They Fought the Good Fight!(Fighting the Good Fight)Posted in Democracy, Freedom, Great Souls, Sermons, War
“Fighting the Good Fight.”
Delivered on Memorial Day Weekend
May 21, 2017
I Timothy 6:11-16; 2 Timothy 4:6-8
Carlyle Fielding Stewart iii
The Apostle Paul in the true warrior spirit counsels his son in the ministry Timothy and prepares him for the coming battles of ministry and speaks of fighting the good fight of faith. What Paul means here is that any undertaking for a higher cause involving duty, honor and sacrifice whether for country or for God or for both must be fought with the confidence of faith and the righteousness of God to be successful.
Faith is the gold standard of success in the bible and the spiritual life and physical life. In spiritual battles as well as physical battles, one cannot be successful without faith and trust in a higher power and without belief in the righteousness of the cause.
Although Paul is speaking primarily of life in the spiritual realm, he is also preparing Timothy for the many emotional, psychological and physical battles which will confront him in his service to God in the physical realm as he spreads the Gospel of Christ.
The ministry of expansion during that time required great spiritual and physical strength. You needed to know how to pray, but you needed to know how to keep your power dry so to speak.
Make no mistake about it, spreading the Gospel was dangerous work requiring the type of warrior who had spiritual knowledge and strength but also had real world training knowledge and strength in knowing how to fight for real by standing up the devil.
Paul himself bore the scars and wounds of church building among Gentiles and Jews. As Saul he began as a mercenary who persecuted followers of the way and instigated the stoning death of Stephen.
After his conversion on the Damascus Road when he got knocked off his high horse by Christ Jesus, His name was changed to Paul who would now become a warrior for Christ who endured hardships and trials and troubles in spreading the gospel and building the early church. As Saul he was a proponent of violence. As Paul he became a warrior of non-violence.
He was martyred at Rome as an enemy of the State.
2 Corinthians 6:3-10 Paul speaks of the Christian Warriors Truth in Kingdom building for God.
“We put not stumbling block in anyone’s path. Rather as servants of God, we commend ourselves in every way; in great endurance; in troubles, hardships, and distresses, in beatings, imprisonments and riots, in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger, in purity and understanding, patience and kindness, in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor; bad report and good report; genuine yet regarded as phony impostors; known yet regarded as unknown; dying and yet we live on; beaten but not yet killed; sorrowful yet always rejoicing; poor yet making many rich; having nothing and yet possessing everything.”
In 2 Corinthians 4:8-12, Paul speaks of the Christian Warriors Code in facing the battles of kingdom building for God.
“We are hard pressed on every side but not crushed, perplexed but not in despair; persecuted but not abandoned, struck down but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus sake so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.”
And in 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 Paul speaks of the Christian warrior’s tactics in fighting the Good fight of faith for God.
“Although we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary they have the divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.”
“For the Kingdom of God, he says in I Corinthians 4:20-21, is not a matter of talk but of action and power. What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a whip or in love and with a gentle spirit?
His famous lines in Ephesians 6:10-18 draws a parallel between spiritual warfare and physical warfare.
Finally be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground and after you have done everything to stand, stand firm then with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the Gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind always be alert and keep on praying for the saints, and also pray for me so that whenever I open my mouth, I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the Gospel.
We not only have warfare instructions from God in the Old Testament in the battles of Jericho and Ai and other battles were many lives were lost. But in I and II Corinthians we have Paul’s instruction manual for spiritual warriors which draws heavily on the imagery and metaphors of warriors and warfare in the physical realm. Paul saw himself fighting a double battle on two fronts; the spiritual and the physical. He was a warrior who was adept at spiritual as well as physical warfare.
It was then a double battle. It was an internal which he waged for the hearts and minds and souls of God’s people in spreading the Gospel, building churches and saving souls.
It was an external battle involving great suffering and hardships, against outside real enemies who threatened to destroy everything that Jesus and his followers had built up to create a better world.
