Appreciating the Church

George is an ex-serviceman from Grand Rapids, Michigan

Time passes swiftly, and with it all things come and go as God has seen fit in His eternal counsel.  Nearly three years have passed from the time that we lived the nomad life of a serviceman, and now many of the boys have heaped upon themselves the greater responsibility of husbands and fathers.  The former days were times when we let others do the thinking for us, but now most of us must think for ourselves and must feel responsible for the welfare of our families.  Not only for material things of life, but above all, as husbands and fathers, we must be most concerned with the spiritual welfare of our families.  Where formerly we could always look to our superiors for advice, now we must make our own decisions.  How much more difficult it would be if we had to leave home again now, especially with a wife and children to leave behind.  Not only with our family ties would it be difficult, but also with the ties that we have with our church, the church which we have learned to appreciate.

We often learn to appreciate something more after we have felt a lack of that certain thing.  For example, let us say we take that long looked for summer vacation and we leave home for a few days, yet it always seems that upon our return, we are glad to be back again.  It simply is natural, it’s our environment, it’s our customary home life, it’s where we belong and where we feel most at home.  So also it is spiritually, as it has been with the boys who have been in the service.  Sometimes God wills that we are separated from the church and the gathering of believers, and casts us into a world that is morally corrupt and spiritually dead.  Yes, it is for our own good, and in perfect accordance with the will of our Heavenly Father.

While in our absence we certainly did miss our respective congregations where we were accustomed to worship.  We missed our pastor, our friends, our society life and our fellowship with one another.  Instead, we had to seek our public worship and our fellowship in a church atmosphere which we thought was very distant from our own.  Often we felt the need of the proper preaching of the Word, but rarely was it found.  The administration of the sacraments as it was found in the chapels certainly did not appear to us as the distinguishing marks of the true church.  We knew of discipline in the military sense, but not the discipline of the church of the living God.

Speaking from my own personal experience, we can say that as a rule when we attended chapel services, we walked out after it was over, feeling absolutely no spiritual uplifting whatsoever.  It simply wasn’t there.  On other occasions, during the course of a so-called sermon, not once did we hear the speaker take upon his lips the name of God or of Christ.  How then can the child of God grow spiritually in such a church worship when there is so little room for the name of the Triune God?  However, it can be understood.  The army, consisting of the masses of the people really does not want the Lord of the Scriptures.  The way of the righteous God and His commandments are much too hard, too straight and too narrow.  Rather, it desires an interesting speech with a core of modernism, and a small sprinkling of Christ to make it appear as though it were preaching.  However, we do not say this was always true in regard to chapel services in the army, for undoubtedly there was some good preaching as we also experienced ourselves, but as a rule it was a far cry from the Truth.

Certainly it is our duty to serve our country when called, but even more so is it our duty to serve God, and live worthy of the calling whereunto we have been called, also in the midst of sin.  And sin there was; not to overlook temptation.  To be sure, the devil was in his glory and the child of God he tried to make his victim.  Always, over and over again, the long strong arm of Satan seemed to draw you into his own devilish bosom in an attempt to tear you away from the love of God and the church.  Yes, the devil is very strong, and perhaps all the boys experienced that even to the extent that oft times we also stumbled and faltered, for as children of God we were the choice victims of his intentions.  In such was the environment that the child of God had to strive to fight the good fight of faith.

In spite of this all, yet we knew that God was working for us.  For during the period that we were away from our respective congregations, we nevertheless dearly felt the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love.  We hoped and prayed that some day we would be able once again to experience the fellowship of one another in the fear of God’s name from Sabbath to Sabbath.  Our hope was in the Lord.

We appreciated in our absence, that at regular intervals our pastors would faithfully write us words of encouragement and cheer, keep us well posted on how the congregation was going, and above all, give us the spiritual uplifting that we so much needed.  We appreciated the letters from the consistory and the various members of the congregation, not only as personal messages, but in view of the fact that they were lively signs of ties that bind our hearts in love, as it can only be found in the body of Christ, the church.  For, so it must be; we must live in true spiritual harmony with one another.  We knew also, that not only our dear ones, but also our congregations were carrying us upon the wings of prayer, from day to day and Sabbath to Sabbath.

The time passed, and one by one we returned again to our places, at home and in our church.  Not all returned, but God knows His own, and our comfort is in knowing that what He has done, He has done for the good of those that love Him.  The world is without hope, but for the child of God, the Father has prepared a House of many mansions.

For those of us who returned we must also render thanks to our heavenly Father who spared us, not only physically, but also and above all, spiritually.  It is He who carried us through the very worst of sin and temptation.  Although we must humbly confess that many times we stumbled and faltered, yet the God of all grace led and guided us, and enabled us to fight the good fight of faith through the darkest of those days.  However, we must continue to fight, even now, until the end, for the battle of the church and God’s people against the devil is not yet over.

We thank God that He has given us this church wherein we have a name and place.  We have seen the world in all its terrible sin, we have missed the fellowship of one another, but through it all God has performed a good work, for now we have learned to truly appreciate that God has established a church in the midst of the world, and that we may be members of that one body of Christ.  May God give us as young men, grace, that we may truly appreciate His Word, that we may be built up in the faith and seek the welfare of the church.  While we are young, let us be strong, uphold the tradition of our fathers and walk in a way of sanctification.  Thanks be to God who unceasingly cares for and upholds His church.