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Fighting the Good Fight
By Bill Shurkey

Before I became a Christian over 30 years ago, I used to think life could be divided into two equal halves. These two halves were easily distinguishable, I thought, by where our money was going. I looked at people in various age categories and that seemed to prove my theory. What was my theory? It was really quite simple. We were living the first half of our lives if the government was still taking all our money; and we had slipped into the second half if the doctors were getting it all!

After becoming a Christian, however, I soon realized that life was a little more complex than that. It had a pattern, a certain rhythm. Life had a purpose. Trials and tribulations are a part of that purpose, a natural part of the rhythm of life. We must spend time in the valley doing spiritual warfare to strengthen us so that we can climb the next mountain on our journey home. Without the valley, there can be no mountain; yet after every mountain there will always be another valley, another battle to fight.

During our times in the valley, the enemy is relentless. He often tries frontal assaults on those new to the war. These deathblows have one purpose, and that is to destroy unseasoned Christians quickly. Cancer. The sudden death of a loved one. A financial catastrophe. Drugs. Alcohol. A weaker Christian will fall in battle to these devastating blows of the enemy.

The flank attack, on the other hand, is used against the more seasoned warrior. We are hammered mercilessly by a barrage of fiery darts. Gossip. Envy. Doubt. Fear. Bitterness. Pride.

Our heavenly Father knows the enemy and has designed armor for us to withstand him (Eph. 6:11-18). Our loins girded with truth. Our feet shod with the gospel. The breastplate. The helmet. Above all, the shield of faith to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. Then finally, our one offensive weapon – the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Fully protected, defensively and offensively, we can withstand any assault. It's God's desire for us. No Christian should ever come down from the mountaintop unprepared for the next battle.

It's true that life isn't divided into two equal halves, as I once supposed. Each life instead is an intricate pattern of low notes and high notes, valleys and mountaintops, woven by the Father into the rhythm of each individual life. Only we can sing the words we're given, for only we know the lyrics. The music, however, is the same for us all – a love song composed by the hand of God.

"The Shieldbearer"
by Bill Shurkey

They call me 'shield bearer' and thick
in the battle am I. Sharpened spears are hurled
in a frontal assault. Death blows every one.
Fast and furious they come. I can feel their
heat as they fall around me. The night sky in
this valley of death is aflame with them,
like some ghoulish celebration of victory.

The enemy will not have the victory. He will
not! Straining shoulder muscles, I raise
the shield higher and higher still. Now the
left flank attacks. It is fear and anxiety.
Now on the right apathy and complacency.
One strikes the shield and I pull it out.
I am surprised it feels neither hot nor

cold to the touch. My fingers grow numb from
the weight of the shield. I dare not lose my
grip for 'shield bearer' is my name. It's my
heritage and I will prevail.  I stand my
ground and watch the incoming darts. Fiery
fingers…pointing, accusing. Whizzing
and sizzling around me. My legs grow weary

as I shift left then right then left again. Blood,
sweat and tears turn the dusty battlefield
to miry clay. I am exhausted but dare not
retreat. My orders are to hold the
position, to stand. In the darkness behind me I
hear a noise that I've been expecting.
It's the one sound of all sounds that I dread

most. The hammerlock of the sniper's gun.
His name is called 'hopelessness.' A dart
from the right flank finds its mark. I quickly
pull it out and tense up. Every nerve
ending at attention, listening. Even shield-
bearers become casualties but I refuse to
be taken. I will hold my position. I will hold

my position. I will---what was that?
Footsteps in the brush behind me. Breathing.
Quiet. Controlled. Like the hissing of a
snake. Deadly. Why does the enemy treat every
battle like a major campaign? This is only one
confrontation. Only one. God, I'm tired.
Faith. More faith. I've got to keep up my shield.

How much longer, Lord? My arm is quivering.
My leg muscles cramping. I'm surrounded.
Captain! Where are you? In the darkness behind
me the sniper snickers.
Jesus help! I need you! I know you call me
'shieldbearer' but the shield is so heavy.
I must not give up. I won't give up.

'Shieldbearer' is my name and I have been
commanded to stand. And I will stand until I
have been relieved of duty. But Jesus I'm so
tired...so very tired. Please help me. Help me to
Bill Shurkey is the editor of The Rhythm of Life.  He has published over 100 poems in various publications, as well as short fiction, short nonfiction and a nonfiction book.  Bill is also a battle-seasoned warrior and has the battered shield to prove it.

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