by LTC Joseph F. Howell, USAR (Ret.)
SUB: The Key to Triumph From French military tradition emerges the story of how the Emperor Napoleon was on horseback, reviewing his troops one day when, in the course of issuing an order, he inadvertently dropped the reins. The reins fell on the stud’s neck and the spirited animal, taking fright, bolted off at a gallop, the Emperor clinging desperately to the saddle and momentarily in peril of being dashed to the ground.
A private in the ranks, alert to his Emperor’s plight and perceiving that the horse and rider were proceeding in his general direction, stepped out of formation and, springing into the path of the frightened animal, seized the bridle, brought the horse to a stand and replaced the reins into the Emperor’s hands.
In recognition and reward for the soldier’s devotion, Napoleon said, as he secured the reins in his hands, “Thank you, Captain.”
Without hesitation the soldier came to attention, saluted his imperial master and inquired, “Of what regiment, sir?” Charmed by the soldier’s complete faith and unquestioning confidence in his word, the Emperor responded, “Of my own guards,” and then, turning his mount, he rode away at a gallop.
Immediately the soldier lay down his arms, left his compatriots and passed over among the officers of Napoleon’s immediate staff.
“What do you want here?” one of them asked, haughtily. “I am a captain in the Emperor’s Guards,” was the response. “You, a captain! Who says you are a captain?” “He said it,” answered the soldier, pointing in the direction of the Emperor riding in the distance, and immediately he was accepted by the officers as one of them.
This was simple faith and trust on the part of the soldier. He believed his Emperor’s word and acted accordingly. Instead of waiting until he felt himself to be a captain, he at once took the Emperor at his word. He believed first, he felt next. He did not look at the private’s uniform he was wearing and say, “Surely I cannot be a captain, I do not even look like one.” No, his only authority for believing himself to be a captain was, “He said it.”
The Emperor’s word. But that was enough. The imperial officer’s uniform and epaulettes of captain’s rank followed later, not to make him a captain, but because he already was one.
The key – simple faith and trust in the Master’s Word.
In the Old Testament passage of Numbers 21 we read the powerful illustration from God’s own word, the Bible. The nation of Israel, with the Lord’s help, had just overcome the Canaanites in battle. They journeyed on in the wilderness and became discouraged because of the hardships. Despite all God had done for them, they murmured and complained against the Almighty God and His servant, Moses. “The people spoke against them,” says the Word. How lenient the tone! By actual count this was the twelfth time they had murmured against the Lord. How the patience of Jehovah God must have been tried!
“Why had they been brought out of Egyptian bondage?” they wanted to know. They complained that they had no bread and no water and they detested the manna that rained daily from heaven.
Finally the limit of God’s patience was reached and god sent poisonous serpents among the people. Poisoned by the serpents, the people began to die.
As more and more people were struck and died, the people repented and called for mercy. Moses interceded for them and god heard his prayer. God told Moses to prepare a brass serpent and raise it upon a pole. He promised Moses that all who looked upon that brass serpent in simple faith would live.
Those who refused to take the Lord at his word, died. In the New Testament, John 3:14-15 (KJV), we’re told, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” Just as Moses raised up the brass serpent upon a pole, so Christ was raised up on a cross. There Christ bore the full judgment of our sin. He suffered, bled, and died in your place and in mine, the Innocent One dying for the guilty.
Isaiah said, “… he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isa. 53:5 KJV). This Good News of Salvation, is the substitution of Christ, Son of God, as the spotless, unblemished Lamb of Calvary suffering and dying under the load of sin and judgment in the sinner’s place. And that’s all of us, “For all have sinned…” says God’s word.
Christ having been lifted up, God promises that all who look on Him in simple faith and trust shall live eternally. In this manner a sinner becomes a saint. It is not by prayer or holy living, not by deeds of kindness, labors of love, or works of any kind. These, like the officer’s uniform, follow after. They manifest installment in the new position. Just as the Emperor’s word gave the private the assurance that he had become a captain, so the Word of God provides the sinner who believes and trusts in the Lord Jesus the assurance that he or she has become a child of God, has passed from darkness into His marvelous light, from death to life everlasting.
Romans 10:9 (KJV) presents the Gospel succinctly: “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”
Years ago, returning by train from Baltimore to my duty station in Philadelphia, the spirit of God led me to jot down some thoughts He gave me honoring His marvelous plan of salvation. These are the words:
Dark was the night all around me, hemmed in by sin and despair,
Far off from Christ and His glory, what else to such depths can compare?
Satan’s wiles were deceitful, eternal death was my lot,
What else could I possibly hope for, but Hell, its contempt and its rot?
But Christ in His infinite mercy, looking down from His glory above;
Had seen the need for a Savior’s journey, sinless, inspired by His love.
From Bethlehem’s manger to Calvary, in perfection He walked all the way,
Then suffered and died on the cross, such affection how can I repay?
Blessed the peace that He purchased, eternal salvation the prize,
When any yielding lost sinner, upon His great mercy relies.
Praise God, no price can secure it, free, the work finished it stands.
You and I need only accept it, settled forever those holy demands.
Saved, redeemed by his blood, washed white as the snow by the Lamb,
No longer by sin and its wages caught, His child now forever I am.
The closing verses refer to that marvelous passage in Isaiah, “Come now and let us reason together, saith the Lord, though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow, though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isa. 1:18).
Simple faith and trust in the Master’s Word brings eternal salvation, forgiveness of sins and life everlasting in glory with our Lord.