“Thank the good Lord,” said a very fragile, white-haired lady, “God never meant me to be a jellyfish!” She wasn’t!
God never was a chocolate manufacturer, and never will be. God’s men are always heroes. In Scripture you can trace their giant footprints down the sands of time.
NOAH walked with God, he didn’t only preach righteousness, he acted it. He went through water and didn’t melt. He breasted the current of the popular opinion of his day, scorning alike the hatred and ridicule of the scoffers who mocked at the thought of there being but one way of salvation. He warned the unbelieving and, entering the ark himself, didn’t open the door an inch when once God had shut it. A real hero untainted by the fear of man.
Learn to scorn the praise of men,
Learn to lose with God;
Jesus won the world through shame!
And beckons us His road.
ABRAHAM, a simple farmer, at a word from the Invisible God, marched, with family and stock, through the terrible desert to a distant land to live among a people whose language he could neither speak nor understand! Not bad that! But later he did even better, marching hot-foot against the combined armies of five kings, flushed with recent victory, to rescue one man! His army? Just 318 odd fellows, armed like a circus crowd. And he won too. “He always wins who sides with God.” What pluck! Only a farmer! No war training! Yet what hero has eclipsed his feat? His open secret? He was “the Friend of God.” (James 2:23)
MOSES—the man of God—was a species of human chameleon—scholar, general, law-giver, leader, etc. Brought up as the Emperor’s grandson with more than a good chance of coming to the throne, one thing only between him and it—Truth—what a choice! What a temptation! A throne for a lie! Ignominy, banishment, or likely enough death for the truth! He played the man! Refusing to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, he chose “rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt.” (Hebrews 11:25-26)
Again I see him. Now an old man and alone, marching stolidly back to Egypt, after forty years of exile, to beard the lion in his den, to liberate Pharaoh’s slaves right under his very nose, and to lead them across that great and terrible wilderness. A wildcat affair, if ever there was one! When were God’s schemes otherwise? Look at Jordan, Jericho, Gideon, Goliath, and scores of others. Tame tabby-cat schemes are stamped with another hallmark—that of the Chocolate Brigade! How dearly they love their tabbies yet think themselves wise men! Real Christians revel in desperate ventures for Christ, expecting from God great things and attempting the same with exhilaration. History cannot match these feats of Moses. How was it done? He consulted not with flesh and blood, he obeyed not men but God.
Once again I see the old graybeard, this time descending the Mount with giant strides and rushing into the camp, his eyes blazing like burning coals. One man against a million dancing dervishes drunk with debauchery. Bravo! Well done, old man! First class! His cheek pales not, but his mouth moves, and I think I catch his words, “ ‘If God be for [me], who can be against [me]?’ (Romans 8:31) ‘I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me.’ (Psalm 3:6) ‘Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear.’ (Psalm 27:3)” And he didn’t. He wins again. Whence this desperate courage? Listen! “Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.” (Numbers 12:3) “The Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend.” (Exodus 33:11) “My servant Moses,” said his Master, “is faithful in all mine house. With him will I speak mouth to mouth.” (Numbers 12:7-8) Such is the explanation of Moses the chameleon, the man and friend of God and consequently a first-class hero.
DAVID—the man after God’s own heart—was a man of war and a mighty man of valor. When all Israel were on the run, David faced Goliath—alone… with God—and he but a stripling, and well-scolded too by his brother for having come to see the battle. What a splendid fool Eliab must have been! As though David would go to see a battle and not stay to fight. They are Chocolate Soldiers who merely go to see battles, and coolly urge others to fight them. They had better save their journey money and use it to send out real fighters instead. Soldiers don’t need dry nurses, and if they did the Holy Spirit is always on the spot and ready to undertake any case on simple application. No! David went to the battle and stayed to fight—and won! Wise beyond his years, he had no use for Saul’s armor. It cramped his freedom of action. He tried it on and took it off, quick sharp. And, besides, it made such a ghastly rattle, even when he walked, that he could not hear the still small voice of God, and would never have heard Him saying afterwards, “This is the way to the brook, David! And there are the five smooth stones! Trust only in Me and them. Your own homemade sling will do first class, and there, that’s the shortest path to Goliath.” The Chocolates ran away—they were all Chocolates—but David ran upon Goliath. One smooth stone was enough.