Every expression of the warrior’s mantra and mission has as their parallel, battles and warriors on the battlefield of the spirit in kingdom building and physically in nation building and building the lives of Gods people.
When Paul spoke of fighting the good fight he meant the need for warriors to possess a higher spiritual power which would lead to psychological and spiritual victories internally through strong faith to guide his mission and give him strength principally through non-violence.
It also meant having physical courage and power in fighting the good fight of faith in taking the hill, in neutralizing the devil and stopping the spread of evil in the world.
Paul fought two wars on two fronts spiritual and physical.
Williamson Murray in his book, Military Adaptation in War makes this remarkable statement, “Of all mankind’s endeavors war confronts human beings not only with the greatest physical demands but also the greatest psychological pressures.”
Carl Von Clausewitz in his classic masterpiece titled On War, says “Under the immense psychological pressures that combat entails, it’s an exceptional man who keeps his powers of quick decision intact.”
As we honor our soldiers and warriors this memorial day, we are confident and assured that they have borne their stripes and faced head on the horrors and pressures of war. They have fought the good fight and finished the race of serving their country and in the words of Abraham Lincoln, they have given their last full measure of devotion that that nation might live. They have made the ultimate sacrifice by giving their lives as an offering, a testament; a living sacrament in the preservation of democracy in this constitutional republic.
We are here to honor them all: persons of every hue and ethnicity; every gender and every orientation and persuasion.
But we are also here to call remembrance to that special breed of warriors, African American men and women who have not only fought valiantly and heroically for our nation, but also fought others wars against racism and discrimination. They too have fought battles on two fronts; at home and abroad, internally and externally.
In his book, The African American Experience in Vietnam: Brothers in Arms, James E. Westheider makes the following observation:
“African Americans have served with distinction in all of America’s wars from the American Revolution to the recent conflicts in the Middle East, and like their white counterparts, they have served for a variety of reasons. Some like Vietnam Veteran Colin Powell, did so out of a sense of duty and patriotism. Others signed up looking for adventure or for personal advancement. But for the black community as a whole, one of the ultimate goals of military service has always been full inclusion in American society and the gaining of full rights and respect as citizens.
During the Civil War the famous black abolitionist Frederick Douglass once wrote, “Let the black man get upon his person the brass letters U.S. Let him get an eagle on his button and a musket on his shoulder, and there is no power on Earth which can deny that he has earned the right to citizenship in the United States.
Minorities have long been aware of the possible rewards for military service, and often they have fought for the right to fight. Service by Irish Americans in the Civil War, Jewish Americans in World War I, and Japanese Americans in World War II, for example helped convince a skeptical public of their patriotism and helped lead to greater acceptance of these groups on American society.
More recently, women and gays have used military service to prove their prowess and capabilities to the skeptical and often bigoted elements of society. Since 1945, economic incentives, such as career training, better pay and the GI Bill, have enticed many minorities and poor of working class whites to join the armed services.”
But military service has not always guaranteed those rights. African Americans have served with distinction in all of America’s wars. They have fought the good fight. They have battled heroically and selflessly from the American Revolution to the current conflicts in the Middle East.
“I have fought the good fight,” says the Apostle Paul to his son in the ministry Timothy, and “I have finished the race.”
Few if any racial groups in America have had to continuously fight two battles on two fronts, internal and external, domestic and foreign, which was racism at home as well a formidable enemy abroad.
Japanese, Native American and other soldiers have fought those fights, and other groups periodically in American history.
When African American soldiers returned from Europe after World War II many of them were appalled that they had to ride at the back of the train while German prisoners of War rode in the first class section receiving first class treatment, which added insult to injury. Said one serviceman, “Here we are fighting against Germans for America’s freedom but we ourselves still don’t have our full freedoms which is a slap in our faces. We fight for America but America honors its enemies more than it honors those who have stood by America’s side through every major conflict and since our time in this country.”
