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John Bradshaw - The Greatest War


John Bradshaw - The Greatest War
John Bradshaw - The Greatest War
TOPICS: Spiritual warfare

This is It Is Written. I’m John Bradshaw. Thanks for joining me. Seems like a strange sort of a name for a war: the Great War. They said it would be the war that would end all wars. And, of course, it wasn’t. Now, there is a war that will end all wars. Maybe we should call that one "the Greatest War". And to dig into it, we’re going to learn some lessons from the past today that will help us better understand our future. Now, some things get started in some odd places. And this surely seems like an odd place for a global conflict to kick off in. But kick off it did, right here.

This is Sarajevo. It was once a part of the Ottoman Empire, or the Turkish Empire, which stretched through the Balkans into Greece and Turkey, the Middle East and North Africa, and which ruled for hundreds of years. After the Ottoman Empire, Sarajevo was in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. For the better part of the 20th century it was part of Yugoslavia, communist for half a century. And since 1992 it’s been the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It’s a city with an especially painful past, littered with war and conflict and bloodshed and loss of life. A rose in Sarajevo means something different to what it means where you live. I’ll explain later.

The Winter Olympics coming here in 1984 suggested this was a city with a bold, bright future. Instead, less than a decade after Sarajevo hosted the Winter Olympics, the city was plunged into chaos. And the conflicts that have marked the history of this beautiful city speak of a bigger, bloodier conflict that threatens the world today. The key event that led to the start of World War I happened here, in Sarajevo. The war to end all wars began here. In fact, right there. It was 1914, and Bosnia and Herzegovina was under the rule of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Austro-Hungarian Empire existed for about 50 years, and it controlled not only Austria and Hungary, but what today we’d call the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Croatia, Slovenia, parts of Poland, Romania and the Ukraine, part of Italy, and the north of Serbia.

Many people who were getting tired of being ruled by outsiders. Feelings of nationalism were heating up all across Europe. Ethnic minorities were struggling to forge their own unique identities. Democracy was rising In the early 20th century, but Austria-Hungary, Germany, and Russia were controlled, basically, by generals and officials around the monarch. No democracy there. Europe was basically divided into two factions: Austria-Hungary and Germany on one side, with Great Britain, France, and Russia on the other. Industrialization had pressed society forward, but a lot of people who worked long hours and lived in deplorable conditions didn’t see much advantage. Conditions were ripe for revolution. And on June the 28th, 1914, the revolution began. It’s interesting when you consider how a war can get started. But there’s another war we’re going to take a look at that has a far more surprising start, and a much more far-reaching influence.

Archduke Franz Ferdinand was the heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He'd been invited by the governor of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which at that time was a province in the empire, to come to Sarajevo and spend three days watching troops on maneuvers. When the procession in which the archduke was traveling passed the main Sarajevo police station, a would-be assassin threw a grenade at the car in which he was traveling. Two men in the car were seriously wounded.

After attending a reception at City Hall, the archduke requested that he be taken to the hospital to visit the two wounded men. The governor decided the archduke should not travel through the center of the city for the sake of his safety, and he decided that he should instead go another route. But somebody forgot to tell the driver. When they were crossing the Miljacka River on the Latin Bridge, the governor then realized they were going the wrong way. He asked the driver to turn around. So the driver put the vehicle in reverse and started to back up. He was therefore traveling very slowly, and it was then that a 19-year-old Serbian with a pistol and a grudge against the empire stepped out of the crowd and fired two shots, hitting the archduke’s wife, Sophia, and the archduke himself. Both were dead within an hour.

A month later, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. Less than a week later, Germany, Austria-Hungary’s close ally, declared war on Russia, which had begun to mobilize its troops. Germany invaded Luxembourg and declared war on France, which it wanted to invade. Germany invaded Belgium. Britain declared war on Germany. Austria-Hungary declared war on Russia. Britain declared war on Austria-Hungary. And before you knew it, there were, depending on how you count, 40 or so countries involved in World War I. Great Britain, Russia, France, Germany, Austria-Hungary, as well as Panama, Cuba, Siam (that's today's Thailand), Nepal, New Zealand, Australia, Rhodesia (that's today's Zimbabwe), South Africa. War has a habit of affecting an awful lot of people.

The United States joined World War I in 1917 and sent 2 million men and women overseas. New York sent 368,000. Pennsylvania, 298,000. Illinois, a quarter of a million. Ohio, 200,000. One hundred thousand went from both Iowa and Minnesota; 75,000 each from Kentucky and Tennessee. And there were many more. One hundred and sixteen thousand Americans died, more than half due to disease. Three-and-a-half million prisoners of war were held during World War I. It’s estimated 5 million civilians perished as a result of the war. About 65 million soldiers fought and over 9 million of them died. One in three French men between the ages of 18 and 30 had died by 1917. That’s a lot of death. Almost 40 years before, General Sherman had made his famous statement when he said, "War is hell".

