Men huddled together in small cabins, coughing, hacking, sneezing, shivering, and cold to the bone. They were sick, hungry and considered themselves successful, if they managed to survive another day. Their leader knew, that if they failed to endure this seemingly endless cycle, their hopes and dreams would evaporate, in the blink of an eye.
Exposure to the elements had already taken the lives of over 2,000 of their comrades, but that did not keep the faithful, from continuing to endure this merciless cycle day-after-day.
The place was Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. The men were members of the Continental Army, and their leader was General George Washington.
Practically speaking, these men were considered traitors by the nation that governed them prior to the start of the Revolutionary War—thus there was no turning back.
General Washington and his Continental Army, found themselves striving for balance amid an imbalanced world. On the one hand they had an oppressive government attempting to imprison or kill them; on the other hand, they had an oppressive winter threatening their very existence.
Finding balance amid an imbalanced world during the winter of 1777-78 wasn’t easy, but somehow they did. Somehow they survived. Somehow they persevered. Somehow they prevailed. And in the end they helped give birth to a nation called The United States of America!
Similarly, veterans of the War of 1812, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World War I and II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War, the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan were forced to find balance amid the imbalanced worlds they were thrust into.
As one who has served as a Chaplain at a Veterans Hospital, and someone who served with the Army Rangers, I understand the importance of celebrating our servicemen and women, especially those who offered up their lives on our behalf. Likewise, I understand the difficulties of striving to maintain balance amid imbalance as servicemen.
The tightrope the American soldier walks, acts as a platform for helping us understand a similar walk—the Christian walk. Like soldiers, Christians are encouraged to find godly balance amid an imbalanced world.
In John 16:33 Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble.” The Lord didn’t sugar coat the Christian experience.
Some of you may recall the name Howard Cosell–one of the most influential Sportscasters of the 20th Century.
In 1993, TV Guide named Cosell the All-Time Best Sportscaster in its issue Celebrating 40 years of television. And in 1996 they ranked him #47 on TV Guide’s 50 Greatest TV Stars of All Time.
Cosell said of himself, “Arrogant, pompous, obnoxious, vain, cruel, verbose, a showoff. There’s no question that I’m all of those things.”
If this is the case, how in the world was he considered the “All-Time Best Sportscaster” by TV Guide?
Simply put, he built his reputation around his catchphrase, “I’m just telling it like it is.”
When Jesus said to His followers in John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble,” like Cosell, He was “just telling it like it is.”
What did Jesus mean when He said, “you will have trouble?” The term “trouble” is closely associated with words such as “affliction, anguish, burdened, persecution, tribulation.”
Literally or figuratively it can be translated, “pressure.”
At face value, one might be tempted to think, “What’s up with that? Christianity doesn’t sound like a lot of fun to me!” Sometimes it isn’t.
When push comes to shove, which would you rather have, someone who candy coats things they know aren’t true, or someone who’s “just telling it like it is?” Almost 40 years ago, I chose to follow someone who was “just telling it like it is” to me. His name is Jesus Christ.
The Bible uses a number of metaphors to portray the Christian walk, one of these metaphors military Veterans can relate with.
In Philippians 2:25 the apostle Paul unites the Christian walk with that of a servicemen when he refers to Epaphroditus as his “fellow soldier.” In Philemon verse 2 Paul likewise refers to Archippus as his “fellow soldier.”
In 2 Timothy 2:3 Paul says to Timothy, “Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.”
While serving with the Army Rangers, one of the very first things we had to do was memorize the Ranger Creed. It goes like this:
Recognizing that I volunteered as a Ranger, fully knowing the hazards of my chosen profession, I will always endeavor to uphold the prestige, honor, and high esprit de corps of the Rangers.
Acknowledging the fact that a Ranger is a more elite Soldier who arrives at the cutting edge of battle by land, sea, or air, I accept the fact that as a Ranger my country expects me to move further, faster and fight harder than any other Soldier.
Never shall I fail my comrades. I will always keep myself mentally alert, physically strong and morally straight and I will shoulder more than my share of the task whatever it may be, one-hundred-percent and then some.
Gallantly will I show the world that I am a specially selected and well-trained Soldier. My courtesy to superior officers, neatness of dress and care of equipment shall set the example for others to follow.
Energetically will I meet the enemies of my country. I shall defeat them on the field of battle for I am better trained and will fight with all my might. Surrender is not a Ranger word. I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy and under no circumstances will I ever embarrass my country.
Readily will I display the intestinal fortitude required to fight on to the Ranger objective and complete the mission though I be the lone survivor.
Rangers lead the way!
Interestingly enough, there are some important similarities between a Christian Soldier and the expectations found in the Ranger Creed.
1. Both are voluntary
Ranger Creed: Recognizing that I volunteered as a Ranger
The Bible: John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
No one can force us to believe. Belief is a personal choice based on an inner decision we choose to make.
2. Both have high standards
Ranger Creed: I will always endeavor to uphold the prestige, honor, and high esprit de corps of the Rangers.
I will always keep myself mentally alert, physically strong and morally straight
The Bible: Matthew 5:48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
3. Both expect one to complete the mission
Ranger Creed: Readily will I display the intestinal fortitude required to fight on to the Ranger objective and complete the mission
The Bible: 1 Corinthians 9:24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.
Hebrews 12:1 “let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”
4. Both have hazards or troubles associated with them
Ranger Creed: fully knowing the hazards of my chosen profession
The Bible: John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble.”
Of course, the hazards or troubles of a Ranger are much different from those of a Christian.
In Ephesians 6:12-18 the apostle Paul helps us understand the nature of such troubles when he says, For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
There are earthly struggles all men and women encounter such financial, interpersonal, health, man made and natural disasters, etc. All these struggles are very trying, but they differ from the spiritual struggles Jesus and Paul are referring to.
There is Good News for followers of Christ, Jesus said in John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
When Christ is “just telling it like it is,” He does it for a good reason. He’s not merely trying to scare us. He’s not trying to be a downer, but rather He tells us these things for at least three reasons:
1. That we may be AWARE that in this world, even if we are a Christian “you will have trouble.” Being informed and being Aware, is half the battle in terms of finding Balance Amid an Imbalance World.
2. That we “may have peace” which allows us to “take heart.” Who is more reliable than the Son of God? Thus, when He encourages us to “Take Heart,” we surely can “Take Heart” and “Have Peace.”
3. That we may know that Jesus Himself has “overcome the world” as our pathfinder, on our behalf. It’s reassuring to know that He has overcome and that He has gone on before us to prepare a place for us. And the message is that He has done all the heavy work on our behalf.
The end result of all this being, to help encourage us, to find and embrace balance amid an imbalanced world.