Lives Changed Not Land Captured – Success Measured by Wrong Data

Vietnam was a war like no other war that American forces had ever been engaged in previously. Unlike World War I or World War II where geographical gains (or loses) were determinate of winning (or losing) battles, Vietnam, in contrast, was a war where geographic control had little to do with the overall outcome of the war nor did it signify win or lost in battles. Vietnam was a war of attrition, one where body-count was the determining factor and because of this “gaining ground” had little to do with logistics and therefore no one could look at a logistic map and see progress. Hills were taken only to be abandoned, fire-fights were engaged in with no real concept of “taking ground” from the enemy.

For instance, in May of 1969, US troops began Operation Apache Snow with the goal of clearing the People’s Army of Vietnam from the A Shau Valley in South Vietnam. Located near the border with Laos, the valley had become an infiltration route into South Vietnam and a haven for PAVN forces. The A Shau Valley was covered in thick jungle and dominated by Ap Bia Mountain, which had been designated Hill 937. Unconnected to the surrounding ridges, Hill 937 stood alone and, like the surrounding valley, was heavily forested.

Due to the grinding nature of the fighting on Hill 937, it became known as “Hamburger Hill.” In the fighting, US and ARVN forces suffered 70 killed and 372 wounded. Total PAVN casualties are unknown, but 630 bodies were found on the hill after the battle.

Hamburger Hill, Hill 937, that had been savagely fought over for 10 days was quietly abandoned after only 15 days of attainment by American forces. Why? Because taking the hill was never the objective – “seek and destroy,” however, was the real intent. This situation of gaining and abandoning ground was reenacted countless times during the 10 years of the Vietnam War. Too many bodies – too little gain. This was one of the major reasons that the American people became disillusioned with the war and the why the pressure was applied that caused America to forfeit the war itself.

There is a similar psychological factor attached to the work of the gospel. The function of the overall work of the gospel is to win souls not to “gain ground” from the enemy in this world. One cannot look at a map and see the progress of the Gospel, rather one must see the lives changed and transformed by the Spirit of Almighty God. Far too many people become disillusioned about the work of the Gospel because they want to see “progress” measured in size, amount and “ground taken.” These factors, however, will never be the true indicators of Gospel success.

Being “rich and increased with goods” is not a true gauge of spiritual success. However, many individuals judge “size” as an equivalent of “success.” If one uses these kinds of measurements then the Roman Catholic church is, by far, the leader in spiritual success…. but we know that is hardly the case.

In reality, the Gospel has closed few bars and emptied few gambling halls or cleared out many jails. The Gospel, nonetheless, has taken souls from all those places and rescued individuals from every walk and power on earth. The Gospel saves souls.

We must refuse to “look at the map” to determine Gospel success. The work of the Kingdom can never be judged by the material of this world but must be ascertained by the Will of God. The work of the Gospel is not one that can be easily seen by the visible since it is a work that resides in the unseen – it is neither meat nor drink but righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.


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