The election season is over. For some voters, going to the polls was merely a civic duty. For others voting was a matter of stewardship, understanding that God gives us this American privilege, and we will be held accountable for every vote we cast.
But my real focus of this article is not on voters, but rather it’s a message to the newly elected (or re-elected) officials.
God has given me the opportunity (and sobering responsibility) to meet and get to know dozens of politicians, from councilmen to several Presidential candidates. While I’m no longer active in political endeavors, many of these friends or acquaintances were elected to office this last cycle. These offices range from school board members to US Senators, and many offices in between.
So with this as a backdrop, the following verse jumped out at me this week from the book of Daniel:
“For this has been decreed by the messengers; it is commanded by the holy ones, so that everyone may know that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world. He gives them to anyone he chooses— even to the lowliest of people.” Daniel 4:17
The Instruction Manual
The book of Daniel is the instruction manual on how Christians in government should behave. Daniel also illustrates to believers how we should respond to government, particularly adversarial ones.
As we read this manual, for guidance both in civics and governance, it’s important to understand that the government officials we are introduced to in Daniel are both followers of (the one true) God, as well as pagans (followers of someone or something other than the one true God). In addition to Daniel, there are many other books and passages in the Bible that offer insights into God’s view of government officials, and their role in serving Him.
God Elevates Both Believers and Unbelievers to Government
This is the first principle that each recently elected government official should understand. Regardless of whether you believe in and follow God, or not, it is God that has given you the victory you are celebrating. It’s not the voters. It’s Him. Sure, the voters all cast a vote, some for you and some against you.
But ascribing your victory to voters is akin to thanking a courier who hands you the keys to your new car, that your rich uncle just bought for you. Your uncle deserves the acknowledgement and thanks, not the courier.
God “gives them (kingdoms) to anyone he chooses — even to the lowliest of people” affirms this principle. So whether you were elected the county dog catcher, or the President of the United States, God has lent you the office to test your stewardship. That’s not only an awesome opportunity, but it’s more importantly a sobering responsibility. You will be held accountable, not merely by the voters, but more importantly by God Almighty.
God is Testing Your Humility (or Pride)
In Daniel, we read about the story of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon and a powerful ruler of his day. But with that power, we also see a man who grew very proud. We read in Daniel 4:30 these words:
“As he looked out across the city, he said, ‘Look at this great city of Babylon! By my own mighty power, I have built this beautiful city as my royal residence to display my majestic splendor.’” (Daniel 4:30)
If ever there was a man who embodied the spirit of the “self-made” man, King Nebuchadnezzar was that man. Note how his power led to pride. (And we’ll find out in our next principle, what the king’s pride led to.)
It’s a very difficult task to resist the temptation of pride. Power and pride seem to go hand and hand. So as someone is elevated to a position of power, who was a “no one” or perhaps a “lesser one” before his election, it’s so easy to become prideful in that new found position. A politician can easily look at himself as important. As special. As above others. As privileged. As deserving.
But all those attitudes are not only false, they are Pride whispering lies to us. It’s incumbent on you as an elected official to resist such temptations, and rebuke those attitudes. But if you fail this test, you will soon experience the warning from Proverbs 16:18 where we’re told:
“Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.”
How many politicians do you know that seem to struggle with pride? If we’re all honest though, this is a sin many of us have succumbed to in our own lives. So Mr/Ms Politician, resist this huge temptation that comes to all of us, but particularly those with power. If you don’t, you may find yourself experiencing the next principle.
Pride Leads to Bad Stuff
I suppose I could have been more “sophisticated” in describing this principle, but “bad stuff” really is the result of Pride in the life of an elected official. The prophet Daniel, who was also a high government official in King Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom, warned the King of what would occur if he took credit for “his” achievements versus ascribing any success to God. Note Daniel’s warning:
“You will be driven from human society, and you will live in the fields with the wild animals. You will eat grass like a cow, and you will be drenched with the dew of heaven. Seven periods of time will pass while you live this way, until you learn that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses… King Nebuchadnezzar, please accept my advice. Stop sinning and do what is right. Break from your wicked past and be merciful to the poor. Perhaps then you will continue to prosper.” (Daniel 4:25, 27)
Sadly though, this is what occurred when Nebuchadnezzar refused to heed God’s warning, spoken through Daniel:
“…A voice called down from heaven, ‘O King Nebuchadnezzar, this message is for you! You are no longer ruler of this kingdom. You will be driven from human society. You will live in the fields with the wild animals, and you will eat grass like a cow. Seven periods of time will pass while you live this way, until you learn that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses.’” (Daniel 4:31-32)
What a great fall King Nebuchadnezzar experienced! From the height of world power, to the lowliness of an animal — simply because he allowed the spirit of pride to rule in his life.
