Guarding… – June 23, 2023

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:7

Military Devotion – June 23, 2023

Devotion based on Philippians 4:7

See series: Military Devotions

To defend that which is weak. To strengthen that which is strong. To guard that which is precious—that is our calling whether in uniform or not.

Those who have sworn to defend the United States “against all enemies foreign and domestic” have assumed a serious responsibility. Special training and weapons are used to equip them for this special task. We pray for their safety and success. But there is more to the picture labeled “Guarding.”

America has more than once undertaken efforts to win the hearts and minds of those who might join with our enemies. The hope is they will become emotionally connected to our cause when we win over their hearts. If we can win their minds, their thinking and goals will be aligned with our plans and programs.

If we can gain the hearts and minds of people, they will become our allies, not our enemies.

Sadly, our enemies also know this. If they would win over our hearts and minds, we would become their allies. But we do not want to become partners with such as the Taliban. We try to keep fellow citizens from being deceived by false claims and promises. We call that being brainwashed. We do not want them to give up their American freedom to become slaves to some oppressive ideology.

In 1775, Patrick Henry asked his fellow patriots, “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?” His answer has been echoed in speeches by generations of his countrymen: “Forbid it Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”

At the time of the apostle Paul, the Israeli people lived under the oppressive thumb of the Roman Empire. He was an advocate of freedom. He risked his life to bring others into freedom. He lost his life in the battle against tyranny.

But among his many writings, we find no calls for war against Rome. Instead, to the Roman Christians he wrote, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established” (Romans 13:1).

If Imperial Rome wasn’t the enemy he warned against, what was? We can call it the Evil Empire, for evil is at its heart. The fallen angel, Satan, is listed as its commander. Its fighting force was made up of only rebellious angels, at first. But soon humans joined those ranks.

The sinless Son of God rescued us from this superpower of wickedness. But we remain at risk of being recaptured. Evil fights to reclaim us. The bite of Satan, who appeared to our first parents as a snake, is still deadly. So is the poison of his allies. It can induce Christians to turn against one another, and finally rejoin those who reject the Savior God.

But evil cannot reclaim the heirs of salvation by force. Satanic legions do not have that kind of power. However, sadly, those in the kingdom of light can renounce their citizenship. They can desert Christ and rejoin the ranks of the doomed and damned.

Why would they do this? Because they want to. Why would they want to? Because, tragically, the powers of darkness have won their hearts and minds.

What can keep that from happening? What will give us the strength to overcome any inclination to embrace the enemy of all that is good and right?

We have the answer. It has been written down in Holy Script for everyone to see. The required power lies in the peace of God.

This is the peace the Bethlehem angels sang of. This is the peace Jesus bought with his holy blood. This is what he was speaking of when he told his followers, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).

Neither wishful thinking nor fierce determination is enough to survive the hellish attacks of doubt and fear. We cannot guard ourselves against such powers. We cannot guard others. Mortals are not strong enough to hold on to this peace. We need help.

We need to call in the one who is, “our trusty shield and weapon.” We need the one to whom belongs “the kingdom, the power, and the glory.” We need the Lord God.

The British poet, Kipling, rebuked his people for thinking they were strong enough to guard themselves by reminding them of their frailty. He wrote they were only, “All valiant dust that builds on dust.” To the Lord he confessed, “and guarding, calls not thee to guard.”

We will not make that mistake. We will not forget to pray to the Lord to guard us.

Will we?

Father in heaven, yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory. Guard our hearts and minds so that they hold onto the peace that surpasses all understanding. Amen.

Points to ponder:

  • In what way does evil appeal to the tug of our emotions?
  • In what ways does evil appeal to the reasoning of our minds?
  • Why is the peace of God such a powerful force?

Written and recorded by Rev. Paul Horn, WELS National Civilian Chaplain to the Military, San Diego, California.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.

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