Here in Australia, we celebrate ANZAC Day to remember those Australian and New Zealand people who died and who served in wars. This commemoration started with the intent to remember those who died in WW1, a shockingly costly and horrendous war. Later it included all who died or served in all the wars, including the Vietnam war. The dreadfulness of those wars has been well documented elsewhere. But no matter how well documented, words can scarcely do justice to the horrors experienced by those who were actively involved. We do well to remember those who served, those who died, those who came back injured and traumatised. They fought against wicked aggressors. They fought for the sake of their country and some, probably, in the realisation that God called them to do so.
Of course, it wasn’t only soldiers, seamen and airmen who suffered and died; many civilians, particularly in Europe, died or suffered great hardships and fear. My parents (still single at the time) were in Rotterdam during the Blitzkrieg. My mother was living in a terraced house with her sister. While they were on their knees in prayer, the house on either side of theirs was destroyed by bombs, and an unexploded bomb killed a couple across the road. The children ran to my mother crying out in terror that their dad and mum had been killed. My father, who did not like to speak about the war, had been running a men’s wear store, above which he lived. According to my uncle, after the Blitzkrieg my father emerged from the rubble two days later, shell shocked. Like so many others in the Netherlands, my parents experienced death and hardship, cold and hunger, and housing shortage.
And then there was the fear. The constant anxiety for young men was that the Nazis would discover you and send you to work in German factories for the war effort. There was the trauma of witnessing Jews being rounded up and transported to POW camps, where millions were gassed. Sleepless nights and constant trepidation were experienced by those who had hidden Jews, knowing that discovery could mean the death of the whole family. Then there were the men and women who sacrificed their safety, and often their lives, by working for the underground, bringing downed airmen to safety, stealing ration cards to feed those hiding from the Nazis, or disrupting enemy plans. The seemingly endless fear and deprivations of so many civilians are hard for us, who never experienced them, to imagine.
We may look back and see how, since World War 2, the Lord has granted us here in Australia (and in most western countries) almost eighty years of peace and prosperity. I do not remember ever experiencing a lack of food on the table, or a shortage of clothes to wear, or not having a roof over our heads and a cosy, if at first somewhat primitive, home to live in. We’ve not lived in fear of our lives, tormented by anxious thoughts of loved ones in danger. Instead, there has been freedom and abundance.
Following WW2 our Free Reformed forebears—most of whom had experienced in varying degrees the fear, hardships, food shortages, housing problems and other deprivations of WW2—were able to migrate to this country. After some feeble beginnings they instituted churches and schools, aware that this was what Christ their Lord and Saviour required of them. And He graciously blessed their endeavours, notwithstanding their sins and shortcomings. Aware of the Lord’s command to be fruitful and multiply, those who could, bore children. We look back and marvel at how the congregations (mostly grown from within) have multiplied under the providential care of the LORD, our covenant God, and how many schools (richly provided for) with a continually expanding student enrolment He has granted us. And then there are other reformed institutions, such as Fair Haven for frail aged, and Eucalypt for those with special needs. The LORD has indeed richly blessed us. It is good and commendable to thank and praise Him for all this and for so much more given us in and through our Saviour Jesus Christ.
At the same time, we are aware of another war raging constantly, and it’s a war we cannot escape. It’s the ongoing war between Christ and Satan, between the followers of Christ – His one, world-wide, history-long church (Christ’s bride) on the one hand and, on the other hand, the dragon of Revelation 12, that devil from of old, who is enraged with this woman and, having been kicked out of heaven, is out to destroy her and her offspring. Sometimes he uses physical persecutions, such as at the time of the Great Reformation; at other times he uses prosperity and deception, godless entertainment and other worldly allurements, to entice God’s people into his camp. We all know that, notwithstanding the appeals to sinful flesh, it is a camp that leads to hell.
As we commemorate ANZAC Day (and indeed always), let’s look back in thankfulness at what God has given us: salvation in Christ, daily renewal by His Spirit, and also the abundance of daily blessings He has provided year after year. He created us to live in thankful praise to Him. At the same time let us never ignore that continuing spiritual warfare in which we have been called to fight the good fight of faith. For that warfare has eternal consequence. Depending on whose side you are on, it will lead to eternal condemnation or eternal glory. Wonderfully blessed are we who belong to Christ’s bride, His church, and to know that her Commander-in-Chief has all things in His hands. He is already victorious, and has made us, His children, more than conquerors in Him, our Lord and our Redeemer.