The War to End All Wars

November 13, 2018

This year is the one hundredth anniversary of World War I. Many suppose that our world wars have only engaged the superpowers or Europe and the United States. However, World War I, lasting from 1914 to 1918, eventually engaged over 100 countries in the fight. It was called a world war because it engaged so much of the globe and its people. During the conflict and in the years afterward, it was widely called the “war to end all wars.”

Now we know different. Less than twenty years later, the planet was immersed in another global battle, World War II. It was longer by several years, and there were tragically many more casualties. WW I casualties were estimated to be 10 million military dead, 7 million civilian deaths, 21 million wounded, and 7.7 million missing or imprisoned. WW II deaths totaled over 60 million people, perhaps up to 80 million. 38 to 55 million civilians were killed, including 13 to 20 million from war-related disease and famine. At least 25 million military died, including 5 million in captivity. Incredible, unbelievable tragedy. These figures mean that 3-5% of the total world population died in the war.

Stunning statistics. How could we have been so wrong? World War I, the war to end all wars, didn’t end anything. It settled nothing. Today that phrase is recalled cynically. Why didn’t it work? At least two reasons:

  • Human beings are inherently sinful and selfish. There will ALWAYS be a reason to go to war, as the Korean war, Vietnam conflict, all the mid-east struggles, and hundreds of smaller conflicts around the world have proven since then. There will always be “wars and rumor of wars.”
  • Winning makes us a target for another, larger battle.

That’s a spiritual truth too. We tend to want one fight to settle it, to be “one and done.” It will never be that way. We are always in a fight. The reward for winning a spiritual battle is that it equips you and prepares you to do battle and win on the next level. Wishing for or expecting an end to conflict and war is an exercise in futility. When you win one battle, you move on to the next level. It’s like karate: You don’t end the struggle when you win the white belt. It’s significant, for sure, but there are many levels yet to go. Your win gave you the ability to progress to the next level and give it your all there, right up to the black belt. And even then, you have many competitors who want to best you. Winning the fight passes you on to the next level.

T.D. Jakes says, in this world where the battle is continual, success is not possible until you come to this conclusion: “I’m okay with the fight.” As long as you are resentful, scared, or apathetic, the war will destroy you. But if you are okay with the fight, knowing that the struggle and continual opposition means you are someone doing something that is significant, you can thrive in the fight.

There never has been and never will be a “war to end all wars.” But great soldiers keep battling and know that winning is what keeps them free and strong. They are okay with the fight. They expect it. They expect to win, again and again. Jesus was thinking this way when He told His friends, “In this world you will have trouble, but don’t be afraid. I have overcome the world!” (John 16:33). So, be okay with the fight! You are doing something that matters!