Nov. 11, 2014 was a special day in a special year. It was the day when we paused to remember and give thanks for those who fought in wars past to preserve our freedom and those who still work to protect our freedoms today. We also remembered three significant events in history: the 100th anniversary of the start of WWI, the 75th anniversary of the start of WWII and the 70th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy during WWII.
Anniversaries are times of celebration and reflection. In particular, Remembrance Day is a time to reflect on wars past and present. We live in chaotic times, but the world has been in chaotic times since the beginning of time. We have been fighting wars since the beginning of time, and we are still fighting wars today. Since the end of World War II, there have been more than 250 wars worldwide.
In particular, we are fighting the war on terror, especially the group known as ISIS. We are fighting a hostile enemy in a hostile environment. This enemy will use every weapon at its disposal to try to gain victory-including kidnapping and murdering innocent civilians. This environment, like all environments of war, is hostile. In this environment, conflict is inevitable.
Here in Canada, we might think that we are immune to this. After all, the last time a war was fought on our soil was over 200 years ago during the War of 1812. Unfortunately, having this view is like looking at ourselves through rose-coloured glasses. The 2014 shootings at the National War Memorial and Parliament Hill, the 2014 hit-and-run death of a soldier in Quebec and the recent shootings of two police officers in Fredericton, New Brunswick should serve as reminders that no one is immune from the forces of evil and terror.
No one in his or her right mind wants war. The cost in terms of money, property damage, injuries and death is astronomical, and those of you who have been in battle know what I am talking about. We must love our enemies if at all possible, but sometimes we need to heed the words of an old Irish blessing that goes like this. “May God bless those who love us, and those who do not love us, may He turn their hearts. If he does not turn their hearts, May he turn their ankles so we may know them by their limping.”
Unfortunately, there are times when war is necessary. When I was preparing this message, I came across the message I delivered on Remembrance Day in 2006. In that message, I mentioned that pacifists believe that if we prepare for war, we will get war. In their view, the only way to achieve peace is to eliminate the causes of war, but sometimes this means going to war. Sometimes war is the only way to get rid of dictators and terrorists like Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Hussein, bin Laden and ISIS. The goal of pacifists is admirable and in fact we must try to avoid war if possible, but sometimes war is necessary and inevitable. Sooner or later war destroys those who resort to it, especially with nuclear weapons.
War is hell. It might be necessary at times, but it is not “good”. It is evil. We find strength not in our weapons, but in our faith in God. War is a tragic fact of life in our world. God prefers peace, but he often sends his people into war. He does so under three conditions:
- To liberate oppressed people.
- To punish evildoers
- To defend themselves.
True pacifists believe in fighting with the weapons of the Holy Spirit. The pacifist position has always been a respected minority position among Christians. Jesus was not a pacifist. Just look at what he did to the moneychangers in the temple! He even told his disciples to be armed with swords-not for fighting snakes, but for self-defense. That’s why Peter was able to cut off the soldier’s ear in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before Christ was crucified.
Our spiritual battle plan is similar to a military battle plan. We have objectives, strategies and tactics. Satan and Jesus plan their attacks and direct their forces just like a military general does. We have to put on spiritual armour just like soldiers have to put on battle armor. Our armour is Christ himself. He fights Satan on our behalf just like armed forces fight battles on behalf of their political masters. The real battle in life is against Satan and evil in all of its forms. Our opponents bring evil into our lives just like enemy armies bring evil onto a physical battlefield.
Life is a battleground. Those of you who have fought in times of war know what it is like to be on a real battlefield. You were armed and ready for battle against the forces of evil just like each and every one of us has to be ready to fight the same battle. You had to be watchful, and so do we. We have to watch out for obstacles that will make us stumble on our walk of life, and our veterans had to deal with obstacles such as barriers, barbed wire and mines. Our struggle with evil will result in certain victory because of God’s promise to be with us in good times and in bad times. Our veterans had to keep their minds on their duties in order to improve their odds of success and survival. We as Christians have to increase our chances of success in spiritual warfare by keeping our minds on God’s word. Our veterans had no guarantee that they would win their battles, but they didn’t give up. They persevered in spite of harsh conditions, and so can we because we are bold soldiers in God’s army.
Veterans fought to free people from the bondage of occupation by hostile forces. Spiritual warfare also involves freeing people from bondage-the bondage of sin and evil. There were many times when our veterans cried out in despair for God to protect them. After all, there is an old saying that “there are no atheists in foxholes.” Christian warriors are also encouraged to turn to God in faith. In both cases, evil in all of its forms is resisted. God helps us in our struggles. He will stand with us during the battles of life just like he stood with our veterans in wars past and just like he stands with the members of our armed forces today. He will give us the ammunition and the equipment we need to fight the battle.
So how can we fight the enemies of today and win? The answer is simple. We have to use weapons that are similar in nature to weapons used by soldiers in times of war. These similar weapons were outlined by the apostle Paul in the reading from Ephesians 6:10-20, which we heard a few moments ago. Each piece of this armour of God is an ethical quality which is derived from the character of Christ and which is ours through faith.
