“Endure . . . As a Good Soldier,” by Zack Strong
In his second epistle to his fellow Christian missionary Timothy, the Apostle Paul wrote: “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:3). Mortality is a war for the souls of men. God is trying to persuade men to follow Him down the path of Freedom and happiness whereas Lucifer is trying to coerce and seduce those who heed him down the road to slavery and misery. There is no neutral ground – each human being much choose a side. We who have chosen the side of truth and light can sing along with the popular hymn: “We are all enlisted till the conflict is o’er . . . Soldiers in the army, there’s a bright crown in store . . . Haste to the battle, quick to the field; Truth is our helmet, buckler, and shield. Stand by our colors; proudly they wave! We’re joyfully, joyfully marching to our home” (“We Are All Enlisted”).
This all-important spiritual war is waged primarily through governments. Let me explain how. Free will, agency, and personal accountability are absolutely essential to the Gospel of Christ. Without these, the Gospel is ineffectual because individuals cannot choose good from evil. All hinges upon our individual choices. Since governments largely determine how free a people is and which actions are allowed or prohibited, it is through governments that we must work to safeguard our all-important right to choose our spiritual path. I want to cite all four verses of the hymn “Know This, That Every Soul Is Free” which beautifully illustrate this divine truth:
“Know this, that ev’ry soul is free to choose his life and what he’ll be; For this eternal truth is giv’n: That God will force no man to heav’n.
“He’ll call, persuade, direct aright, and bless with wisdom, love, and light, in nameless ways be good and kind, but never force the human mind.
“Freedom and reason make us men; Take these away, what are we then? Mere animals, and just as well the beasts may think of heav’n or hell.
“May we no more our pow’rs abuse, but ways of truth and goodness choose; Our God is pleased when we improve His grace and seek his perfect love.”
Since God will not force us to do anything, but glories in our free will, we see that God’s designs are frustrated when the Liberty of man is extinguished. All forms of tyranny and coercion are of Satan. And it is through governments that tyranny is most often foisted upon us. Under any form of tyranny, our agency is diminished. Thus it can only be a religious principle to fight, through the medium of government, for Freedom.
Satan-inspired communistic governments are responsible for enslaving more of mankind and murdering more of God’s children than any other agent in world history, though communism is certainly not alone in this war on human Liberty. Our government is likewise neck-deep in despotism and many of our precious rights have been eradicated under the guise of law. This is contrary to the Gospel of Christ, or, as some call it, the natural law of mankind. Christians must use government to preserve agency and free will, thus enabling mankind to exercise the right of conscience and choose God.
In his book “Lost Rights: The Destruction of American Liberty,” James Bovard described the depressing state of our Freedom:
“Americans’ liberty is perishing beneath the constant growth of government power. Federal, state, and local governments are confiscating citizens’ property, trampling their rights, and decimating their opportunities more than ever before.
“Americans today must obey thirty times as many laws as their great-grandfathers had to obey at the turn of the century. Federal agencies publish an average of over 200 pages of new rulings, regulations, and proposals in the Federal Register each business day. The growth of the federal statute book is one of the clearest measures of the increase of the government control of the citizenry. But the effort to improve society by the endless multiplication of penalties, prohibitions, and prison sentences is a dismal failure.
“The attack on individual rights has reached the point where a citizen has no right to use his own land if a government inspector discovers a wet area on it, no right to the money in his bank account if an IRS agent decides he might have dodged taxes, and no right to the cash in his wallet if a DEA dog sniffs at his pants. A man’s home is his castle, except if a politician covets the land the house is built on, or if his house is more than fifty years old, or if he has too many relatives living with him, or if he has old cars parked in his driveway, or if he wants to add a porch or deck. Nowadays, a citizen’s use of his own property is presumed illegal until approved by multiple zoning and planning commissions. . . .
“Privacy is vanishing beneath the rising floodtide of government power. Government officials have asserted a de facto right to search almost anybody, almost any time, on almost any pretext. The average American now has far less freedom from having government officials strip-search his children, rummage through his luggage, ransack his house, sift through his bank records, and trespass in his fields. Today, a citizen’s constitutional right to privacy can be nullified by the sniff of a dog. . . .
