the 1970’s, someone was speaking about war. “What
about World War I?” he asked. Both of us had recently taken
history classes in college and I had just completed a term paper called
“The Summer of 1914,” about the events
that led directly to the First World War.
I thought I would have the answer
for anything, as college students do, but I was not prepared for his
next observation and question. He said, “A
lot of people on both sides were praying for victory in that war.”
And it was true. Much more so than now, there were men and women of all
nations involved that were praying for their side to win. He continued,
“If there is a God who answers prayer, why
did He take the side of the one, and not the other?” A
disturbing but great question.
United States President John F.
Kennedy subsequently said, “Mankind must put
an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind.” Those in the
European nations, early in 1914, thought they had put an end to war. In
America, people still tasted the after-affects of the Civil War, just a
few decades before, but Europeans of that generation had only seen
decades of peace (after centuries of war).
The Churches in Europe felt this was
caused by the affects of Christianity in those lands. Their doctrines
were that Christians would usher in the kingdom of God, feeling
they would bring in the millennium during their lifetimes. Most were
confident, stating that things would get better and better as time went
on. World War I was an incredibly rude shock to everyone. Formerly
complacent people everywhere began to pray.
And they adjusted. Shells flew
overhead and bullets whizzed by. Mustard gas ruined the lungs of many,
and others were destroyed mentally, as terms like “Shell
Shock” entered the vocabulary. Songs like “Praise
the Lord and Pass the Ammunition” came into being, reflecting a
great change in the thinking of people on both sides of the trenches in
Europe. Many died, but others lived on in war, one day at a time.
The man who asked me the question
was given some kind of answer, but not a satisfactory one, and I
pondered his question for years. When two people are praying for
opposing outcomes, whose prayer will be answered? And why?
This question acquires a special
poignancy right now, as we meet the anniversary of September 11th.
What happened is so SHOCKING to all. It is important to note, by the
way, that death is – universal! We’re headed for death and we need to
be prepared for the journey. “Denial” just does not work anymore for
those who have had a “brush” with death. A statistic in a newspaper
Religion Section article said that more people die in Africa from AIDs
every day, than were killed in the Twin Towers a year ago. The
“Grim Reaper” is everywhere, and is a shock to all.
In relation to universal death, does
God answer prayer? The answer is: Yes, He does! Today’s Scripture is
fascinating, because Joshua, the leader of Israel at that time, had
become convinced that God was on the side of his nation. He had plenty
of reason for that belief, based on God’s own words on numerous
The angel of the Lord suddenly
appeared to Joshua, who was surprised and essentially asked, “Sir,
Whose side are you on; theirs or ours?” (“Are
you for us or for our adversaries?” - Joshua 5:13).
You probably want the Lord to be on
YOUR side in the circumstances of life at this moment. In that setting,
you should carefully read the angel of the Lord’s answer to Joshua: “No,
rather I indeed come now as captain of the host of the Lord”
(Joshua 5:14). He was neither on the side of the enemy, nor was he with
the men of Israel – It was JOSHUA (and through him, Israel) that was
allowed to be on GOD’s side.
God is not on the side of your job
or your business, though He loves you and will bring you through. He is
not on the side of your marriage (though He loves marriage, and will
JUDGE the person who attacks a marriage, inside of it or out). He is
not on the side of your health or wealth, or any OTHER condition or
institution of this world. He expects YOU to be on HIS side, no matter
WHAT the circumstances of your life may be.
In the book “Springs
in the Valley”, the question is asked, “Is
it midnight in your experience? Is it an interminable time since the
gold and crimson hope died out in the west – and a seemingly longer
interval before the hoped-for dawning of day? Midnight! Still, dark,
and eerie! It is time to pray! And it is time to sing! Strange how
prayer and singing open prison doors – but they do!”
It isn’t that He will run to your
every beck and call, though He longs to respond to your prayer - He just
answers in ways you would not expect. You would remain in your
selfishness, demanding all be done YOUR way, in YOUR time. But He will
bend you to HIS way, His will, His time. And you will find yourself
gradually changed into His “likeness” (“image”), discussed often but so
He has in mind you will be on HIS
side, living His will, His way. And when you praise Him and the “ammunition”
is passed, you will find yourself firing “bullets” of faith, praise and
love that enter the hearts and lives of other people, instead of giving
out the vengeance that came from you before. “Praise
the Lord and Pass the Ammunition”. Bless the Lord and praise His
Name. This world has always been full of war – Let Him fill you with
Father, let us no longer try to run
things our way, but instead trust in You, through our Lord and Savior,
Jesus Christ. We may be called to enter actual war, but let our hearts
be filled with the peace that comes from God. Empty us of our
selfishness, Lord, and fill us with Your love. In Jesus Name. Amen.
Ron Beckham, Pastor
Friday Study Ministries
P.O. Box 92131
Long Beach, CA 90809-2131
we were yet sinners, Christ died for us"