The world feels like a war zone sometimes. Deadly Ebola virus brought to the US. Extremists slaughtering all who do not share their faith. The news can easily pose the question in our minds that US Army veteran Chris Plekenpol pondered:
“God must have taken a vacation because there’s no way He can be present in a situation like this…”
A believer in Christ and a soldier, Chris loved God deeply and desired nothing more of life than sharing the gospel. Those who give their all to Christ find that life has a way of purifying our desires–of infiltrating life with a vibrancy never imagined before. That experience is humbling and exciting and often painful. Choosing the Prince of Peace as King of Kings does not mean entering a life without struggle. Chris Plekenpol, a US army veteran, understands life and death more vividly today than he did as a 20 year-old fan of Jesus.
Nearing the end of his army tour, his Colonel asked him to take command of a troop. Welcoming the opportunity to be a leader, Mr. Plekenpol accepted the assignment. Less than two weeks later, a chilling request from that same Colonel ushered young Chris into leadership of one hundred men in the Iraqi war zone. The first five minutes of combat, as heatwaves rolled through the 125 degree air, an explosion took the life of his first soldier. Engaged in war–and in the aftermath of the devastation–the words of his faith rang hollow and empty. “I will never leave you or forsake you,” seemed nothing more than church words fit for a safe, quiet church service. Face-to-face with the ugly realities of war, the young leader wondered if his own leader took a vacation.
Finding himself unable to read his Bible or pray, Chris chose to take his frustration and worries to a makeshift chapel. He unloaded all on God and waited to understand. God met him with assurance, but deeper understanding came in a humbling confrontation with a terrorist. Faced with an opportunity to save a terrorist’s life at the risk of his own, Chris could not act. Watching life seep from his enemy, young Plekenpol realized a truth that transformed his faith. It gave him eyes to see that he had been an enemy of God. Abundant, faith-filled life enters when we reach the end of our sufficiency! The life of faith draws us to our own end in increasingly magnificent ways.
That day, Chris understood in a greater way that HIS leader, Jesus Christ, was a leader like no other. Jesus Christ did what Chris could not do: he willing sacrificed himself for his enemy. The younger passion for sharing the gospel was magnified for Chris Plekenpol that day. God took his sincere, youthful desire and matured it in the way only He can do. Chris’ understanding of a life of faith exploded in the war zone of Iraq. It seems God works that way. The news we hear on a daily basis can make us question whether God is on vacation. May we all, like Chris Plekenpol, press in in prayer. We can tell God our hurts, our disappointments and even our lack of faith. He will reveal himself in personal and powerful ways. The King of Kings is not on vacation. He is calling you.
I encourage you to listen to the whole story, here:
And then perhaps you will enjoy reading more of his biography on the website of the church he now pastors: