The 19th century ‘militant’ marching hymn by Sabine Baring Gould “Onward Christian Soldiers” speaks well about the militant life of a believer and the Church of God. Gould’s attempt to write a marching song for his village school didn’t only fulfil its purpose then but rightly portrays a believer to be one in a battle. Some including David Wright tried to pacify the song to make it less militant by re-writing the song while keeping the tune but in vain. Many Christians sing this hymn but fail to fight the battle they proclaim in it. Others sing this hymn without knowing what really it means to be a Christian soldier always moving forward in the frontline, as such, they become victims instead of victors. Gould in this song, speaks the same language with saint Paul the apostle. Paul consistently saw the life of a Christian in a battle and vehemently wrote to many churches of this fact.
Writing to the Romans, after a series of rhetorical questions, the apostle strongly exhorted them in these words, “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). One cannot conquer without a struggle, such struggles that believers experience are battles that ought to be militantly fought and won. In this passage, we see the focus of the apostle directed to the relationship between believers and God, their redeemer. A relationship that ought not to be broken and yet there are forces at war trying to dislodge us from this relationship with God. To him, God foreknew us and therefore redeemed us to be conformed to the likeness of his Son. That “those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified” (Romans 8:30).
With all this God has done for us, we ought to ensure that our relationship with him isn’t fought off by the enemy, the old serpent whose only aim is to fight believers. Neither do we have to allow troubles or hardships, persecution or famine or even lack of warmth and other dangers separate us from this love God has for us. God on his side has won the victory for us through Christ, in Him “we are more than conquerors.” However, we have our part to play. We ought to arm ourselves with the whole armour of God and as Gould writes in his hymn, we need to march onward into the battle.
You like or not, a Christian has been commissioned for this battle. Yes, we have a battle to fight, you need to be aware of this battle lest you become a victim. Yes, we have to be Christian soldiers marching forward, lest we are besieged by the enemy. It is for this reason that to the Ephesians, the apostle encouraged them to, “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” That they should, “put on the full armour of God so that [they] can take [their] stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6:10-11). He then explains them the nature of the battle by saying, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against authorities, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). It is therefore evident that you are not a Christian just to sit in the pew and sing, “Onward Christian Soldiers Marching as to War” without you actually marching forth. Many are doing this, sitting in the pews and not fighting. You may be left in the pew, captured by the enemy when others have already marched onward in the battle.
Arise, dress up, put up the whole armour of God and march onward with the Church of God into the battle. Lift up the cross of Jesus, led by the royal master, Christ himself, fight against the schemes of the devil. Let us tread the path those who walked the faith before us took, let us join the apostles and all the others who faithfully fought the good fight and won. For you either fight or you don’t, if you do, you are a victor, more than conqueror. If you don’t fight, you are a deserter, a quitter, and ultimately a victim. Fight, be a victor. Remember “your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Be alert, be sober, be dressed fully for the battle, lest you are devoured. Be a victor, not a victim.
This message is written by Rev. Julius Izza Tabi who is a pastor in the Anglican Church of Uganda, Ma’di & West Nile Diocese. Julius served as an assistant Chaplain and lecturer at the Arua Campus of the Uganda Christin University. He is currently a candidate of Master of Philosophy in Religion, Society and Global Issues at Det Teologiske Menighetsfakultet alias the Norwegian School of Theology, in Oslo, Norway and is an assisting Priest at St. Edmund’s Anglican Church, in Oslo. For any pastoral assistance or support of this ministry you can email Rev. Julius you can also reach Rev. Julius here.