Once there was an army, a mighty band of joyful warriors who had come together under the banner of a Captain they loved. By His side they toiled and fought; through days of rain and times when the sun beat down mercilessly on their heads. But the Captain’s smile and the Captain’s love burned brighter than any desert sun, and all sacrifices were counted as joy by the soldiers.
One young soldier could think of no happier life than his. To him, the dirt on his face was like a crown, and every bit of work he could do for his Master was sheer joy. When he fell asleep at night, his Captain’s face graced his dreams, and though he was often exhausted, he slept the sleep of the faithful.
One day, as he was out on a scouting mission, a stranger appeared. He was impressive to look at, well-groomed and not so muddy as most soldiers. As the young man worked, the stranger began to speak to him. A suggestion here, a comment there—the young man was impressed with the stranger’s evident concern for his welfare. The young soldier concluded, after a while, that the stranger must have been sent by the Captain.
Every day, the stranger worked with the young soldier. Over time, the stranger’s ways became more and more attractive to the young soldier. Dirt under his fingernails no longer seemed like a mark of honour, and the stranger showed him ways to work while looking out for himself, too. Ambitious dreams of personal glory tugged at the young man’s heart, and his sleep became restless and troubled.
The companions who had once seemed glorious now appeared foolish and ignorant, and the young man sometimes blushed with shame at the thought of being counted among them. He began to withdraw from them, and when one day a fellow soldier made a sharp remark to him, the young soldier hid in his tent and stewed, while the stranger stroked his pride and told him what a fine fellow he really was.
One night an order came from the Captain:
“Get up and follow Me at once. We must journey through the Valley of Suffering.”
The young man groaned and started, slowly, to get up. Then he heard the stranger’s voice.
“He does not mean for you to go now. The Captain knows that you need your rest. Besides, the Valley is such an unpleasant place. The Captain loves you so much, He would not ask you to go through it.”
The young man thought that the stranger’s words rang true. The Captain did not really mean for him to go, not now. So he rolled over and went back to sleep.
So it happened, more and more. The Captain’s orders came, and then the stranger’s—and the young soldier’s allegiance, once so strong and undivided, began to waver. Things that had been black and white turned a fuzzy shade of grey. The young man’s work became shoddy and his enthusiasm half-hearted, and his fellow soldiers often suffered for his carelessness.
Then one day, the Enemy charged the camp. The Captain’s orders were clear—“Stand and fight!”—but the stranger said, “Run.” And the young soldier, who now knew that allegiance can only belong to one, turned and ran. An arrow from the Enemy’s bow struck his back and pierced him through, and the young soldier fell dead on the ground. And the stranger, whose name was Flesh, slowly faded away.
The Christian Church today is a victim of divided allegiance.
In our society of rights and privileges, we have come to believe that we owe ourselves something. Forgetting that the call of Jesus is to lose our lives for His sake, we press on through the confusing muck of a battle in which two opposing captains give orders.
Recently my family and I have been fighting a difficult battle. Throughout, some of the hardest fights have been connected to that other captain, Flesh. Words were spoken to us that hurt, and Jesus said, “Forgive them, love them, and continue to be faithful.”
Immediately, Flesh stood up and told me to be offended. “Forgive in word, but put up a divider between you and them. Hint to people about what a martyr you are. Cause people to take sides, and work for your ‘enemy’s’ destruction and humiliation.” There was a choice to be made, between the cross of Christ and the feather bed of self-indulgence.
My dad often says that the opposite of love is not hate, but selfishness. The Bible makes it clear that as Christians, we have a responsibility to deny the flesh in every situation, and follow the Lord who loves us. Christian have no personal rights. We are owned by Christ, who bought us with His own blood, and so it is His right to defend us, justify us, provide for and uplift us—not ours.
The Flesh is a tempting master. He offers comfort and self-satisfaction, and likes to pretend that he is making you more fit to serve the King. He seems to inspire, though in truth he is a coward and a manipulator. He dreams of glory, yet he creates only shells of men; whitewashed tombs full of dead men’s bones. His whispers are enticing and deceptive, for “There is a way that seemeth right to a man, but the ends thereof are the ways of death.”
But the real Master, the True Captain—nothing can be compared with His service! The Flesh tells you that you are beautiful—the Master’s smile, reflected in your face, makes this so. The Flesh promises false happiness—the King exudes joy like the flowers produce perfume.
The Flesh wants to lift you high, but it’s a precarious platform, because the King is down in the mud. He is working alongside His children. And when the day comes that He is exalted before all men, He will take His own with Him. In the heat of the battle, when the Flesh says that you are weak and useless, the Captain says, “My strength is made perfect in weakness.”
When the going gets tough, we will listen to the voice whose commands we are accustomed to obeying. Fences cannot be sat on for long, and true allegiance is never really divided.
Whose commands are you listening to?
Excerpt from Letters to a Samuel Generation