David’s secret was that he had but one Director, and He, the Infallible One. He directed the stone, as He directed the youth. Too many directors spoil the sport, and two are too many by just one. Thus Christ said to His soldiers, “He shall teach you all things” (John 14:26); “He will guide you into all the truth.” (John 16:13)
“This is my beloved Son: hear him.” (Luke 9:35)
“One mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” (1 Timothy 2:5)
One director of Christian men—God the Holy Spirit. Whose directions require indeed instant obedience, but not the endorsement of any man.
Fighting the Devil requires red-hot shot, fresh from the foundry of the Holy Spirit. He laughs at cold shot or tepid, and as for that made of half-iron and half-clay, half-divine and half-human, why you might just as well pelt him with snowballs.
Whence did this raw youth derive his pluck and skill? Not from military camps, nor theological schools, nor religious retreats. To “know… the only true God, and Jesus Christ,” (John 17:3) is enough. Paul determined to know only Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:8), and look at the grand result! While others were learning pretty theories, David, like John, had been alone with God in the wilds, practicing on bears and lions. The result? He knew God and did exploits. He knew God only. He trusted God only. He obeyed God only. That’s the secret. God alone gives strength. God adulterated with men entails the weakness of iron and clay—Chocolate—brittleness!
Yet hero as he was, even David alas! once played the role of Chocolate Soldier. He stayed at home when he should have gone to war. His army, far off, in danger, fighting the enemy, won. David, at home, secure, within sight of God’s house and often going there, suffered the great defeat of his life, entailing such a bitter, life-long reaping as might well deter others from the folly of sowing wild oats. David’s sin is a terrific sermon (like Lot’s preaching in Sodom must have been), its theme—“Don’t be a Chocolate Soldier!”
In his simple, quick, and full confession (2 Samuel 12:13), David proved himself a man again. It takes a real man to make a true confession—a Chocolate Soldier will excuse or cloak his sin. He tumbles in the mud, flounders on, wipes his mouth to try to get the bad taste of his acted lie out of it, and then goes on his way saying, “I have done no wickedness.” (Proverbs 30:20) A self-murdering fool! Killing his conscience to save his face, like Balaam beating the ass who sought to save his master’s life. Being a Chocolate Soldier nearly did for David. Beware!
NATHAN was another real Christian Soldier. He went to his king and rebuked him to his face, like Peter’s dealing with Ananias (only David embraced his opportunity and confessed), and unlike the Chocolate Soldiers of today who go whispering about and refusing either to judge, rebuke, or put away evil because of the entailed scandal forsooth. Veritable Soapy Sams. They say “It is nothing! nothing at all! A mere misunderstanding!” As though God’s cause would suffer more through a bold declaration and defense of the truth and the use of the knife, than by the hiding up of sin, and the certain development of mortification in the member, involving death to the whole body. “He that doeth righteousness is righteous,” (1 John 3:7) and “He that committeth sin is of the devil,” (1 John 3:8) and ought to be told so. He that is a second time led captive by the devil needs neither plaster nor treacle, but the brace rebuke and summons to repentance of a righteous man to effect his salvation. We are badly in need of Nathans today, who fear God and nought else, no, not even a scandal.
DANIEL was another hero. Of course he was! Was he not the man greatly beloved of God who sent an angel to tell him so?
I love to watch him as he walks, with firm step and radiant face, to the lions’ den, stopping but once—like his Master en route to Calvary—to comfort his weeping and agonized emperor. God shut the mouths of the lions against Daniel, but opened them wide against those who had opened their mouths against His servant.
A man is known by his works, and the works of Daniel were his three friends, who, rather than bow down to men or gold, braved the fiery furnace.
Again we see him going to the banquet hall, and hear his conductor whisper in his ear, “Draw it mild, Daniel, be statesmanlike. Place and power again for you if you are tactful and wise—especially tactful!” And Daniel’s simple reply, “Get thee behind me, Satan!” (Matthew 16:23; Mark 8:33) There he stands before the king, braving torture or instant death—but it’s the king who quails, not Daniel—who tells him to his face the whole hot truth of God, diminishing not a jot.
JOHN THE BAPTIST—a man taught and made and sent of God—good old John! Who doesn’t love and admire him? Why, even Herod did. A genuine deficiency of oil and treacle in his composition. He always told the bang flat truth, with emphasis. As he loved, so he warned. He knew not how to fawn. He wooed with the sword, and men loved him the better for it. They always do.
