Cochise, Geronimo, Loco, Nana, Chihuahua, Chatto, and Naiche were great Apache warriors. They will forever remain legends in the historic struggle of clashing cultures in the great Southwest. The Apache courageously fought against the U.S. government as well as the Mexican and the Spanish for hundreds of years in an effort to keep their way of life in their ancestral homeland.

Geronimo and Naiche

One of the most respected and feared leaders in Apache history was Cochise, chief of the Chiricahua band. Cochise was known as an honorable peacemaker who kept his word. As promised, he allowed the mail and overland stage to pass through his territory. In February of 1861, Cochise was falsely accused of a crime committed by one of another band. Cochise declared his innocence, but his appeal was rejected by the military authority. This led to war that would last for the next ten years. Cochise waged such effective resistance that he and his Chiricahua band were presented with a peace treaty and given their own reservation in exchange for their word to remain peaceful. Upon Cochise's death in June of 1874, the U.S. government chose to not honor it's commitment to a reservation for the tribe. The Apache people had kept their word with honor although the U.S. government did not.

Cochise's son, Naiche, continued the Apache warriors' tradition. He fought against the government of broken promises. By 1886, only Naiche and Geronimo with thirty-six men, women, and children remained to resist . They kept 5,000 troops in the field pursuing their capture. This represented one-fourth of the entire U.S. military at the time. On September 5, they surrendered, believing the government's promises that were never kept and agreeing to terms of surrender that were never honored. The Chiricahua joined 469 other Apaches being held prisoners in the East.

Their years of exile were full of bitterness, anger, and pain . Wounds caused by lies and betrayal cut deep in the spirit of the Apache people. Suffering the pain of being removed from family and homeland, Geronimo said, "All we want is to be fed and be released as prisoners and given land and homes that we can call our own." Geronimo died at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, after twenty-three years of captivity.

Naiche, the chief of the Chiricahua and son of Cochise, spent twenty-seven years in captivity with the other Apache prisoners until their release in 1913. These men and their families were held as prisoners of war longer than any other individuals in U.S. history. During these years of imprisonment. Naiche finally found freedom. Weary of the broken promises of men, he put his trust in the promises of the God of the Bible. He learned of the love of Jesus Christ, the Savior of all nations. When Naiche put his trust in Jesus Christ, he received eternal life. He turned from his sin and received forgiveness. Naiche came to know the peace and power that only comes to those who have become one with their Creator. So sincere was his faith in Jesus Christ that he changed his name to Christian Naiche. The warrior who had fought so honorably for survival was now a warrior for his Savior Jesus Christ.
Christian Naiche was concerned about the lives of his fellow prisoners, including Geronimo. Christian Naiche was joyful when Geronimo began attending religious services. Geronimo said that Christianity was better than the religion of his forefathers. He attended services, but only because of his desire to gain additional power. On February 17, 1909, Geronimo's soul left his aged body and passed into eternity. At the funeral of Geronimo, Christian Naiche spoke in his native tongue. He remembered the days of the warpath. He praised Geronimo's bravery and skill as a war leader, and told how loyally he had kept the peace he made at the surrender. But Geronimo had refused to accept Christianity, thus being a failure in the chief thing in life. Christian Naiche closed by asking the people gathered there to learn from this example.

Christian Naiche had found "the chief thing in life." He had won a war. The battle was not against a lying government; this was a different kind of war. It was a spiritual war. He had found healing for his wounds. These were not physical wounds. The wounds that he had experienced went deeper than that. They were the wounds of a man's spirit (Proverbs 18:14).
The wicked actions of others (both past and present) touch our lives. We wonder if healing is really possible. Those who have suffered hatred and prejudice are looking for a sense of justice. Pain caused by others is beyond our understanding. We cannot change the failures and injustices of the past, but we can try to see these things from God's point of view. Like Christian Naiche, we need to understand God's thinking so that we can live at peace in problems that we cannot change. Only God can help the wounded to win the battle over anger, bitterness, and revenge. He can bring the victory that is shown by love and forgiveness. This is the supernatural victory won by Christian Naiche through God's mighty power. This is the same battle that God wants us to win. Christian Naiche found wisdom and direction in God's Word. These same unchanging truths of the Bible can guide us in the challenges of our lives as well.

God knows how we feel. The Bible records that God's Son was hated and rejected of men. He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3). We read that God is touched with the feeling of our weaknesses. We can come boldly to God. He will give us grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:15-16). We are told to cast all our care upon God because He cares for us (I Peter 5:7).