In the Vietnam era many soldiers battled personal racism from military officers which hindered their promotions. Bigoted individuals sabotaged a black soldier’s chance at being promoted by never recommending promotions and writing biased efficiency reports. In one instance black soldiers were consistently reprimanded for being late for duty. It was discovered that a white platoon sergeant who kept setting black soldiers up for disciplinary duty kept waking up the white soldiers but the not the black soldiers so that the blacks were often late for duty. The list of insults is endless. The battles were waged not only in the military against bigoted officers and practices but a war was being waged against a crafty enemy on his own turf, in a war that had no geographical direction unlike all previous wars America fought.
African Americans have been a soldier’s soldier, a man among men, who have fought America’s battles and fought them well in every branch of military service. They have fought the good fight for a country that did not always treat them right. These are the legacies of real men, who have stood the tests of battles on all fronts, and serving their country heroically, have not winced nor cried aloud, despite their heads being bloodied but unbowed, but pressed on with the power of conviction and a determination to be free.
As America fought against tyranny abroad and against those forces that would destroy American democracy and her precious freedoms, they fought against the tyrannies of racism and bigotry and hatred at home. What men! And now what women! What people who serve their country with their own grit and blood.
George Sasser in his book Patton’s Panthers chronicles the heroics of the African American 761st Tank Battalion in World War II” and tells us the following:
“On the battlefields of World War II, the men of the African American 761st Tank Battalion under General Patton broke through enemy lines with the same courage with which they broke through the racist limitations set upon them by others—proving themselves as tough, reliable and determined to fight as any tank unit in combat.
Beginning in November 1944, they engaged the enemy for 183 straight days, spearheading many of Patton’s offenses at the Battle of the Bulge and in six European countries. No other unit fought for so long and so hard without respite. The 761st defeated more than 6,000 enemy soldiers, captured thirty towns, liberated Jews from concentration camps—and made history as the first African American armored unit to enter the war. They proudly lived up to their motto, “Come out Fighting.”
See the heroic exploits in the Tuskegee Airmen who battled prejudice and racism anf the type of bigotry that did not believe in the words of one politician, “that monkeys could fly airplanes.”
During World War II we remember “The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African-American military aviators in the United States Armed Forces. During World War II, black Americans in many U.S. states were still subject to the Jim Crow laws[N 1] and the American military was racially segregated, as was much of the federal government. The Tuskegee Airmen were subjected to discrimination, both within and outside the army. “
Office of War Information reports the following:
In all, 992 pilots were trained in Tuskegee from 1941-46. 355 were deployed overseas, and 84 lost their lives in accidents or combat.
The toll included 68 pilots killed in action or accidents, 12 killed in training and non-combat missions and 32 captured as prisoners of war.
The Tuskegee Airmen were credited by higher commands with the following accomplishments:
1578 combat missions, 1267 for the Twelfth Air Force; 311 for the Fifteenth Air Force.
179 bomber escort missions,  with a good record of protection, 57] losing bombers on only seven missions and a total of only 27, compared to an average of 46 among other 15th Air Force P-51 groups
112 enemy aircraft destroyed in the air, another 150 on the ground  and 148 damaged
950 rail cars, trucks and other motor vehicles destroyed (over 600 rail cars)
One destroyer put out of action. The ship concerned had been classified as a destroyer (Giuseppe Missouri) by the Italian Navy, before being reclassified by the Germans as a torpedo boat, TA 22. It was attacked on 25 June 1944. The German Navy decommissioned it on 8 November 1944, and finally scuttled it on 5 February 1945.
40 boats and barges destroyed
Awards and decorations included:
Three Distinguished Unit Citations
99th Pursuit Squadron: 30 May–11 June 1943 for actions over Sicily
99th Fighter Squadron: 12–14 May 1944: for successful air strikes against Monte Cassino, Italy
332nd Fighter Group (and its 99th, 100th, and 301st Fighter Squadrons): 24 March 1945: for a bomber escort mission to Berlin, during which pilots of the 100th FS shot down three enemy ME-262 jets.
The 302nd Fighter Squadron did not receive this award as it had been disbanded on 6 March 1945.
