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Foundation Truth, Number 15 (Autumn 2006) | Timeless Truths Publications


Part 1 - The Nickname

“Come on, Jerry!” Mike called. “We have to go get the eggs from the chickens.”

“I don’t want to go. That rooster is mean,” Jerry said.

“Loser!” Mike said. “Just give him a kick and he’ll stay away. I’m not afraid.”

Jerry watched his friend go through the gate. He hated being called “Loser.” Slowly he picked up a rock and looked around the pen. The chicken yard was nearly empty, though Jerry could hear noises from the shed where Mike had gone.

“Hey, Loser! Come and get these eggs,” Jerry heard Mike say. With determination Jerry stepped into the chicken yard. He was halfway to the shed when he heard the rooster coming.

“Look out behind you!” Mike called. Jerry turned in time to see the big white rooster dance up to him, a mean look in his beady black eyes.

“Give him a good one!” Mike cried. With all his might Jerry threw the rock at the big bird. Crack! The rooster gave a surprised squawk and fell over, flapping his wings.

“Did you kill him?” Mike asked, running up. Jerry stared at the rooster lying in the dirt. Its head wobbled and it had a strange look in its eyes. A few feeble squawks came from his throat when Mike poked him with a stick.

“I just hit him with the rock,” Jerry said, slowly. “I think he’s kind of hurt.”

“I think he’s going to die. You’d better tell the teacher,” Mike said.

Jerry felt sweat bead his forehead. He didn’t want to get in trouble. “But I didn’t mean to hurt him,” Jerry said. “He was a mean old rooster anyway, so why would she care?”

But one of the other children had seen Jerry throw the rock. Soon Jerry was being called into the classroom.

“What happened in the chicken yard?” the teacher asked.

Jerry shrugged. “The rooster got hurt, I guess.”

“Yes?” The teacher looked straight at him. “How did it happen?”

Jerry frowned at his shoes. “I threw a rock at him because he was trying to attack me!” he said defensively.

“And so you killed him?”

Jerry shrugged again. He hated being in trouble as much as he hated being called “Loser.” “I don’t know. He was just lying in the dirt,” he said. “It was Mike’s idea. He said I should hit him.”

“Mike said you should hit him,” repeated the teacher. She didn’t seem impressed.

“He did!” Jerry said quickly. “He said I should get the eggs and if the rooster came I should hit him.”

The teacher sighed. She called in Mike. “You boys know what is going to happen,” she said after she got the whole story out of them. “First, you are going to have to bury the rooster. Then, because you don’t seem to know the value of things very well, I’m going to give you some work to do to pay off the damages. I think that chicken shed needs to be cleaned out anyway.” The boys groaned.

“But it wasn’t my fault!” Mike protested.

“Maybe next time you won’t give cowardly suggestions,” the teacher said calmly.

“Loser!” Mike hissed. Jerry glared at his friend.

The teacher looked at them and then she smiled a little. “That reminds me of a story,” she said. “It is about a battle and I think you might like it.”

The boys looked at each other. The teacher could tell interesting stories, and so they decided to sit back in their seats to listen.

“It was a hot day and Col. Stanovich’s soldiers didn’t feel like marching,” she began. “They were tired and wanted to rest in the shade instead of heading north again. As they crossed a wide meadow, their feet dragged. One soldier shoved the man next to him, and in a moment the two were rolling on the ground in a fist fight. Officers shouted and called for a halt, trying to get the line back in order. But now several other soldiers decided this was their chance for a nap. They tossed down their packs and lay in the grass. ‘Get up!’ their comrades hissed, trying to drag them up again. ‘We haven’t been given orders to stop!’ One rebellious soldier threw down his musket. ‘I quit,’ he said, lying down. He pulled his red bandanna over his eyes and crossed his knees. He wasn’t going to move for anything.”

“Loser!” Mike said, as the teacher paused. Jerry nodded in agreement.

The teacher continued the story: “It was right at this moment that a musket shot was heard. A puff of smoke came from the trees to their left. Instantly the weary soldiers scrambled back into their ranks and officers barked orders. Even the rebel in the red bandanna grabbed up his gun and slipped back into line. He wasn’t going to be coward when it was time to fight!

“The line of soldiers turned to face the enemy just as a volley of shots echoed across the meadow. The grumbling stopped as the men’s hearts beat faster. With the beat of drums, the ranks of men marched forward. A unit of enemy forces emerged from the trees and the soldiers in the meadow halted to load their guns. The two armies fired across the meadow and soon choking smoke filled the afternoon air.

