The Lesson We Can Learn from Doc Holliday’s Last Gun Fight

Doc(tor) John Henry Holliday is one of the most famous gunfighters in the world.  He is legendary.  A southern gentleman with tuberculosis went west where he met another man who would be a lawman turned gunfighter: Wyatt Earp.  Together, with Earps two brothers, Doc Holliday fought against the Cowboys at the OK Corral.  He helped Wyatt hunt down those who killed Morgan and wounded Virgil.  In all, by the time Doc Holliday died at the age of 36, he had killed at least 30 men.

I find his last gunfight interesting though.  A man by the name of Billy Allen loaned this gunfighting gambler $5 because he was short on cash.  Holliday never returned the $5, and Allen was more than a bit upset.  He demanded time and again that Doc repay him.  He finally threatened him.  “Calmly Holliday advised Allen not to start anything unless he had a gun in each hand,” (Draw: The Greatest Gunfights of the American West, James Reasoner; Berkley Books).  Allen took his advice and armed himself.  He entered the saloon where Doc was playing, calling him out.

Even in Doc’s condition: dying, in pain, and slow, this legendary gunslinger shot twice (the first missing) before Allen could get one shot out.  Allen was hit in the right arm, causing him to drop his weapon.  Doc was finished.  He didn’t kill the foolish man before him.  Holliday was arrested, tried, and found not guilty due to self-defense.  He later died due to his illness.

What can we learn from this story?  Never underestimate your enemy just because it looks sick and dying.  We all too often underestimate our sin.  We think it is behind us, sick and dying.  We think we can challenge it, play around with it, or even fight it on our own.  The moment we underestimate the enemy is the moment we get shot.  Sometimes its a wound but other times it can be deadly (remember Doc killed 30 men before wounding Billy Allen).  The fight is deadly business and so Paul told us to put on the full armor of God.  Even though the fight is not against flesh and blood but is a spiritual fight, we must be ready to defend and protect ourselves in it.

There will be many sins with which we seem to have no issue.  They hardly seem to tempt us at all.  So we befriend them (loan the $5).  What’s the harm?  Yes, they have killed many before, but surely they won’t hurt us.  Then we become obsessed with them (foolishly getting in their faces).  They’re all we can think about, even if they could cost us our lives.  Finally we call ’em out.  Maybe we’ve had enough, maybe we want to show how “good” we are.  But we are no match.  The spirit may be willing, but the flesh is week.  Before we can give them a final blow to kill it, they kill us (maybe physically, but definitely spiritually, reputationally, emotionally).

We are to do battle, but we are to do battle in the Lord’s strength, not our own.  “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might, (Ephesians 6:10, ESV).  That’s the putting on the armor of God completely.  That’s bathing the situation in prayer.  That’s calling on others to give you a hand.  Don’t be a Billy Allen going up against a Doc Holliday (and they’re all Doc Hollidays).

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