Illustration results for A Good Soldier
Sermon Central Staff
THE RING OF SALVATION
It began at West Point in 1835. It is a practice that has endured almost 200 years. You may have chosen to obtain one, and undoubtedly you waited anxiously for it to arrive. Others of you weren’t really that into it and decided to pass. Some of you in the room may still wear it proudly as a pronouncement of accomplishment. Some of you may have simply discarded it into a drawer to be forgotten. You may have used it is to symbolize commitment or exclusiveness. When it was returned to you it may have been accompanied by pain and even a steady stream of tears. However, you would never have ascribed the power of life and death to this high school tradition.
Who knew that this tradition would also become the story of Easter?
You know the Easter Story or you wouldn’t be here today. The story of God who sent His Son to become man to die for us. A Son who bears our burden of our sin and becomes the great sacrifice. A Son who defeats death and comes to life again.
Most of us have heard it until we have become numb to it, but perhaps if I tell you the story a little differently today.
"By all rules, Skinner was a dead man." With these words Arthur Bressi begins his retelling of the day he found his best friend in a World War II Japanese concentration camp.
The two were high school buddies. They grew up together in Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania---playing ball, skipping school, double-dating. Arthur and Skinner were inseparable. It made sense, then, that when one joined the army, the other would as well. They rode the same troopship to the Philippines. That’s where they were separated. Skinner was on a rescue mission when Bataan fell to the Japanese in 1942. Arthur Bressi was captured a month later.
Through the prison grapevine, Arthur learned the whereabouts of his friend. Skinner was near death in a nearby camp. Arthur volunteered for work detail in the hope that his company might pass through the other camp. One day they did.
Arthur requested and was granted five minutes to find and speak to his friend. He knew to go to the sick side of the camp. It was divided into two sections--one for those expected to recover, the other for those given no hope. Those expected to die lived in a barracks called "zero ward." That’s where Arthur found Skinner. He called his name, and out of the barracks walked the seventy-nine-pound shadow of the friend he had once known. He writes:
"I stood at the wire fence of the Japanese prisoner-of-war camp on Luzon and watched my childhood buddy, caked in filth and racked with the pain of multiple diseases, totter toward me. He was dead; only his boisterous spirit hadn’t left his body. I wanted to look away, but couldn’t. His blue eyes, watery and dulled, locked on me and wouldn’t let go.
"Malaria. Dysentery. Pellagra. Scurvy. Beriberi. Skinner’s body was a dormitory for tropical diseases. He couldn’t eat. He couldn’t drink. He was nearly gone."
Arthur didn’t know what to do or say. His five minutes were nearly up. He began to finger the heavy knot of the handkerchief tied around his neck. In it was his high-school class ring. At the risk of punishment, he’d smuggled the ring into camp. Knowing the likelihood of catching a disease and the scarcity of treatment, he had been saving it to barter for medicine or food for himself. But one look at Skinner, and he knew he couldn’t save it any longer.
As he told his friend good-bye, he slipped the ring through the fence into Skinner’s frail hand and told him to "wheel and deal" with it. Skinner objected, but Arthur insisted. He turned and left, not knowing if he would ever see his friend alive again.
Skinner took the ring and buried it in the barracks floor.
The next day he took the biggest risk of his life. He approached the "kindest" of the guards and passed him the ring through the fence. The guard asked, "Is it valuable?" Skinner assured him that it was. The soldier smiled and slipped the ring into his pocket and left.
A couple of days later he walked past Skinner and let a packet drop at his feet. Sulfanilamide tablets. A day later he returned with limes to combat the scurvy. Then came a new pair of pants and some canned beef.
Within three weeks Skinner was on his feet. Within three months he was taken to the healthy side of the sick camp. In time he was able to work. As far as Skinner knew, he was the only American ever to leave the Zero Ward alive.
The ring elevated his position in the camp. The ring secured restoration. The ring brought provision. The common class ring brought salvation.
That is the Easter Story! Arthur’s ring is the perfect illustration of what happened at Easter. However, there is another ring account that also communicates the power of Easter to us.
Skinner attempted to refuse the very ring that would ultimately save his life. He almost declined the life-giving gift his friend could give him.
