One Who Is Willing

The battle of Thermopylae is one of the most famous battle scenes in history. The battle is known for the bravery of the 300 Spartans who fought to the death against a Persian army that far outnumbered them [estimates range widely, from about 100,000 to over 1,000,000]. In that battle, the Spartans successfully blocked the only pass into Greece for three days, until they were betrayed by a fellow Greek, which led to them being surrounded and ultimately defeated. To this day, the bravery of these men — the fact each one of those men were willing to fight to the death to defend their country — is inspiration for many.

      This story stands as one of the most memorable ones, too, because everyone loves an underdog. Most people don't care to know if there was a 'good guy' or 'bad guy' in the story; they just see the story of the underdog and they root for them to win or, in this case, at least hold off the favored and more powerful army for a time. We tend to do that, as humans; we love the underdog!

      But those who strive to serve the Lord are most interested in 'right' standing up to oppose what is 'wrong,' and good winning over evil — more than just an underdog defeating one who was expected to win. The righteous desire that righteousness and godliness win over wickedness and worldliness; they seek for God's ways to triumph over that of our spiritual enemy's ways. And within God's written record, the Bible, we find such stories of triumph — stories worth our consideration. Let's take a look at a few, and then let us consider ourselves in light of those examples.

      Phinehas. Even as the Israelites camped just opposite the Jordan River from the Promised Land, they consorted with the women of Moab, participating in their pagan worship and everything that it entailed, including sexual acts supposed to be done in honor of their gods. During this time, one of the Israelite men “came and presented to his brethren a Midianite woman in the sight of Moses and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, who were weeping at the door of the tabernacle of meeting” (Num. 25:6). To say that God was displeased would be an understatement.

      But upon seeing this, a man named Phinehas “rose from among the congregation and took a javelin in his hand; and he went after the man of Israel into the tent and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her body” and thus stopped the plague that the Lord had sent on the people for their unfaithfulness to Him (Num. 25:7, 8). Because of this act of Phinehas, God praised him when speaking to Moses, and promised “a covenant of an everlasting priesthood, because he was zealous for his God, and made atonement for the children of Israel” (Num. 25:10-13). Though many were weeping for the ungodly behavior of their brethren, there was one who was willing to take action to stop the ungodliness, and to stop the plague of God upon them.

      David. When David was still a young man, the Israelites were in battle against the Philistines, the armies gathered against one another in the Valley of Elah (1 Sam. 17:1-3). The three oldest brothers of David had been sent to the battlefield (1 Sam. 17:13) and David then served as King Saul's comforter (1st Sam. 16:22, 23), but returned to feed his father's sheep in Bethlehem (1 Sam. 17:15).

      On one of those visits, Jesse asked David to carry to the other three sons some grain, bread, and cheese and to bring back news of their condition (1 Sam. 17:17, 18). While there and speaking with his brothers, he heard the challenge of the Philistine giant, Goliath, and he also saw the cowardice of the Israelite army as they fled (1 Sam. 17:23, 24).

      It was on this occasion and for this reason that David asked, “What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (1 Sam. 17:26). He then volunteered himself to go out and fight the giant, though everyone else chastised him or doubted. David did not doubt, however, for he knew this: “The Lord, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine” (1 Sam. 17:37). He could boldly stand before this giant and say, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you” (1 Sam. 17:45, 46). And He did just that!

      Though an entire army cowered in fear before this challenger, there was one who was willing to stand against him because he believed God would give him victory.

      Jesus. On a much greater scale than the stories of Phinehas and David, we have the story of one who was willing to stand against the spiritual adversary of all men: the Accuser, the father of all lies, the great Deceiver, the devil. Even before the world was made (2 Tim. 1:9), Jesus volunteered (John 10:18) to be the one who would die for the sins of all men, thus taking away the Accuser's charge that was leveled against every man (Rom. 3:23). He would be the one, too, who “through death” would “destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Heb. 2:14).

      But things did not look good when Jesus came to earth. Right before He began teaching the coming kingdom, the devil tempted Him, just as he tempts every man (cf. Matt. 4:1-11). But Jesus was one who was willing to stand and answer every temptation from the Scriptures, and He did not sin. But the devil wasn't done just yet.

      Later, we find “Satan entered Judas” and Judas would then betray Jesus to the religious leaders, leading to His trial and crucifixion (Luke 22:3-6). No doubt, those men thought they had defeated Jesus, mocking Him even as He hung on the cross (Matt. 27:39-43). After He died, they made sure the tomb was sealed so His disciples would not come and steal the body away and claim he was raised again (Matt. 27:63-66).

      They failed. He did rise again, and He claimed victory over our spiritual adversary by offering Himself as the sacrifice for the sins of all men, and rising up to defeat another of the weapons of fear our enemy used against us: death. We know that without this sacrifice and without His resurrection from the dead, we would still be in our sins and without hope (cf. 1 Cor. 15:12-19). But, because He was raised, we have hope of being raised one day, too (1 Cor. 15:20-28). Because One was willing to stand as the sacrifice for the sins of all men, we can have the hope of forgiveness and eternal life!

      You? How about you? Will you be one who is willing to stand against ungodliness and stand for what is righteous and good? Will you be one who is willing to stand against the giants of sins and worldliness, trusting in God to give you victory? Will you be one who is willing to believe in Jesus, though the majority reject Him and ridicule Him?

            Are you one who is willing?   — Steven Harper