Portraits of Faith: Alvin York—How Does God Measure a Heart?

Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

WWI is probably a forgotten war in the lives of Americans today. It was a war of loyalty to the treaties that were signed by the nations involved on both sides.

The war introduced trench warfare. Germans dug in, and our American troops were called on to storm the enemy’s position.


We are still called to storm the enemy’s position. Satan and his forces have dug in, and God is looking for soldiers who will stand their ground and fight.

War is often decided by measurements. How far an army has advanced. How much territory has been taken, or taken back. The same is true in our heats.

How far has the enemy advanced, or persuaded us to give up or give in? The ultimate goal of the enemy is for us to surrender our hearts over to him.

Our text examines that very fact. There is a measurement. A standard the Lord Jesus Christ, the final Word to man, uses. The unit of measurement is the written Word of God.

Clearly, the first part of our verse tells us that our Bibles are not dead books that should just sit on the shelf. Our verse says that God’s Word is alive!

If our Bibles have become dead to us, it’s because our hearts have been surrendering territory to the enemy.

His Word cuts to the heart and literally reveals itself to us and through us. God’s word is always clear, and the path we are to follow is always shown in front of us.

One of my heroes was the most decorated hero of WWI. He is one of my heroes because he illustrates what it means to be a hero for God.

His name is Alvin C. York. He was born in Pall Mall, Tennessee, in the valley of the three forks of the Wolf River near the Kentucky border.

A simple man from a simple time. He went off to fight in WWI, but at the bottom of his draft card he wrote these words, “Yes, Don’t want to fight.”

Alvin believed the Bible said, “Thou shalt not kill,” and he believed that obeying God’s Word was the first thing any man should do.

He wasn’t always that way. In his twenty’s he spent some time drinking, smoking, and fighting.

After his father died, Alvin became the man of the house. One day his mother had enough of his wayward ways and sat him down. She asked, “Alvin, when are you going to become a man like your dad and granddad were?”

She asked, “Alvin, when are you going to become a man like your dad and granddad were?”

God used those words of truth to cut to his heart. Shortly after, he was saved, and gone was the old Alvin.

The truth of the living Word of God can come from a variety of places. It might mean a love of a mother, or father speaking His truth. God uses that to convict or encourage a heart.

But how does God measure our hearts in obedience? You ready?

No one is obedient if they are not first loving.

In the Old Testament God tells us to keep His commandments fifty-nine times.

Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep (obey) my commandments.” (John 14:5 NKJV)

Five times in 1 John, the Bible tells us keep His commandments.

But the clincher is found in 1 John 1:5, “But whoever keeps His Word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him.” (NKJV)

God’s word becomes alive by how much we love Him and others.

A Christian who isn’t loving isn’t truly living.

God’s Word is also a discerner, a judge, of our thinking and our motives. What we do is important, but why we do what we do is just as important.

Alvin York was drafted to fight in WWI. He struggled with the idea of having to kill another human being. He left his beloved home in Tennessee and all that he knew.

At boot camp in Georgia, he was known as a marksman. He was a sharpshooter from hunting in them there hills. But he told his commanding officer of his dilemma of killing. He needed to know clearly what God’s will was for him. They granted him ten days leave to go home to the hills and figure it out.

Alvin had to decide for himself if God would let him fight. He was given a book: The History of the United States. The answer wasn’t in the history book. He found his answer in the book with the answers—his Bible.

He obeyed God’s Word and shipped off to France to fight the Germans.

October 8, 1918, in the Argonne Forest, Alvin C. York was in the battle that would measure his heart forever. America entered WWI near the end. But in that forest something amazing happened. Corporal York saw many of his unit killed and pinned down by machine gun nests on the hill.

The enemy had dug in. The trenches were heavily fortified.

Alvin York, a nobody from the hills ordered his men to stay there and watch some of the prisoners they had captured. He crawled up the hill and systematically took over the machine gun nests, killed 25 enemy soldiers, and captured 132 Germans.

His commanding officer asked him, why he had done this, knowing his firm surrender to the Word and the Will of God.

He simply said, “Those guns were killing hundreds maybe thousands and there weren’t nothing anyone could do but stop those guns.”

He killed to save lives. Funny thing about war, whether it’s physical or spiritual, lives are at stake. There are people who need God’s love and the enemy has dug in. Many have given the enemy ground, so you and I have to take the hill.

Keep Looking Up!

Heaven is closer than you think.

May God bless your day.

Pastor Rodney

You can leave a comment on our Facebook page.

The following two tabs change content below.
Rodney is an author, pastor, and the founder/managing editor of Liftupyourday.com. He has written over 200 articles and his first novel, The Rise of the Prophet, has just been released.

Latest posts by Pastor Rodney Coe (see all)