The American Spirit was born in places like Plymouth Rock, and then Jamestown. It was in its’ infancy at Philadelphia for the Continental Congress and equally found throughout the 13-colonies. It matured at Valley Forge, and then moved into adolescence at Bunker Hill, Bull Run, Antioch and Gettysburg. The American Spirit continued to mature at Flanders Field during WWI; then some more at a number of unknown beaches and places hard to pronounce in WWII. This same “can do” American Spirit was severely tested in Korea where Americans had to fight frost-bite and blaring horns of the communist army charges, as well as bullets. The ghastly human experiences among horrendous human torture during the Vietnam War brought further resolve to the famous American Spirit not to give in, not to surrender, not walk away. Our brave men and women in the military to this day are taught not to surrender but improvise, adapt, overcome. The vast majority of Americans carry this same resolve regardless of the line of work or profession in which they may be involved. Our sports teams demonstrate perseverance. Business owners know all too well the meaning of working longer hours, harder and smarter – to not surrender to the struggles thrown in their pathway to success. Students are taught and provided the opportunity to try again, work harder, study wiser, and celebrate the success of your labor. The American Spirit of “Can Do” and “Not Surrender” is alive and well from the birth of our Nation to this present hour of grave challenges. This learned behavior is worthy to be studied and emulated on many levels. Leaders know how to introduce the concepts of not surrendering and persevering to accomplish the stated mission or goal. I, myself, have taught the Traits of Leadership at the university level, and greatly enjoy the subject of leadership, especially the characteristic of a Servant Leader. I always included case studies of leaders, and would like to do so now for you.
His name was Paul, and he was born a thinker. It was not sufficient for him to just experience something he had to comprehend its nuances to develop his convictions. A superb student he even attended university which is quite an accomplishment any time but especially in his day. He excelled with a mental brilliance and a forceful personality that rose to the challenges of debate. He became a lawyer and studied under one of the finest legal minds in the land. A strong lover of athletics, Paul loved the contests between the best of the best, and he absorbed even more the tendency to strive for perfection, endure the hardest of hardships, and finish the task no matter the personal cost. Like noted athletes, he learned to rely on his training, his experiences, and himself. Then it happened! He met a life larger than his own; a power more powerful than his own convictions and strength of will; a brilliance that shined right through him and exposed the blackness inside this otherwise man of bright accomplishments and rising star.
The apostle Paul was a man of great accomplishments and victories, but as he would share with you…these victories only came when he learned to surrender. Did you catch that? The world’s view of success is measured by wealth, position, fame or prominence, maybe education but definitely measured by standards far different than those of the Lord’s. Our society recognizes and rewards self-made man, and the apostle Paul was well on his way to meet, and even surpass that measure of achievement when he met the Lord on a dusty road, who simply asked Paul, “Why are you persecuting Me?!” It is impossible to exaggerate what took place in the mind of Paul at that moment of encounter with the Living Christ (I intend to sit with Paul over bagels and coffee in Heaven to discuss the whole experience). This learned and analytically energetic man had to be “lost” for words, much less understanding as to what just occurred. So pronounced, this one moment of Paul’s life was perhaps larger than all his previous years strung together! This single encounter with the Living God, and the revelation that this is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, had to burn so intensely that it might as well have scorched Paul’s eyes of reason and understanding, and burnt the “old-life” up to that moment out of the man now trembling on the ground and unable to utter a single word. Rather than continuing his journey as a proud and prominent Pharisee with the pomp that initially followed this inquisitor, he instantly became a trembling, groping, clinging to the hand of his guide broken-man, who neither ate nor drank for the next three days.
By his own words, Paul’s life crashed down around him as mere fragments at his feet. His life, up to the moment of the encounter was solid, complete and getting more complete by the day; a success in every measure of the word. Now…that which he believed to be a life of perfect service, disciplined, strong and self-reliant was but ashes. This collision with the Living Christ showed Paul that relying on his own strength was really in vain and born from pride. I imagine Paul lived in darkness (literally blinded) for three days reviewing his life. What did he see as he pondered thirty-some years? How about you? Close your eyes and look over your life just this past week. What situations did you face at home or at work, how about in church or with acquaintances and friends? What about the guy at the traffic light; you know, the one we all pretend isn’t there with his sign asking for assistance. Did you depend on your own education and wisdom; your courage or strength; maybe your prominence; what helped you make the decision you did to act – or not act. The apostle Paul came away from this majestic encounter with the Living God to declare: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).
My previous postings here on Vine Of Life carried a similar theme as this message; namely, draw close to our Lord while there still is time. There is a day coming, rather soon, when darkness will cover this Nation like never before seen. Persecution of man and church will take place, severe economic loss and battles will erupt all across this Land. Near chaos will be prevalent as tyranny brings persecution and a disrespect for the law of inalienable rights – much like the apostle Paul was bringing the day he had his encounter with Jesus Christ on that dusty road to Damascus. A New-World Order is on the horizon, a World Order not for the good of mankind but for the good of the few, the Elites who will attempt to reign as gods and kings. Their day of encounter with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords shall come, but not prior to the havoc they will let loose onto a unsuspecting world. Do not continue to walk in your own strength. Surrender your will into the hands of the Lord. Admit you are afraid of failing in the eyes of the world, tell Him you really do not know how to trust Him who made you. Paul struggled even after his majestic encounter, but Paul was quicker to submit his will, his training, his life back into the hands of the One who created him. God created you for this time in history. He is waiting for you to give Him permission to lead you in every way through the Valley of the Shadows which is right up the road and a little around the bend, and even if you can’t see it just yet be assured it is coming. If the apostle Paul were here now he would be cheering you on, he would be telling you: “Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my (your) weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me” (in you)(2 Cor. 12:7-10).
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