First, we have to put on our helmets. Just like a physical helmet protects soldiers in battle, a spiritual helmet protect Christian soldiers. A soldier on the battlefield has confidence that his helmet will protect his head, and a Christian soldier has confidence that nothing can separate him or her from the love of God. As Paul says in Romans 8:31-39, if God is for us, who can be against us?
Next, we are to arm ourselves with weapons. In the case of a soldier on the battlefield, these weapons include guns and grenades. On the spiritual battlefield, the weapon is the truth of the Word of God.
We are to wear a belt. A soldier’s belt allows him to carry his weapons. A spiritual warrior wears the belt of truth-truth about himself or herself, relationships, God and God’s love, our spouses and children and relatives. The belt of truth allows us to live truthfully and not to live a lie. The belt of truth is the best weapon to use for fighting evil.
We are also to arm ourselves with shields of protection. A soldier on the battlefield today or a police officer on duty wears a bulletproof vest and a helmet. Riot police are also equipped with face shields and full-length body shields. A Christian soldier has the resources of the greatest shield of all-Jesus Christ. He stands with us and fights with us and for us against Satan’s attacks.
A good soldier also needs good footwear. Soldiers wear boots that have to meet tough regulations. Christians are to wear the sandals of peace. Just like a soldier’s boots provide traction for every type of terrain, the good spiritual boot called the Gospel gives Christians the stability of sure footing when we face pain and fear. These spiritual boots will allow us to take the gospel anywhere and everywhere, just like a soldier’s boots will allow him to go anywhere and everywhere.
Even the best equipment does not offer a 100% guarantee of safety, survival and victory. On Remembrance Day we remember those who made the supreme sacrifice to ensure victory in wars past. We have heard the list of donations that have been made and wreaths that have been purchased. All of these wreaths and all of the donations are in memory of those who fought and died in battle. To many of us, these people are just names on a sheet of paper or on a cenotaph, but to those who made the donation or purchased the wreath, these people were husbands, fathers, sons and brothers, many of whom went off to war and never came home. They are still remembered and missed by those they left behind. They are remembered on the cenotaphs in communities throughout this country and on the rows of crosses at Normandy, Pusan and thousands of other cemeteries in this nation and around the world. They were people who hated war but made the Supreme Sacrifice.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this message, 2014 marked the 100th anniversary of the start of WWI, the 75th anniversary of the start of WWII and the 70th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy during WWII. Have we as a society learned anything from these events? Have we as a society learned anything from war at all? The answer to both of these questions is both yes and no. Warfare has taught us that it is something to be avoided if at all possible. In the words of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “The past is prophetic in that it asserts loudly that wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows. One day we must come to see that peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal. We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means. How much longer must we play at deadly war games before we heed the plaintive pleas of the unnumbered dead and maimed of past wars?”
One thing we as society have not learned from war is that we live in a world where the ambitions and greed of a few can cost the lives of thousands. Nazi Germany was a good example. Hitler’s greed for land and his ambition to get rid of the Jews cost millions of lives. Today we can look at ISIS and see how their goal to create an Islamic state is costing lives and the money that is needed by countries such as Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia and others to fight this evil.
Is it even possible to live peaceably with others? In a 2014 newspaper column, Billy Graham was asked why nations can’t get along with each other. He was also asked if warfare could be eliminated if poverty was eliminated. He stated in his reply that “Even if all poverty were somehow eliminated we’d still have conflicts and wars. This is because our real problem is deeper than economic inequality, or other social or economic problem. Our real problem is within ourselves, within our own hearts and minds.”
As long as there is greed and evil in this world, there will be war. War will only cease when we live according to the way God wants us to live, and that will only happen when Christ returns. Until then, there will always be a Remembrance Day, because there will always be a need to remember the lessons of war as well as those who made the Supreme Sacrifice.
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, NKJV (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013)
- Franklin Graham, “Standing Strong in Battle.” Retrieved from www.bgea.org
- Stephen Davey, “Dressed for War.” Retrieved from Christianity.firstname.lastname@example.org
- Dr. David Jeremiah, “The Armor of Righteousness.” Retrieved from www.davidjeremiah.org
- Dr. David Jeremiah, “Christ our Armor.” Retrieved from www.davidjeremiah.org
- Pastor Rick Renner, “Spiritual Warfare is real.” Retrieved from Christianity.email@example.com
- Dr. Neil Anderson, “Choosing Truth.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- Sheri Rose Shepherd, “Stand.” Retrieved from Biblegateway@e.biblegateway.com
- Pastor Rick Renner, “Are You Dressed in the Whole Armor of God?” Retrieved from Christianity.firstname.lastname@example.org
- Bruce Epperly, “Justice for Veterans and the Vulnerable: A Veterans’ Day Reflection.” Retrieved from www.patheous.com
- Dunnam, M.D. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 31: Galatians/Ephesians/Philippians/Colossians/Philemon (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1982)
- Craig Condon, “We Will Remember.” Retrieved from the author’s personal sermon library
- Billy Graham, “Why Can’t Nations Get Along?” Retrieved from www.arcamax.com