FOCUS – Looking for soldiers
Recently, I attended a National Day of Prayer service in the heart of Seattle. Perhaps 200 people met at the cement clearing between skyscrapers, where we were led in prayer by local pastors. Many of them took the opportunity to deliver short sermons.
One pastor made quite an impression. Before he prayed, he charged Seattle Christians to consider themselves as soldiers in a war against evil and oppression. He became quite impassioned. The large speakers amplified his voice at a near-deafening level as he shouted into the microphone. The nearest office buildings seemed to vibrate. My heart raced. He was thrilling, inspiring! A number of people leapt to their feet, shouting “Amen!” and “Preach!” I grew very near to jumping out of my seat as well.
But then a sobering thought hit me. I looked out at those standing and cheering. I took in the sight of other respondents who simply nodded and smiled. And I wondered: how many of us will be as soldiers? We are swept up together in this emotional experience—gathered as believers, in the middle of the city, entranced by a powerful speaker. It is an extraordinary way to spend a lunch break. But will it change who we are when we return to work today?
I did not doubt our sincerity. We really meant it—at least at that moment. We really wanted to be soldiers in a battle against evil and oppression. But would we still care about it when the excitement died down? When the speaker no longer held us under his spell? Were there any among us who, when the battle waged, were really willing to stand and fight?
I pondered this as I left the meeting, and I felt disheartened. Then I remembered something that happened earlier that same morning.
In the morning, I was outside my boys’ elementary school waiting for the doors to be unlocked. A cluster of children and parents stood around. Next to me, a woman stood with three small girls. One of them was her daughter, and the other two were friends of her daughter. The subject of conversation was another mutual friend, Hannah. One of the friends looked at the mother and said, quite earnestly, “I know about Jesus now because Hannah told me while we were at the pizza parlor.” The woman surely heard this little girl, for she spoke loudly and clearly. But the woman ignored the girl’s gaze, and gave no response. There was silence for a moment, then the other two girls began to chat with the woman. Then I watched as the tiny evangelist gathered herself together, fixed her eyes on the woman and said more boldly, more loudly: “I know about Jesus now, because Hannah told me while we were at the pizza parlor.” Again, she was ignored.
Desiring that this poor little evangelist should not be discouraged, I threw myself into her sphere, and commented: “Hannah must be a very good friend to have shared something so important with you.” “Yeah,” said the little girl, turning toward me, “and Jesus is alive still and he’s gonna take me to Heaven some day.” The door opened, and as she ran off she was still telling me things she knew about Jesus.
Just imagine the courage it took for the little girl to speak her witness. First of all, her intended audience was the adult in the group. It can’t be easy for a six-year-old to approach an adult with a subject for discussion. They have no trouble asking for a glass of Kool-Aid, but attempting to engage an adult in a religious discussion would be intimidating. Second, the little girl would not give up easily. Tenacity in the face of adult resistance takes Spirit-inspired bravery. She was not belligerent in any way, just committed to sharing her spiritual experience—and she would not be swayed.
II Timothy 1:7 says: “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” Any timidity this child may have had was dispelled by the Holy Spirit. She knew that her message was important enough that it must be expressed, despite the reluctance of her listener. Her persistence reflected not only self-discipline, but a great love for God and for her friend’s mother.
When I remembered this little girl, I remembered that there are soldiers in this world. She didn’t even wait for the battle to come to her. She threw herself into it. Maybe some people who sat in the downtown square and listened to the speaker were spurred into action that day, too. After all, God has soldiers all over the world fighting for him. They are in the market, in city hall, at the high school. They are here and abroad. They are young and old.
Thanks, tiny evangelist, for your courage. Thanks, Hannah, for your faithfulness. March on.