LeRoy and I are on a little historical tour as we make our way from the conference where I spoke last week to visit our little ones who live in Pennsylvania. While in Philadelphia, we saw the Liberty Bell. Once again, I was struck by the significance of the inscription that encircles the bell:
Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.” (Leviticus 25:10).
I love that this significant symbol of American history is unashamedly adorned with Scripture.
Liberty. That’s what this nation’s birth was all about. Men and women were seeking liberty, and the most significant of those liberties was their right to worship God freely. They were resolved to be free of tyrannical dictatorship. Their crusade for liberty reminds me of my daily struggle: the battle with my flesh, the need for total victory over my self-centered way of living, to live in the liberty Christ brought to me, one held captive by sin.
Liberty’s Winter of Adversity
LeRoy loves history, and he’d never visited Valley Forge, so we spent most of one day there, walking through fields where the Patriot army camped during the long winter of 1777–78. The British had captured Philadelphia, so the Patriots were forced to build an encampment along the Pennsylvania hillside. They experienced unimaginable suffering during that cold, long winter, living in crude huts with limited supplies.
According to historical accounts, men lived whole days at a time on nothing but flour and water baked on hot stones. The huts offered little shelter from the treacherous cold and snow. Most of the soldiers were dressed in rags and those without shoes, ripped strips from their blankets to try to construct a protective covering for their feet.
General Washington wrote: “We have this day no less than 2,873 men in camp unfit for duty because they are barefooted and otherwise naked.”
A story is relayed from a Quaker farmer, Isaac Potts, who lived near Valley Forge. He was walking through the woods near the encampment one day when he spotted a horse tied to a sapling. Potts came over to investigate and through the trees a few feet away, he saw a soldier on his knees in the snow. General Washington was praying, tears streaming down his face, asking God to watch over his men.
Disease, hunger, biting cold, shivering winds, and several feet of snow made for miserable conditions, but even with these obstacles they continued to train and drill, staying in shape for the fight. In spite of all that stood against them, their commitment to liberty never wavered. They were resolved to finish the course they knew God had determined for them. The Patriots believed if they could just live through the winter they would win their freedom.
When they arrived at Valley Forge they numbered 12,000. By the end of the winter, only 8,000 had survived. The men who left that encampment were now better suited for the battle ahead than when they arrived. The long harsh winter had strengthened their resolve, suffering had deepened their courage, and adversity had matured them.
We are in a battle filled with similar obstacles. We may not suffer unclothed in freezing elements, but there are winters of adversity that we walk through as we engage in warfare. I’m thankful that gaining freedom from sin’s bondage, my liberty, doesn’t depend on me, Christ secured that at the cross. But daily I put on the soldier’s uniform as I am still a pilgrim in battle with temptations from the “world, the flesh, and the devil” until the Father takes me home.
The soldiers at Valley Forge provide an inspiring example for me. May I be as diligent in the spiritual battle as they were in fighting for our nation’s liberty. I’m grateful for the blood they shed to obtain the freedom I now enjoy as an American citizen. I am far more grateful for Christ’s blood that was shed to provide my freedom from sin.
May I live in such a way that reflects the grace shown to me, and the privilege I’ve been given.
What are you thankful for today on this day celebrating our nation’s independence and liberty?