It’s uncanny, but should not be surprising, that 600 years later, Jesus, the Son of the Voice from heaven who spoke to Nebuchadnezzar, reminded us again of the repercussions of pride in our lives:
“For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11)
So be sure of this elected official. Pride will tempt you, but you can resist it in your live, and as you do, and take the less travelled path of humility, God will exalt you, according to Jesus, God’s Son.
Nebuchadnezzar’s own life is a reflection of this reality for when the king finally humbled himself and acknowledged the One who had exalted him to begin with, this is what the king had to say:
“After this time had passed, I, Nebuchadnezzar, looked up to heaven. My sanity returned, and I praised and worshiped the Most High and honored the one who lives forever. His rule is everlasting, and his kingdom is eternal. When my sanity returned to me, so did my honor and glory and kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored as head of my kingdom, with even greater honor than before. “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and glorify and honor the King of heaven. All his acts are just and true, and he is able to humble the proud.” (Daniel 4:34, 36-37)
We’ve all heard of the “servant leadership” principle. It’s a teaching that’s hip these days, and often promoted in corporate entities. But long before motivational coaches latched onto this truth, Jesus had this to say about the role servant leadership should play in all of our lives, including elected officials:
“But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave.” (Matthew 20:25-27)
Having been around elected officials for many, many years now, I have seen a spirit that is often anything but “servant leadership.” The head tables, the honored seats, and the best of everything is always reserved for politicians. And yet, the elite status most politicians enjoy is entirely at odds with their self-assigned title of “servants of the people.”
So if you were just elected and want to be different and break the political mold, what if you were to truly embrace the idea of “servant leadership” in your elected role? Perhaps one antidote against the pride that will lead to destruction and fall, is to simply commit oneself to truly being a servant in practice versus simply in words.
There are at least two reasons to do so. The first is because Jesus modeled such leadership and what better person to pattern our lives after than the Son of God? But there is another reason, and it has to do with future rewards:
“So those who are last now will be first then, and those who are first will be last.” (Matthew 20:16)
God’s Elevating of An Individual Does NOT Suggest He Endorses That Individual
We often misunderstand God’s actions and choices, assuming that because He places certain individuals in positions of authority, that God must then endorse such an individual. This fallacy has been a huge stumbling block for Christians, particularly over the last couple years. But this could not be further from the truth, as taught throughout Scripture.
God elevates individuals to positions of authority for several reasons including 1) to achieve God’s greater Plan, 2) to test that individual, 3) to punish, test, or refine those who are under the ruler’s authority, or some other purposes. We cannot always be certain of God’s reasons, but we can know this:
“For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9)
We also know that at times God will even elevate evil or immoral rulers to achieve His greater Plan. But when that Plan is achieved, God will discard the ruler, when he does not turn to God and acknowledge His sovereignty. The examples of the numerous kings of Judah and Israel in the Old Testament are an affirmation of this principle, as God used both good and evil kings to continue to advance His objectives. But as soon as God finished with an immoral ruler, God always discarded him.
So the lesson any elected official should learn from this truth, is that God’s selection of you for the office you now hold, is not necessarily an endorsement of you, your political solutions, ambitions, or even your character. Rather, He has placed you there for His purposes. So it’s incumbent on every elected official to ask these questions:
“Why did God elevate me? What does He want to achieve through me? How can I best serve God in this capacity? Am I ready to give account to Him for my actions in my current position?”
All these questions require one particular attitude which we referenced earlier: Humility.
In closing, I trust as you assume the new office or term, which you have been given for a brief moment, that you will ponder these truths from God’s Word. I trust you will acknowledge Whom it is that elevated you, that you will remain humble, that you will truly model servant leadership, and that you will never assume that God endorses all you do, simply because He has granted you this position of authority.