Now, soldiers were finding that out for themselves. Most of the men who went off to war thought that they were in for a glorious adventure. They thought the conflict be short and that they’d be home by Christmas. Well, it wasn’t, and they weren’t. And it all began here in Sarajevo, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a country with a population today of around three-and-a-half million people, smaller than West Virginia. An unlikely place for a war to start. But wars can begin in unlikely places. And the greatest war of all began in the one place that you would never expect. It involves everyone in the world, and whether you like it or not, you’re involved too. I’ll tell you more in just a moment.

Thanks for joining me today on It Is Written. I’m in Sarajevo, in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This is where World War I began. World War I ended in 1918. But that did not mean peace would come to Bosnia. Far from it. War is waged ostensibly to bring about or to restore peace and order. But that doesn’t always happen. In fact, sometimes war brings about more war. After World War I ended, Europe inherited Communism, Nazism, and fascism. And 21 years later, World War II. So where did all this begin? Where did human beings develop their penchant, their inclination for war? The most surprising of places. You read about it in Revelation 12, verse 7: "And there was war in heaven: Michael and His angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels".

War began in heaven. From heaven it came to the earth. And on earth, it continues. So why did it begin? Well, let’s ask ourselves, why did World War I begin? Well, Gavrilo Princep shot the archduke, right? Well, yes, but it goes deeper. People didn’t want to be ruled over, especially by outsiders. Why should Bosnians or Serbs be ruled by Austrians and Hungarians? And why should Austrians and Hungarians presume to want to rule over Bosnians and Croats and Serbs and Romanians and Czechs?

Now we can understand a little better why war began in heaven. Long ago, Satan said in his heart, "I will be like the Most High". That’s Isaiah 14:14. A desire to sit in God’s place. At once, a refusal to submit to just leadership, and a desire to set himself up as a ruler over others. Before long, Satan had deceived a third of the angels in heaven. You see that in Revelation 12, verse 4: And he came to the earth to get the worship he wasn’t able to get in heaven. But peace doesn’t come following a war unless someone is willing to do something decisive.

The Great War didn’t end war, because it couldn’t fix the broken human heart. After World War I, Bosnia and Herzegovina was pressed into Yugoslavia, along with Slovenia, Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, and Macedonia. But when Communism collapsed in the early 1990s, the fight was on for who would control what, and who would control who, in the form of Yugoslavia. Bosnians wanted to control their own affairs. But not everyone saw it that way. There was a push to create a Bosnian Serb state. Some planned to have Bosnia and Herzegovina split between Serbia and Croatia. Sarajevo was under siege by Serbs for four years, the longest any capital city has ever been under siege.

The horrors of the Bosnian War were horrible. Many people were killed. War crimes were committed. Ratko Mladic became known as the Butcher of Bosnia for his role in the Bosnian War. Mass murder. Torture. Mutilation. Rape. It was after the Bosnian War that mass rape was acknowledged as a war crime. The group Doctors Without Borders says, "Systematic rape was used as part of the strategy of ethnic cleansing" by Serbian troops during the Bosnian War. Eight thousand men and boys were massacred over three days in the town of Srebrenica, less than a hundred miles from here. Mladic is currently serving a lifetime prison sentence in the Hague in the Netherlands. Radovan Karadzic was sentenced to 40 years.

Slobodan Milosevic attempted to orchestrate the creation of a greater Serbia, and Bosnia would have fallen victim to Milosevic’s plans had they succeeded. Milosevic died in prison. Today there are still divisions along ethnic and religious lines in Bosnia. Some of the scars of war here can still be seen in the buildings. The Sarajevo rose I mentioned earlier? Sarajevo roses don’t grow on bushes. The Sarajevo rose is a mark left in concrete by an exploded mortar shell that has since been filled with red resin, as a reminder of what has taken place here. You didn’t want to be here during the siege of Sarajevo. Dangerous, dangerous place. Planet Earth is currently under siege.

According to the Bible, we’re all involved in a war. And it’s serious. That verse we looked at a moment ago, Revelation 12:7: "And there was war in heaven: Michael and His angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels". Verse 8: "And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven". And now verse 9: "And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him". The focus of the war in heaven has become the war here on earth. And we see its effects everywhere. Sin entered the world when Adam and Eve yielded to the temptations of Satan. And sin brought death and pain and sorrow and injustice and cruelty and war and ethnic cleansing. And so it goes. In God is life. Separated from God, there is no life.

And because God has given everybody freedom of choice, it’s up to each person to decide individually what side he or she wishes to be on. But in a war, you can choose to be on the right side and still get wounded. Imagine being here in Sarajevo during the war, and having to duck down or hide as you move about from place to place, to make yourself less of a target for a sniper. Because being on the right side doesn’t guarantee your safety. During World War I, German U-boats sank the Lusitania, a passenger ship with almost 2,000 people on board; 1,200 died. The Germans said that because she was carrying hundreds of tons of munitions, she was a legitimate target. The people on the ship thought they were safe and wouldn’t be targeted. They were innocent, but, during war, innocent people often suffer.

