“They charge like warriors; they scale walls like soldiers. They all march in line, not swerving from their course” (Joel 2:7).
In today’s news, we read that Frank Buckles, the last surviving U. S. veteran of World War I, died peacefully in his sleep yesterday, February 27, 2011, at his home in West Virginia. He was 110 years old. Born in Missouri in 1901, Buckles went from one recruiting station to another after the war broke out trying to join the military and defend his country. Finally, an army recruiter signed him up in August 1917 even though he was only 16 years old and sent him overseas to serve as an ambulance driver. During World War II, Buckles was on business in the Philippines when he was captured by the Japanese. He spent 42 months in prison camps as a civilian POW before being released. Recently, Buckles said in an interview, “I knew there'd be only one (survivor) one day. I didn't think it would be me” (msnbc.com news services, 2/28/2011).
This brave old soldier’s life should rightly be honored by all. His love for America caused him to lie about his age to get into the battle that was coined “the war to end all wars.” Being the last World War I survivor is a powerful reminder to all of us that it really does matter how our lives end; especially, the memory that we leave behind. Buckles left an impressive legacy of love and selfless service to his country.
As followers of Jesus Christ, we could learn a lot from Buckles’s story if we’d pay attention. We represent America too, but we are also soldiers and ambassadors of another country called the Kingdom of God. Our war is spiritual in nature with the goal of seeing as many people out of this world receive God’s gracious gift of salvation through faith in Christ and spend their lives in service to him. Our commanding officer, Jesus, has charged us to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). This is our supreme duty and privilege as soldiers of heaven’s kingdom. We should perform our duty with bravery and valor.
Our status as Christ’s representatives is unmistakable: “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us” (2 Corinthians 5:20). Since we represent the King of this heavenly kingdom, it is our duty to image his character and speak his message with the utmost integrity and honor. The apostle Paul represented his Lord with great poise and commitment and left a great challenge for every Christian when he said, “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death” (Philippians 1:20).
All of us will one day come to end of our life. Our legacies will already be formed and will live on in unalterable shape. In other words, they will be what they are whether good or bad, positive or negative, helpful or hurtful. Therefore, what we do right now with each day matters more than we imagine. Our moments of prayer and Bible study are indispensable. Our extended sessions of silence and solitude before God listening for his instruction are life-altering. Our experiences of worship, fellowship, and service can impact heaven’s kingdom for good. When we faithfully and obediently herald the message of the gospel, our efforts carry the potential to reflect our Lord’s own life and work.
Will it be said of you that you charged forward like a warrior for Jesus? Will your legacy include news of you scaling walls of opposition like a soldier? Will you be remembered for never swerving off the course of strong and steady faith in God? Let these words from an old soldier rally your heart: “Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:3).
Paul died a heroic, old soldier in Christ’s army. Among his last words to his protege, Timothy, are some I definitely want to be able to say with assurance at the close of my life: “The time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day–and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:6-8). Friend, live the Christian life with truth and honor; serve the Lord Jesus with passion and obedience; fight the war of faith with tenacity and hope–it matters that you do this; it matters more than you know.
Prayer: Father in Heaven, thank you for the example in the Bible of others who have lived and served you faithfully. These valiant old soldiers are an inspiration to me to follow in their footsteps. I do want to give my life in service to Jesus Christ who gave his life for me. Strengthen me in every way necessary to follow through. Grant me courage, boldness, endurance, desire, and wisdom to fulfill your will for my life, to leave a lasting legacy of meaningful Christian service, and then, when my life is over here on earth, receive me into your presence in heaven where I shall serve you with equal passion for all eternity. In Jesus' name, amen.
"Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day, . . . They are not
just idle words for you-- they are your life" (Deuteronomy 32:46-47).