“The Duration of Warfare”
Revelation 2:10, “Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.”
This morning, life seems to follow a pattern of one of the famous literary lines, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” To the disciple of Christ trying to adhere faithfully to His injunctions, it seems so dark and distressing at what the world is propagating these days. To that same individual, today is the closest we have ever been to the 2nd coming of our Lord. Truly, this day – with all of its sorrowful circumstances – is still the best in the regard of being nearest to the blessed end. Till that blessed day arrives, much needs to be done in combating the problems that cross our path as diligent and faithful soldiers of the cross. While we will always have problems as long as we dwell in a sin-cursed plane, that does not necessitate our falling prey to them. So, the question that any soldier must ask is, “How long must this fight endure?”
As we launch into this mode of thought, please note dear reader that the only portion of our study verse that we will consider is the expression “be thou faithful unto death.” There are many more good things in this verse and the immediate context regarding the address to the church at Smyrna. However, our scope is more broad than the focus on one church as this lesson is primarily directed. Since the answer to the soldier’s question is readily apparent from the expression itself. Consider this quote from a famous American general as we go into this, “The soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.” — General Douglas MacArthur
The injunction on warfare’s duration is simple and straightforward. As long as we have breath, we should stand and war a good warfare faithfully. In the workforce, people look forward to one thing seemingly more than any other: retirement. I must confess that at my relatively young age, I think about it. Most of my thoughts revolve around how I much I could do that I want to do if retired. However, it should not be so for the disciple’s life of service. Our “want to” should align with our “ought to.” We may have times and seasons where we want to quit the fight or take a sabbatical. But, faithfulness should know no season and cessation of conflict with the world should never occur, as this world is not our friend.
In recent days, I have seen the rise of the retirement mentality in some Christian circles regarding their service and faithfulness to God’s kingdom. In the denominational world, preachers are retiring (mind boggling thought!), and even in our own churches, people are semi-to-fully retired in their efforts worshipping the Lord. While I am all for encouraging younger, fresher people in churches to take responsibilities as they grow and develop, there is no discharge in this war and service of ours. Prayers should stay most fervent. Worship should remain passionate and heart-felt. Daily life should still look as bright and refulgent as a shining light in a cold dark world. Years ago, a much older minister confessed to me that he had not really read or studied his Bible in years. His preaching was basically a re-presentation of things preached in years past. He said with shame that he had been brought to his knees by the Almighty to pick his sword back up and war again.
Let us transition this thought to our highest Example. Jesus Christ the Lord was faithful unto death. While this question does not apply to us with the same weight it does to Him, what are the ramifications of not being so? Had Jesus Christ not been faithful all the way to death, we would be yet in our sins and of all men most miserable. Thank God and bless His name that our faithfulness unto death does not carry such eternal ramifications! However, consider how our faithfulness in this regard does affect us, and more pertinently those around us. Most people are going to remember what portion of someone’s life? More than likely, the thing that will stand out the most is how they finished their course.
When runners run in a race, a fast starter that fades down the stretch will be a mere footnote as a participant in the race. Though he may have led the first half of it, his effort will not endure. There have been ministers I have known in the past that were great blessings for many years to God’s people. Their preaching was mighty and powerful, but down the stretch they either faded to a moral problem or theological error. All most people remember about them is not the years of faithful service but the reprobate or heretical behavior that came forth at the end. The greatest legacy we can leave for our children and those following after us is not money, land, possessions, or even seasons of faithful examples. Rather the greatest legacy we can leave those we love is the example of finishing our course with joy, rejoicing in hope even until the end, and steadfastly holding on to those things that bring lasting peace and joy to the soul.
Getting back to the quote from the beginning, every one of us should have the prayer of peace first and foremost in our hearts. Not peace with the world but peace from out of his world. We will be at peace one day with a full cessation of hostilities for evermore. That discharge will come from either death or Christ’s coming. Until one of those two events transpire, faithfulness should be our primary course: in all seasons, in all situations, and no matter the price that it costs. Faithfulness to His Divine will occurred for our Lord all the time, no matter what He was faced with, and even at the cost of His life for us. May our course follow the same direction and path. May our best days of faithful service be those before us. As the world grows darker, may we grow brighter. As death nears, may we rejoice in hope with all faith even more. As another memorable character said during a great time of conflict, “This was their finest hour.” May people remember the end of warfare as being our finest hour of service, thanksgiving, and praise knowing that our arms would be laid down forever to rest in peace and at home.