At least one Silver Star
96 Distinguished Flying Crosses to 95 Airmen; Captain William A. Campbell was awarded two.
14 Bronze Stars
744 Air Medals
8 Purple Hearts 
They fought the food fight. They completed the race. They gave their lives. They gave that their country who did not give them all.”
And then there were the first black United States Marines; the Men of Montford Point from 1942-1946.(49)
“Early in 1942 blacks were semi citizens of a segregated nation. To fight and win a two ocean war America required that unprecedented numbers omen and women be enlisted and trained for military service, yet a significant source of new recruits was ignored by the U.S Marine Corps-there were absolutely no black marines. That service had enlisted “no Negro” in its 144 year existence, and the Major General Commandant, Thomas Holcomb, publicly declared his opposition to any change in policy regarding blacks. He saw the Corps as an exclusive club, blacks had no right to join, and went on to say, If it were a question of having a Marine Corps of 5,000 whites or 250,000 Negroes. I would rather have the whites.
When ordered by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to accept blacks, the Corps would impose the subject of race on the Corps to the least possible degree-blacks would train in an isolated camp band then be assigned to some out-of- the way station. Because the Corps never had any black marines, there was no tradition of service in the corps-no one joined because of his father, brother or uncle had been a marine. Most blacks and many whites do not know that by the end of World War II, 19.168 blacks proved themselves as Marines. They made up almost four percent of the Corps enlisted strength. Even though no blacks received commissions as the fighting raged they still fought faithfully and heroically and died for their country. 12, 738 of the black Marines served overseas where they fought and died in the intense amphibious assaults on the Marianas Islands of Saipan and Guam, on the islands of Peliliu, Iwo Jima and Okinawa. After VJ day, some black marines took part in the occupation of China and Japan.
Let me say that we laud every branch of the military in our country, but of all the branches of the Military which are known for their so called weapons or toys such Air Force planes, Army tanks and Navy Ships and Coast Guard ships, the marine corps, although traditionally identified as a division of the Navy, is the only branch of service not ostensibly identified with specific weaponry, but for the sheer power of training, for rugged individualism and dogged determination of individual will and character, true grit and pride of its members.
There are not toys with which the marine corp identifies; it is simply the man himself, tried, true and blues.
The Marines are the second smallest branch of the military. Their purpose has changed somewhat over the years. When it was first established in 1775, it was under the Navy as a ground force element of the branch. It was basically assigned the task of taking over the beaches when the Navy brought them into a mission.
And then we have the Harlem Hellfighters of World War I. Bill Harris who wrote the Hellfighters of Harlem says:
“They set a record in World War I with the longest frontline service of any American regiment, not a soldier captured or a foot of ground lost-but the 369th was forbidden to fight for the U.S. Army. Handed over to France, this all-black unit became a band of heroes, such as private Henry Johnson, who single handedly knocked out a platoon of twenty-eight German troops. The feat won him France’s prestigious Croix de Guerre-yet Johnson is today still denied America’s Medal of Honor. While the French government the 369th’s battlefield exploits, the French people fell in love with its regimental band’s hot jazz.
This saga of soldiers who struggled to reach the front lines was shadowed by racism, debates among black leaders over whether African Americans should withhold support for the war until steps toward equality were made; inadequate provisions forcing them to drill in the streets of Harlem and in a local dance hall, and finally being forbidden from serving under U.S. command by General John J. Pershing.
Their service and return, complete with a spectacular parade up Fifth Avenue, helped fuel the Harlem Renaissance and paved the way for the 369th contributions in World War II, and in Iraq and the Gulf War. This is the story of pride and accomplishment, not only for the Harlem Hell fighters, but other black military heroes who have followed in their footsteps.”
In every war in the United States black soldiers from the Buffalo Soldiers to the men who rode with Theodore Roosevelt and his Rough Riders on San Juan Hill, to every major conflict since, black men and women have fought valiantly, heroically, faithfully, confidentially to ensure the continuation of liberty, democracy and freedom in this nation.
