A soldier returns from was. Without regard for his own life he has protected his buddies from the onslaughts of the enemy; he is a hero. He has been armed with courage.
Courage: He has met danger and has not flinched. Courage has made an ordinary man a hero.
Yet the courage which turned this ordinary soldier into a hero is meager in comparison to the courage which every child of God needs to face the obstacle of each new day. To be armed with courage is to stand prepared, able, and willing, through God’s grace, against the daily onslaughts of the devil.
For the devil is a subtle beast, more clever than any creature, save those under the protecting wing of Jehovah. The devil is clever and he has allies:
Chief among those allies is the weakness of our own flesh. The fact of our salvation, peerless though it really is, does not prevent the devil from tempting us into wickedness. Though we are saved, we are sinners saved, and in this life cannot faultlessly function as children of God. Thus, while being children of God to glory, we are yet children of Adam, and so the devil has his chief ally.
The weakness of our humanity gives rise to the effectiveness of the Devil’s other ally, namely, the sin without us. There can be no doubt in the mind of the child of God but that we live in world rotted to the core, roiling and rejoicing in the filth of its own iniquity. But the horror of this iniquity lies in its pervasiveness.
It is a part of our homes and our lives through radio and television. All too easily we are hypnotized into immobility, and as soon as we are immobilized into nondiscrimination, into passively following the crowd, the devil has achieved a victory. For we are different, and ought to be unique. Thus the invasion and perversion of our hearts and minds by the mass media is both defeating and dangerous.
And this still is not all. The brazen, earthy appeal of the world to the weakness of the flesh is still there. Less intrusive perhaps, and probably less persuasive than the subtle perversions of mind and heart, the physical affections of the world are still appealing to the base nature of man, and will become even more so as the end nears. For we are facing the period of the last desperate persecution of the Church by the forces of Darkness.
Basically, the devil engages in two types of persecution:
The first of course is the traditional conform-to-sin-or-I-burn-you-at-the-stake type of persecution. There will never be any lack of this type of course, not as long as the active antipathy between world and Church continues to exist in this life.
Nevertheless, the evil one is not stupid, and by this time has realized that the traditional type of persecution tends to strengthen and disseminate the Church rather than destroy it. The best that physical destruction can do is accelerate souls into glory. After all, what Christian would choose a life of pain over an eternity of glory?
So then, what is there? Perhaps the quality of living. To a Christian, physical death is not much of a condemnation, but a condemnation to life can be appallingly merciless. To live perpetually apart, to see loved ones eroded and destroyed from within, to see the Church of God wither and appear to die as a gourd forgotten on the vine in winter, this is a much more heart-rending persecution. To be demeaned and eroded from within, to have minds and will benumbed by the common media, to lose jobs and wealth, to lose position and standing, to lose acceptance and love, in short, to stand utterly alone, without the quality of life; this is heartrending persecution.
Already on the horizon can be seen the creeping, all-pervasive black cloud of persecution. The employment a child of God can get is steadily shrinking, the need and desire for public aid (for example, parochi-aid) is increasing. To live with only your weary soul for company is nearly impossible, yet the saints will persevere.
Where, then, in the midst of all this, is the Christian to get his strength and courage for each day?
By virtue of our Christianity we are already armed with the “whole armor of God”: Truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, the word of God (Eph. 6:11ff.). So armed, we can stand, we will stand, with courage to face each new day as the Church marches to glory.
But we cannot stand with courage unless we are well aware of what we are armed with and how to use this armament. An intrinsic part of this awareness must be the ability to discriminate – between good and evil, of course, and between habit and belief.
Discrimination implies the ability to change when necessary, but to change habit, never belief.
Being armed with courage also required a functioning sense of values. They key word here is functioning. We all know what is right, and what ought to be required of us, but few of us function in this awareness. It is too easy to say: “Oh, well, just this once, won’t hurt,” or “I know it’s wrong, that’s the important thing,” meanwhile forgetting that sin is a cancer, viciously eating away the flesh of purity – in this generation and the next. We too often forget the fact that our little slip today could be our children’s destruction tomorrow. The next generation could be the last – it’s up to us with the hand of our heavenly Father ever over us to arm that generation. Let us arm it with courage.
Finally, to be armed with courage implies faith: Faith in the strength God has given us, faith in the promises of God – and that they will indeed come to pass, and faith that the Church will persevere until He comes in glory upon the heavenly clouds.
What a promise! To him that overcomes will be given a crown of life in Christ! Then surely the sufferings of this life are not to be compared to the glory which is to come. Let us stand then, in the day of persecution, to the eternity of glory which is ours:
Armed with courage.
Originally Published in:
Vol. 30 No. 6 October 1970