“At first Col. Stanovich’s men seemed to be winning. Several minutes of gunfire forced the enemy to retreat back toward the trees. The soldiers marched forward and reloaded again. They were firing after the enemy, when suddenly a blast of cannon came from up the meadow. Enemy reinforcements had arrived! The right edge of soldiers turned to fight the new attackers, but there were too many of them. The enemy began pressing in closer! Soon the colonel’s brave men were being shot down. Was it time to run, boys?” The teacher stopped her story and looked at them.

Jerry shook his head. “What happened next?” asked Mike.

The teacher’s eyes flashed as she said, “Then Col. Stanovich lifted his sword and cried, ‘Don’t give up, men!’ The men on the firing line reloaded their muskets and blasted away at the approaching enemy. Then, suddenly, the colonel himself was shot down! But the brave soldiers stood their ground in the haze of smoke. Help was rushed to the fallen leader, and stretcher-bearers hauled him back from the battle lines. His men would not give up now—or would they?”

The boys looked intently at their teacher’s face as she paused. Her voice was quiet when she continued: “During the cannon fire, a lone soldier decided to give up and run—a rebel with a red bandanna. His retreat lasted but a second, for one of his officers shot the deserter down. With the flash of red the soldier fell to the ground.”

“He was a loser,” Jerry said, angrily.

“Why did they shoot him if he was their own soldier?” asked Mike.

“No army wants soldiers that will give up,” the teacher explained. “Deserters were shot so that the other soldiers wouldn’t want to run away, too. Losers give up. Winners don’t.”

“Did they win?” asked Mike.

The teacher looked from the boys to the clock. “I expect I’ll have to save the rest of the story for later,” she said. “It is time for classes to start again.” She smiled at their disappointed faces. “Maybe if you two aren’t losers this afternoon—and get that chicken pen cleaned—I’ll tell it to you tomorrow.”

Jerry frowned. He had forgotten all about the rooster. “Do we have to?” he asked.

“It takes a lot of courage to not be a loser and do hard work, doesn’t it?” the teacher asked. She looked directly at him. “Throwing rocks is not courage. Even a loser can do that, but it takes determination to do right, no matter how hard it may seem, if you want to be a winner.” The teacher smiled. “You don’t want to end up like that rebel in the red bandanna, do you?”

Jerry was about to complain when he thought of that horrid nickname. “I don’t want to be a loser,” he told himself as he sat down at his desk. What had the teacher said about courage? Jerry wanted to be brave. Maybe if he was more courageous he wouldn’t be called “Loser.”

It was lunchtime when Jerry thought of the chicken pen job again. A pain in his middle made him lose all his appetite. Slowly he walked up to the teacher’s desk. “I don’t feel well,” he said. “I want to go home.”

The teacher looked at Jerry closely, and then took a paper and wrote something on it. “Shall I give this to your parents?” she asked, handing it to him. Jerry looked at the paper. It said: “Jerry has decided to be a Loser. He is feeling sick because he killed a rooster with a rock and wants to go home so that he won’t have to work to repay the damage.”

Jerry’s face felt hot. He knew he was being a coward, but it was so hard to be brave! The teacher was looking at him. “It is your choice to give up or not,” she said quietly. “But I don’t think you’ll like the results of being a loser.”

“Hey, Jerry,” Mike said, poking his head in the door. “Are you coming?”

“Yeah,” Jerry said, as he crumpled the paper and threw it in the trash.

“Did you forget something, boys?” the teacher asked. “That rooster needs to be buried.”

“I don’t want to bury any old rooster! I didn’t kill it,” Mike protested.

“Loser,” Jerry whispered. “Come on, let’s get the shovel.”

“Hey, it’s you who is the loser,” said Mike, giving him a jab in the side as Jerry headed for the door.

“Maybe not,” the teacher said softly. “If Jerry has the courage to work without complaining, I think he is going to be the winner.” Suddenly a warm feeling came over Jerry. He would be brave and show them all. And with that, the pain in Jerry’s middle disappeared.

Part 2 - The Winning Side

“I hate this problem!” Jerry said, throwing down his pencil. It was math class the following day, and one of Jerry’s worst subjects. The pencil rolled under the desk and the teacher came over to help.

“Show me what you have been doing,” she said.

