Have you ever talked to an old soldier at the end of his life? My brother once interviewed our great Uncle Guy for an elementary school history paper. It’s amazing the things that came out of his mouth. Uncle Guy served in Africa during the Second World War. His 82nd Airborne Company liberated a concentration camp there. He told the story as if it happened yesterday. He spoke of the struggle and the quiet pride that came with bringing freedom to the oppressed. He was a real hero.
Today was a rough day for me. We had some rough ministry issues to deal with at the office today. People are tired. We’ve all been in this fight too long with too little support. I keep seeing more people in need, more people causing need, more evil, and more oppression. Today I visited several Cleveland City Schools to get ready for an outreach project we will be doing there. As I exited one of the buildings, I watched a 5 year old child with hatred in his eyes try to start a fight with a preteen twice his size. All this kid knew was anger. All he had to hold on to was pride. When I was five, I had no enemies. I thought fighting was something Chuck Norris and the A-Team did when evil ninjas were present. This kid should be watching cartoons and eating Jell-O, but instead, he’s in a territorial fight for survival. My heart sank to my feet to see the desolation these kids live in.
It doesn’t end there. I keep seeing the effects of sin ruin lives in my family, my friends, and my community. Days like this the fight just seems too great. Days like this I just want to hunker down and pray for God to just take us home. I feel like one of those soldiers who is just tired of fighting, but just can’t see the end of the war coming any time soon.I needed the advice of an old soldier. I needed a season veteran to remind me that this was all worth it, that the fight won’t last forever, but that even if it did, it would still be worth it.
Sometimes a war movie brings some encouragement in times like these. So, when I got home, I decided to put in Band of Brothers. No sooner has the opening credits passed when the phone rang. I picked it up to find my grandfather at the other end. I wish you knew my granddad. He’s been ministering to people for the last 50 years, usually in volunteer and part-time positions. He’s got true grit. Back in the 60s, he was standing up to church leaders who wouldn’t allow African Americans to marry in the church. He used to do bus ministry, picking up kids from bad situations and taking them to church for help. A few years ago, one of the kids from his bus ministry testified at a dinner about how my granddad had radically influenced the direction of his life through that bus ministry. That kid is a respected pastor now. My grandfather has been a pastor, a mentor, a father, and a friend to countless people over the years. He has fought the good fight no matter what the cost, and sometimes the cost has been great. He has never been a rich man. He has sacrificed and humbled himself for the cause of God’s Kingdom.
I didn’t tell him about my day. I just listened. He wasn’t on the phone to tell me stories. He just wanted to say “Hello” and remind me that he loves me and is proud me. His words were steady and slow. Seasoned wisdom is always better when it flows slow and smooth. Without knowing anything about my day or the battles I’ve been fighting, he tells me about how blessed he is, how happy he is to see his grandchildren (all of them) serving God in some way. Not many men can boast that at the end of their lives. He’s reaping the harvest of his life now. He fought the good fight for decades. He stood when no one else would stand. He fought for the underdog even when it meant great personal loss. He obeyed God when it cost him money and friendships. He loved people. He’s a real hero.
You would think that 50 years of service would be enough. Surely a man like this who has worked so hard would be justified in sitting at home and resting for the remainder of his days on this earth. Not this soldier. Just a few years ago, he started volunteering at a church reaching starving and neglected teens in rural West Virginia. I don’t think he plans on ever really retiring. His plan is to fight to the end.He’ll go out fighting. He’s not looking for his rest in this life,because he’s looking forward to a reward in the next. Twenty minutes on the phone with my grandpa is enough to keep me motivated for months. I don’t care how tough my days get. I don’t care how hard the fight is. I have a duty to give everything I have to the Kingdom of God. I want to be able to look back on my life and know that I did everything in my power to advance His Kingdom to the world. A great day of celebration is coming.
Here’s my challenge for this week: go find a hero in the faith. Go talk to an old pastor or a church elder who has been serving God effectively for a very long time. Just spend some time with them. Don’t ask for a bunch of stories and a motivational speech. Just talk with them and see where the conversation goes. Chances are, you’ll leave inspired.
Who is one of your heroes of the faith and why?