Sermon Illustrations

There is a scene in the Civil War motion picture Gods and Generals that is telling. The movie follows the rise and fall of Civil War hero General Thomas Jackson, and does not try to hide his Christianity. Throughout the picture, Jackson's dependence on God is shown, but never more strikingly that in the early morning hours of July 21st, 1861 prior to the First Battle of Bull Run. As the glimmers of dawn break forth, Jackson calls out to God, asking for His will be done.

Almost immediately, things do not go well for the out-numbered Confederates. Union forces quickly overpowered them. The Confederate line broke. All out retreat ensued. Several Confederate brigades ran to the next line of reinforcement, which was held by Jackson's brigade. Morale was all but gone as retreating soldiers swarmed Jackson's position, with the Union army on their heels. But then someone yelled over the din of battle to the men, telling them to look at Jackson.

At that moment, General Jackson was sitting erect in his saddle with cannon fire exploding all around him. His left hand was wounded by a musket ball. Nevertheless, he did not flinch. Word spread among the men: "Look at Jackson, standing like a stone wall," they said. Stonewall Jackson, as he would be known from that day, paced his horse back and forth across the hazardous front line, shouting orders to "charge" as the musket balls pierced the air. His stunning bravery stirred the men to valor, and they turned to face advancing Union forces with new resolve.

At the end of the day, General Jackson returned to the battlefield to survey the losses: 111 Confederates dead, 373 missing. Weary and sad, Jackson knelt beside a dead soldier. And it was then that one of his captains asked him, "General, how is it you can keep so serene, and stay so utterly insensible, with a storm of shells and bullets about your head?"

Jackson replied, "Captain Smith, my religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed for a Sovereign God has fixed the time for my death. I do not concern myself with that, but to be always ready, whenever it may overtake me.

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