What a great encouragement to know that our God has experienced how we feel! He knows our inner sorrow when we have been wounded by another! God sent His Son to be born among people who were a minority group (Deuteronomy 7:6-7 "you were the fewest of all peoples"). God sent His Son to live as a member of a tribal people (Genesis 49:28) living in the homeland of their fathers (Luke 2:1-4). Jesus' people lived in a land under foreign rule. They knew what it was to live in captivity. They experienced their own long walk of forty years (Acts 7:17-36). They survived against enemies who were hated their culture. Christ also suffered the wounds of rejection caused by people of His own community (Mark 6:1-6). He suffered at the hands of His own people who chose to put cultural tradition before God's truth (Matthew 15:3,8-9) and who would worship creation rather than the Creator (Romans 1:16-25). As the all-knowing and all-powerful God of creation, He understands how we feel and wants us to experience His strength that gives us power in our weakness.

We need God's point of view. God tells us that His grace is all we need. His strength is made perfect in our weakness (II Corinthians 12:9). He wants us to keep His words and His commandment, and live (Proverbs 4:4). Psalm 110:165 tells us, "Great peace have they which love God's Word: and nothing shall offend them." Without knowing God's point of view, as recorded in the Bible, the injustices that have destroyed us either as individuals or as a people group can turn into deep bitterness. Bitterness in our spirit is like poison in our body that will infect our thoughts, feelings, and decisions. God wants us to think about His Words (Philippians 4:6-9). Seeing things from God's viewpoint helps us to experience God's healing power to take away the anger and bitterness that we might otherwise have kept in our hearts. The Bible tells us that we are to put away from us all bitterness, rage, anger, fighting, and evil speaking. (Ephesians 4:31).

God is still in control. The Bible says that we should not worry because of evil doers. They shall soon be cut down like the grass. We are to rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him. We are to stop being angry and never choose to do evil
(Psalm 37:1-2,7-8). Romans 8:28 says,"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." The God of all comfort comforts us in all our trouble. Then we may be able to comfort others (II Corinthians 1:3-4). Because God cares, He has something good for us in our spiritual life. He wants us to think about the problems as opportunities to learn, to change, to grow, and to increase in our ability to lovingly help others in their trials. God has the power to take the wrong choices and evil people that touch our lives and do something good! To bring about His purpose, He will deliver us through the pain rather than from the pain. He is in control of our lives. The Bible tells us that the temptations that we will face are common to man and that God is faithful. He will not allow us to be tempted more than we are able to bear. He will make a way to escape, so that we can bear it (I Corinthians 10:13). Rather than demanding deliverance in our prayers, how much better to pray for His power to continue as He teaches us through His Word. The Bible encourages those who suffer in God's plan to commit the keeping of their souls to God Who is our faithful Creator (I Peter 4:19)." Freedom is impossible unless we can admit that the hurts against us or the ones we love may be God's purpose in our lives. It is our choice. We can become bitter or better through suffering. I Peter 2:20 says,"If, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God."

God wants us to forgive. The Bible tells us in Ephesians 4:32, "And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." What does it mean to forgive? By forgiving a person, we are giving the responsibility for punishment to God. Only God can help us to respond the right way (Romans 12:17-21). We are commanded by God to think of bitterness as sin (James 4:17, Matthew 6:15, Mark 11:26, Luke 6:37), to guard against it (Hebrews12:15), and to remove it from our thoughts (Ephesians 4:31). Forgiveness is not expected by most people because it goes against our thinking. Matthew 5:43,44,46 says,"Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye...?" Knowing God's point of view helps us to act according to His will. Our obedience to God may be the very opportunity that God uses to bring others to our Savior, Jesus Christ. God commands us to forgive. We have an opportunity to glorify God in how we act. We are not responsible for other people's sinful actions. God will judge them. But we are responsible before God Who will judge us concerning our attitude and actions. How do we forgive? The ability to forgive others and experience a joyful life begins first with recognizing our own sin, confessing it to God, and receiving His forgiveness. Only when we realize that we have already been forgiven a far greater debt of sin, is it possible for us to forgive another Colossians 3:13). Our choice to be bitter works against God and is taking a right that we do not have (Roman 12:17-21). We are commanded by God to think of bitterness as sin, to guard against it, and to remove it from our thoughts. If we choose to do what we feel like doing instead of doing what God teaches us to do, then we have become a part of the problem in God's eyes (Galatians 6:1). The road to healing is through forgiveness. Forgiving others goes hand in hand with being forgiven. Matthew 6:12 says, "And forgive us our debts (what we owe), as we forgive our debtors (those who owe us)."

