Week of Monday, July 24 – July 30
In Life or Death – Man as Battle Buddy

One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” - Luke 23:39-43 ESV

Greg Wilhoit and Ron Williamson became unlikely Battle Buddies on death row. An ABC News report tells the story:

Greg Wilhoit remembers his desperation as he was brought in to his cellblock at the State Penitentiary in McAlester, Okla. “I thought, ‘My life’s over, literally over,’” he says. As prisoner 100841, Wilhoit faced the death penalty after a jury found him guilty in 1987 of his wife’s murder. A year later, Ron Williamson—Wilhoit’s new neighbor across the hall in cellblock F—could not believe he was living among killers. “I’ve never been so miserable in my entire life, being down there among those murderers and never having ever killed anybody,” he says. McAlester’s death row is a grim place; since 1990, 30 men have been executed there. For most, the only way out is by dying. But these two men found another way. Like most inmates on death row, Wilhoit and Williamson argued they were innocent. And their determination to prove it became the basis for an unusual bond that would ultimately save their lives.

“Our friendship evolved enough where we felt comfortable with each other to go out in the yard,” Wilhoit says. Over time, their bond and trust deepened. “We didn’t hide anything from one another,” Williamson says.

 They bonded as Battle Buddies, and amazingly both were later declared innocent of the charges and released from death row.

That was not the case of the three men who were crucified together in Luke 23. Those men had a shared experience of suffering and death the likes of we will probably never know. Can you imagine the pain of iron spikes through your wrists and ankles, the struggle to push up against that splintered wooden cross to get a breath of air even as the fluids built up in your lungs. And on top of that, the oppressive heat and the gnawing thirst? Two men were crucified for real crimes they had committed, while Jesus was not only innocent of the charges, but He was also sinless.

In these final painful hours before death, an intense dialogue took place between these condemned men that has been recorded for us in Scripture. One railed at Jesus. The other defended Jesus. Then, the same man who had defended Jesus appealed to Him. It is hard to fathom the despair this man was experiencing, but his words reveal not only a recognition of Jesus’ innocence but also his own honest confession. Yet, it was this man’s appeal to “Remember me” that touched Jesus’ heart. It was to this criminal Jesus spoke the immortal words, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” I believe we can see the model of a Battle Buddy in both Jesus and the repentant criminal—examples of what it truly means to journey together through the most difficult moments of life. In this case, death—bringing honesty and hope to the most painful season a man can endure.

Men, we will either walk through the valley alone or with men we know and trust. How much better to have a Battle Buddy and be a Battle Buddy for another fellow traveler through tough times. A real Battle Buddy will be there speaking truth, bringing comfort and counsel with a heart of love. In an excerpt from Tender Warrior, Stu Weber writes:

A desire for friendship, man to man. A desire for friendship with nothing between. A yearning for friendship so real, so strong, so compelling, it is willing to share everything about itself and make deep and powerful promises. Down deep at the core, every man needs a man friend. Down deep at the core, every man needs a brother to lock arms with.

Every man needs a Battle Buddy!

- Are you trying to go it alone, or do you have a Battle Buddy to lean on in life’s tough times?
- Are you serving as a Battle Buddy for another man? Do you pray with and for him, talking transparently on a heart level and offering encouragement to trust God and press on?
- Pray for God to help you develop that deep friendship with another man and that together you will become Battle Buddies.