He was 23 years old, married to a girl back in Ohio. He had been trained to become part of the elite battle-ready 82nd Airborne. He was ready for anything the war on terror might bring. From his observation post on a housetop in Baghdad, his sniper-sharp eyes scanned the streets for signs of the enemy.
Separated from his partner, he was ambushed by a squad of insurgents. He was helpless against their cruel, methodical shooting at him. Taking aim beginning from his feet, they slowly worked their way up his legs to his abdomen, approaching the threshold of murder.
Seconds from death, he was rescued by his buddies. Then he was evacuated from the combat zone to a military hospital in Germany, and eventually to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in D.C., where both of his legs were amputated. A double prosthesis did not cancel his will to walk again. Searing pain did not stop his desire to achieve. Self-pity did not even seem to enter the picture
Observing this authentic patriot and American hero, now part of the Warrior Transition Brigade, I saw an object lesson in endurance and the personification of perseverance. Not only was he daily placing cones and agonizingly stepping over them, he had chosen to live in a third-floor apartment, because he liked the challenge and wanted to get strong again—so he could return to the front.
I thought to myself—here is a man “who more than self his country loves.” I wondered where there might be found that kind of unflinching courage and devotion in Christian soldiers “who more than self their Savior love”—believers willing to die with their boots on, facing the enemy.
Marveling at his dogged determination to fight again. I wondered how followers of Christ find the tenacity to fight on when self-pity threatens to quench the fire of our resolve.
Then I remembered the Scripture—We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, 16-18 NLT
With these truths cascading through my heart, I recalled the lyrics of an old Isaac Watts hymn—Am I a soldier of the cross, a follower of the Lamb? And shall I fear to own His cause or blush to speak His name? Sure I must fight if I would reign; Increase my courage, Lord! I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain, supported by Thy Word.
High-sounding words indeed—but If you and I are truly honest, we must admit there have been times we’ve been tempted to quit the fight of faith. Gazing at the figure of the One on the cross dying in our place sends us back to our tasks again.
I believe that if we ask Jesus to help us, He will (Philippians 4:13). Music historians say many Bach manuscripts have J.J. at the beginning—Jesu juva (Jesus, help me), and at the end of the manuscript S.D.G.—Soli Deo Gloria (To God alone be the glory). In between are found some of the most uplifting music phrases and compositions ever heard by human ears. If you and I are ever going to “make music for our Lord to hear,” we’re going to have to live life like Bach composed music. If we’re going to soldier on for God’s glory, we need Jesus’ help.
Johnny R. Almond
Pastor, Hull’s Memorial Baptist Church - Friends on a Journey of Faith
Author, Gentle Whispers from Eternity—Scripture Personalized