“Freedom of speech and freedom of the press are increasingly under assault by ambitious bureaucrats and spiteful politicians. In many locales, politicians have filed multimillion-dollar libel suits against private citizens who criticized them. . . .
“The government is manufacturing more criminals now than ever before. The government is increasingly choosing the citizen-target, creating the crime, and then vigorously prosecuting the violator. . . .
“High taxes have created a moral inversion in the relationship between the citizen and the State. Before the income tax, the government existed to serve the people, at least in some vague nominal sense; now, the people exist to provide financial grist for the State’s mill. . . . .
“Not only do we have more laws and regulations than ever before, but the laws themselves are becoming less clear, consistent, and coherent. . . .
“Government now appears more concerned with dictating personal behavior than with protecting citizens from murderers, muggers, and rapists. . . .
“Coercion has become more refined and more pervasive in recent decades . . . The level of coercion imposed by government agencies is less evident today primarily because the vast majority of citizens surrender to government demands before the government resorts to force . . . The lack of an armed uprising is no proof of a lack of aggression. . . .
“America political thinking suffers from a romantic tendency to appraise government by lofty ideals rather than by banal and often grim realities; a tendency to judge politicians by their rhetoric rather than by their day-to-day finagling and petty mendacity; and a tendency to view the expansion of government power by its promises rather than by its results. . . .
“Americans’ comprehension of liberty and the threats to its survival has declined sharply since the nation’s birth. The Massachusetts colonists rebelled after the British agents received ‘writs of assistance’ that allowed them to search any colonist’s property. Modern Americans submit passively to government sweep searches of buses, schools, and housing projects. Virginia revolted in part because King George imposed a two-pence tax on the sale of a pound of tea; Americans today are complacent while Congress imposes billions of dollars of retroactive taxes – even on people who have already died. Connecticut rebelled in part because the British were undermining the independence of judges; nowadays, federal agencies have the power to act as prosecutor, judge, and jury in suits against private citizens. Maine revolted in part because the British Parliament issued a decree confiscating every white pine tree in the colony; modern Americans are largely complacent when local governments impose almost unlimited restrictions on individuals’ rights to use their own property. The initial battles of the Revolution occurred after British troops tried to seize the colonists’ private weapons; today, residents in Chicago, Washington, D.C., and other cities submit to de facto prohibitions on handgun ownership imposed by the same governments that grossly fail to protect citizens from private violence. . . .
“As a Revolutionary-era pamphleteer declared in 1768, ‘As the total subjection of a people arises generally from gradual encroachments, it will be our indispensable duty manfully to oppose every invasion of our rights in the beginning.’ Although it is too late to start opposing invasions of our rights ‘in the beginning,’ American liberty can still be rescued from the encroachments of government. The first step to saving our liberty is to realize how much we have already lost, how we lost it, and how we will continue to lose unless fundamental political changes occur” (Bovard, “Lost Rights,” 1-7).
Do you see how grim and awful our situation has become? Do you see how many rights you and I have lost? Any thinking person can see that government is becoming ever more vicious and powerful, while simultaneously disregarding our rights with increasing frequency and malevolent delight. I pray that all of us will swear the same oath that Thomas Jefferson swore against such oppression. Here are his words: “I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against all forms of tyranny over the mind of man” (Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Rush, September 23, 1800).
It is a real part of every Christian’s duty to defend Freedom. Our rights are God-given and cannot be timidly surrendered. No true Christian is neutral in this war for Liberty, nor can he support programs, principles, or people that degrade the Liberty and rights of man or advocate force. Neutrality is complicity. And no believer would ever want to be found guilty of betraying God’s gifts to mankind, chief among which is Freedom. Since real Christians, then, as part of their religious duty, will be found taking the hardest and most pointed stands against tyranny, it is to be expected that they are to face retaliation by the powers-that-be, by the deceived, and by emotion-driven people everywhere.