Remember what Jesus said to Pilate when He, as the Son of God, stood before the government official who had been lent the power of life or death:
“Then Jesus said, “You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above.” (John 19:11)
So if your authority is given to you by God Himself, then this should be your response:
“What do you have that God hasn’t given you? And if everything you have is from God, why boast as though it were not a gift?” (1 Corinthians 4:7)
Blessings to you as you move into what has often been portrayed as “The Swamp.” But in reality, it may be your greatest opportunity and responsibility to:
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)
(If you know an elected official, and agree with this message, would you forward this to him/her?)
Growing up you no doubt heard the story of Jonah and the whale. You may remember it as a cute little Bible story about a man who was swallowed by a big fish and after he prayed, the whale spewed Jonah out onto dry land. But there’s a whole lot more to the story, and perhaps a critical lesson or two for you and me as well.
In the opening verses of this story, we see God directly informing Jonah of the mission He has for the prophet. However, unlike the movie Mission Impossible, there is no, “your mission, should you chose to accept it…” option. Rather, if God is your Heavenly Father, then He has placed a distinct call upon your life. No child is exempted. And while there may be some common missions that we all share, we all have a unique mission or call from God Himself.
Running from God
Notice though what Jonah did when God called him:
“But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the Lord… hoping to escape from the Lord…” (Jonah 1:3)
Have you ever done what Jonah did… run from God? We may not physically board a boat, as Jonah did. But we may have a clear understanding as to what God’s mission for us is, yet we chose to set it aside, turn the other way, and we figuratively run from the God of the universe.
Imagine trying to outrun Usain Bolt, the fastest man in the world. Attempting such would be absurd. Now consider how foolish it is to run from the God of the universe. Infinitely more foolish. Futile is how we might describe such an effort.
When Storms Roar
When Jonah ran, we see that God brought a hurricane-like storm into his life, to grab his attention and halt him in his journey to escape from God.
Invariably when we resist God’s mission for our life, He will bring pressure to bear on us, whether physically, financially, emotionally or spiritually, in order to get our attention and “convince” us of the priority of His call on our life. But how do we respond when God is clearly speaking to us through the storms of life?
Jonah was an interesting fellow. As the ship he was on was being battered about by the hurricane force winds, Jonah literally fell asleep. His apathy towards God, and the others on the ship, was so great that he could care less about the impending disaster that was facing him and his shipmates.
What about you and me? Are we so “asleep at the wheel” running from God that we no longer see the danger and threats that are posed towards us and our family, friends or even our fellow citizens? If so, note what happened next to Jonah.
Pagans Begging for Prayer
When Jonah’s shipmates were hopeless and feeling their lives were all but lost, they screamed out to Jonah, waking him and begging him to pray for them. They sensed calamity was near and they turned to the God who they themselves had yet to meet.
There was a moment in our nation when this happened from coast to coast. It was the first few days after 9/11/01. Hundreds of millions of Americans sought for some sense in the midst of our national storm. They could not make sense of the tragedy and they sought out a sleeping church, begging for hope, prayer and understanding. But it did not last long. And sadly, I believe we as believers dropped the ball, going back to sleep as quickly as we were jolted awake. We missed our call, corporately and individually.
Getting Thrown Overboard
When Jonah realized he was the reason the lives of his fellow travelers were threatened, he pleaded with them to simply throw him overboard. Jonah realized that unless he repented of his disobedience, not only would he die, but the lives of many others would possibly be lost as well. So the sailors, hoping to save themselves, literally threw Jonah overboard.
And the Storm Stopped
When we’re running from God, the storms He brings into our lives are meant to redirect us to the mission He has for us. And the storms will continue until we acknowledge to ourselves and possibly even those around us, that our rebellion is the cause of the storm. Sadly, in order for the storm to stop, oftentimes it requires the threat of our own loss of life. And the unbelievers around us are often all to willing to send us to a murky death.
The Big Fish
As soon as Jonah hit the water, the great fish swallowed him alive. And Jonah remained there for 3 days and 3 nights.
If you were drowning in the ocean, the last thing you might expect to save you is a whale-sized fish bearing down on you. But God is mysterious. His ways, thoughts and plans are beyond ours. And so what we may see as a threat, may in fact be our savior.
When we repent of our own rebellion, at times we may need a prolonged period of reflection, to reevaluate our past, reconsider our choices, and recommit our future to the mission God has for us. Like Jonah in the fish, God may place us in an obscure and even dark place in order to gain our undivided focus.