The leaders of religion sent to John to ask him the dearly loved question of every Pharisee, “By what authority doest thou these [good] things?” (Matthew 21:23; Mark 11:28; Luke 20:2) They asked that of Christ Himself, and crucified Him for the doing of them. John’s answer was plain and pungent, “I will tell you what you ask, and more.” (John was always generous!) “I? I am nobody, but ye and your masters are a generation of vipers.” A good hot curry, that! John never served his curries with butter sauce, but he was always very liberal with chutney—a man of God—no Sugar Plum nor Chocolate Soldier he!
Thus also he faced Herod after six months in an underground dungeon, and he a man of God’s “Open-Air Mission.” Brought straight in before the king; surrounded with all the might and majesty of camp and court; blinking at the unaccustomed sight of light, but by no means putting blinkers on the truth, he blurted out his hot and thunderous rebuke, “It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’s wife.” (Mark 6:18) A whole sermon in one sentence, as easy to remember as impossible to forget. John had preached like that before; like Hugh Latimer, he was not above repeating a good sermon to a king, word for word, when the king had not given sufficient heed to it.
John received the unique distinction of a first-class character from both God and the agent of the devil. Hark to the Savior indulging in an outburst of exquisite sarcasm, “What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind?… A man clothed in soft raiment?” (Matthew 11:7-8) A Chocolate Christian? (How delicious! The Chocolates were right in front of Jesus at the time—Pharisees, Sadducees, priests, scribes, lawyers, and other hypocrites. How the crowd must have enjoyed it!) “A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet…. Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John.” (Matthew 11:9,11) And what did the devil’s agent say when, after John’s death, he heard of Jesus? “This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead.” (Matthew 14:2) What a character! Fancy Jesus being mistaken for anyone! He could have been mistaken only for John. Nobody envies him the well-deserved honor, great though it was, for John was a man—pure granite right through, with not a grain of chocolate in him.
Had John but heard Jesus say, “Ye shall be witnesses unto me… unto the uttermost part of the earth,” (Acts 1:8) I very much doubt if Herod’s dungeon or his soldiers could have detained him. He surely would have found some means of escape, and run off to preach Christ’s Gospel, if not in the very heart of Africa, then in some more difficult and dangerous place. Yet Christ said, referring to His subsequent gift of the Holy Spirit to every believer, “He that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he,” (Luke 7:28) intimating that even greater powers than those of John are at the disposal of every Christian, and that what John was, each one of us can be—good, straight, bold, unconquerable, heroic.
But here are other footprints—outrageous ones: they can belong only to one man—that grandest of Christian paradoxes—THE LITTLE GIANT PAUL—whose head was as big as his body, and his heart greater than both. Once he thought and treated every Christian as a combination of knave and fool. Then he became one himself. He was called “fool” because his acts were so far beyond the dictates of human reason, and “mad” (Acts 26:24) because of his “irresponsible” fiery zeal for Christ and men. A first-class scholar, but one who knew how to use scholarship properly; for he put it on the shelf, declaring the wisdom of men to be but folly, and “determined not to know any thing… save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2) The result—he made the world turn somersault. His life was a perpetual gamble for God. Daily he faced death for Christ. Again and again he stood fearless before crowds thirsting for his blood. He stood before kings and governors and “turned not a hair.” He didn’t so much as flinch before Nero, that vice-president of hell. His sufferings were appalling; read them. He trod in his Master’s footsteps, and so received—God is always just in His favors—the same splendid compliment that Jesus did. “All forsook him.” (Mark 14:50; 2 Timothy 4:16) So there were some Chocolate Christians in those days too. Anyone who forsook Paul must have been made of Chocolate. Doubtless the “Chocolates” excused themselves as they do today. “Who could abide such a fanatical, fiery fool? such an uncompromising character? Nobody could work with him, or he with them!” (What a lie! Jesus did, and they got on well together.) A tactless enthusiast, who considered it his business to tell every man the unvarnished truth regardless of consequences. He won his degree hands down, and without a touch of the spur. A first-class one, too—that of the headman’s axe—next best to that of the cross.
And so the tale goes on. Go where you will through the Scriptures or history, you find that men who really knew God, and didn’t merely say they did, were invariably Paragons of Pluck; Dare-Devil Desperadoes for Jesus; Gamblers for God. “Fools and Madmen,” shout the world and the Chocolates. “Yes, for Christ’s sake,” add the Angels!
Nobly they fought to win the prize—
“They climbed the steep ascent of Heav’n,
Through peril, toil and pain;
O God, to us may grace be giv’n,
To follow in their train.”*