1 Chronicles 7
Amidst another long list of names (and some interesting insights into the lives of certain people) there is a repeated expression here. It was easy to see it in my Bible because I’d highlighted it some time back: fighting men (2, 5, 7, 9, 11b).
When I was involved in a church plant in my home city of Lancaster, in the early 1980’s, someone who was endeavouring to plant a church in the Scottish Highlands preached at one of our services. He had a repeated theme, much like the one you see in chapter 7. Again and again during the course of his sermon he looked at me and said, ‘It’s a fight all the way, but fight on brother!’ I knew down to my boots that he was right. It was a struggle. Spiritually speaking it was ‘blood, sweat and tears’, and around six months after I left Lancaster this little church I had laboured over closed down. It was heart-breaking.
Where have all the Christian Soldiers gone? asked Graham Kendrick in one of his great songs. He went on to affirm: God put a fighter in me. In the fight we grow up. Spiritually speaking, ‘boys’ become ‘men’. Praise be to the LORD, my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle (Ps.144:1). It seems to me that much of that training goes on in the battle. Let’s listen to ourselves; so many of our prayers are to avoid, or be rid of, unpleasant things. This is totally understandable. We are congenitally allergic to pain. But war is dangerous (21), and the call of God is to Endure hardship…like a good soldier of Christ Jesus (2 Tim.2:3). It takes difficulties in our lives for us to learn to endure, and, it seems to me, God’s training ground for soldiering is much tougher than any earthly parade ground or camp. He doesn’t want us to be chocolate soldiers (C.T. Studd) who melt in the heat of battle. I believe it is true of some professing Christians that although they will accept the description fighting men as a useful theoretical description, in no way are they ready to go out to war (11b; see also 4 and 40).
On a different note, in life ‘stuff happens’ (21-23): ‘stuff’ you didn’t choose and don’t want. But you can’t escape it. In times of trial and grief you experience another dimension of the battle, as you fight, by God’s grace, to continue to walk with Him and enjoy Him, in spite of the hurt. There is a time to mourn, but there is also a time to move on. Ephraim allowed himself time to grieve his terrible loss (22) and that is so important. This process should not be short-circuited by your own impatience (or anyone else’s). But you will see that although he remembered; he never forgot; he also moved on (23). I met an inspirational elderly lady a year or two ago. She had been a widow for around 20 years. She and her husband loved each other very much, and served God together. It was a big blow to lose him. But she said to me, ‘When my husband died, I decided I was going to live!’
Finally, here’s an interesting sequel on the church plant in Lancaster. Recently I travelled over to that area to see elderly relatives who are very ill. I passed Ryland’s House where we used to meet. It’s a community centre set in park land: formerly the home of Lord Ashton, who was a great benefactor to the city. More or less opposite the entrance to Ryland’s House, I noticed the former Methodist Church building. It is now the home of what is, I understand, a thriving ‘Elim’ Pentecostal church. It was re-launched probably towards ten years ago, and our former secretary was a part of the new beginning. It was with great joy that he rang me to tell me, and my heart leapt at the news. Was all that praying and fasting in Ryland’s House worth it? Look across the road today and tell me it wasn’t!