30 on 30: Alvin York
Welcome to this installment of the TJC DBO series: "30 on 30”
Throughout scripture we read many names for our God; one of which is El Gibbor - recognizing God as the mighty warrior and champion.
In 2 Samuel, Chapter 23, verses 8-39, we read a list of David’s mighty men, the Gibbor - the list of men who bring about Great Victory. These are men who personify Psalms 112:1-10 who fear God and obey God.
Over 30 days of DBOs, 30 authors and guests will be exploring the lives of 30 Gibbors, mighty men, mighty warriors who across the ages have feared and obeyed God. This will likely include Pastors, Saints, Martyrs, Coaches, Athletes, Politicians, and others who we can read and learn about as mighty men of God. Our goal is to motivate you to learn more about these mighty men, whose shoulders we can stand on, as we learn from their decisions across the generations of battlefields.
“But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.” -Eziekiel 33:6
Have you ever been confronted with the pressure to do something that opposed your
convictions? As Kingdom Men, we often find ourselves running against the grain of our culture. Our faith, values, and morals are under constant assault from the world and the powers of darkness. These tests may discourage us, dishearten us, and even make us feel alone. However, they also present us with an opportunity to evaluate whether our beliefs are consistent with biblical truth. Such was the case with World War I hero Sergeant Alvin York (1887-1964) who encountered a series of critical turning points which drove him to become a courageous Kingdom Man.
In 1887, Alvin was born the third of eleven children in a poor farming family in Pall Mall,
Tennessee. When his father died in 1911, his mother did her best to continue passing on the couple’s fundamentalist Christian faith and values to Alvin and his younger siblings. Yet Alvin spurned his upbringing, choosing instead to spend much of his twenties frequenting saloons where he got drunk and fought with other patrons. He was living a double life—attending church regularly and even leading worship on Sunday mornings, while being an alcoholic and a brawler the rest of the week. His mother pleaded with him to forsake this reckless lifestyle, but to no avail—his heart was coldly indifferent to the things of God. It was not until he witnessed the violent and traumatic death of his friend during a saloon fight that the Holy Spirit opened his eyes to the grim reality of where his ways would ultimately lead him. Then, on New Year’s Day
of 1915, Alvin attended a revival led by guest preacher Rev. W. W. Loveless of the Churches of Christ in Christian Union denomination. It was there that he called upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. With the new year came a new Alvin—his genuine conversion was followed by him joining the C.C.C.U. and adopting all of the denomination’s tenets as his own, including their condemnation of drinking, swearing, war and violence. He was a changed man.
About two years later on June 5 th , 1917, Alvin’s convictions were put to the test with the arrival of a US draft registration letter. Not only would the draft be an intrusion in his young marriage with his devout Christian wife, Gracie, but it posed a serious conflict of loyalties between his God and his country. In his diary, he penned these words: “I wanted to follow both. But I couldn’t. I wanted to do what was right…If I went away to war and fought and killed, according to the reading of my Bible, I weren’t a good Christian.” He accepted his pastor’s advice to apply as a conscientious objector. However, this petition was denied, and he was drafted to serve as a soldier in Company G, 328th Infantry Regiment, 82nd Infantry Division at Camp Gordon, Georgia. His outspoken objection to fighting and violence was well-known among his unit and
was brought to the attention of his commanding officer, Captain Danforth, who was himself a Christian. The captain tried to help Alvin see the war in a different light, but Alvin was not convinced. As the First World War raged across Europe, the inner conflict between Alvin’s pacifism and his patriotism waged war in his own heart. Eventually, Captain Danforth encouraged Alvin to return home for a ten day leave of absence to seek the Lord’s will in this matter. After a brief visit with his family and pastor, he withdrew to the solitude of the beautiful Tennessee mountains, where he fervently prayed and pored over Scripture. The Lord began to still his heart; however, his inner turmoil did not fully dissipate until after he had returned to his unit. It was then that Captain Danforth shared with him Ezekiel 33:6—“But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.” Gripped by the truth that he could not stand idly by as his people suffered by enemy hands, Alvin rose from his seat to affirm, “All right. I’m satisfied.” This marked yet another major turning point in Alvin’s young life—his unswerving pacifism was radically transformed into a resolve to protect his fellow man.
Alvin not only reformed his views on war but put them into action. He went on to secure a major victory against the Germans during the Battle of the Argonne Forest in France which earned him a Medal of Honor and his promotion from Corporal to Sergeant. This is an incredible story for another time (please see the resources listed below to read more!).
Daily Battle Order:
For our purposes today, let us consider two important lessons we can glean from the life of Alvin York—courage and humility. Alvin demonstrated tremendous courage by standing upon his principles even when it was very
unpopular to do so. Though he eventually learned that his beliefs on war were misguided, his dedication to upholding them is nonetheless commendable and exemplary. May we remember that we are called to be men of integrity and character even when the current of our culture flows in the opposite direction. Second, Alvin had the humility to submit his convictions to the scrutiny of the Bible and to change them according to truth. His example reminds us that we should always let the Word of God guide and shape our beliefs rather than dogma or traditions, keeping our hearts and minds ever pliable to the illumination of the Holy Spirit. Let us be known as men
who champion truth and refute error, even when the error is our own deeply-held and cherished beliefs, and humbly admit whenever our beliefs are unbiblical or wrong. As we consider these great lessons, I pray that we also will put on the invaluable qualities of courage and humility so that we will fulfill our biblical commission to be Kingdom Men!