“And David said, What have I now done? Is there not a cause?” (1 Samuel 17.29 ESV)
The last combat veteran on record from World War I died recently. Cpl. Howard V. Ramsey died in his sleep on February 22 at an assisted living center in Portland, Oregon (see the article). The 21-gun salute and a bugler playing taps signaled the end of a grand life and the conclusion of the Great War. There are still seven veterans from WWI listed as living, but Mr. Ramsey was the last one who served in combat. In the year he was born there were 45 stars on the flag, and President McKinley was about to declare war on Spain. During his lifetime, spanning three centuries, Mr. Ramsey lived under 19 presidents. But the amazing thing about this man was not any of these things. The amazing thing was the man himself. He was interviewed before he died, and his story will sound familiar to those who know anything about ! serving in the military. He was too young to be drafted, so he tried to enlist. He was rebuffed and after waiting for a period of time, he returned. Then he was told that he was too skinny. So he gorged himself on bananas and water in order to meet the weight standards. Finally he was accepted. He joined General John “Black Jack” Pershing’s American Expeditionary Force. His duties as a driver often found him operating under the fire of enemies. After the war, he picked up the remains of his friends who had been hastily buried in trenches. He was on the detail to bury these heroes in the Muese-Argonne American Cemetery, the largest American burial ground in Europe. In an interview 90 years later he expressed great regret about not hanging on to a diary that he found on one GI. He wanted to send it back to the boy’s mother in the States. But the “regs” stated that nothing was to be taken from the bodies. He hoped that someone along the way picked that diary up and sent it bac! k. He wished he had broken that rule and sent it back himself.! Funny w hat old warriors think about. But one thing is for sure. When Cpl. Ramsey was buried this past week, Americans buried a hero.
What makes a young man lie about his age to get into a war where men die in trenches in a faraway place? What made this young man stuff himself with bananas and water to pass a physical in order to go and be shot at by Germans? Why would he trade life with his parents and the comforts of home for the rigors of military life? Why would he jeopardize his future? Why? Because there was a cause.
I often laugh when I think of advertising companies contracted by the Army that try to recruit young men by promising perks. That is not why Cpl. Ramsey risked his life, and that is not why young men today will leave everything to fight in Afghanistan. “For God and country” is still why men fight.
David questioned his brother who wanted him to go home, “Is there not a cause?” David was personally offended by the Philistines who taunted the people of God and defied the holiness of the God of Abraham. He was willing to sacrifice everything in order to stand up to this giant.
My prayer today is that we welcome people into the ranks of our church with a challenge: join us here, not to be a comfortable Christian, but to lock arm-in-arm with us as we take a stand for Jesus Christ in this generation. This is our time. There are giants in the land who are defying the God of Abraham, who are denying the beauty of our Savior Jesus Christ. Our work is not to take up arms, but to take up the weapons of this spiritual war: the Word of God and prayer. Worship, in this context, becomes a weekly renewal of the sacred vows we have taken to follow Him. Worship becomes the place where Christ Jesus is magnified in our hearts. Worship is the place of being strengthened in the Word to live for Jesus Christ and share Him with others. There are no comfortable seats in this place. We are in a battle and our Captain is Jesus Himself.
Let us call others to see the stakes:
The eternal destiny of our souls
The souls of our loved ones
The soul of our nation
The future of our country
The future of our world
The honor of Jesus our King
The blessings or curses that come from receiving or denying the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Let us sound the alarm of a Hell to be shunned and a Heaven to be gained. Let us lift up the banner of:
Jesus our Savior
Jesus our Righteousness
Jesus our Hope
Jesus our Friend
Jesus our Mediator
Jesus our Advocate
Jesus our all in all
Jesus our ever present Helper in times of need
Jesus, who takes our sins, bears our shame, lives a life of beauty before the Father on our behalf, and
Jesus who hears and perfects our every prayer!
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!
Let us cry as David did:
“Is there not a cause?”
I find the easy-believism, cultural Christianity, seeker-friendly, cushy religion that is so often advertised to the world an affront to the cause of Christ. It shows a lack of faith in the ordinary means of grace and a lack of faith in the God of the Bible. I find advertisements for a how-to religion that promise “health and wealth” to be personally repugnant and unworthy of my all. I think most people feel the same.
The thing that stirred the heart of a young man from Portland, Oregon, sailing from America to France in 1918, is the thing that still stirs hearts in 2007 to leave good jobs and loving homes to fly to Baghdad—to stand up for the rights and freedoms of a great nation, to liberate other humans from terrorists and mad men, to heed the call of their Commander and Chief, and to stand up for God and Country. The thing that stirs the hearts of Christians—young and old—to live for Jesus, to leave all in order to follow Him anywhere, to stand up and confess His name though fierce opposition is simple. It is just this: the honor and glory of the name of Jesus our King, the challenge of His Great Commission, and the beauty of the Gospel of grace that breaks the cycle of pain in our families and establishes a new covenant from generation to generation.
Is there not a cause? Let that cause get you out of bed this Sunday. Come hungry! Come thirsty! Come desiring to stand up, to stand up for Jesus! Come ready to be strengthened by the singing of hymns to Jesus, to be deepened in your commitment through the confessions of faith, to be turned again to Christ in the preaching of the Gospel, and to be sent out into the world to live for Him!
This is our time! Is there not a cause?
Yes, my sons! Yes, my daughters! Yes, my fathers and my mothers! Yes, there is a cause! Giants shall fall, enemies shall become friends, and Christ shall be victorious until the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our God and of His Christ.