STAND STRONG SIDE BY SIDE

A message on the power of leaders with strength of character who come alongside their brothers in combat. Fear can defeat a person & prevent him from even trying. Coming alongside one’s brother is personal up close leadership, like the love & encouragement a mother gives to her infant daughter. One native American tribe would blindfold a boy on the night of his 13th birthday, and leave him to the spookiness of the night. In the morning after light, he could take off the blindfold, & when he did, he would see his father standing nearby with bow & arrow protecting him. This message’s lesson has application for those in the war between the Kingdom of God & the Kingdom of Death. The storms of life reveal who we are, and our character will be reformed by those storms.

TEARING OFF SOME PAGES FROM SECULAR HISTORY. Let’s look at 2 Civil War generals, one Confederate & one Union. Stonewall Jackson at the Battle of Bull Run and Phil Sheridan at the Battle of Winchester… both by the strength of their character personally turned a defeat into a victory. A similar type of leader during WW 2 was Leon Degrelle, who helped prevent the annihilation of the surrounded German army at Cherkassy. At Cherkassy, he was the leader of the legion of Belgium Walloon volunteers who fought communism on the Eastern front for Germany. He & 150 other Belgium Walloons received Knights Crosses for their outstanding courage & tenacity at Cherkassy. During the entire war, the Belgium Walloons amazed everyone with their astonishing courage & their ability to win in hopeless impossible situations. They had the hearts of lions. After their 1944 parade across Belgium, the legion was being rebuilt with new recruits. Before the new recruits could be trained, a new Russian offensive in Estonia threatened to shred Germany’s Army Group North. Desperate, Army command sent the Walloons, new recruits & all to rescue the situation. Leon Degrelle had been such a notable hero that Hitler had forbidden him to serve at the front, but Degrelle knew the men would have a better chance w/ his presence & leadership…so he risked a court martial to go back to the front to lead the Belgium troops. Here is his conversation with German army command.
DEGRELLE: “With or without authorization I will leave tomorrow for the Estonian Front.”
ARMY COMMAND: “This is a court-martial offense.”
DEGRELLE: “It is also a court-martial offense to send 4-day old recruits to combat.”
ARMY COMMAND: “Do as you wish.”
His leadership & presence did indeed make a significant difference, for starters, he got training with the best trainers for his new recruits before they went into combat. With Degrelle by their side, the Walloons continued their astonishing combat feats.

AS CHRISTIANS DO WE HAVE ANYONE BY OUR SIDE? Paul was convinced, even while facing execution, that Christ would be at his side. (2 TIM 4:18) Peter wrote, “[We] are kept by the power of God through faith.” Christ, an excellent example of a leader who comes alongside, said: “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” He was following in his Father’s example.

GOD’S PRESENCE. DT 20:1, “When thou goest out to battle against thine enemies…be not afraid of them: for the LORD thy God is with thee…” ISA 43:2, “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee…” And who can forget the 23rd PSALM, “Yea though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death…” We are told to be content with our situation “for He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”(HEB 13:5)

COMFORT FROM THE SCROLL OF ISAIAH. When the reader gets to chapter 40 of Isaiah, there is a shift in mood & focus. It starts in verse 1, “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.” Each verse in the chapter speaks a volume. Verse 2 can be compared to MT 11:28 & PHIL 3:13-14. The third verse can be compared to what John the Baptist said & did, as well the works of Christ. So YHWH affirms, “I am with you.” He is that leader that comes along side. He wants us to draw strength from Him. When we get to ISA 41:10 we are confronted with a powerful verse: “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” WOW. Divine help with His divine presence is promised. Isaiah 41:10 is worth meditating on!! One hears echoes of its message continuing through the rest of Isaiah…for instance, 43:5 “Fear not, for I am with thee…”

WILLIAM AMBROSE SHEDD, A CHRISTIAN EXAMPLE FROM [relatively] MODERN HISTORY. On 1/24/1865, a missionary couple to Persia (Iran) had a son named William Ambrose Shedd, who in turn at the age of 17 became a missionary to Persia also. His godly heritage going back several generations was a strength. William at age 5 came to America w/ his parents on furlough. At age 15, he entered college, but dropped out at 17 when his parents asked for his help in the mission field. By 1892, he was a full time, fully committed missionary to Iran. William talked about how being close to God brought heat, “He that is near Me is near the fire.” William had no illusions about Islam, “Islam as a system I believe to be an obstacle to social progress…” and another comment was “a distinction can be drawn between the truth in Islam and Islam…”

WILLIAM’S LEADERSHIP FACING A “DEN OF LIONS”. Christians were massacred by Moslems in Iran during that time period. Many Christian women & girls were raped, and during the WW 1 period, 1,000 Christians were killed in Persia by the Moslems. Yet William was courageously willing to lay all on the altar of God, and remained a successful missionary for many years. William commanded confidence from people. In an Islamic nation that hated Christians, he became very respected. One observer said, “The whole Assyrian [Persian] nation came to regard him as its counselor and guide.” He himself valued the warrior spirit & tried to encourage it in new Christians. Nor was William timid. He stuck up for justice for all kinds of people. Moslems who could not trust their own leaders would come to him for legal protection. Islamic law was not kind to Christians. A Christian convert to Islam automatically gained the legal right to all the inheritance of all Christian relatives within 7 degrees of kinship! Christians in Iran did not have legal rights equal to Moslems. Yet, William rescued a number of Christian girls kidnapped by Moslem men and forced into marriage. Thanks to William’s integrity, character & courage, it was quite a lesson for the public when the local Moslem ruler tortured a Moslem man who had kidnapped a Christian girl & forced her into marriage. The reason I included William in this message is because of his willingness to be right beside his brothers & sisters in their times of trials. He fed many refugees. He went to legal battle for many of them also. He not only was a leader, but a leader who was truly right in the trenches with his fellow man.(A)

FINAL THOUGHT. We have a God who leads who by our side. As the Prophet Isaiah wrote, “Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes I will help you…”

Reference A: The story of William Shedd can be found in “The Measure of a Man: The Life of William Ambrose Shedd Missionary to Persia”. Publ. Geo. H. Doran Co. (1922)