Turning Back in the Day of Battle

When the going gets really tough, will we be able to stand or will we flee?

One of the most influential pastors in my life over the last four years has been a man who preached in the 1800s in England. When I get to heaven, I will thank him. But today I thank God for him and how He graced the pastor with tremendous wisdom and a heart yearning for God.

His name is Charles Haddon Spurgeon. You can read every one of his sermons (that would take a very long time) at “The Spurgeon Center”. The link is https://www.spurgeon.org. He is referred to as “The Prince of Preachers” and there is no question that he followed Christ devoutly. I highly recommend him to you.

Four years ago I read one of his sermons titled “Turning Back in the Day of Battle” –https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/spurgeoncharles/sermons/0696.cfm

This particular sermon caused me to take a very hard look at my life. I could see where I turned back and did not stand firm. That is the title I’ve borrowed for this article and I hope Spurgeon doesn’t mind.

Before I speak about large battles, let me talk about small ones. We face small battles every day in which we can choose to act like Christ – or not. For example, you are driving down the highway at 70 miles an hour and a car almost runs into you. You swerve out of the way and notice they are texting at the wheel. Do you curse, letting your anger and frustration show? That would be the natural reaction. Been there, done that. It’s not easy controlling our emotions when we see people doing foolish, dangerous things that endanger other’s lives, especially our own. If you have your children in the car with you that makes it doubly hard. Yet, every time we have patience and act like Christ, we are allowing Him to work in our lives. We deny our self and are transformed into His likeness, in just a small way.

In Paul’s letter to the Romans he wrote:

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
– Romans 12:2

My personal belief is that God weaves lots of little battles in our lives to prepare us for the larger ones to come.

What are the bigger battles? Here are some examples:

  • You get fired from your job unfairly
  • You lose someone you love
  • Your spouse asks for a divorce or you decide the marriage is dead and ask them for a divorce
  • Someone tells you that believing in God is believing in a fairy tale
  • Someone at work dishonors your company and you are left to deal with the aftermath
  • The love your life cheats with your best friend
  • The doctor comes back into the room frowning at your x-ray

If we habitually allow the Holy Spirit to work in us, and we stand for our beliefs on a day by day basis, it transforms us and strengthens us.

And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
~ Romans 5:3-5

Spurgeon’s sermon, based on Psalm 78:9, centered around a group of men that were armed and carrying bows. Sounds like a formidable group and one that I might want at my back in a time of trouble. But the scripture tells us that they turned their backs, away from the battle. And it is very possible that they were armed and equipped with bows to protect the ark of the covenant! In regards to turning away from the battle, Spurgeon states “This, I am sorry to say, is not an unusual thing amongst professing Christians.”

Spurgeon goes on to look at all aspects of the encounter and raises some astonishing points about it that can directly apply to us in this day and age. He talks about bravery, especially about how brave some men act when the battle has not yet started, or when on holidays when the trumpets were sounding and all around are acting patriotic and proud.

We each have a purpose in God’s plan. Can we stand for Him, or will we be like Peter, his disciple, and say “I do not know Him!”?

Here is an excellent passage from Spurgeon’s sermon which seems to me to be relevant to any who want to make a difference:

“The soldier wants to distinguish himself; he wants to rise out of the ranks; he wants to be promoted. He hardly expects an opportunity of doing this in time of peace, but the officer rises when in time of war he leads a successful charge. And so it is with the Christian soldier. I make no advance while I am not fighting. I cannot win if I am not warring. My only opportunity for conquering is when I am fighting. If I run away when there is a chance of winning the crown, then I am like the ship that does not come out of harbor when there is a fair wind, or like the man who does not avail himself of the high tide to get his vessel over the bar at the harbor’s mouth. I cannot win without fighting, and therefore I thank God when the trial comes, and count it a joy when I fall into manifold temptations, because now I may add to my faith one virtue after another, till my Christian character is all complete. To throw away the time of conflict is to throw away the crown. Oh, simple heart! Oh, silly heart! to be afraid of suffering for Jesus! “

We should not be deceived by the pastors who preach the “Prosperity Gospel” such as Kenneth Copeland, Joyce Meyer, and Joel Osteen. They are achieving their own prosperity by deceiving others in the name of Christ into giving them money. They will tell you that God’s plan is to make you rich and that you will have perfect health if only you do certain things (like giving them money). This life isn’t a bed of roses and you can’t “Name it and claim it!” as these people claim. There is a battle going on all around us each and every day.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. ~ Ephesians 6:12

Going into battle isn’t comfortable. Recognizing that following Jesus Christ requires each of us to be willing to suffer isn’t comforting. What did Christ say about it?

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”
~ Matthew 16:24-25

Let me close with a strong word of encouragement. I’ve never felt more joy in my life than when I’ve followed Christ. Let me encourage you to take a stand for God and not to turn back in the day of battle!

Photograph by John J O’Leary

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