’s way. Indeed, that could be any of us who walks into a public building or shops at a local mall. No one would have suspected that attending worship at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas would have placed themselves at risk of being among those 26 persons who were mortally wounded on November 5, 2017. In those brief minutes after the attacker began to fire his weapon, a mother shielded her four children as best she could by throwing her body over theirs. Only two of the children survived as this mother who sacrificed her life realized they were all in harm’s way.  A concerned neighbor who heard the massacre unfolding grabbed his rifle and placed himself in danger by opening fire on the shooter and chased him down in a stranger’s truck. Reflecting on the event, he later stated – “I’m no hero. I think my Lord protected me and gave me the skills to do what needed to be done.”

Undoubtedly, you must like have heard someone say – “Things are going to get worse before they get better.” While some may see this as pessimism, others simply view it as a call of preparation. Lest there be any doubt, we live in uncertain times. In the apostle Paul’s last letter to his beloved son in the faith, Timothy, he gave this insight: “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days” (2 Timothy 3:1).  In the verses which follow, He goes on to describe what these end times will look like. It is clear that dangerous, harmful, high-risk periods have already arrived. We are living in a generation that faces world threats like no other generation has ever known. The obvious follow up question for any believer then would be . . . “Now that I know the Lord, what am I to do in perilous times?’” Paul provides this answer: “But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you” (2 Timothy 3:14).

As we face each new day knowing that we will be in a spiritual battle for all that is good and right, it’s easy to reflect on the words of the great hymn – “Onward Christian soldiers marching as to war; With the cross of Jesus going on before.’ Taken from New Testament references to the Christian being a soldier for Christ, none of us know if and when we might be called to stand for our faith. We might march in the ranks of the armed services, engage in the protection of a loved one or neighbor in need, or come face to face with some other hateful act of this world. We can hold onto those words: Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). We will sense the presence of His protection and know the assurance of His love as we move to confront whatever places us in harm’s way.

REFLECTION: As a child of God, how can you fully embrace that you are equipped to minister to someone who is suffering? Do you feel overcome with fear or filled with faith as you contemplate facing the special challenges of being in harm’s way? Are you heeding the warnings of the Holy Spirit to be spiritually alert?


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