I wonder if there are some here that have refused the gift of life that Christ has tried to provide for you? It is the greatest gift a loving father could ever extend to you . . . the gift of His eternal love! If you don’t accept the great gift of His love you are doomed to death in bondage.
Skinner leveraged the ring and it gained him privileges and a new lease on life. I wonder if maybe you are here today and even though you have taken hold of the ring of salvation you have failed to leverage the authority, provision, and the freedom that such a relationship with Christ can afford? You are saved, but you are still living in the prison! The ring of Christ’s love and resurrected life can bring complete and total freedom today.
(From a sermon by Charles Sligh, Fellowship of the Ring, 4/20/2011)
Sermon Central Staff
LOVE YOUR ENEMIES
An Armenian nurse had been held captive along with her brother by the Turks. Her brother was slain by a Turkish soldier before her eyes. Somehow she escaped and later became a nurse in a military hospital. One day she was stunned to find that the same man who had killed her brother had been captured and brought wounded to the hospital where she worked. Something within her cried out "Vengeance." But a stronger voice called for her to love. She nursed the man back to health. Finally, the recuperating soldier asked her, "Why didn’t you let me die?" Her answer was, "I am a follower of Him who said, ’Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you’" (Luk_6:27). Impressed with her answer, the young soldier replied, "I never heard such words before. Tell me more. I want this kind of religion."
(From a sermon by Jeremias Fababier, fruitfulness comes from the heart, 5/29/2012)
But sometimes I think the church has forgotten how to celebrate How to party Maybe it is because we have forgotten what Jesus has done for us. Or maybe because the stories the Bible have gotten old and we haven’t been around any new believers to remind us of the hope we have in Jesus Christ. That reminds me of what happened to a tribe in the jungles of East Asia, when missionaries showed them the Jesus film. It was a big deal when I was in Seminary and one of my friends was a missionary telling me about all that was going on with the Jesus Film. The movie was being shown as an evangelistic tool to people all over—in the desert, and in the jungles Not only had some of these people never heard of Jesus, they had never seen a motion picture. And on that one unforgettable evening, they saw it all—the gospel in their own language, visible and real. Imagine again how it felt to see this good man Jesus, who healed the sick and was adored by children, held without trial and beaten by jeering soldiers. As these East Asians watched this, the people came unglued. They stood up and began to shout at the cruel men on the screen, demanding that this outrage stop. When nothing happened, they attacked the missionary running the projector. Perhaps he was responsible for this injustice He was forced to stop the film and explain that the story wasn’t over yet, that there was more. So they settled back onto the ground, holding their emotions in tenuous check. Then came the crucifixion. Again, the people could not hold back. They began to weep and wail with such loud grief that once again the film had to be stopped. The missionary again tried to calm them, explaining that the story still wasn’t over, that there was more. So they composed themselves and sat down to see what happened next. Then came the resurrection. Pandemonium broke out this time, but for a different reason. The gathering had spontaneously erupted into a party. The noise now was of jubilation, and it was deafening. The people were dancing and slapping each other on the back. The Christ is risen, indeed Again the missionary had to shut off the projector. But this time he didn’t tell them to calm down and wait for what was next. All that was supposed to happen—in the story and in their lives—was happening. SOURCE: Ben Patterson, "Resurrection and Pandemonium," LeadershipJournal.net 4-13-04
THE PERFECT MATCH- COMMUNION MEDITATION
From Daily Encounter comes this story by a Chaplain Robinson:
“In 1949, my father had just returned from the war. On every highway you could see soldiers in uniform hitchhiking home to their families. The thrill of the reunion with his family was soon overshadowed by my grandmother’s illness. There was a problem with her kidneys. The doctors told my father that she needed a blood transfusion immediately or she would not live through the night.
Grandmother’s blood type was AB negative, a very rare type. In those days there were no blood banks like there are today. No one in the family had that type blood and the hospital had not been able to find anyone with that rare type. The Doctor gave our family little hope. My Dad decided to head home for a little while to change clothes and then return for the inevitable good-byes.
As my father was driving home he passed a soldier in uniform hitchhiking. Deep in grief, my father was not going to stop. But something compelled him to pull over. The soldier climbed in but my father never spoke. He just continued driving down the road toward home. The soldier could tell my father was upset as a tear ran down his cheek.
