WORDS of encouragement, words that seek to spur us on in the battle
of life—these are words we often need! From the young believer in Christ
to the veteran in the faith, we all need and yearn for words to boost our
spirits and urge us on as we begin each day anew on the battlefield of
I watched President Obama on TV on 20th January 2010, on the
first anniversary of his inauguration as the 44th President of the United
States. He looked anxious, tired and downhearted. His facial appearance
contrasted sharply with the picture beamed to the world just about the
same time me exactly a year before, on 20th January 2009. On that day he
looked exhilarated and in very good spirits, as, watched by millions around
the world, he was sworn to office as President of the United States.
What then is the difference between President Obama of 20th January
2009 and the president I was watching on 20th January 2010?
As a person, not much. Only the circumstances had changed. Hours
before his first anniversary in office, the Democratic Party had suffered
defeat at the hands of the Republicans in the election in Massachusetts for
the US Senate seat made vacant by the death of the veteran Democratic
Senator Edward Kennedy. The defeat was particularly shocking for the
President and his party, for that seat was generally regarded as a safe one
for the Democratic Party.
It was without doubt a very unpleasant first anniversary present for
Mr Obama and the disappointment was clearly etched on his face. As
I watched him, I said to myself: “Boy, what the President needs at this
moment are words of encouragement, words that will energise his spirit;
yes, words that will spur him on, to look beyond the present gloom into a
future of hope.”
As the above example shows, even the most powerful among us are
not immune to the disappointments and setbacks that can be the lot of
each one of us in a fallen world.
Words of exhortation, words that aim to impart vigour to our spirit—we all need
those. This is true for the believer in Christ as well as the unbeliever.
Indeed, the fact that we have decided to follow Christ does not mean
we will necessarily be spared trouble—that we shall not be subject to the
troubles and headaches that are characteristic of life on a fallen planet. I
dare say, in fact, that we are even more prone to challenges compared to
our peers in the world. Indeed, our calling may often place us in opposition on
to the norms of society. We may involuntarily have to swim against the
tide of society—and for the very reason that we want to uphold the tenets
of our faith.
I have here in mind the case of a nurse who was suspended in the
United Kingdom in 2009, just for politely asking to pray for one of her
patients! That placed her under attack, not by the patient involved, but
by her roommate, who lodged a complaint with the authorities, who in
turn decided to suspend her, pending an investigation into her conduct.
Though she was eventually reinstated, no matter how strong her faith
was, in the initial stages of the matter her reaction would likely be that
of shock and disappointment. Her suspension might initially have caused
her some headaches—yes, even sleepless nights.
Without doubt, though we fight on the side of a victorious army, we
may at some stages in the battle of life have to endure some merciless
whipping from the enemy. We are indeed on our way to the promised
land; we are yet to arrive there, however! For a certainty, the fact that
we are Christians does not exempt us from the trials of life. As followers
of the same Lord, let us go and interview in private some of the great
men and women of God we see every day in the limelight. We will likely
learn that they, too, are battling with trials, temptations, struggles, and
disappointments. Even such generals of the faith need our prayers and
words of encouragement. In fact, they need our prayers and our words of
encouragement far more than most of us embattled Christians. Being at
the forefront of the battle, having publicly exposed themselves, they are
easy targets of attack from the forces of the enemy, from the principalities
and powers that inhabit the high places.
“In the world you shall have tribulations,” our great Commander-in-
Chief warns us. The going can be tough, even (and perhaps especially) for
soldiers of the cross of Calvary.
All is not gloom, however. As I just mentioned, we fight on the side of
a victorious—a winning—army. Indeed, no matter how fierce the battle
may rage, we need not panic or be scared.
Yes, battle-wearied soldier of the cross, you who are so battered by
the blows of the enemy, you who might be considering throwing in the
towel, the Commander-in-Chief is urging you in the face of the pitched
battle raging: “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world!” Be assured,
dear brother, dear sister, you are an overcomer—even if your present
situation appears all but rosy.
Bear in mind, friend, that though we have been promised the crown
of victory, before the crown may come the cross. In God’s Kingdom we
must often stoop to rise. We may, like Moses, have to spend 40 years in
the wilderness to be prepared for service. Or, as in the case of Joseph, our
preparation for service may see us behind bars, for no fault of ours.
These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In
the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome
the world. John 16:33
Yes indeed! Because our Lord has overcome the world, we fight on the
side of a winning army. Tribulations we may experience, but our victory is
As I read the Book of Martyrs, I was humbled, yes humbled, by the
suffering that some of our compatriots had to endure on the Christian
Battlefield. As I read through their respective experiences, I began to
pose myself the question: Would you have been able to endure in their
respective situations?
Of course, I am not suggesting that every child of God should go
through the same experience; but we have to bear in mind that the going
can be rough, even for the Christian. Indeed, much as blessings are our
final lot, in the interim suffering and pain can also visit our abode. In this
book I have made it a goal to speak words of encouragement to you, dear
fellow soldier of Christ; yes, to you who, just as you are reading through
these lines, may be walking through the valley of the shadow of death.