Section navigation

Pull the Trigger

Category Articles
Date May 15, 2015

Without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). Fight the good fight of faith (1 Timothy 6:12).

George McClellan was born in Philadelphia to a prominent family of high society. His father was a prosperous surgeon and well respected leader of the city. George was an educational prodigy. By the time he was a teen he was fluent in Latin and French. He enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania at the age of thirteen and studied classical literature. At the age of fifteen he enrolled in the United States Military Academy at West Point. He was such a gifted student that he rarely had to study. He was the President of the Dialectic Society, a club for the intellectual élite of West Point. But when he realized he would finish second in his graduating class, he complained to his mother, ‘Toiling uphill is not what it is cracked up to be.’ He told his family that his professors were discriminating against him, giving him lower grades in recitation than his competitor for the first rank in his class. And when he wrote home to his sister, we see even more clearly his weaknesses. He was a petulant, vainglorious, narcissistic, blame-shifter with a martyr’s complex. He wrote, ‘I know not what fate has in store for me. I only know that I must expect the hardest of trials a proud spirt can bear before I can effect anything.’

After the Confederate army under P.G.T. Beauregard routed the Union Army at Manassas in July, 1861, the northern army was in total disarray. General George McClellan was appointed by President Abraham Lincoln to lead the Army of the Potomac. McClellan was an excellent administrator and motivator. He instilled a sense of self-confidence in his army. He whipped it into shape very quickly and had numerous displays of its marching prowess on parade fields around Washington D.C. The President, Congress, and people of prominence were duly impressed. Indeed, the precision with which his army marched, the vast supply of materiel, and its overwhelming size awed those watching these spectacular displays. All believed the war would end very quickly under McClellan’s able leadership.

By May of 1862 McClellan was on the move. His plan was to take Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy and thus force the capitulation of the enemy. He sent 110,000 men up the Peninsula from Yorktown to attack Richmond. President Jefferson Davis of the Confederacy had just appointed General Robert E. Lee to lead the Army of Northern Virginia and Lee knew that the situation was critical, that McClellan was within ten miles or so of Richmond. General Thomas J. ‘Stonewall’ Jackson, the hero of the first battle of Manassas, who was fresh from his recent victories in the Shenandoah Valley, met Lee in Richmond to defend the city. McClellan was convinced that Lee’s army vastly outnumbered his own, that the Rebels had 200,000 men. Lee had only a quarter of that number. The so called ‘Seven Days Campaign,’ June 25-July 1, 1862, resulted in an embarrassing loss for McClellan. He did not have the stomach for the fight. Lincoln and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton were constantly cajoling him to attack, but he did so only half-heartedly. His old problem of blame shifting and a martyr’s complex was evident. He wrote to Edwin Stanton, ‘The rebel force is stated at two hundred thousand men, including Jackson and Beauregard . . . I regret my great inferiority in numbers but feel I am in no way responsible for it. I will do all that a General can with the splendid Army I have the honor to command and if it is destroyed by overwhelming numbers can at least die with it and share its fate.’ For all his intellectual, oratorical, and administrative skill, when all is said and done, McClellan just could not pull the trigger. He did not want to see his men suffer. More deeply than that, however, he was afraid of failure. He was paralyzed by fear.

It seems to me that much of the evangelical church today in the west is like General McClellan. We have vast resources of materiel and personnel. We spend a great deal of time preparing to do battle. We give our leaders all the training and education they could possibly need. We have long strategy sessions where we plan what we will do. We study the landscape of our cities for months, sometimes years, hoping to better understand the culture of our target groups. It often appears to me that we have little sense of urgency, perhaps even forgetting that we are in a spiritual battle, assuming that we have plenty of time to reach the lost in our cities, failing to remember that men die daily and are hurled headlong into hell.

This begs a question – why is this so? With all the training and resources, why does it take us so long to engage directly in the hard work of evangelism and discipleship, of going urgently, intentionally, and aggressively to the gates of hell which protect the enclave of the evil one, who has millions of people in subjugation to himself, who has blinded the minds of those who are perishing?

Could it be that we really do not believe what the Scriptures say about man, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit? Man is dead in his sins (Eph. 2:1). He does not understand. He does not seek God. His feet are swift to shed innocent blood. He has no fear of God before his eyes (Rom. 3:10ff). He thinks the cross of Christ is utter foolishness (1 Cor. 1:18). He will die and then face judgment (Heb. 9:27; 2 Thess. 1:8, 9) where God will judge his secrets through Christ Jesus. He faces wrath and indignation, tribulation and distress (Rom. 2:5-16). Do you believe that? Really, do you believe that?

God the Father is a God of love, mercy, and grace; but he also is a God of justice and wrath, One who will by no means leave the guilty unpunished (Exod. 34:6, 7; Nahum 1:2,3 ). Christ the Son gave himself up for us that he might bring us to God the Father who reconciles us to himself through Christ’s propitiating and expiating death (Eph. 5:2; Col. 1:19, 20; Rom. 3:24-26). And God the Holy Spirit applies the electing work of the Father, and the redeeming work of the Son by regenerating his people, taking out the heart of rebellion which loves sin and hates God, replacing it with his own heart of righteousness which loves God and hates sin (Ezek. 36:25-27; John 3:3-7), imparting to us the indwelling Spirit who provides us all we need for faith and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3, 4).

My friends, we are in a spiritual war. We are not on a cruise ship, relaxing, taking in nice-tasting food, lounging beside the pool, imbibing of entertainment. We have been drafted by the Holy One and called to spiritual warfare, like soldiers on a troop carrier in World War II, moving rapidly to the theatre of war.

Planning and preparation, of course, are crucial. But enough is enough. It is time to enter the fray. Pull the trigger on your gospel gun. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you the courage and faith to move forward to assail the gates of the kingdom of darkness. No need to fear failure. We are more than conquerors through Christ who loves us. No need to fear death. To live is Christ and to die is gain. No need to hold onto your possessions for personal pleasure. Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also. The body they may kill, God’s truth abideth still. His kingdom is forever.

Rev. Allen M Baker is an evangelist with Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship, and Director of the Alabama Church Planting Network. His weekly devotional, ‘Forget None of His Benefits’, can be found here.

If you would like to respond to Pastor Baker, please contact him directly at

Latest Articles

Every Christian a Publisher! February 27, 2024

The following article appeared in Issue 291 of the Banner Magazine, dated December 1987. ‘The Lord gave the word; great was the company of those that published it’ (Psalm 68.11) THE NEED FOR TRUTH I would like to speak to you today about the importance of the use of liter­ature in the church, for evangelism, […]

Truth’s Defenders Vindicated February 26, 2024

The following words, so contemporary in their feeling and import, come from John Kennedy (presumably of Dingwall), and were published in the 6th Issue of the Banner of Truth Magazine (May, 1957). In times such as ours it is easy to seem a bigot, if one keeps a firm hold of truth, and is careful […]