Once Jonah was back on dry land, after his period of repentance, reflection and recommitment, his face turned toward the mission for which God had called him. The mission was a God-sized one. By himself, Jonah stood no chance in achieving what God had ordained.
Whenever you combine those two words, there is no stopping what can happen next. Nineveh, a thriving but pagan metropolis, was facing imminent judgment from God for its utter rejection of God. But when Jonah simply obeyed God and imparted His message, the king of this wicked city repented and led his entire city to do the same. And God relented from destroying thousands.
When you and I simply obey God and pursue His mission for our lives, there is no predicting the outcome. The potential exists that an entire city could be changed and saved; or a family member might be rescued from the clutches of the enemy; or some other mission. But regardless of the outcome, God will work in you and others His perfect will and plan. Your purpose will have been fulfilled, and God will receive the glory.
So, are you Jonah? Or have you been? If so, when you’ve exited your dark time of repentance, reflection and recommittment in your “big fish,” turn your face towards God and never turn back. The best is ahead and the worst is behind. And God will sustain you for whatever Impossible Mission He has for you.
“No people can be great, who have ceased to be virtuous.” Samuel Johnson (1709 – 1784)
This week I am witnessing first hand the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. As I’ve been observing the happenings within the Quicken Arena, the one theme that continues to pop up again and again, is Make America Great Again. Of course, that being the Trump campaign motto, it should come as no surprise. From t-shirts to ball caps, street vendors to banners, the motto is everywhere I look, here in Cleveland.
The brilliantly conceived message is one that plays well with disillusioned and disgusted voters, who have experienced the last seven years of an Obama Presidency and grown increasingly skeptical and angry with Washington DC. But to add to that anger, Republican voters have had to endure a party establishment who cares more about power and reelections than they do about upholding the Constitution, and fighting back against Obama’s all out assault on our freedoms, national security and economic revitalization. So Trump stepped into a perfect storm and has been a master at tapping into the base emotions of voters, with a message that sells to the disgruntled masses.
While the overriding theme of the Convention this week is Make America Great Again, the Trump campaign has played brilliantly off that theme to devise a relevant emphasis each day as follows:
Monday: Make America Safe Again
Tuesday: Make America Work Again
Wednesday: Make America First Again
Thursday: Make America One Again
I wouldn’t deny that these are all worthy topics and aspirations, but as I’ve considered Trump’s Make America Great Again theme, I believe the New York billionaire is attempting to place the cart before the horse. It’s as if Trump’s seeking to build one of his skyscrapers before digging the foundation. Sadly, many of the American people have eagerly embraced Donald’s message, believing they can simply don a baseball cap, elect a businessman, and the nation’s course will be reversed, with Great days ahead, absent any personal sacrifice or change.
In order for a business to achieve greatness, it requires a superior product or service, with a comprehensive approach and attention to the way it treats its employees, suppliers, investors and even its community. Similarly, a person will only be truly great, if that person possesses the inner qualities that lead to greatness: humility, service, wisdom, courage, forgiveness, trustworthiness, and more. In years gone by, the word that was often used to describe these qualities was virtue: “behavior showing high moral standards.”
So can a nation be Great, as in “superior in character or quality” without being Good or virtuous? Clearly Trump’s message suggests, by the use of the word “Again,” that America is no longer Great. And if that is accurate, which I believe it is, then what was it that led to America’s greatness in the past? Was it merely the desire or goal of being great, by those before us, that led to America becoming great? Or was it based on some other qualities our forefathers and grandfathers possessed, that led to our nation becoming the greatest nation this world has ever known?
I would suggest that to be great, America cannot simply seek to be great, anymore than wishing to be a great company can cause a business to excel. Greatness results from small, daily routines when others are not watching that flow from conscious decisions that ultimately develop into one’s character. Greatness is not the end goal but rather it is a by-product of other disciplines.
If America is to become great again, it will not be as a result of a mere focus on greatness but it will rather flow from a commitment to the individual attributes that lead to greatness. Those attributes must be developed in our lives, and consciously taught and passed on to the lives of our children. There is a famous quote that we have all heard before: “Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.”
