If I could quote this entire book, I would. I’ve loved it so much! An old man is reminiscing about his time as a soldier in the war as a Turk against the “Franks”.
But I will tell you a secret, which is that almost no soldier believes he will be killed. This is because it is impossible for the human being to imagine that he is dead, and this is because he is always alive and present in the act of imagining. He sees his comrades die, but he thinks himself immune, and this fatal lack in his nature makes him a good fighter. Even a man who has decided to die on purpose and become a martyr does not really believe in his own death.
Birds Without Wings, by Louis Bernieres
“You are not generally satisfied with the bare necessities of life, you desire to possess its comforts and luxuries. I will commend you if you carry this into spiritual things. Do not be content merely to be saved, merely to be spiritually alive; ask to be valiant for truth. I should feel it a great honor, I hope, to be the commonest soldier, if called upon to defend my country. But I must confess I should not like to be in the ranks always. I should like at least to be made a corporal very soon, and a sergeant as soon as possible; and I should grumble wonderfully much if I could not rise to rank among the commissioned officers. I should like to be found doing my very best.”
C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, 1950), III:665.