War-Torn Lives: How to Overcome

War-Torn Lives: How to Overcome

“…In this world, you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome this world.”  John 16:33 NIV


A sign beside the door of an Army Chaplain’s office stated:  “If you have troubles, come in and tell me about them.  If you don’t have troubles, please come in and tell me how you do it.”   A fitting sign for a Chaplain’s office, especially when one considers its location…an Army Post for Combat Training! This would be a great sign to hang outside each church pastor’s office, as well; especially, if the pastor reads it frequently.”


Many would say their life has been nothing but trouble ever since they were born. Consider the little children, who are born in the war-torn geography of the Middle-East, and hope to live long enough to see their tenth birthday, or eventually, live in peace one day.  In a news video, aired earlier this year, an adolescent girl, also the designated protector of her prepubescent sister and brother, could name the different types of shells being fired in the region surrounding her make shift home inside a bombed-out building.  At such an early stage in life, already, she was a weapons expert and could tell which army was firing the shells, what type of shells they were as they whistled through the air, or how they exploded, and whether enemy or friendly. Imagine living like this day and night, every day, wondering when the bomb might land on their home. Watching this documentary, no doubt, viewers were both exceedingly amazed by the little girl as she told her story, but equally sad, when they considered the truth in what she said.


Chaplains, missionaries, church pastors and/or church staff ministers hear and see many sad, sometimes even terrifying stories from people, on a daily basis; and often these stories have a traumatic end such as being permanently disabled or bedridden, and in many cases, death and departure from this earthly life.  The Question to ponder becomes, “How does one handle the various types of difficult experiences in this life?”  A question that is generally followed by, “How can ministers be so cold and hard-hearted when talking to people about their problems.” 


After a number years in the ministry, many ministers, especially, church pastors realize they do appear to have a cold and hard heart towards the daily realms of life that people experience, but only because they witness suffering, shame, despair, guilt, financial disaster, mental illness and other health issues, terminal illness, and even death on a large and frequent scale.  One inquires, “Do they become bitter and callous as a result of that?”  The answer might be, “Yes”, but many would say, “No”.  Some might even try to sound overly strong and persuasively encouraging. Perhaps they were hoping to hear something similar to what the disciples finally said to Jesus: “Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech. Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God.” (John 16:29-30) Of course, Jesus responded: “Do you believe now?” (John 16:31)

 

This world is full of troubles and people are affected either directly, or indirectly.


Soldiers training for combat will constantly hear their Training Officers say: “A soldier is  only as good as his training. A dead soldier is no good to his comrades or his army.”  Those are harsh words, but a very true concept.  Was Jesus being harsh or inconsiderate when he asked the disciples, “Do you believe now”?  No, of course not, but all the time he was teaching the disciples, he was relying on them to equate their knowledge and understanding of the scriptures with the principles of his teachings.  They had grown up under the Jewish Law and they had to learn the scriptures by rote memory so well they should have immediately referenced the scriptures with what Jesus taught them.


During combat, soldiers are expected to utilize all their training to perform successfully. Jesus expected no less from his disciples. All too well, they knew the story of their fore fathers and ancestors held captive by the Egyptians and how Israel aimlessly wandered for forty years in the desert (Numbers 33:38).  The disciples were with Christ on that stormy night when he calmed the raging sea and invited Peter to walk on the water with him (Mark 4:35-41; Matthew 14:23-33). They had watched as Christ fed five thousand people from a few fish and a couple loves of bread (Mark 6:30-44). Yet, when Christ used parables to teach them about the Kingdom of God, good students, the disciples were not! 

 

People find themselves constantly challenged with their experiences of life in this “real world” of the present day, the “world to come” and “eternal life” in God’s kingdom, about which Jesus spoke. Soldiers are simultaneously vexed by the reality of life in this “real” world and the “unreal” world filled with harsh evils and destruction of war. Like everyone else, they worry, wonder, search for refuge and desire peace that sometimes seems far out of reach.


The Bible teaches that Satan is at war with God and as a result everyone in this world will be a victim of that battle (Revelation 12:7-12). Jesus wanted his disciples to know that even though everyone will know troubles in this present world, even though they might feel like soldiers fighting what seems to be an endless and futile war, they can still be of good cheer and a grateful heart because he has overcome the evil of this world (Psalm 23). Jesus is victorious over all that is at enmity with God, his father (Revelation 1:18; John 6:47).


The reality of Jesus’ encouraging words are realized when one learns that this present world is the domain of Satan (Galatians 1:4), but this present world is merely ephemeral, when one accepts Jesus’ salvation and claim, because in that claim this world will pass away (I John 2:17) and the new earth and the new Jerusalem are eminent (Revelation 21:1-27 NIV).  The people of the Old Testament had been taught to believe this truth (I Samuel 2:8); and the disciples had memorized this truth from their scriptures training, which began in the very early childhood and continued throughout their days. 

