A strange tale comes to us from the great Battle of Gettysburg.
At a place called Culp’s Hill, on July 3, 1863, where some of the fiercest fighting took place, Confederate soldiers had been assailing the Union line from about 4 A.M. until about noon. Unable to drive the federals from the hill, the Confederates began to “hunker down” in front of the Union fighting positions.
Commanders from both sides called upon their snipers to try and pick off any exposed enemies soldiers. One of the best Union snipers was First Sergeant Castor G. Marlin, of Company K, Eleventh Pennsylvania Regiment. Marlin watched as puffs of smoke kept bursting from a hollow underneath barricade of rocks. This trained sniper took aim at center mass of the hollowed recess from where the firing proceeded and fired. No effect. The Confederate sniper kept firing back. Marlin fired a second, third, fourth and fifth time without any effect.
Far more than feeling frustrated, First Sergeant Marlin felt his reputation as the company’s best marksman severely tarnished. Worse, the lives of his fellow soldiers were in grave danger from this indestructible enemy. Finally, a sixth shot silenced the Confederate sniper. But why did it take Marlin six shots to take out a single enemy?
After the battle ended, First Sergeant Marlin got his answer. He explored the Rebel fighting positions, especially the hollow underneath the barricade from where the Confederate sniper had fired. To the first sergeant’s amazement, he found not one, but five dead Confederate soldiers in that hollow. As historian Gregory A. Coco explains, “As soon as one had fallen another had taken his place, until the shelter would hold no more. The last man had fallen forward dead upon his gun.” As it turned out First Sergeant Marlin was far more effective than he believed. Without realizing it, he had overcome an enemy five times larger than he thought.
And sometimes we question our own effectiveness in the cause of the Gospel, in our ministry of good works, in our great spiritual conflict with Satan. But Scripture, again and again, encourages us to not to lose heart, for our efforts for Christ are far more effective than we can imagine. “Let us not become weary in doing good for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).
Dear Father in heaven, help me to be faithful in my service to you and to humanity. When time goes by and I still see no results from my labor, please help me to continue to do my best and to leave the results with you. Amen.