The Battle of Chancellorsville was one of those pivotal battles in the American Civil War that changed the course of the war. General Joseph Hooker had replaced Gen Burnside. He had spent the winter training his troops and building up morale. His forces outnumbered the forces of General Robert E Lee of the Confederacy by over two to one. His plan was well thought out. The battle was engaged. In spite of all the advantages General Hooker had, he lost the battle because he responded to General Lee’s moves with timidity. Rather than advancing, he sat back timidly in defense. After defeating Hooker at Chancellorsville, Lee began a campaign that drove north across the border which eventually resulted in the Battle of Gettysburg.
Timidity cost Hooker the Battle of Chancellorsville. He had every possible advantage and yet failed to use his advantages. He was so afraid of losing, that he didn’t take the steps necessary to win. When you think about it, that describes a lot of Christians in our everyday battle against the world. Whether it be personal battles against sin in our desire to be more like Christ, or whether it be the battles we fight as we seek to share the grace of Christ with others, we lose battles we should win because we retreat when we should advance. The author of Hebrews reminds us of how we ought to deal with the difficulties of life. “But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.” (Hebrews 10:39)
Who are those who shrink back and are destroyed? They are the ones who have heard the gospel. They probably understand that Christians believe that the only way to salvation, the only way to having a restored relationship with God, is by confessing their need for God, their need for forgiveness, and by asking Jesus to take control of their lives. They may even think that doing this would be good for them. But then, they start thinking of side issues. “If I make this commitment I’ll have to stop <insert a “normal” activity here>.” “If I decide to follow Christ, it will cause problems at work.” “What will my friends think? My family?” Instead of making a life changing decision that will let the experience the mercy and grace of God, they shrink back. Instead of making a commitment that might allow them to influence their friends, neighbors, co-workers, and family, they falter. Sometimes they turn against any sort of faith. Sometimes they turn their nose down at others who have faith. Sometimes they are tolerant of others, but secretly imagine those with faith to be the losers. In the long run, though, they destroy themselves for now and for eternity.
In light of this we are called to have faith. Our first act of faith is to make a commitment to a relationship with God. We do that by confessing our sins and acknowledging that we are separated from God. Then, we seek God’s forgiveness and mercy. Finally we ask Him to accept us into His family through grace. We need to get our lives right with God. Then, we must continue in faith. Our lives should change as God’s grace works in us. Sin which once allured us must now be seen for what it is – something that draws us away from God. We live in faith to let God remove the temptations of sin. I don’t know if I’ll ever completely lose the feeling of temptation, so don’t expect sinless perfection. Just place your life and your trust in God to keep changing you. Then, seek to share the grace of God with others as you show them His mercy and grace. Don’t shrink back from the call to love others, advance in God’s grace.
Lord, so many need to know about Your love. So many have seen our judgmentalism and have turned away from You. Let me always be an example of Your forgiveness, mercy, and grace.