The soldier asked about the tear. My father began telling the stranger that his mother was going to die because the hospital couldn’t find anyone who could donate AB negative blood. My father explained that he was just heading home to change clothes. That is when he noticed the soldier’s open hand holding dog tags that read AB negative. The soldier told my father to turn the car around and head back to the hospital.
My grandmother lived until 1996, 47 more years. To this day my family doesn’t know the name of that sol...
As Vice President, George Bush represented the U.S. at the funeral of former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. Bush was deeply moved by a silent protest carried out by Brezhnev’s widow. She stood motionless by the coffin until seconds before it was closed. Then, just as the soldiers touched the lid, Brezhnev’s wife performed an act of great courage and hope, a gesture that must surely rank as one of the most profound acts of civil disobedience ever committed: She reached down and made the sign of the cross on her husband’s chest. There in the citadel of secular, atheistic power, the wife of the man who had run it all hoped that her husband was wrong. She hoped that there was another life, and that that life was best represented by Jesus who died on the cross, and that the same Jesus might yet have mercy on her husband.
Gary Thomas, Christianity Today, October 3, 1994, p. 26.
Sermon Central Staff
CHRYSOSTOM ON ECCLESIASTES
Eutropius had fallen into disgrace. As the highest-ranking official in the Byzantine Empire (late fourth century), he served as the closest adviser to the emperor Arcadius, then ruling in Constantinople. But Eutropius abused his imperial power and aroused the anger of the empress Eudoxia, who orchestrated a campaign against him that resulted in a sentence of death.
Desperate to save his life, Eutropius slipped away from the palace and ran to the Hagia Sophia, where he clung to the altar and claimed sanctuary. Soon an angry mob of soldiers surrounded the great church, denouncing Eutropius and demanding his execution. Eventually, the crowds dispersed, but the next day was Sunday, and so they returned the following morning to see whether the pastor would give in to their demands for the execution of Eutropius.
The pastor was John Chrysostom, the famous preacher who served as the Bishop of Constantinople. As he mounted his pulpit, Chrysostom could see a church crowded with worshipers and thrill-seekers. They, in turn, could see Eutropius groveling at the altar. The great man had become a pitiable spectacle, with his teeth chattering and hopeless terror in his eyes.
The dramatic sermon Chrysostom preached that day may have been the finest he ever preached. For his text Chrysostom took Ecclesiastes 1:2 ("Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity"), and for his primary illustration he used the decline and fall of Eutropius.
Here was a man, Chrysostom noted, who had lost everything--position, wealth, freedom, safety. Only days before, he had been the second most powerful man in the world. But it was all vanity, as events had proven, for now Eutropius had become "more wretched than a chained convict, more pitiable than a menial slave, more indigent than a beggar wasting away with hunger." "Though I should try my very best," Chrysostom said, "I could never convey to you in words the agony he must be suffering, from hour to hour expecting to be butchered."
Chrysostom did not stop there, however. His purpose was not to condemn Eutropius but to save him, and also to give his listeners the gospel. To that end, he challenged his listeners to recognize the vanity of their own existence. Whether rich or poor, one day they would all have to leave their possessions behind. They too would face a day of judgment--the judgment of a holy God. Their only hope then would be the hope that they should offer to Eutropius now--mercy at the table of Christ.
The sermon must have hit its mark, for as Chrysostom came to a close, he could see tears of pity streaming down people's faces. Eutropius was spared--a life saved by the preaching of Ecclesiastes.
Because Ecclesiastes is the Word of the living God, it can have the same impact in our lives today. Ecclesiastes teaches us that there is more to life than what we can see with our eyes. Ecclesiastes warns us to live our lives in light of eternity. Ecclesiastes teaches us how to live a meaningful life.
(From a sermon by Freddy Fritz, Introduction to Ecclesiastes, 7/11/2010)
During the American Civil War fought between the years 1861 - 1865, over
600,000 soldiers from the South died, but a heartfelt prayer that survived
was the Prayer of the Unknown Confederate Soldier, a soldier¡¦s unrequited but
I asked God for strength, that I might achieve,
I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey...
I asked for health, that I might do greater things,
I was given infirmity that I might do better things...
I asked for riches, that I might be happy,
I was given poverty that I might be wise...
I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men,
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God...
I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life,
I was given life, that I might enjoy all things...