Christians must not only learn to endure “hardness” – or, in other words, opposition, peer pressure, persecution, afflictions, trials, ridicule, hatred, etc., – in religious matters, but in political matters as well. In truth, you cannot separate politics and religion, for the principles of free will and personal accountability are foundational aspects of Christianity.
Thomas Jefferson wrote: “The patriot, like the Christian, must learn that to bear revilings & persecutions as a part of his duty; and in proportion as the trial is severe, firmness under it becomes more requisite & praiseworthy” (Thomas Jefferson to James Sullivan, May 21, 1805). A different time he observed: “Politics, like religion, hold up the torches of martyrdom to the reformers of error” (Thomas Jefferson to James Ogilvie, August 4, 1811). Yes, any time a principled individual stands up for truth, light, justice, Freedom, morality, or religion, he will be persecuted in some way, shape, or form. This will become increasingly true as America continues her sharp decline into the abyss to join the decadent Romans, Greeks, and Babylonians of the past.
In our troubled age, a good litmus test to gauge whether or not you are standing on the right side is to see whether the majority shares your views. If they do, odds are your views are wrong. As the old saying goes, “When you find yourself on the side of the majority, it’s time to stop and think.” Though this rule is not applicable in every case, I have found it to be accurate in my own personal experiences more often than not.
Those who understand the principles of Liberty and constitutional government are in the minority. Those who stand up and voice their opposition to the growing tyranny are in the minority. Those who truly involve themselves in politics are in the minority. Those who sincerely care enough to act are also in the minority. There is absolutely no doubt about that. Many folks are well-intentioned, but good intentions do not put you on the correct side. We must seek truth and, once we find it, defend it to the death. You’ll know you are over the target when you start taking flack. If you face no opposition, it’s time to reevaluate your beliefs.
Even at the founding of the United States when the People generally understood the principles of Freedom and were much more Christian and morally upright than Americans today, John Adams made the observation that “one full third were averse to the Revolution,” another third were ardent patriots, and the last third went both ways depending upon the circumstances (John Adams to James Lloyd, January 28, 1815). Those who understood the principles of Liberty and who were willing to pledge “[their] Lives, [their] Fortunes, and [their] sacred Honor” in their defense, were often in the minority (see the Declaration of Independence). Even the Constitution passed the ratification process by a few meager votes. Yet, it was the minority, with their integrity and fidelity to truth and goodness, which led the nation to the refreshing waters of Liberty.
Philip Crane explained the solution to our problems. He wrote: “What is needed is a return to the faith and uncommon sense of our Founding Fathers. We need, not a majority, but a remnant. A few Godly leaders can give direction to fellow Americans. Then the nation and the world will regain hope and direction based upon their commitment to justice, righteousness, liberty and love” (Philip M. Crane, “Uncommon Sense,” cited in Des Griffin, “Descent into Slavery?,” 230). Yes, it only takes a minority hell-bent on defending their Freedom and standing up for the revealed principles of morality and religion.
As bearers of light and truth, we must expect persecution and ridicule from others who cling to false information, corrupt traditions, and their public school indoctrination. Truth is nearly impossible to bear unless you have a burning desire in your heart to discover truth no matter the implications and no matter how many of your preconceived notions it obliterates. And let’s face it, most people don’t have this desire. It’s far easier to join the crowd than to think independently.
Most folks are content to go along to get along. They don’t want to rock the boat. They want to fly under the radar. They simply don’t care enough to do the required research to become informed. They’re too caught up in their lives, distracted by entertainment, addicted to some substance, technology, or sport, and, frankly, too ignorant or apathetic to be bothered with the burdens of a harsh reality. As long as the government keeps them “safe,” they’re content to switch off their minds and not think or hold responsibility of any kind. Some have accurately deemed this group “the unthinking majority.”
When this rabble of indoctrinated and conditioned humanity derides us, smears us, assassinates our character, advocates laws criminalizing our so-called “hate speech,” condemns us for exercising our right of discrimination against those who promote depravity, or resorts to violence, we must hold our ground. We have the moral high ground, after all. We are seeking to better humanity and to awaken a sleeping giant. We are looking out for these people’s best interests, even if they do not realize it. We do not think we are some elite class that should govern the majority because we know how to run their lives better than they do – quite the opposite. We fight against those who harbor such prideful philosophies and want to return Liberty and sovereignty to the individual.
