Riggs Ministry Minute: When there is only a minute for ministry
Rev. Ross L. Riggs, DMin ~ “Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you the reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” 1 Peter 3:15
The precept, “there are no atheists in foxholes” may have been said by celebrated war correspondent Ernie Pyle, Chaplain William Cummings with a sermonette at the Battle of the Bulge or other possible war-time philosophers. Whoever it was, we owe them our thanks. It states aphoristically what perhaps escaped us by its simplicity that: When everything around us is totally out of our control, we long for someone or something that is bigger than us, able to restore order to the chaos! It is not until we come to grips with the truth of our own vulnerability to any number of external (and even internal) forces that we realize our neediness.
I was reminded of this by a letter I received from my son during his first week at Army basic training. During their first chapel service after an intensely grueling week, the platoon found they were unable to even get into the chapel. It was filled to overflowing; so… being the good, though neophyte, soldiers that they were, they adapted and had a Bible study instead. Two soldiers were saved by the grace of God. This first week had taught them that they needed something or someone bigger than themselves. Daniel, too, has found solace in scripture reading that he had not known before. By alluding to the statement by Mr. Pyle, or whomever; I do not doubt the sincerity or the efficacy of these soldiers’ prayers for salvation. My observation is simply that, an observation. I believe the Lord gave Paul a thorn in the flesh for two reasons, the first to remind him that he needed someone greater than himself to get through the days and the second, because he had not given Paul a wife!
Now, wait, before you throw rocks my way… (You know you smiled at that right?) But that is not exactly what I meant. The realization came to me just before I was to get married that suddenly I had the responsibility to care for this human being that I loved for the rest of my life and that I would be held responsible for how well I did that, by God! The feeling of inadequacy was matched four more times in such a strong epiphany; each time that I held a brand new baby for whom I was responsible. In the early years, that feeling was so overwhelming that I did a Jonah and ran from the responsibility. I tried to not think about that day when YHWH would demand of me an accounting for how well I had or had not fulfilled my responsibilities as husband and father. I am ashamed of my initial failures and I praise God for His grace and mercy.
Each and every human being on this earth must believe in something. If they claim to be atheists then they believe more in the non-theology of Karl Marx than the Word of God. The god of this world has blinded their eyes to the truth, but still they believe in something.
“Father Mulcahy” of MASH played by William Christopher was once counseling a young man who was afraid that since he had survived his wounds, God would require him to take the vow and become a priest as he promised he would while in his foxhole begging God to get him through the ordeal. The good “Father” assured him that God understood and that “If everyone took the vow as they had promised in a moment of danger, it would be as if the priesthood had a population explosion!” He regretted his analogy shortly thereafter.
Peter required of us that we be always ready to respond when asked why we have hope; when all around us seems hopeless. That is a wonderful command. But I cannot help but wonder, for me and for Christians I know, in a time of crisis would someone who doesn’t know Christ look at us and see that we have hope? Would we be wringing our hands and ‘oh woe is me-ing’ along with everyone else? If we were in that foxhole, would the non-believer next to us be able to turn to us and ask, “Why are you so calm? What do you know that I don’t? What do you believe in?” God has given us an instinct of fear when we are in danger. That is a tool He gave us to help us stay alive. But to fear and fret uncontrollably without seeking the peace God offers, that is sin.
Everybody believes in something. What do you believe?
Would you pray with me between now and mid-September that as Daniel faces this time of stress and testing that he would find strength in God’s Word and that he would be ready to give a reason for the hope within him should he be asked?