“I’ve done this problem two times already and it always comes out wrong,” Jerry said glumly. He hated to have to pick up his pencil and try again, but he did. Again the answer was wrong.

Angrily, Jerry stabbed his pencil through the paper. “See? I just can’t do it,” he said.

“Poking holes in your paper won’t conquer it,” the teacher said, quietly.

Jerry wanted to burn that old math paper, but he didn’t say anything.

“Remember how you finished cleaning the chicken pen yesterday, even when you didn’t think you could?” said the teacher.

Yes, Jerry remembered. It had been horrible to have to stay after school and work. Jerry had tried his best, but Mike had called him “Loser” because he couldn’t shovel very fast. He never could do things as well as other people and it made him mad!

“Aren’t you glad that job is done?” the teacher was saying. Jerry nodded. “Then don’t be a loser and give up. You can get this problem right, too. Let’s go over it again.”

“I can’t do it,” Jerry said, crumpling up the paper she handed him. He had tried and tried and he still was a loser. He felt like crying. Why couldn’t he ever win?

The teacher didn’t say anything for a moment. “Do you want to conquer it?” she asked, picking up the crumpled paper. She spread it out flat again. “Or do you really want to be a loser, Jerry?”

Jerry frowned. “I want to conquer it,” he said, “but I can’t do it.”

“That is true,” the teacher said. “You can’t do it because you give up when things get hard. The devil wants you to be a loser, Jerry, but God can help you to win. If we ask God to give you courage to do this hard math problem, do you think He will?” Slowly Jerry nodded his head.

In less than five minutes the problem was done. It was right. Jerry had conquered.

“When I was telling you the story about the battle yesterday, you asked which army won in the end,” said the teacher at story time, later that day. She smiled at Jerry and Mike as they pulled up their chairs. “I think we stopped when Col. Stanovich was wounded.”

“And Loser got shot,” said Jerry.

“What happened then?” asked Mike.

“Well, the brave men in the field stood their ground, though blasted on two sides and outnumbered by the enemy,” the teacher said. “Their cavalry unit, which are the soldiers that ride horses, had arrived to reinforce them. They tried to fight off the enemy on the right side, but it didn’t work. A rider was shot from his horse, and the cavalry had to retreat. Then a group of brave men decided to charge up the meadow toward the enemy cannon, but a cannonball smashed them all down. An officer called a command, and then he, too, was shot down. In a few more minutes only a handful of soldiers were left standing in the center of the field.”

“So they lost,” Mike said, disappointed. “They were stupid.”

“Losers,” agreed Jerry.

“You are right,” the teacher said. “They couldn’t win this battle. It wasn’t because they were stupid, though. Hadn’t they fought bravely even when their leaders were shot?”

Slowly the boys nodded. “But I thought you said that you win if you don’t give up,” Jerry said, remembering the hard math problem.

“That is an important part of it,” the teacher agreed. “But there is another important thing to remember if you want to win. You have to be on the winning side. Col. Stanovich and his men had no chance that day because they were fighting on the wrong side.” She looked at the boys and then said softly. “They had to give up, there was no other way about it. The last soldiers fled from the battlefield, and the winning army marched in with their banners flying. Some of them stood in row behind the body of Col. Stanovich and fired after the fleeing men. ‘Hold your fire, men!’ the winning commander called when he saw their white flag of surrender. Soon they were handing over their weapons and pleading for mercy. ‘May we care for the wounded?’ one soldier asked. ‘All our officers were shot down.’ The commander agreed. Everywhere groans could be heard from fallen soldiers. ‘Water!’ cried one. Soon in the same field where they had fought so bravely, the few remaining men now knelt to help the multitude of suffering. It was a terrible defeat.”

Jerry felt a sadness creep over him. He almost could see that field of soldiers who had lost. But the teacher was still talking, and her voice was very earnest when she said, “That defeat will be your defeat, boys, whether you decide to be brave or not,” the teacher told them. “You will be a loser unless you join the winning side, with Jesus as your commander. You see, the devil is a defeated enemy, though he fights his hardest now and has so many people on his side. They are all going to lose, even though they may be trying their best to do good things. Those that do wrong are going to lose.”

Jerry remembered how often he had tried and ended up being a loser, too. “Does God win every time against the devil?” he asked.

“Yes,” the teacher said. “And when you follow Jesus and obey Him, you can win every time, too. He can change your heart so that you don’t have to be a loser.”