Yes, we want the majority to awaken and self-govern. We want everyone to be informed, educated, aware, and involved. We demand the federal government to shrink back to its proper constitutional confines and for individual citizens on the local level to administer government in their own behalf. However, we know that only an educated nation can be free and govern itself. And so we seek to awaken these sleeping Americans to a sense of our awful situation – a task which requires us to inform them of hard truths and unpleasant realities. By analogy, it is three in the morning, their house in on fire, and we’re banging on their door, shouting at the top of our lungs in order to wake them up so that they can save themselves. Tragically, many hate us for our efforts.
I often feel like Paul must have felt when he wrote: “Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?” (Galatians 4:16). Another great man, Joseph Smith, similarly questioned: “Why persecute me for telling the truth? . . . I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation” (Joseph Smith – History 1:25). This is the sort of integrity under fire we must possess. We must have the unflinching discipline of good soldiers. We must stand our ground no matter what the opposition throws at us. It’s an arduous task, but it’s our duty to testify of truth, to correct error, to expose evil, to resist invasions of our rights, to proclaim peace, to support the Constitution, and to safeguard morality and true religion at all costs and against all arguments.
As we take a moral stand against the opposition, it can be painful and heart wrenching. This is especially true if those opposing you are family members, friends, or people in a position to halt your career advance or do damage to your reputation. Yet, we must still stand resolute and unwavering. This is our duty as patriots, as Christians, as “reformers of error,” as Liberty-lovers, and as true Americans.
When we are faced with persecution, we should remember the words of Him who suffered all things. Said our Master: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). This is a tall order, yet we must do our best to fill it. I will readily admit that I struggle with this. I struggle to “bless them” who curse me and unjustly assassinate my character on a daily basis when all I’ve ever wanted to do is to defend the truth and stand up for my God, the Constitution, and my Freedom. Yet, I’m mindful that I need to do better and apply the Savior’s words more freely.
The Master also taught: “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world . . . the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:18-20). Should we expect an easy ride? No. Should we become discouraged when the opposition is fierce? No. We should instead have faith and trust in the power of truth.
Finally, the Lord prophesied of our day when He warned: “And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved” (Matthew 24:6-13).
Yes, as servants of the truth, and of the One who is its source, we must expect nothing less than persecutions, betrayal, hatred, and perhaps even death. But our mission is the same whether the whole world or only a handful oppose us; it is the same whether we are in peace or war. Fortunately, truth is eternal and will triumph. The great Ezra Taft Benson once said at the outset of a powerful speech: “I am not here to tickle your ears, to entertain you. I will talk to you frankly and honestly. The message I bring is not a happy one, but it is the truth. And time is always on the side of truth” (Ezra Taft Benson, “Stand Up for Freedom”). And so it is. Though buildings may tumble, though nations may fall, though friends may turn against you, though the government may persecute you, you will conquer if your foundation is one of truth, morality, and goodness.
Again I repeat, and emphasize, the fact that no true Christian can be neutral in the fight for Freedom. Indeed, it is a central feature of Christianity. The Gospel plan is upset without free will, agency, and individual accountability. We destroy our souls and forfeit our eternal reward when we sit by and allow the demolition of our rights and Liberties. Yes, this “political” fight is really a spiritual war! It is an eternal struggle between the forces of God and Freedom and happiness on one hand, and Satan with his fruits of tyranny and despair on the other. We must preserve intact our right to choose. And we must “endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” if we expect to win our individual battles against the increasingly militant opposition.
I end with the encouraging words of another hymn – words that urge us to join the fight:
“Behold! A royal army, with banner, sword, and shield, Is marching to conquer On life’s great battlefield. Its ranks are filled with soldiers, United, bold, and strong, Who follow their Commander And sing their joyful song: Victory, victory, Thru him that redeemed us! Victory, victory, Thru Jesus Christ, our Lord!” (“Behold! A Royal Army”).