Here in Great Britain there is much talk about the hundredth anniversary of the beginning of World War I in 1914. Back then each soldier, sailor and airmen was given The Active Service Gospel of John. This 3 inch by 4½ inch, tan-colored booklet contained the complete Gospel of John and four hymns. It was designed to be carried in the front pocket of the uniform. On the inside cover was a personal message from Lord Roberts, a well-known war hero. Heed his timely words.
25th May, 1914. I ask you to put your trust in God. He will watch over you and strengthen you. You will find in this little Book guidance when you are in health, comfort when you are in sickness, and strength when you are in adversity—
U.S. President Woodrow Wilson spoke of World War I as “the war to end all wars.” Sadly, that would not be the case. That world war ended in 1918, only to be followed by another just twenty years later. In fact, many historians tell us there has never been a day in history when there has not been conflict between us and our fellow humans. Then again, we theologians would be quick to point out that ever since the Fall of Adam there has always been—and always will be—conflict between sinful man and Holy God. However, God made peace with Him possible (Romans 5:1). In the midst of the conflict comes the good news of the Gospel of Peace—God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself (2 Corinthians 5:19).
This is the message of the Gospel of John—“written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31). This is the message of the most popular of passages in that same Gospel—“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16). This is also the message that brings, in the words of Lord Roberts, guidance, comfort and strength in health, sickness and adversity.
I suppose one could carry the simple message in their front pocket, NEXT TO their heart. God would prefer we hide these timeless words IN our heart. In this war-torn world, the pocket-sized Gospel needs to become the heart-felt good news.