Many of us watched some of the events commemorating the 75th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy this week. There were moments when tears freely flowed from hearts overwhelmed by images of that day. Graphic reminders called us to a fresh realization of the hellish cost of the freedom we so easily take for granted. Some have considered it the greatest battle of the greatest war and fought by the greatest generation our nation has ever produced. Whether or not that is true, at least this much is clear. The greatest gifts God ever gave to mankind were demonstrated by those who lived and died during those awful hours and were etched indelibly into the hearts and minds of those of us who owe them our freedom.
A Different Kind of Love ~
Thousands of young men poured out of boats that day and ran headlong into mankind’s self-made version of hell. The concept of love, at least in the frivolous way we treat it today, seems incongruous in a scene like that. Most of what we call love these days is, at best, a manipulative, self-serving, anemic knock-off in comparison to what was demonstrated in Normandy 75 years ago. The love defined by those men was something much deeper than a flowery collection of poetic words and much larger than their own selfish preferences. Love on that day stained the sand red, as dying hearts gave their last remaining strength to pump out the greatest contribution to our freedom that men could give.
One cannot think about that kind of love without recalling another bloody battle against overwhelming odds that took place centuries earlier. The sand around the foot of a Roman cross in Jerusalem was dyed the same color as Normandy’s beaches eventually were, as the originator of love itself waded into an even more profound version of hell than anything seen on D-Day. The love displayed in both cases was the greatest the world ever had to offer because the lifeblood it demanded was willingly sacrificed for others. The truth of Jesus’ words, forever enshrined at Calvary, was on display at Normandy as well:
“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” John 15:13 (NKJV)
The Entrance of Hope ~
Another of God’s incredible gifts to humanity delivered one of its greatest exhibitions on D-Day, even though it, too, seemed almost out of place. Hope had to fight its way through the smoky aura of death and destruction hanging over those awful beaches, but fight it did. In the midst of a deafening cacophony of gunfire and the cries of dying men, and in spite of the human carnage scattered everywhere, a powerful, living hope rose up to defy it all. Hope ignored the terror of bullets and enemy shrapnel to bolster dwindling courage and offer exhausted limbs the strength for another step. The enemy’s weapons killed wave after wave of soldiers that day, but their guns couldn’t kill the hope that kept others who came to take their place. Their hope overcame fear and enabled them to challenge death as often as it took to secure the freedom their victory would ultimately preserve.
The watered-down definition of hope in today’s culture is often little more than a wishful fantasy, like hoping that we’ll eventually pick the right lottery numbers. That kind of hope fades and disappears in the face of insurmountable obstacles and would have had nothing to offer those soldiers on D-Day. God’s version of hope is radically different. The hope He offers is not dependent on favorable conditions, nor is it a product of the efforts of individuals who embrace it. The hope that God gives finds its reality in Him, and its power is unleashed when men take personal ownership of God’s promises and realize that One greater than themselves will not abandon them in the fight.
We aren’t being targeted by enemy bullets, but we live in a world engulfed in hopelessness. It’s the kind of world Jesus came into, a world full of people who are broken, oppressed, destitute, and helpless. Paul described the dilemma facing all who face life’s enemies alone as …having no hope and without God in the world Ephesians 2:12b (NKJV). As he affirmed later, there is only one source of real hope:
“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” Ephesians 4:4-6 (NKJV)
Our Defining Capacity ~
Yet another of the trilogy of humanity’s greatest gifts was displayed in that terrible battle. There is no more powerful capacity available to human beings than the ability to believe. It has more influence on who we are, what we do or fail to do, and how we will react to circumstances than our intellect, our physical strength, or any other human characteristic. God created our capacity for “faith” to sustain us in a world full of enemies and an endless stream of battles. In Normandy, faith delivered one of the greatest demonstrations ever of its power to promote endurance in overwhelming conditions.
God described faith like this . . . Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen Hebrews 11:1 (NKJV). Simply put, faith enables us to see what isn’t visible yet. It enables us to look beyond beyond the desperate circumstances that might be confronting us at the moment. Faith relies on the unchangeable character of God and His immutable promises, and it sees beyond the limitations posed by human weakness, and even beyond death itself.
That awful battle 75 years ago wasn’t won by equipment and machines. They didn’t win the greatest battle of the greatest war and become the greatest generation because of what they carried in their hands. Victory was achieved because of what they carried in their hearts — the greatest love, the greatest hope, the greatest faith. Honoring them with patriotic pageantry and public acclamations of their heroism is absolutely appropriate, but there’s something more powerful and more enduring we can do.
The greatest gifts God gave us aren’t just for battlegrounds in wars between nations. We have a spiritual enemy attacking us in some way every day, and the powerful gifts displayed in Normandy are available to all of us. The greatest honor we can give our D-Day heroes and the God in whose name they fought is to personally employ the forces that sustained them. When our love lifts others above ourselves, when our hope sees beyond the obstacles in our path, and when our faith connects us with the One who overcame death and hell itself, then our victory will be assured.
“TWEETABLES” ~ Click to Tweet & Share from the pull quotes below. Each quote links directly back to this article through Twitter.
- “The hope that God gives finds its reality in Him and its power is unleashed when men take personal ownership of God’s promises and realize that One greater than themselves will not abandon them in the fight.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Normandy wasn’t won by equipment and machines. They didn’t win . . . because of what they carried in their hands. Victory was achieved because of what they carried in their hearts — the greatest love, the greatest hope, the greatest faith.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “The greatest gifts God gave us aren’t just for battlegrounds in wars between nations. We have a spiritual enemy attacking us in some way every day, and the powerful gifts displayed in Normandy are available to all of us.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “When our love lifts others above ourselves, when our hope sees beyond the obstacles in our path, and when our faith connects us with the One who overcame death and hell itself, then our victory will be assured.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
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So gripping and powerful, Ron.
Absolutely profound, Ron. I am moved to tears . . .
And I am blessed and moved by your gracious comment, Martha. Thank you for your faithful friendship and the encouragement that comes with it.