We can be forgiven Isaiah 53:5 tells us that Jesus was wounded for our sins. The Son of God died on the cross to pay for our sins that we might be forgiven. He payed the cost of sin we owed. Though we did not deserve it, we have been offered forgiveness. God wants us to choose to receive His forgiveness. He wants us to repent of our sins which means that we choose to turn from our sin and trust God's power to give us victory over our habits that destroy our lives. This can happen through knowing Him. The Bible tells us that we have all sinned (Romans 3:23) and that the cost of sin is death (Romans 6:23). This verse goes on to tell us that God's gift to us is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. God loved us while we were in our sin (Romans 5:8). I John 1:9 tells us,"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." John 3:16 says,"For God so loved the world, that he gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish (be punished in hell), but have everlasting life." Romans 10:13 says, "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." God wants every people group to come receive eternal life (II Peter 3:9;Revelation 5:9; 7:9) Have you obeyed God in this matter by asking Him to forgive you for your sins that have wounded Him? True healing begins when we give God control of our lives. Is His Spirit working in your heart? Talk to God in prayer. There are no magic words. Speak from your heart with Him. Pray something like this, "Dear Father in Heaven, I know that I am a sinner. I have done many bad things. I do not like my life to be like this. I ask for your Son, Jesus, to come into my heart and help me change. I ask you to forgive me of my sins and heal my wounded spirit. I ask that I may learn more about you my Father in Heaven and of your love for me. I ask that I may follow your Son, Jesus. Let me learn more of how He gave His life for me, and paid for my sins. I now accept the free gift of salvation that you offer me. Thank you for loving me. I take your forgiveness that you promised in the Bible to those who believe. Thank you for giving your innocent Son to die for me on the cross. I trust in Jesus Christ alone. I give my life to you here on earth until you take me home to heaven. In the name of Jesus I pray, Amen."

God will bring healing to the wounded who choose to follow Him. Physical wounds may be more obvious than wounds to the spirit. All wounds take time to heal (Proverbs 18:14). God wants us to trust and obey Him in the healing process. A truth found throughout the Bible is that blessing follows obedience! We have many wonderful promises from God that are ours when we choose to obey. When we obey, God can renew love (Matthew 5:43-44), friendship (Matthew 18:15), worship (Matthew 5:23-24), and power in prayer (Mark 11:25-26, I Peter 3:7). Our decision to do what God says rather than to do what we feel like doing is the key. Obeying God's Word will result in right feelings. The Bible gives us many examples of people who were mistreated by the wicked actions of others. Those who wanted to have God's thinking in the middle of the hard times were able to see God working in their lives. Think about Joseph's response to his wicked brothers recorded in Genesis 50:20. Think about King David's response to his enemy, Shimei when he was driven from his throne by his own rebellious son (II Samuel 16:11). Stephen forgave his fellow Jews while being killed for his faith in God (Acts7:60). Jesus forgave His persecutors while suffering on the cross to save us from sin (Luke 23:34). The Bible records that God has honored His Son's obedience in suffering."And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted (honored) him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" Philippians 2:8-11.

God has given us a new battle to fight. The battle that we are fighting today is a different kind of battle because it is spiritual (Ephesians 6:11-12). The enemy of God is the enemy of God's people. Satan is a murderer and a liar (John 8:44). He is a thief and a destroyer (John 10:10 ). He is a deceiver (II Corinthians 11:3,14-15; Revelation 2:9). He attacks through the gossip of people (Proverbs 26:22). He tries to pull believers down into the culture of an ungodly world (Romans 12:1-2). But with God's strength, we are promised the victory (I John 4:4). We must fight this battle with spiritual weapons (II Corinthians 10:4; Ephesians 6:13-18). Just as our Apache forefathers taught their children in the warriors' tradition to endure, so we too must be strong (Ephesians 6:10) and learn how to resist against the spiritual enemy (II Timothy 2:2, I Peter 5:8-9, James 4:7). We cannot wait for those who have brought heartache, pain, and hardship in our lives to be willing to do right. We who have been wounded must do what is right before God (II Corinthians 5:10). Romans 12:21 says"Be not overcome of evil" but overcome evil with good." Rather than judging others for their faults (Matthew 7:1-5), we can share with others the forgiveness of sin that we have found through Jesus Christ. We can learn to treat cruel people the way God has treated us as undeserving sinners...with love and forgiveness. I Peter 4:8 says,"Love shall cover the multitude of sins." As we come to God in prayer, read His Word, learn His thoughts, and obey His commands, we can experience for ourselves the "chief thing in life."
It is the relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Like the great Apache warrior, Christian Naiche, we too can win the battle over bitterness hatred, and anger. In God's power we know that wounds can be healed!

"If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:31-32

Click here to read the life story of the great grandson of Cochise.


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