Brian D. Dykstra, Teacher at Hope PRCS in Walker, MI
“Give us help from trouble: for vain is the help of man. Through God we shall do valiantly: for he it is that shall tread down our enemies” (Ps. 108:12-13).
Our nation observed Memorial Day recently. It is a day to remember those who died protecting our country. Some of our nation’s fighting men died during the Battle of Iwo Jima. This is the most famous battle the Marines fought against the Japanese in the Pacific Ocean. The mountain on this small, eight square mile island was the setting for the well-known flag-raising photograph which served as the model for the Marine memorial in Washington, D.C. and symbolized the teamwork and effort demanded to win the war.
The Japanese soldiers on Iwo Jima had months to prepare for the American invasion they knew was coming. The Japanese used this time to construct a complex of underground fortifications from which to fight the Marines. Bunkers, pillboxes and sniper pits were built, and many of these structures were connected by miles of tunnels. This underground system was so well made that bombing from the air and shelling from the sea did little damage. The Japanese were so well hidden many Marines reported that during the entire gruelling, month-long battle, they never saw a living Japanese soldier. One army fought below the ground, while the other fought on it.
The Japanese had carefully mapped the island so their weapons could inflict the greatest damage possible on the steadily advancing Marines. It was a battle of incredible violence. Nurses on offshore hospital ships had never seen such terrible wounds. Yet there were some moments of humour. For example, at one point of the battle as an officer tumbled into a shell hole for some protection, he turned to a buddy in the same hole and understated, “I have the distinct impression that we’re not welcome here!”
In the 36-day battle, 75,000 American Marines fought 22,000 Japanese soldiers. Only about 1,000 Japanese survived the battle. One-third of the Marines became casualties, with 6,821 being killed. Several Marines saved the lives of their friends by throwing their bodies on live grenades. Twenty-seven Congressional Medals of Honour were awarded. The Marines won a great victory and through dogged determination were able to defeat the enemy. One commander said that such a victory would guarantee the existence of the Marine Corps for another five hundred years. Another American general commanding the Marines wrote, “Uncommon valour was a common virtue.”
As members of God’s militant church, we are also engaged in battle. The spiritual battle we face is no less fierce than that of Iwo Jima. We also must grapple with an enemy which is unseen. It is no secret to us what the world thinks about God, His Word and His people. We are not welcome here.
Everyone associated with our school has faced the usual work required during the year. Parents and students have spent many hours on school work or on the job so money can be earned to pay the bills. Grandparents have given their support in various ways, including attendance at chapels and various programs. Have we been allowed to go about this work unmolested by our spiritual enemies? At times, we have been discouraged. There are occasions when the blessing of having our own school seems burdensome. Now and then in the hectic pace of life we, and our children, become distracted and forget that there really is a battle taking place. Satan can lure us to complain about some aspect of school life when we should be more thankful for what we have been given. Words have been spoken before thought was given about the effect such words could have on others. We must constantly be on our guard against Satan’s weapons. They do no less damage than shrapnel.
During this school year, God has been pleased to add to our usual cares. God has taken from the Hope School community a beloved son, father, mother and daughter. Their tours of service here are now over, though God did not give them their threescore years and ten. They are no longer found in the ranks of the church militant, for the Lord of Hosts determined they were prepared for their place in the church triumphant. We know God works all things for the good of His people and we are never separated from His love. Yet Satan attempts to use these same events to fight against us with discontent and to have us question the goodness of our heavenly Father. Our prayer is for Jehovah to give us help from trouble.
We must confess with David that the help of man is vain. We can only help each other in this battle when we come with the truth of God’s Word and when we together cling to His promises. It is only by God’s strength that we can serve valiantly in the spiritual battle which takes place not only around us but also in our own weak flesh. Only our Almighty God can tread down our spiritual enemies.
There is no doubt the battles we face in the Christian life are difficult. We have our sorrows. Still, we must be examples to God’s covenant children of how to face our enemies. The Marines on Iwo Jima were never in doubt about the final outcome of the battle. Their only question was how much it would cost. They pressed on through their fears with grim determination to realize a great victory. In the battle’s first week, the Marines gave a joyous shout when they saw the Stars and Stripes raised over Mount Suribachi. We and our children can press forward in God’s grace as well. The price of victory has already been paid in Christ’s blood on the cross. Imagine the great shout of victory and praise there will be when Christ’s standard is raised high over the heads of His victorious church! What great encouragement we have to render to God our best, valorous service!