Peter Akech is one of the bravest, faith-filled, godly men I’ve ever met. We worked together during South Sudan’s civil war with the government of Sudan, on a team of missionaries training men to be chaplains in the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army.
Peter has led hundreds of men to the Lord while bullets whizzed overhead, ordnance exploded, and men lay dying in his arms. Military chaplains, in accordance with the Geneva Convention, are internationally recognized as noncombatants. The only thing he ever armed himself with was a smooth wooden cross that he carried as a staff or wore in his belt like a small sword, a symbol of his faith and his mission.
One day the unit he was attached to came under heavy artillery fire. Peter took cover in a foxhole, which is less like a ditch you’d see in war movie and more like a burrow tunneled into the ground. When Peter got all the way into the hole, he found himself face-to-face with a king cobra ready to strike. Peter spoke to the snake. There was only one thing that needed to be said: “My friend, today one of us is going die.”
That’s it. Peter had to stand and fight, or die. There was no third option. No compromise. No negotiation. No way to come out of the hole as comrades. Only one came out of the foxhole alive. One went on to do more ministry, the other was turned into a handsome pair of cowboy boots.
“Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.”—1 Corinthians 16:13-14 (ESV)
This verse is delivered in an ascending order, the way a platoon leader barks commands to one of his soldiers. Watch. Stand. Be a man. Use all your strength to hold the line. When you do this enough, it becomes second nature, and when you crawl into a hole with snake—while never under-estimated—the snake loses.
As men, we’re built to stand firm. It comes to us naturally. Where we need some training are in the causes or issues we stand on. Who are we standing against? Who are we standing with? How do we stand? These are the questions we wrestle with. So many voices contend for our attention and we’re not able to take the time to intentionally align our priorities with Christ—the One who created and commissioned us to represent Him in His world.
Stand against the schemes of the devil (Ephesians 6:11)
One of the things I know about Peter Akech is he’s a soldier, and a soldier never has the full picture. He doesn’t know what the overall battle strategy is. Generals formulate strategy. The man on the ground is ordered to hold the line where his feet are planted. If he does his job well, the enemy won’t breach there. The line you hold could very well be the moment in the war where the tide turns.
Stand mature (Colossians 4:12)
Believe it or not, maturity takes strength. It’s not the kind of strength that comes from a surge of adrenaline; it’s the strength that comes from building muscle over a period of time and in a disciplined, useful way. There’s power, purpose, confidence, and experience that comes from steady, intentional, repeated application. This needs to start today—it’s how maturity is developed. There’s too much at stake to put it off any longer.
Stand and support your brothers (2 Timothy 4:16)
Stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the men who’ve poured into you and the men you’re pouring into. There is no doing this on your own. There’s no success and no celebration when you go alone or without support. If you don’t position yourself in a place to support others, you leave your brother, who you love, exposed.
When I played football in high school, we used to watch these 8mm films of our opponents. There was one time when we watched the other team’s running back make an amazing play. It was beautiful. This kid put a move on one guy, stood hard and planted his feet, juked him, and then JUMPED OVER THE LINE MEN as they missed the tackle. We watched this play over and over until we understood what our opponent was capable of.
We had to memorize that kids number. Number 34. Robbie Harrison. I’ve never forgotten what that kid was capable of.
I never forgot that kid’s number. Number 34.
That was more than twenty years ago.
You have an opponent that knows your number. He’s watching every move you make and devising a game plan to counter your strengths, find the places where you’re soft, and take you down in a way that is painful and public. Don’t let him succeed.