I got nothing that I asked for- but everything I hoped for,
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am among all men, most richly blessed.
Whoever Takes the Son
Many years ago, there was a very wealthy man who shared a passion for art collecting with his son. They had priceless works adorning the walls of their family estate.
One day, the nation was at war and the young man left to serve his country. After only a few short weeks, his father received a telegram. His son had died. Distraught and lonely, the old man faced the upcoming Christmas holidays with sadness. The joy of the season had vanished with the death of his son.
On Christmas morning, a knock on the door awakened the depressed old man. He opened the door and a soldier, with a large package in his hands greeted him, “I was a friend of your son. I was the one he was rescuing when he died. May I come in for a few moments? I have something to show you.”
The soldier mentioned that he was an artist and then gave the old man the package. It was a portrait of the man’s son. Though the world would never consider it the work of a genius, the painting featured the young man’s face in striking detail. Overcome with emotion, the man hung the portrait over the fireplace, pushing aside millions of dollars worth of art.
His task completed, the old man sat in his chair and spent Christmas gazing at the gift he had been given. The painting of his son soon became his most prized possession, far eclipsing any interest in the pieces of art for which museums around the world clamoured.
Half a year later, the old man died. The art world waited with anticipation for the upcoming auction. According to the will of the old man, all the art works would be auctioned on Christmas Day, the day he had received the greatest gift.
The day soon arrived and art collectors from around the world gathered to bid on some of the world’s most spectacular paintings. Dreams would be fulfilled that day.
The auction began with a painting that was not on anyone’s museum list. It was the painting of the man’s son. The auctioneer asked for an opening bid, but the room was silent. “Who will open the bidding with $100?” No one spoke. Finally someone said, “Who cares about that painting. It’s just a picture of his son. Let’s move on to the good stuff.”
The auctioneer responded, “No, we have to sell this one first. Now, who will take the son?” Finally, a neighbour of the old man offered $50 dollars....
During the war in Vietnam, a young West Point graduate was sent over to lead a group of new recruits into battle. He did his job well, trying his best to keep his from ambush and death. But one night when they had been under attack, he was unable to get just one of his men to safety.
The soldier left behind had been severely wounded. From their trenches, the young lieutenant and his men could hear him in his pain. They all knew any attempt to save him – even if it was successful -- would almost certainly mean death for the would-be rescuer.
Eventually the young lieutenant crawled out of hiding toward the dying man. He got to him safely but was killed before he could save himself.
After the rescued man returned to the States, the lieutenant’s parents heard that he was in their vicinity. Wanting to know this young man whose life was spared at such a great cost to them, they invited him to dinner.
When their honored guest arrived, he was obviously drunk. He was rowdy and obnoxious. He told off-color jokes and showed no gratitude for the sacrifice of the man who died to save him. The grieving parents did the best they could to make the man’s visit worthwhile, but their efforts went unrewarded.
Their guest finally left. As the dad closed the door behind him, the mother collapsed in tears and cried, "To think that our precious son had to die for somebody like that."
That’s what Jesus did.
That’s what it says right in these verses:
Christ died for us while we were still sinners
There was a young boy living in Paris at the end of the World War II. He had been orphaned by the atrocities committed within his city by the occupying German forces. He scrounged around the ruined city as best as he could to find food, clothes and shelter. But everyone was living in desperate times and he found that people either ignored him and or could find nothing to give him. Even the soldiers who had freed Paris from the German army seemed to not care about his situation.
He had heard the Priest in the church, long before war had broken out, talk about God and Jesus and living the Christian life. But with the hell on earth that the war had brought he had since lost hope of any sense of Heaven.
One cold morning, he was wandering down the street, staring into the windows of shops and cafés. He stopped outside the window of a small bakery. The smell of the fresh bread made his stomach ache with pain. He was so held by the smell and sights of the bakery, he didn’t notice the American soldier who had stopped in the street and had begun watching him with interest. The boy hardly noticed the G.I. as walked past him and into the store. He did however notice the large bag the baker was filling for the G.I. with rolls, breads, pastries and other foods. And the boy could hardly breathe when the soldier exited the shop, knelt down and handed him the bag.
The boy looked at the G.I. with astonishment and gratefulness. Finally, he looked at the soldier and asked him the question that was running through his mind: “Mister, are you Jesus?”