DayBreaks for 09/03/13 – The Iron Brigade
From the DayBreaks archive, 9/3/2003:
Things didn’t always go well for the Army of the Potomac (the Union army) in the Civil War. For a long time, in spite of the fact that they had many more troops, more weapons and ammunition, better supplies and medicine, they lost battles consistently and embarrassingly. The most common result of battles was that the Union troops would run, abandon the field of battle, giving the victory to the Rebel troops. This was almost universal, but it was certainly the case whenever they were across the field of battle from the great General Stonewall Jackson. Stonewall Jackson had never lost a battle, never walked off the field defeated. Until…
As it turns out, there was a brigade of troops that had been newly formed in the Union army. They had spent many months in training, never being involved in any engagements with the enemy. Their commander, seeking to help create an identity for his troops, bought them all black top hats, and they took on the nickname of “The Black Hats”. They wore the hats with great pride. Finally the day came when they got the order to march eastward where they would finally taste battle.
This untested and unproven brigade marched throughout the day and finally in the evening, they came face to face with the enemy, across an open field, barely 60 yards apart. It was a surprise engagement – both sides found themselves confronted without warning. But the enemy the Black Hat brigade faced that day wasn’t just any enemy – it was the hardened, battle-proven troops of General Stonewall Jackson. For three hours, the combatants stood on that field and fired volley after volley at each other. The slaughter was brutal. Finally, it got too dark to continue and both sides withdrew to safety. Both commanders also decided that they’d had enough. During the night, they took their troops and marched away from the battlefield. It was the first time that Stonewall Jackson had not left the field of battle with a victory in hand. He hadn’t lost, but neither had he won. And more importantly, it was the first time that the Union hadn’t lost in disgrace.
The commanders of the Union army were eager to learn what was different about this brigade of soldiers. Why would they, an untested group, stand and fight when the older, more seasoned troops would run? They were shocked at what they discovered. They found out that this particular group was totally “green”, in other words, they had not a single veteran soldier from other engagements. Why did that make a difference? Because they hadn’t learned to run. They didn’t have anyone who had bad habits.
Because of their courage on the field of battle that day, this brigade got a new nickname they could wear with pride: The Iron Brigade. As their fame spread, the Rebel troops would write home to their wives and sweethearts: “Looks like we have a battle tomorrow against the Iron Brigade. That means we’re in for a tough fight.”
What is the application? Simply this: “old” believers can be either a blessing or a curse. Sometimes they can pollute new believers with bad habits – a lackadaisical approach to Christianity, unwillingness to take a stand and fight for principles because they’re too tired, a lack of faith and belief in what God can and will do. When this happens, it can lead to the destruction and downfall of new believers and they’ll pick up the bad habits of older Christians.
If you’ve been a believer for some time, take stock of your influence on new believers. Are you a blessing? Or a hindrance to their spiritual growth and well-being?
Matthew 9:17 – “Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” (NIV)
PRAYER: Fill our hearts with iron courage, Lord, and help us not to learn bad behaviors that will cause others to fall! In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Copyright 2013 by Galen C. Dalrymple.
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