Monday, November 1, 2010

Stand Up

Ya know, I can think of two very different kinds of heroes. The first is the fireman who runs into a burning building or the soldier who throws himself on top of a grenade and saves the lives of his buddies. (I’m using the generic “he” here, meaning he or she.) It takes someone special to be that kind of hero, someone who is brave, loyal, and impulsive. His parents probably said over and over again, “Doesn’t that child think before he acts?” And the answer is, probably not. That’s part of why he is able to do what he does. I could never be that kind of a hero. I’d look at that grenade and think, “Ooh, I bet that would hurt.” And then step behind the nearest tree. The people who can act instantly and purposefully and accomplish what others could not or would not do are amazing and necessary people. God has given them each a truly special gift.
There is another type of hero, though. This is the person who after careful and thoughtful planning makes the move that almost always leads, if not to death, then to general unpleasantness. History books are full of these kinds of heroes.
If you were raised in Texas, more specifically, San Antonio, you’ve heard the story of the Battle of the Alamo thousands of times. Whatever historians say about their motives, those men believed in something so strongly that they stayed and fought, knowing how it would end. I also think of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, the guys the book/movie, Glory, was written about. They were the first black regiment formed in the Civil War. If you don’t know the story, rent the movie. What a story of courage. You can probably think of others. I’d be interested in hearing about them.
The Bible also has stories of men and women who believed in something so strongly that they were willing to accept whatever consequences came. Think about Stephen. He stood before the Pharisees and, in the face of false witnesses, spoke calmly and with the authority of truth, knowing all the while exactly what would happen when he stopped talking. If I were in his situation, I think I would have just kept talking…like Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Then I thought of Samson, after he was captured and blinded, performing his last feat of strength knowing that he would be killed along with the Philistines. The Apostles and all the early Christians knew that believing in Christ as the Messiah could get them killed in some hideously painful ways.
Jesus, himself, falls into that category. He knew before He created us that He would end up giving His life for us. And He created us anyway. Can you imagine?
How do we get to the point where we can choose to stand bravely for what we believe in no matter what it costs us? I’m not sure I know. I think that we have to start by making little, seemingly insignificant choices along the way. Then “the big choice” is one more in a long line of choices that have now formed the foundations for our lives. Sometimes, though, the day-to-day choices we make just don’t seem that important, and maybe most of them aren’t. But how will we know which ones are the important ones?
Think about it, how often do we choose to watch TV or study our Sabbath School lesson or read something that will bring us closer to Christ? Do we hold back a little tithe and/or offering because we’re a little short this month? Do we choose to sleep in Sabbath morning, or come to Sabbath School? One by one, these choices don’t seem like that big a deal. The world won’t stop if we choose to sleep in next Sabbath morning. What difference do little choices like these make in the long run. Well, read through this e-mail I got just today. (What a coincidence.) Now whoever started this e-mail claims it is true and happened at USC. Whether it really happened or not, I think it will illustrate the importance of building on a solid foundation of choosing God.

There was a professor of philosophy [at USC], who was a deeply committed atheist. His primary goal for one required class was to spend the entire semester proving that God couldn’t exist. His students were afraid to argue with him because of his impeccable logic. Some had argued with him in class from time to time, but no one had ever really gone head to head in a debate with him because of his reputation. On the last day of every semester, he would say to his class of 300 students, “If there is anyone here who still believes in God, stand up! If God existed, he could stop this piece of chalk from hitting the ground and breaking. Such a simple task to prove that He is God, and yet He can’t do it.” And every year, he would drop the chalk onto the tile floor of the classroom and it would shatter into a hundred pieces. No one ever challenged him. Maybe most of the students agreed with him, but certainly, a number of Christians had to have slipped through…quietly, without drawing any attention to them selves. For twenty years, they had all been too afraid to stand up.
Finally, a freshman came along who was a Christian. He had heard the stories of about this professor, and he was afraid. Every morning for that whole semester, he prayed that he would have the courage to stand up, no matter what the professor said or the class thought. Nothing they said could ever shatter his faith…he hoped.
Finally, the last day of class came. The professor walked to the front of the class and said, “Is there anyone here who still believes in God, stand up!” The professor and the class of 300 people looked at him, shocked, as he stood up at the back of the classroom. The professor shouted, “You FOOL!!! If God existed, He would keep this piece of chalk from breaking when it hit the ground.” He proceeded to drop the chalk, but as he did, it slipped out of his fingers, off his shirt cuff, onto the pleat of his pants, down his leg, and off the toe his shoe. From there it simply rolled away, unbroken. The professor’s jaw dropped as he stared at the chalk. He looked up at the young man, and then ran out of the lecture hall. The young man who had stood, proceeded to walk to the front of the room and share his faith in Jesus for the next half hour. Three hundred students stayed and listened as he told of God’s love for them and of His power through Jesus.
Will you …

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