Semper fidelis “always faithful”

Semper fidelis “always faithful”

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. – Philippians 1:21

Philippians 3:7-10

 7 I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done.

 8 Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ

 9 and become one with him . . .

 10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead.

The Triune God

A story is told of a young draftee back in the early 1970s during the Vietnam war. One of the questions asked on the papers he was required to fill out was, “to whom do you owe your highest loyalty?” His answer was the “Triune God”.

The Army recruiter reviewing his papers was unfamiliar with the “Triune God.” The young man was brought in for an interview. They were suspicious because of all the antiwar fervor in the country at the time. The location was California. And there were all kinds of new religious cults run by demagogues. The recruiter thought perhaps he was a member of some oddball religious cult. After the interview, the recruiter still didn’t get it. The young man was given a 4-D, a religious deferment, and exempted from military service. Rather than serving the country in the military, he went on to serve the “Triune God” as a missionary.

Semper fidelis is a Latin phrase that means “always faithful” or “always loyal”. It is the motto of the United States Marine Corps, usually shortened to Semper Fi.

Another U.S. Marine credo is, “For God, Corps, Country.” Their core values are Honor, Courage and Commitment. They stand for freedom and liberty, in service to God, Corps, and country.

For Marines, the Marine Corps is the second most important thing in their life, second only their faith in God ranks higher. Being a Marine is a mental attitude and a way of life. Their new life begins at the moment they earn the title “United States Marine.” Being a Marine is their identity for the rest of their lives. There is no such thing as an ex-Marine. It is not considered a job.

Putting the Corps before country basically means you will never do anything to dishonor the Marine Corps, not ever. Because of their honor, sense of duty and loyalty, as the Marines serve the Corps, they serve the country as well.

Marines swear an oath to the Marine Corps. They also swear an oath to the United States of America. They put the Corps first over country because the Corps represents their fellow Marines. They are their family. They run towards the firefight, not away. They take care of their own, and they do it fiercely. When the bullets start flying, they are there for each other. The country is not going through their mind.

REFLECT & PRAY

Talk is cheap, but be ready and willing to die for our faith is an entirely different matter.

Father how I wish I could be like Paul and the three Hebrew young men. Help me to get my priorities straight and be faithful and prepared to lay down my life for my faith.

INSIGHT

The three Hebrew young men explicitly declared their allegiance to the God of their fathers. In the face of a horrendous death by fire in a blazing hot furnace, their highest loyalty was to the triune God. They absolutely refused to compromise or capitulate and become like everybody else. They stood firm in their faith, and would not bow down before, nor, serve and worship a graven image. In face of certain death, they were resolved to stand firm and die for their convictions.

Daniel 3:16-18

 16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you.

 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty.

 18 But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”

Standing firm to their convictions and fidelity to their Father God, they foreshadowed the courage and devotion of what would one day characterize the United States Marines. They were always faithful and never backed down. They were Semper fidelis, תָּמִיד tamid always אָמַן, aman faithful.

Philippians 1:21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.  

Paul had thought through and contemplated the meaning and purpose of life. Paul tells us what both living and dying meant to him. It all boiled down to one simple sentence, “to live is Christ and to die is gain.” While Paul lives, he serves and helps others. But when he dies, he gets to be face-to-face with the Lord Jesus Christ. Which for Paul, is far better. It is delightful gain. It is actually somewhat ambivalent and torn between the two.

In the original Greek, the phrase is very terse lacking verbs. The words do not lend themselves to an English translation that captures their forceful significance: to live Christ, to die gain. The literal Greek phrases and translation are below.

to zēn Christos to live Christ, to apothaneins kerdosto die gain

No doubt, this was the maxim by which Paul lived.

“Paul’s only reason for existence is that he may spend his life in that glad service; and death for that cause will be the crowning service” (Ralph P. Martin).

Wesley, in his hymn, O Thou who camest from above, got it right:

 Ready for all Thy perfect will, My acts of faith and love repeat,

 Till death Thy endless mercies seal, And make the sacrifice complete.

When you find yourself in tough, difficult, or even life-threatening situations, what comes into your mind first? To what or Whom you will your highest allegiance.

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