On September 6, 1863, forty-eight Confederate soldiers, commanded by Lieutenant Richard “Dick” Dowling (who was only twenty-five years old), waited for the Union invasion of Texas on the muddy banks of Sabine Pass. The Union had sent four gunboats, and seventeen transport ships that contained 1500 troops. Dowling and his men were holed up in a few ramparts made of mud. They called these mud barricades Fort Griffin and although they were not made from the most costly fort material, they still stand today. Dowling’s men were not professional soldiers. They were ordinary working men. However, they had practiced to fight, and they were ready. The Union boats attacked, but their shells could not penetrate the solid walls of Fort Griffin. The Union soldiers tried to land, but they could not for they sunk up to their knees in mud. The Union gunboats moved closer to the fort. This was their mistake. Lt. Dowling gave the order to fire and one Union gunboat was destroyed. Upon seeing this, one of the other gunboats flew the white flag, however another was persistent. It continued to attack the fort. Dowling’s men fired upon this vessel and sunk it. And even though the barrels of their guns were so hot they blistered their hands, they continued. And soon, the captain of the gunboat surrendered. Lt. Dowling accepted his surrender. Forty-eight non-professional soldiers had defeated four gunboats and seventeen transport ships containing 1500 men. They had captured two gunboats, 350 men and wounded or killed over 100 federal soldiers. It was a decisive victory. This battle was the biggest upset of the Civil War. Look at some of the lessons we learn.
1. The number of people involved in a conflict does not itself determine the outcome. Forty-eight men destroyed two Union gunboats, killed or wounded over 100 men and captured close to 350 men. 2. Preparation is necessary to win the battle. These men probably never expected Union soldiers to come their way, but they prepared for that day, whether they expected it or not. 3. A solid, defendable stronghold is necessary for protection from the enemy. Although it was made of mud, sticks and concrete, Fort Griffin was solid and defendable. This stronghold provided these men with protection and safety from the enemies’ projectiles. 4. Perseverance and steadfastness are necessary qualities of victorious soldiers. Lt. Dowling did not send attack as soon as he saw the Union boats coming, instead, he played cards and patiently waited for the enemy to make the first mistake. 5. A person does not have to be a “professional” to put up a victorious defense. The men of Fort Griffin were regular everyday workers. They were not professional soldiers. However, they did not let that stop them. They went ahead and fought like soldiers. The bullets they fired were just as real as the “professional” soldier’s bullets.
Notice too that the Bible contains many great “upsets” from which we can learn these same lessons. Remember Joseph (Genesis chapters 38-50)? Remember Moses and the children of Israel (Exodus chapters 1-14)? Remember Gideon and his 300 soldiers (Judges chapter 7)? And what about David when he defeated Goliath (1 Samuel chapter 17) and Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego (Daniel 3) and Mordecai (The book of Esther)? And there are many more which are not as well known. However, we can see the above five principles involved in these situations. Now, the New Testament Christian soldier is also concerned about these principles. The Christian soldier knows that he will be in the minority (Matt.7:13,14). The Christian soldier knows that he must prepare for spiritual battles yet to come (2 Tim.2:15,16; Eph.6:15). The Christian soldier knows that the faith is his solid (Heb.11:1), defendable (1 Peter 3:15), stronghold and is able to protect him from the fiery projectiles of Satan (Eph.6:16). The Christian soldier knows that he must be patient, steadfast, and persevering (Heb.12:1). And the Christian soldier knows that he does not necessarily need to be a “professional” preacher, or a graduate of this university or that, in order to victoriously defend the word of God. Truth will ring just as clear in the ears of honest hearts whether it be taught by a man with a wall full of degrees or by a small country farmer (Paul was a graduate of the Rabbinical School [Phillipians 3:5] but Peter was a fisherman [Mark 1:16]).
The Bible teaches that each and every Christian must be concerned about spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6:10-18). Further, the principles above are just some of the principles that regulate the life of the Christian soldier as he engages in spiritual warfare. As we have seen, a person does not need to be a “scholar” to be a Christian soldier. However, he must love the truth, apply it to his life, and be willing to defend it. In doing this, he can become a warrior of the truth. And together, applying the principles of the Christian soldier to our lives, God’s army can win decisive victories for the truth.
Brethren, if there is one thing the church needs now, the church needs people who are willing to contend earnestly for the faith (Jude 3); the church needs spiritual warriors; the church needs Christian soldiers.