‘The children of Ephraim, being armed, and carrying bows, turned back in the day of battle.’ Psalm 78:9
Suggested Further Reading: Luke 9:51–62
They turned back in the day of battle. They turned back, it seems then, just when they were to be tried. How much there is we do that will not stand trial! How much there is of godliness which is useful for anything excepting that which it is meant for! It is all in vain for me to say, if I have bought a waterproof coat, that it is good for everything except keeping the water out. Why, then it is good for nothing, and so there are some Christians who have got a religion that is good for every day except the day when it has to be tested, and then it is good for nothing. An anchor may be very pretty on shore, and it may be very showy as an ornament when it lies on the ship’s deck or hangs from the side, but what is the good of it if it will not hold when the wind blows and the vessel needs to be held fast? So, alas! there is much of religion and of godliness, so called, that is no good when it comes to the day of trial. The soldier is truly proved to be a soldier when the war-trumpet sounds and the regiment must go up to the cannon’s mouth. Then shall you know, when the bayonets begin to cross, who has the true soldier’s blood in him; but how many turn back when it really comes to the conflict, for then the day of trial is too much for them! They turned back at the only time when they were of any sort of use. A man who has to fight is not of any particular use to his country, that I know of, except when there is fighting to be done. Like a man in any other trade, there is a season when he is wanted. Now, if the Christian soldier never fights, of what good is he at all?
For meditation: Some things tempt us to turn back—affliction, persecution, cares, riches, greed (Mark 4:17,19), pleasures (Luke 8:14), cowardice (2 Timothy 1:15), worldliness (2 Timothy 4:10). On the day of battle the Lord Jesus Christ headed straight for the front line on our behalf (Luke 9:51); are you prepared to ‘fight the good fight of faith’ (1 Timothy 6:12) on his behalf?
Sermon no. 696
16 May (Undated Sermon)