 

How does one handle the various types of difficult experiences in this life?  Whether a soldier dealing with the awesomeness of combat, or just a person in this world, perhaps living according to one’s own chosen lifestyle, maybe wandering aimlessly without hope,  or even a Christian looking forward to eternal life, how does one go into the Chaplain’s office and tell the chaplain he has no problems, but if he truly has no problems, then, how doe he, or she, accomplish a life free from problems?


Just like David, the shepherd boy learned from slaying the giant in his world, like Peter, the New Testament disciple of Christ, and Saul of Tarsus, who persecuted and stoned Christians to death, had to learn not to live this life by the blade of the sword, or the honor and glory of all mankind, but simply by the word of God; so must everyone in his or her own particular realm of life. The answer sounds rather simple, but for the person, who is not a Christian, the challenge may be more than devastating. Unfortunately, the person, who does not believe God, refuses to believe in God, to trust Christ for their Lord and Savior, will not know the comfort, confidence, joy, and peace that only can be found in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. They may simply believe the world is as it is and once this life is complete, only death remains and that is all there is. How sad! What is one’s incentive to be good, live better, or even to attempt to accomplish anything worthy of a person’s existence? 


The Christian follower of Christ recognizes God, the Heavenly Father; Jesus Christ, God’s Son and Mankind’s Savior; and the Holy Spirit, as the great comforter, who indwells the believer, promised after Christ’s departure from earth. Like a soldier, Christians recognize who is in Command and the chain of commands through which he receives his instructions, he obeys those commands, he wears his uniform proudly and he serves with pride, he learns to prospers by the Code of Conduct taught him; and he is  successful, even if he dies in the process.  Better than any of the best soldiers, the Christian realizes that only God has the divine authority for judgment (Romans 8:33-34). The soldier acknowledges that all his instructions come from the highest of Commanders and he does not question the commands, but he is only to execute according to his knowledge, training and ability. The Christian knows to trust in the God and not lean on his or her own way of doing things, but in every way acknowledge God, who will direct the Christian’s pathways in life (Proverbs 3:5-6).  The soldier knows to keep his uniform and equipment ready for warfare at all times, and to always be ready to show the world he is ready to fully and correctly represent his Army, Commander-in-Chief, and all his fellow soldiers to the world in the way he is trained and expected to perform.


The Christian has learned to be ready for life in this world by reading the Bible, following the instructions for life, gaining wisdom from the scriptures, to be diligent and sober (I Peter 5:8), always renewing the mind and spirit (Romans 12:2), and to always live graciously, to stand fast and fashion oneself according to the image and likeness of God, after which all mankind has been created, and to live in hope and peace, until the end (I Peter 1:13-15).  The good soldier strives to perform well and to receive accolades, awards, commendations, medals, respect and honor from his Commanders and fellow soldiers, whether received while alive, or posthumously.  Many great soldiers are also Christians. Just like the Christian Soldier, all Christian should live a life of hope and desire to hear these simple, but truly the greatest words ever to be spoken to them: You have done well, my good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness! (Matthew 25:21).


References and Suggested Readings: 

 

Dahger, Sam. “Life In the War-Torn Syrian City of Aleppo.” The Wall Street Journal: Page One. Video (WSJLive) April 25, 2014. on.aol.com/video/life-in-the-war-torn-syrian-city-of-aleppo-518208877. September 24, 2014. 

Snodgrass, Klyne, Stories with Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus.  Chicago:  William B Eerdmans Publishing Company. 2008. 


Young, Rich, U.S. Army Chaplain. “Sign On Army Chaplain’s Door” (January, 2001). Schofield Barracks, Hawaii 96857. SermonCentral.com/contributors/rich-young-sermons-5088.asp. January 2001. September 24, 2014.

 

Note about the author:  Dr. Avaritt has earned doctoral degrees in Ancient to Modern Philosophy, Social Science, Theology and Biblical Linguistics, Classical Literature, Education and Counseling. For the past twenty-five years, he has been an Academic Instructor for a number of colleges and universities in North Carolina and Texas, with twenty years of service at one college in Texas. Presently, he is actively involved in Christian ministry, with a special emphasis on Family Services regarding death and dying issues and grief recovery; and officiates funeral, burial, and memorial services as requested. Dr. Avaritt enjoys accepting speaking engagements at churches, the college classroom, conferences and other formal settings, writing short stories, poetry, and Biblical articles for journals worldwide. Currently, he distributes weekly devotionals to Bible study teachers, leadership ministers, missionaries, pastors and evangelists located throughout the United States, Africa, and Central America. Presently, he is compiling content for several books for publication which involve poetry, short stories, and Bible lessons.   

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