Theirs is not a record shame, dishonor or cowardice, but a record of faithfulness and determination to stand as other men and women in defense of this still great nation
Black Women Soldiers
From Crispus Attucks to Agrippa Hull to Edward Hector, to Austin Dabney and William Lee to the Invisible Eight, to the Three Black Legions to Patton’s Panthers, The Tuskegee Airmen, the Montford Point Marines to the first 13 Black officers in the United States Navy to the Harlem Hellfighters but what about the great black women?
They’re names you’re unlikely to find in most history books – Susan Taylor King, Cathay Williams, Maj. Charity Adams, Maj. Marie Rogers and Lt. Phoebe Jeter. But the collective military histories of these and other black women span a sizable chunk of America’s past.
According to the Indiana-based Buffalo Soldiers Research Museum, African-American women have played a role in every war effort in United States history. And black women participated in spite of the twin evils of racial and gender discrimination.
“They endured physical discomfort and personal criticism, while many of their contributions were unrecognized and unrewarded. They placed themselves in danger’s path – offering their abilities and strengths to preserve values and ensure freedom,” wrote S.A. Sheafer in the book “Women in America’s Wars.”
Their heroism dates to the Revolutionary War when, inspired by the promise of freedom from slavery, some women served as spies. Others, as narrated by former slave-turned-author Lucy Terry, disguised themselves as men and fought side by side with them against the British.
Harriet Tubman’s heroics in the Civil War as a Union spy, volunteer nurse and armed scout reportedly earned the former slave the nickname “General Tubman” from soldiers. Susan Taylor King, another former slave, joined the all-black First South Carolina Volunteers unit as a nurse, and later started a school for children and soldiers.
Pressed into service by Union forces after being freed from a Missouri plantation, Cathay Williams’ Civil War story was nothing short of remarkable. More than 80 years before women were allowed to officially enlist in the peacetime Army, she signed up for service in November 1866, giving her name as William Cathay and passing as a man.
For two years — until she fell ill and her ruse was discovered — Williams served as a Buffalo Soldier with the 38th U.S. Infantry Regiment.
In the Spanish-American War and World War I, black women served valiantly as nurses and in other support roles.
World War II would spawn the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) and Maj. Charity Adams, its first black officer. She commanded the first all-black female unit, the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion.
“Every single piece of mail that went to Europe passed through this postal battalion,” said filmmaker Frank Martin, whose 2010 documentary, “For Love of Liberty: The Story of America’s Black Patriots,” lauds the service of Maj. Adams’ 855-member battalion.
Adams would spend the last year of the war clearing enormous backlogs of mail, first in Birmingham, England and then Rouen, France.
Two events in 1948 would change the nature of military service for back women. On June 12, President Harry Truman signed the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act, permitting women to join the regular Army. Before that, women — with the exception of nurses — served in the military only in times of war. Then on July 26, Truman issued Executive Order 9981, ending segregation in the military.
Beloved, we stood have stood tall and proud in this nation while catching hell on every front.
We have fought the good fight, we have run the race and not always received the crowns deserving to us but have stood tall and proud beside our country. Our country has blessed us and we have blessed our country by our service to her.
And that is why with the events we see folding in our nation today, with democracy being threatened by internal and outside forces, it is our duty as citizens to ensure that the democracy that our soliders fought and died for is a democracy still worth fighting for and will live on for generations to come.
May justice be done. May liberty live on. May equality and freedom continue to be the watchwords and sacred words of this nation.
We are facing a great challenge to our nation today, so let the sacrifices of all of our soldiers not be in vain.
Let us continue to stand up and do our part to make sure that the ultimate sacrifices they made in fighting the good fight will never be in vain.
Let us always remember them. Let us not forget them. Let us continue to honor them by fighting the good fight where we are today on every battle front; physical, spiritual, emotional, psychological, political, social, economic and education.
Let not the sacrifices and memories of our soldier die in a fools paradise but let us march on and live on and work on until freedom rings for all.