Sadly, the current destiny of our nation has resulted from the thoughts, actions, habits and character that we have developed individually and collectively as a people. Our fall from greatness will not be restored with mere political victories and cheap cliches that induce warm and fuzzy emotions. Rather, it will require each of us to take serious inventory of our own character to determine how and where we have contributed to the current course of our nation. And as we identify our own flaws and weaknesses, we must then be willing to make the hard changes in our own lives and thus begin the more difficult but absolutely crucial changes to right the course of our nation. Only when we do so can we #MakeAmericaGoodAgain.
“Bad men cannot make good citizens. It is when a people forget God that tyrants forge their chains. A vitiated state of morals, a corrupted public conscience, is incompatible with freedom. No free government, or the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue; and by a frequent recurrence to fundamental principles.” Patrick Henry
On this Memorial Day, our collective thoughts as Americans turn to those men and women throughout the history of our nation who gave their all so that we might continue to enjoy the “blessings of liberty.” Whether those unselfish patriots laid down their lives in 1776 as a result of “the shot heard ’round the world” or perhaps more recently as our fellow citizens gave their lives half way around the world, or even here in Chattanooga last July, there is no greater act of love, sacrifice or commitment than the one they demonstrated.
Clearly on this Memorial Day, there is no more fitting act of honor or tribute than for each of us to take some quiet time to reflect on their lives, their heroism and their legacy.
As I’ve reflected about these gone but not forgotten patriots, their acts of sacrifice should cause us to feel a sense of great responsibility and accountability. Should we not then respond in some deliberate manner to acknowledge the worth of their lives and the value they placed on our country?
One life is of immeasurable worth. Exponentially though, over a million lives, sacrificed for our nation over these 240 years, demand our attention and our action. We must go beyond an annual recognition that honors our fallen heroes and make our own “sacrifices.”
While most of us will never be called to lay down our lives for our nation, surely we can lay down a TV remote, or a golf club and at least give back a few hours a month to the nation in which we have been so blessed to live. There are hundreds of ways that you and I can rise up to defend and protect our nation’s future on a daily basis but we must be intentional about doing so. As you do so though, I encourage you to share your commitment and your plans with a friend or family member and then together, step up and give back to this wonderful nation.
Finally, this day of reflection reminds me of another Truth expressed 2,000 years ago by a man whose life exemplifies love, sacrifice and commitment. This God-man we know as Jesus, left the blessings and comforts of heaven and declared this Truth:
“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13)
But Jesus did not just speak this Truth. He too sacrificed His life for you and me, so that we could also enjoy the blessings of liberty by embracing Him and His message.
On this special day, as we remember and honor our fallen service men and women, let’s also honor the One to whom we ultimately owe the blessings of liberty: Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.
It was the summer of 1775, and the colonists in America were facing the growing threat of tyranny by their government. The new life they sought was in serious jeopardy by King George III, a man whom the colonists one year later described as having “a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object an absolute Tyranny.”
During that same summer, the New York Legislature sent a letter to General George Washington, who had just recently been appointed the Commander in Chief of the Continental Army. In the letter, Washington was commended for “taking up arms… in the glorious struggle for American Liberty.” The Legislature acknowledged the reality that Washington had the “character of our worthiest citizens” as he was answering the call of a people in trouble.
Washington’s response to the NY Legislature’s letter was a short 159 words, but the message he delivered is one, I believe, many Americans have forgotten but need to hear:
“When we assumed the Soldier, we did not lay aside the Citizen; and we shall most sincerely rejoice with you in that happy hour when the establishment of American Liberty, upon the firmest and most solid foundations, shall enable us to return to our Private Stations in the bosom of a free, peaceful and happy Country.”
In his letter, Washington was affirming that while he was indeed a citizen, he had also assumed the role of “soldier” given the reality that his homeland was threatened by a government that sought to squelch the liberties of its citizens via the unjust laws and tyranny it imposed. While Washington acknowledged that he looked forward to returning to his status as mere citizen, he clearly viewed it as his personal responsibility to defend liberty and combat tyranny.
Fast forward 241 years to 2016.
In our modern era of every imaginable convenience and comfort known to man, I fear our nation has produced too many “citizens” and too few “soldiers.” By soldiers, I do not mean the brave men and women who have been defending our nation from enemies abroad. These men and women of our military deserve, without question, our unwavering admiration, loyalty, and support.
But the soldier to which I speak are the men and women who understand the times in which we live, they see the threat posed to our individual and corporate liberties, and they realize that their status as citizen is only secure if they willingly rise up as soldiers to defend the foundations upon which their citizenship relies.
