Sword of JoshuaSword of JoshuaSword of Joshua


Copyright © Jules Dervaes

July 14, 1984

Are you winning? In sports? No, I mean in life. The name of the game is eternal life and your opponent is the world. It is, as they say, a jungle out there, a veritable wilderness. So are you winning, or is the wilderness winning? That is my question. Look at it this way: we are playing on the world’s home turf and to win we must overcome the homefield advantage. There is a way–a sure way–that will guarantee you a trophy–a crown–when this contest is over. Let’s talk about the surefire way to make it into the winner’s circle of God’s kingdom.

First, listen to the story of a man named Johnny Anderson who lived in southern Illinois at the turn of the century. For days at a time Johnny never saw the sun; his future was as black as the coal that he mined. But he had a dream to break free of those days of darkness and to start a new life for him and his wife. Finally, he was able to buy forty acres of wilderness land in northern Wisconsin. Alone and walking the last 25 miles to his land, he carried with him a sack of flour, an axe, and a few other essentials. It was July and the season of mosquitoes, horseflies, and no-see-ums insects whose bite burned like fire. In the closed-in-woods it was unbelievably hot and muggy.

As Johnny set about felling trees he dreamed of the log cabin he would build for his family. He was a strong man and tough. He had brought no gloves because he believed his already calloused hands from using a pick and shovel would be protected. But the work was different here and the axe handle wore away at unexpected places; and, in a short time, his hands were raw and bleeding.

The insects plagued him to no end.

The second day was almost unbearable. He was in pain and frustrated and he screamed out as he chopped with his axe.

When the third day dawned Johnny was an exhausted man. His spirit and energies were at their lowest. His temper exploded. Finally he could take it no longer. The insects, the heat, the bleeding hands had done him in. The wilderness had won. He slumped to the ground and he hated himself for ever dreaming of a new life. His shoulders shook and great sobs racked his body.

After some time he stopped crying and there came a moment of strange stillness. Suddenly, there was a new sound in the woods. Johnny listened intently and though it came from miles away, the sound was unmistakable.

There it was again and again. Slowly Johnny straightened up, spat on his raw hands, grabbed his axe, and went to work.

Many years later, as he sat in the log cabin that he had built and in which he had reared a fine family, he told a guest this story of how, when he had been nearly beaten, something had given him the courage to go on.

What was it? What snatched victory out of defeat? Something propelled this man through to the completion, the fulfillment of his dream. What Johnny heard was this: the ring of an axe, the ring of an axe from another homesteader who was also felling trees. Somewhere, there was another man dreaming a dream, another father providing for his family. Somewhere, in spite of the insects, bleeding hands, and bone-weariness, another man was fighting the wilderness and winning!!!

Johnny Anderson experienced the powerful force of fellowship. The way we can conquer the wilderness that the world surrounds us with is as plain as the person sitting in front of you, the side of you, and in back of you. It is fellowship.

Not only is fellowship a powerful force, but it is also a critical test of Christianity. In preparation to go out on the spiritual battlefield, prayer and Bible study are important. But Christianity is won down in the trenches. It is won where human relationships are formed, developed, and molded to the ideal set by Jesus Himself.
Fellowship is vital to your stand as a Christian. If you are not of the world then you must be of something else. That is here. And we must make it the best.

Look at Hebrews 10:25. It states: “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”

The times are urgent. Then one thing we can do is party with abandon. I don’t mean to party as the world knows to party. We must have a full, not half-hearted, commitment to be together with one another. Making use of opportunities when we can and enjoying them with gusto. Look at it this way: if the world were sweltering hot weather–choking you and if Christianity were a refreshingly deep pool of cool clean water, would you enter Christianity by dipping one toe in, then another, or would you plunge into it with complete abandon (maybe even doing a cannonball)?

So, if we party with abandon and fire up our love, then we will find ourselves winning the battle of salvation. We should draw closer to one another more than ever before. Salvation is found not in isolation, not in scattered numbers, but in the fellowship of being one. The wilderness of the world is all around but we have one another. Jesus prayed about us to His Father: “I pray for them who will believe in me that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one.”

We can win–when we are ONE.

Thank you for your fellowship for nine years: Yes, I listened for your axe in the forest, and we will listen from a greater distance now.

Thank you for being here; we enjoyed knowing you. My wife, children, and I love you–grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters.

May you all keep on winning. Always, always love one another. See you at the Rock.

Last speech given by Jules Dervaes in 1984 to the Tampa, Florida congregation; A farewell message before moving to Pasadena, California to attend Ambassador College.

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