And that’s why people suffer today. Innocent people: a child, a follower of Jesus. People suffer because there’s a spiritual war raging. And there’s an enemy looking to cause casualties. The Bible says in 1 Peter 5:8, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour". Now, that’s serious. There’s an enemy who’s actively looking to take lives. He’s trying to ruin, well, you and me. So what are you doing, proactively, to keep yourself safe in this war? What are you doing intentionally to safeguard your soul? How can a person be safe? What can you do to make sure you experience victory in this war? Let’s talk about that in just a moment.

Thanks for joining me today on It Is Written. The city of Sarajevo in Bosnia Herzegovina was where World War I was born. A Serb named Gavrilo Princip shot and killed the heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire as well as the heir’s wife, setting the wheels in motion that would result in millions of deaths and untold horror. This same city was under siege for four years by Serbians who were trying to take the territory and divide it between themselves and Croatians. Four years of shelling and sniper attacks. More than 100,000 deaths, a city devastated, and a long hard recovery process which is far from over.

About 50 miles in a straight line from here is the town of Mostar. Mostar is famous for its old bridge, the Stari Most. Except, the old bridge in Mostar today isn’t old. It’s really very new. The original was completed in 1576 or thereabouts, and it stood for 427 years, until it was destroyed by Croat forces in the Bosnian War. Now, the bridge wasn’t of any strategic importance at all, so it seems the destruction of the bridge was simply an attempt to wipe out traces of Bosnian culture. Now, keep this in mind about the Bosnian War. Bosnia is a majority Muslim country. The Croats are largely Catholic, while the Serbians are basically Orthodox, which is pretty much Catholic. So while this war was about territory, it was also about religion. The new bridge was completed in 2004. No, it’s not the original, but it is still regarded today as one of the most iconic bridges in all of the world. Now, speaking of destroyed, in 1984, Sarajevo was the host city for the XIV Winter Olympics.

The bobsled track hasn’t been used in years. It was left to go to ruin, really, a fitting symbol for what happened to the city of Sarajevo. The other Olympics Games facilities were either neglected or destroyed in the war, a war that came to Bosnia just eight years after the Olympic Games. The Bosnian War has pretty well been forgotten by the world, and it’s a lot like that with the Great War. Here’s what we know. An angel named Lucifer rebelled in heaven. Unhappy with his place, he wanted worship. Cast out of heaven, he came to the newly created earth, and led Adam and Eve into sin. God then had a rogue planet on His hands. What would He do? John 3:16 says that "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life".

When the planet rebelled and sin entered the world, God could have simply decided He was done with it. But He didn’t. A couple of reasons why. One, the angels didn’t understand all the issues. If God destroyed Lucifer when rebellion occurred, heaven would then have been filled with fear and not love. The universe would have been plunged into disarray and confusion. Beyond that, God had a plan. He said, I’ll show the world that I’m good. I’ll let them see that God is love, and offer everyone who wants it the gift of everlasting life. When the saved get to heaven, nobody’s going to say, if only God had destroyed Lucifer. Everyone’s going to say, we are glad He waited for us. And think about who paid the most for sin. Sin cost God far more than anybody else. He paid a gigantic price. Jesus, the divine Son of God, would bear the sin of the world.

There’s no other belief system in the world that offers you what God offers you in Jesus Christ. The Great War continues, but victory is now guaranteed. Back in the Garden of Eden, God told Satan that while the serpent would bruise Jesus’ heel, Jesus would bruise the head of the serpent. Satan would be defeated. At Calvary, the outcome of the Great War was decided. So the war rages on, as a defeated fallen angel tries to do as much damage as possible and keep as many people as possible away from faith in God. How’s it working out for him? Well, look around the world. You’d have to think he’s doing pretty well. But how’s it going for you? You know, there are two sides in this war: Christ and Satan. Satan has been defeated.

So when you choose Jesus, you’re choosing the side of victory. So whose side would you say you’re on today? To be on God’s side, it’s simple. You just surrender your life to Jesus. You know how it goes in war. Often, victory is only decided when somebody decides to surrender. They say, we are not going to fight anymore. That’s where we find ourselves. When we’re not surrendered to God, we are fighting against God. We want our will done rather than His. So if it’s time to do so, do it now. Raise the white flag and say, that’s it, God. I don’t want to fight You anymore. I surrender. I want Jesus to live His life in me. I want You to come into my heart and just take over and let Your will be done. And when you do that, when you surrender your life to God, that’s when you know the peace of God. And that’s when you face a certain future.

Our Father in heaven, we come to You in the name of Jesus, the Prince of Peace. And we are grateful that even though we live in a world that is troubled by warfare and disputes and unrest, that there is victory, there is triumph, and there is peace in You, the God of heaven. Then, Lord, we consider what’s going on in our own hearts: trouble, discouragement, trials, worry. And so I pray that Jesus, the Prince of Peace, will move into every heart and bring with Him the peace of heaven.


Friend, is it peace you want? Is it peace you need? You can have it now in Jesus. Would you lift your heart up to God and say:

Lord, give me peace. Give me Jesus. Give me the presence of the God of heaven. Lord, that’s our prayer. We believe it. We believe that as we reach out to You, You’ve reached out to us already, and You give us heaven’s perfect peace and assurance in Jesus. We pray with grateful thanks, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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