On December 25th, 1776, Colonel Rall, commander of the Hessian Mercenaries fighting for the British, was playing cards with his officers in their barracks in Trenton, NJ. It was a time of recreation, rarely enjoyed during this military engagement against General Washington and his American troops. Seeing that the American forces were on the other side of the Delaware river, and there was a heavy snow and hail storm outside, the Hessians felt they could comfortably indulge in a few hands. When it was the Colonel's turn to deal, one of their spies came to the door, demanding to speak to him. The Colonel did not appreciate the interruption at such a critical point of his game, so he told the spy to write down his information and pass it in. The spy did so, and Rall pocketed the note without reading it, since the game consumed all of his attention at the moment. Later, after he had gone to sleep, in the early morning hours of the 26th, the sound of musket fire reverberated throughout the Hessian camp. The mercenaries, panic stricken, quickly surrendered to Washington's forces who had capitalized on the element of surprise. After being taken into custody as a prisoner of war, Colonel Rall remembered the note in his pocket that had been given to him earlier that night. It said that Washington's troops had just been spotted attempting to cross the Delaware. Colonel Rall had discovered that fact on his own, however, just a little too late.
One could just imagine Rall's frustration in realizing that he could have avoided the greatest embarrassment of the war by simply reading the note. In his case however, the game he was playing seemed to be more important at the time. It is easy for us to shake our heads and say "how absurd; the war for the Hessians was lost because of one man's infatuation with a card game." Although it sounds silly, think about how it mirrors our lives. Jesus said that he was going to return at a time that we do not expect. We are encouraged to "not be asleep like the rest, but be alert and self-controlled." (I Thessalonians 5:6) Christ's coming is imminent, yet we go about our lives, trying to occupy our minds with some of the most trivial, insignificant things. For some of us its football. Others its TV, or shopping, or some other seemingly harmless activity. One of the fruit of the spirit is self-control, which is the virtue of focusing your activities on the directives of the Spirit. Walking in the Spirit does not mean flitting about and doing whatever your whims lead you to do. No, instead, it is a disciplined life, that can wait upon God, receive from Him, and yield it's activities and actions to that leading of God. What if Christ returned tonight? Would he find you alert, vigilant, and looking for his coming? Would he find us living a disciplined life, ordered after the directives of Scripture? Or would he find us playing our own special game of cards, engrossed in our own pursuit of enjoyment and gratification? He has promised to come when we least expect it. Maranatha.