Last Sunday during Memorial Day weekend we honored our veterans. The introduction to the sermon mentioned the brave survivors of the Chosin Reservoir in the Korean War. Immediately after the service, our youth group left for a mission trip to Eagle. Imagine my surprise and delight when on Memorial Day in Chicken (population 150) we met a Chosin Reservoir veteran.
James Valentine ran away from home as a teenager. He wanted to join the Army but was too young. In those days a baptismal certificate was viewed the same as a birth certificate. He found a Catholic church and was baptized. He joined the Army at sixteen. There were three amphibious landings in the Korean War; he participated in all three.
James saw the Yalu River- the border between China and Korea. The Chinese Communists struck in November of 1950. They attacked at night with bugles blaring, armed with machine guns and grenades. The Americans fought for their lives. Units were cut off and isolated. Conditions were horrific. The temperature plunged to thirty below zero.
Valentine and his fellow soldiers retreated over a hundred miles to the coast. The battleship Missouri and a Canadian battleship provided a safe haven on the coast. The soldiers were evacuated.
After the war he traveled to Cuba, joined Batista and fought the Communists. He only settled down after he met his wife Beth. They have been married over fifty years.
Three years ago Valentine weighed 274 pounds and felt terrible. He joined a group and started exercising. He has lost 78 pounds and feels great today. He is 86 years old. Valentine has led a fascinating life! He has led a life of incredible strength.
God may not call you or me to fight in Korea or in Cuba but every believer has a calling from God. The apostle Paul spells out this calling. In 2 Timothy 2:1 he said, “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”
Paul was about to die. 2 Timothy is Paul’s final words to his beloved son Timothy. We must be strong in God’s grace. Grace is God’s unmerited kindness to those who deserve the opposite. God has demonstrated His kindness in sending His Son Jesus to die for our sins. When we were God’s enemies and separated from Him He demonstrated His love for us. God sent His Son Jesus. We are to be strong in God’s grace.
2 Timothy 2:1-4 provides four keys to being strong spiritually. The first key is to be a teacher. Verse 2 says, “The things you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” As teachers we must learn the truth and then pass the truth on to the next generation. You are called to be a teacher. The greatest treasure in your life is right doctrine. Guard right doctrine and pass it down to others. Truth is communicated by our words and by our example.
The second key is to be a soldier. Verses 3 and 4 command, “Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please Him who has enlisted him as a soldier.”
Somehow we have the idea that life is supposed to be easy. This verse teaches that life is not easy. We are engaged in a war with the devil and his demons. We don’t fight with earthly means. We fight with God’s truth.
The third key is to be an athlete. Verse 5 says, “And if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules.” The rules for life are found in the Bible. There is one path to heaven and it is found in Jesus. Like athletes we have to play by God’s rules. God has spoken in the Bible. Every time we open our Bibles God speaks.
The fourth key is to be a farmer. Verse 6 says, “The hard working farmer must be the first to receive his share of the crops.” Farmers work hard. They rise up early. They go to bed early. They eat right. We also must be patient. We must plant the seed of God’s Word in the hearts and minds of people. We must pray and encourage and fertilize. We must trust and wait for God to make it grow.
I asked James Valentine if he thought God was still making Americans like his generation. He paused, thought for a moment and said, “I don’t know. I sure hope so.” James and Beth Valentine have fought the fight and almost finished their race. Now it is our turn. We must not drop the baton. We must be strong spiritually!
Ethan Hansen is a pastor at Faith Bible Fellowship in Big Lake.