To Battle We Go: Marching To The Sound Of The Guns

By: Dr. Steve Kellner

It was my privilege as a career military musician to play for hundreds of retirement ceremonies. (Ok, some days I didn’t view it as much of a privilege!) A typical military retirement ceremony features a familiar litany of tributes to the retiring service member. The military biography of the retiree is read along with several congratulatory letters and certificates. Then comes remarks made by the presiding official, a senior officer who usually has some connection to the retiree.

These remarks almost always contain certain key phrases, and of these the phrase that reflects the most honor on the retiree is that he or she “marched to the sound of the guns,” meaning that they purposely put themselves in harm’s way for the sake of the mission.

Marching to the sound of the guns is an essential requirement for any member of the military, the thing they signed up for when they joined, no matter their specific job or role. It’s only natural to run in the other direction when we sense danger, especially the kind of life-threatening danger present in a combat zone. Overcoming that natural fear is job one for anyone in the military, or else the battle is lost before it begins.

Consider the example in 1 Samuel 17 of the Israelites facing the Philistines, led by the fearsome warrior Goliath. The two sides had been lined up for battle for over a month when young David arrived on the scene, but no one on the Israelite side had shown the courage to take up Goliath’s challenge to single combat. Physically, David was certainly not the equal of many of the Israelite soldiers, much less Goliath, but the experience and skill gained as a shepherd protecting his flock (killing both a lion and a bear) along with his deep faith in the Lord helped him overcome his natural fear of the obvious danger.

With some notable exceptions, Salvationists nowadays aren’t in much physical danger as they carry out the mission of the Army, but there are other perceived dangers that might make us fearful.

Perhaps we fear ridicule from those skeptical of the claims of the Gospel. Or maybe we are fearful of those we minister to who are of a different cultural, ethnic, or racial background than our own. We may be uncomfortable being in close quarters with the homeless, or those in the throes of alcohol or drug addiction. Some may fear failing as a ministry leader or being rejected by those they lead. Or we may fear the disturbance to our well-ordered routine that the untidiness and unpredictability of front-line ministry often causes.

It’s perfectly natural to feel these fears, but, like the members of our military services, it is absolutely necessary that we Salvationists overcome them and continue to minister to the least, the lost, and the last. Like David, gaining experience and developing skill is part of getting past our fears, but by far the most important factor is the depth of our faith in Jesus Christ. He is the ultimate “overcomer” of any obstacle we may encounter. When we fight in the name of the Lord, as David did, He will give us the courage to march to the sound of guns in the war for souls.