Walking the Battlefields

By Tristan Kirn. Notes from NCF Church’s weekly staff meeting compiled by Sabine Mahabeer.

“The empire on which the sun never sets”, namely the British Empire, faced one of its’ most humiliating defeats to this day on 22 January 1879. As we look at this valuable piece of history, let us see what we can learn from it:

The British empire had colonies on every continent and was forever-expanding its’ territory and wealth.  One of these colonies happened to be in South Africa. In their pursuits to extend their influence, the English entertained a dream to build a rail road from Cape to Cairo.

However, they met with some unforseen opposition. On the on side, there was the Transvaal Province, which was extremely rich in gold, and then there was the Zulu Kingdom. Not wanting to risk losing their gold resources, the British decided to overtake the Zulu Kingdom and posed an ultimatum: The Zulus were to give up their army or face an attack of the British Army.

The Zulus did not bow down to this demand. Their army was strong and durable, able to cover great distances in short periods of time and excellent at handling their weapons. It was part of who they were and to give up their identity was unthinkable.

The commander-in-chief of the British army, Lord Chelmsford, was over-confident in believing they could achieve a glorious victory within three days. He ignored concerns voiced to him, and split his army in two, shunning the wisdom of proven battle tactics to “never split your force in two, especially in enemy territory.”

The British were not prepared for what happened next: An English scout unknowingly happened upon a sight too overwhelming to comprehend: A massive army of almost 30 000 Zulus standing in total silence, awaiting the command of their leader, Cetshwayo.

When that command came, the Zulus marched forward and overtook the British camp “like a black shadow”. The British army was defeated and utterly humiliated in a matter of minutes.

What lessons can we depict from this short history lesson?

We are better together

The biggest error of the British army, during the battle of Isandlwana, was that Chelmsford split his force.

In ministry there can’t be any “splitting of our forces” or any division. We need to be united as one. Ministry as a unit is better together .

“I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.”  1 Corinthians 1:10

Even Jesus, who is our great commander-in-chief, did not work alone. He worked with a team and they ministered together. No one went out to do their own thing, they came together under one banner, looked to Jesus for direction and moved forward as one.

We need to be humble

All historians agree that the reason the British lost, was due to the fact that they utterly underestimated the Zulu army.  This was because of their great pride and their arrogance.

In James 4:6 we read, “God opposes the proud but shows favour to the humble”. It is good to have courage, but we cannot confuse it with pride. Courage is executing what God has called us to do through His strength. Pride is our own self-righteousness hindering us from seeking God.

It is easy to get caught up in our own self-belief and to become over-confident in our own strengths and abilities. However, this causes us to miss the plot and, ultimately, to lose the battle. We need to be humble enough to realise that God is our strength and that we need Him to do ministry and to do it well.


Feature image acknowledgment:www.robcaskie.com