Gut Check of Faith

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Sunday, August 17, 2014 0 comments

by Michael Homula

I am going to deviate from sharing a specific story about Gettysburg today. Rather, I want to use a scenario that played out thousands of times at Gettysburg, and thousands more across the battlefields of the Civil War, to illustrate a point about faith.

I have been studying the Battle of Gettysburg since I was 15 years old, long before I came to saving faith in Jesus Christ in August of 2003. I recall walking the field when I was in college and wondering what would pass through the heart and mind of a man who, being mortally wounded, was facing certain death. While death came instantly for some, most would experience mind boggling pain and suffering from horrific wounds before succumbing to death. Certain types of wounds in the Civil War were almost always fatal and the men knew it. Surviving images of the dead on the battlefield at Gettysburg or any other Civil War battlefield reveals corpses whose jackets and shirts are ripped open at the chest or stomach. This was not the result of post death pillaging of the wounding but the work of the dying men themselves. They knew if they were gut shot they would die so, immediately after being wounded, they would tear open their jackets and shirts to see where they were hit. If it was in the abdomen or chest they knew they were most likely going to die and would prepare by writing last words in diaries, muttering final words for comrades in arms to share with their soon-to-be widows and families, and some would even finally come to faith in Jesus. A term that we now know as foxhole faith – though there were really no foxholes in the Civil War.

Confederate dead at the Rose Farm - Gettysburg, PA

Foxhole faith refers to someone whose life is ebbing away and in desperation they cry out to God to save them. In the face of battle and death, men who have had nothing to do with God suddenly find themselves facing bullets flying past their head or experiencing mortal wounds and they cry out to God to save them. “If you get me out of here alive, I’ll serve you, God,” might be something they’d pray in the face of death – if they are even given the time to cry out before dying.

If they survive, this type of commitment rarely ever lasts beyond the rescue. If the person is spared from death and returns to safety, the promises fade and life without God eventually returns. In Isaiah 17:7-8 we learn about another type of foxhole faith:

In that day people will look to their Maker and turn their eyes to the Holy One of Israel. They will not look to the altars, the work of their hands and they will have no regard for the Asherah poles and the incense altars their fingers have made.

Isaiah is bringing a message from God to the people of Damascas. After the ruin of that city, there will only be a few of them left, “like the stray olives left on the tree after harvest” (Isaiah 24:13). These few remaining will realize the vanity of idol worship they’ve been participating in, and they will suddenly turn to their Creator. They will suddenly have respect for God. This reminds me of that famous passage found in Philippians 2: “…and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Clearly this kind of faith is not focused on God. It is focused on self. This kind of foxhole faith is actually idolatry itself because it’s about putting God on a shelf until you need Him. True faith trusts God in the good times and the bad.

How’s your faith today? Are you able to honor God in the good times, or are you like these people from Damascas, or those facing death on the battlefield, who turn to their own pleasure and carnal pursuits until crisis hits? The problem with the latter of these two is that there is no guarantee of time to make one last confessions, one last moment of repentance or one last moment to finally trust Jesus alone for salvation. James writes, “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14). If you do not have the eternal security found only in Jesus Christ, there should be a sense of urgency because this life can be over in the blink of an eye. You may not have time to pull open your jacket and shirt and do a gut check, finally confessing Jesus as Lord and Savior at the last possible moment.

The encouragement today is to trust Him. Have faith that God has and will rescue you now and forever from death if only you will trust in Jesus.