The Sinners’ Revolution: Taking Inspiration from the Patriots of ’76 in the War Against the Flesh

I’m about to get all nerdy and historical up in here.

The American Revolution has long been a fascination of mine, but it peaked many in high school. I loved the stretches in history class when we studied it, and a audiobook version of Jeff Shaara’s excellent book The Glorious Cause was what I went to sleep to most nights.

The Americans should have gotten crushed. We did not stand a chance against the Brits. They had a bigger and better army and we were a relatively inexperienced, unorganized bunch of backwoods farmers and wanna-be city slickers. Historian Jack Kelly sets the dilemma this way: “George Washington called the American victory in the Revolutionary war ‘little short of a standing miracle.’ In 1776, an overwhelming British army had defeated his poorly trained force, driven them out of New York City, and chased them across New Jersey. Washington then lost Philadelphia, and his men had barely survived the wretched winter at Valley Forge. In 1780, the British captured the major southern port at Charleston, imprisoning the American garrison there, and utterly defeated a second patriot army. Before that year was out, his long-suffering troops were on the verge of mutiny and one of his senior generals had gone over to the enemy.”

How often in our fight with sin does it seem like things are going that way? We may have put together a stretch of victories over the sin in our lives and look to be on the up-and-up, but then there’s devastating defeat. It can be disheartening and discouraging. But there are going to be losses. There are going to be days where the fight is too hard and we quit.

But there’s no need to quit fighting. Oh, there are reasons. Well, you could call them excuses, but in the moment, they feel like reasons. But we should NEVER quit fighting sin. And we can take our example from the Americans in the Revolutionary War.

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We may feel alone against sin, but we’ve really got brothers and sisters who can go in the fight with us.

It is doubtful the Americans would have ever won the Revolutionary War without the help of the French. The French supplied men, ships, supplies and the biggest push in some of the crucial battles late in the war. Kelly writes, “French muskets, uniforms, gunpowder and money helped sustain the Continental Army. French soldiers and sailors enabled Washington to trap and defeat British General Cornwallis at Yorktown. The threat from French forces required Britain to transfer resources to the West Indies and even to worry about a French invasion of their sceptered isle. It was from this wider war that the American patriots (emerged) victorious.”

The British (center) surrender to French (left) and American (right) troops, at the Battle of Yorktown in 1781.
The British (center) surrender to French (left) and American (right) troops, at the Battle of Yorktown in 1781.

In our fight with sin, we can feel like the Americans in the beginning stages of the War. Early on, America was alone, and they were getting crushed. Some sin does a fantastic job of making us feel alone in the fight.

What does Scripture say? “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (James 5:16). “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

Only when Ben Franklin was able to convince the French to join the American side did any real change happen and things began to slowly swing in the favor of the patriots. In the same way, we can ask brothers and sisters in the faith to come alongside us and help us win our war while also helping them in their fight. The early church started as a collective of people who did all things together and shared all things. I bet they shared sin burdens with one another.

Brother and sister, keep fighting. You are not alone in your fight. I promise. I’m there with you. Don’t quit.

We may feel outgunned against sin, but we’ve really got the best weapons, armor and tactics.

Kelly on the Brits: “The British military establishment was well organized and formidable. They enjoyed a very seasoned officer corps, many of their top generals having joined the ranks as boys and seen action in wars with the French. They were well-versed in military theory and how to apply it. Just as important, the British had a robust governmental bureaucracy devoted to war. Various ministries, boards and departments were experienced in supply, armaments, transportation, accounting, and the other logistical duties that are the foundation of any military effort. The Americans went to war with amateur officer and untrained troops; and they lacked the organization needed to supply and maintain an army in the field.”

Satan has an army against us much like the Brits did against the Americans. His forces are powerful. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). If C.S. Lewis’ incisive work The Screwtape Letters is half as insightful as it seems about what demons are attempting to do to mankind that loves Jesus, we’re really and truly up against it.

What does Scripture say? “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm” (Ephesians 6:13). “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:16-17). “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3).

Common rifles used in the Revolutionary War.
Common rifles used in the Revolutionary War.

In the beginning of the war, the Americans were definitely outgunned and outmaneuvered in the beginning. But when the French aided their weapons game, and they learned new ways to fight and took a different approach, things changed. We as Christians truly have better weapons. God has supplied us with everything we need for godliness, including the weapons needed to fight against the temptations and the snares of the devil and of sin. It’s God who supplies us, not ourselves. It’s God’s strength, not our own.

Brother and sister, take heart. You really have the better weapons, which which you can withstand sin and temptation. I’m there with you. Don’t give up.

We may feel like we’ve already lost, but we really have a reason to keep fighting: God’s love and grace.

Kelly purports that one of the reasons the Americans won is their perseverance. He writes, “Americans won their independence because they continued to fight. Again and again during the war, they reached points when they could have thrown in the towel. At times, the Continental Army seemed only weeks or days from disbanding. In spite of defeat after defeat, in spite of no pay, rampant disease and inadequate supplies, they kept at it. George Washington was no military genius. But his faith in the cause, his determination to fight, and the mutual love he came to share with his officers and men carried him through many dark nights.”

Sin can give us a real feeling like we can’t do anything, that we’ve already lost the war, that God doesn’t love us anymore, that we’ve quit being “good enough” for Him. Just like the Continental Army who “seemed only weeks or days from disbanding,” we can feel at times like we’re moments from quitting following Jesus because it’s too hard or sin feels too good.

Americans at Valley Forge during the winter of 1777-1778.
Americans at Valley Forge during the winter of 1777-1778.

What does Scripture say? “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: the steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:21-23). “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, not things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). “…if we are faithless, he remains faithful – for he cannot deny himself” (2 Timothy 2:13).

The Americans had perseverance in the war, and it was one of the main reasons we emerged victorious. They had a cause. We as Christians, likewise, have a reason to keep fighting. God doesn’t quit on us when we sin. He continues to love us and care for us and show us grace and mercy. This is not license to sin; nay, it is instead a motivation to keep fighting. “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4). We’re not down and out when we sin. Instead, we’re given a fresh chance at obedience.

Brother and sister, stay at it. God loves you and cares for you and forgives you. I’m there with you. Don’t give up.

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There are days when I feel like the patriots at Valley Forge. I’m disappointed, I’m worn out, I’m discouraged, I’m ticked off at how things are going in my daily fight with sin.

But I must, I repeat, I MUST recall these things to my mind, or else I lose all hope of ever attaining victory. We have won the war already. Jesus won it for us on the cross. But we get a chance to fight the battles leading up to that end, opportunities to defeat sin and give glory to God each and every day.

Press on.

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