by Byron Paulus
Are you making a trip over the weekend to a cemetery or a war memorial? Or in some other way honoring those who sacrificed their life for something they deemed more important? To show respect to someone who laid down their life so others could pick up theirs?
I am always sobered when I think how little time I take to remember my own brother. A buddy of mine named Phil from Lubbock, TX, continues to wear a KIA bracelet which he slipped on his wrist in 1969, and has worn every day since. It has the simple inscription:
Lt. Robert D. Paulus (6-29-1969)
Phil wears it so he won’t forget. But I wonder, “What difference does it make?” I wonder what impact being reminded (every day for 16,393 days) has on the way Phil lives? Think about it. Phil has had an inescapable daily reminder for 47 years that someone died so he might live a life of liberty and freedom. Surely that changes one’s values and aspirations.
But does it change ours? Does it change mine? What am I living for that is worth someone else dying for?
I was struck by A. W. Tozer’s commentary on Joshua 24:15. It is the familiar passage with the familiar question about choosing who (and what) we will live for. And it included the even more recognized response: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!” Tozer expands on what it means when making the choice to live biblically:
In earlier days, when Christianity exercised a dominant influence over American thinking, men conceded this world to be a battleground. Man, so our fathers held, had to choose sides. He could not be neutral–for him it must be life or death, heaven or hell. In our day, the interpretation has changed completely. We are not here to fight, but to frolic.
Battleground not playground. Fight not frolic. Life or death. Heaven or hell. These are necessarily strong in a world that esteems comfort and convenience.
I am all about taking time for respite and leisure. God designed one day out of seven for that very purpose. And He modeled it. BUT the other six, we need to be remembering . . . remembering to engage in the intense spiritual battle for the souls of men. And it is a battleground. And the war room’s plan to win on the spiritual battleground is identical to the strategy necessary to win on the physical battleground: Be willing to die so others might live.
I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels–a plentiful harvest of new lives. — John 12:24
I saw a huge corn planter in a field the other day. I cannot imagine how many seeds were planted and how quickly they were embedded into the soil . . . where they would die. And germinate. And then produce a harvest. I envisioned the harvest from those thousands of seeds. Approximately 1,600 kernels yield for every one kernel planted. Every year. Year in and year out.
In a real sense, Christianity is like a huge spiritual seed planter. And we are the seeds. God places us in the planter. We get distributed into the fertile soil and there . . . there we die to our desires, our aspirations, our life . . . so others can truly live.
I read a book entitled They Found the Secret, which is a short biography on 20 spiritual giants. In it is one of Amy Carmichael’s prayers, and with which I close, because it is about how to die so others can live:
From prayer that asks that I may be
Sheltered from the winds that beat on Thee.
From fearing when I should aspire
From faltering when I should climb higher.
From silken self, Oh Captain, free
Thy soldier who would follow Thee.
From subtle love of softening things
From easy choices weakenings.
Not thus are spirits fortified
Not His way went the crucified.
From all that dims Thy Calvary
Oh, Lamb of God, deliver me.
Give me the love that leads the way
The faith that nothing can dismay.
The hope no disappointments tire
The passion that will burn with fire.
Let me not sink to be a clod
Make me Thy fuel, Flame of God.