“But wisdom is profitable to direct.”Ecclesiastes 10:10b
Sergeant Alvin York performed one of the most daring and inspiring acts of World War 1. Nearly single-handedly he captured a German machine gun battalion of 132 soldiers. The bravery he showed was born out of the exercise of his simple faith, and his skill to shoot and not miss.
Some will think our comparison of York’s feats and a Christian’s daily spiritual battle a little too crude. But 2 Timothy 2:3-4 still commands: “Thou therefore endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself in the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.” We don’t fight a physical battle- we overcome enemies by converting them, not killing them. However, the parallel still applies.
Sergeant York’s impressive prisoner count pales alongside his shot count. In all of his service in World War 1, only 28 shots were reported from the rifle and pistol of the mountaineer-soldier. Such a low shot count at the beginning of the machine-gun and fully-automatic rifle age answers an obvious question: Did he make them count?
‘There Hain’t Any’
As he marched his prisoners back to Allied lines, he ordered the German prisoners to pick up and carry any American wounded they came across.
“Major, order your men to pick up and carry in our wounded. We ain’t a goin’ to leave no good American doughboys out here in the forest to die.” The Germans obeyed with alacrity, after which the major humanely inquired, “What about the German wounded?”
The dead shot from the Tennessee mountains regarded this as a reflection upon his marksmanship, and promptly informed the German officer, “There hain’t any.” He knew he had not missed a shot.Sergeant York Last of the Long Hunters, Skeyhill, p. 218
The conscientious objector turned rescuer had fired 28 shots and made 28 kills. Not one bullet was wasted. No extra effort was expended to get the job done, just what was needed.
‘Teched’ Him Off, Too
When questioned by General Pershing he explained how easy it is to shoot up a German machine-gun battalion. Easy, that is, if you know how. “Every time I seed a German I jes’ teched him off.” He supplemented that simple statement the even simpler one that in order to shoot him the Germans had to see him: that in order to see him they had to put up their heads. And he added, “I had to put their heads down again.”ibid, p. 13
This battlefield philosophy is much needed in a Bible-believers’ spiritual warfare. Have you ever found yourself second-guessing that religious conversation with a co-worker? Or regretting that you couldn’t think of a verse when you tried to witness to a friend? Have you ever fretted as you attempted to teach a lesson, wondering if you made that truth clear enough?
Two tips from the Tennessee Long Hunter: First, shoot to kill. Aim for completion. There will be too many other conflicts in your life to wrestle with this one very long. 28 shots, 28 kills. He never looked back, second-guessed, or double-checked. When you set out to do something- do it right, and do it with your might. Take right aim. Finish that book. Master that skill. Say what you mean. Talk to people, not about them. Set goals.
Second, sharpen your skill. Those 28 shots were not the first Sergeant York had ever fired- he grew up depending on his rifle for his survival. So you must practice relying on the Word of God. That instant answer for any Bible question won’t come by miracle, it will come by muscle. That profound truth that walks someone back from the edge of a bad decision doesn’t just appear- it is prepared by a constant reading, praying, searching, memorizing and meditating.
As our opening text teaches: “If the iron be blunt, and he do not whet the edge, then must he put to more strength:” (Ecclesiastes 10:10a) And strength, as our days, becomes less each day.
We may only have one more trial, inconvenience, opportunity, meal, morning, book, meeting, or minute left.
We have only a finite number of ‘shots’. Our days are counting down, one by one. Let’s make ’em count.
“For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him.”
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