This soldier does not bear arms with actual bullets and bayonets. But he does arm himself with the truths of our founding. He is prepared to engage to inform and educate the youth of our nation, who sadly, in too many instances are being offered distorted lessons of our nation’s heritage. This soldier engages in the marketplace of ideas, confronting views that seek to malign our nation at every turn. This soldier will even step forward to answer the civic call of duty, whether in elected office or simply by engaging with other citizens to enlist them in this battle.
While we do find evidence of such soldiers still engaged in the battle for the soul of our nation, they are sorely lacking. Truthfully, I fear we have too many citizens and not enough soldiers in this seminal battle to push back those ideologies and institutions which seek to undermine our foundational liberties and principles.
Without Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Madison and so many more of our founding fathers, we would not be experiencing the blessings we enjoy in this 21st century. But the truth is that there were thousands of other unnamed soldiers who stood alongside our founding fathers. These nameless soldiers willingly set aside their status as mere citizens, and they picked up the mantle of soldier. And to these thousands of unknown soldiers we owe our very existence and the blessings of liberty that we still enjoy to this day.
But what about our offspring in 2116, one hundred years from now? Or what about our children and grandchildren just a decade or two from now? Will they continue to benefit from the liberty that we have so abundantly inherited? Or will the flame of liberty flicker and be extinguished on our watch?
The answer to these questions can be summed up in one question that only you can answer. Will you pick up the mantle of soldier and engage in the battle that is likely determining the very survival of our Republic? Or will we continue to suffer excruciating losses as too few citizens fail to answer the call to engage as a soldier in this battle?
There is a verse in the Bible that refers to a group of very astute men who also recognized the dire needs of their nation. In 1 Chronicles 12:32 we read this: “the sons of Issachar, men who understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do…”
Are you such a person? Do you understand the times in which we live? If so, then I pray that you will step forward and enlist in this epic battle. There will be ample time in the future to return to our role as citizen. Today though, a soldier is desperately needed. Will you enlist?
This last week I had the opportunity to view the newly released Hollywood movie, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. Having followed the tragic circumstances surrounding the loss of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012, I was eager to view the movie. The film tells the true story of four Americans killed, including our Ambassador, during an attack by Islamic jihadists at a US compound in Libya, as a security team struggled to defend the lives of several dozen Americans.
While there were several scenes and lines that stood out to me in the film, one in particular is the subject of my post today. The main characters in the story, Jack Silva and Tyrone Woods, were retired Navy Seals and long time friends.
In the relevant scene, the two are sitting on the rooftop of one of the building in the compound they are defending, following an intense battle in which they and their small team had just survived one of what was to be several waves of attacks from dozens of heavily armed Islamists. As Jack recounts his frustration with having left his wife and children behind in the US to sign up for another stint on the security team, he expresses his bewilderment at what drives him to continue to return to the battlefield. In response Tyrone explains that, “Warriors aren’t trained to retire.”
If one isn’t paying attention in the movie, it would be easy to miss this line that succinctly explains the behavior of these Navy Seal warriors. But the line, “Warriors aren’t trained to retire” is also a statement that bears examining for possible application to our lives.
No matter where you are in life, the concept of retirement is one that has crossed your mind. In our culture, it’s commonly accepted that all who work will eventually retire and begin a life of leisure. Typically the word retirement is tied to two variables: age and economics. And it generally looks like this. A person will work 40-50 years, create sufficient assets and related income, so that when they are 60-70 years of age, they can “retire” and live happily ever after.
The “happily ever after” can change from one person to the next, but for most it ranges from moving to Florida, playing golf several times a week, traveling, or a host of other R&R type activities.
But this “conventional” approach would seem at odds with the point Tyrone was making to Jack, that warriors just don’t know how to retire because it isn’t something that is taught, or perhaps more importantly, even contemplated. While becoming a warrior involves training and know-how, to be an effective warrior it also requires a certain type of spirit or mental attitude that never quits. A warrior understands that there is always another mission and his skills and know-how are not expendable; rather, they are desperately needed by others.
When thinking of your own circumstances, I’d like to challenge you to consider what you will do with your life once you are no longer gainfully employed. Many eagerly await that day, believing that punching out that last time will be the start of all things new and better, anticipating that the grass is greener on the other side.
But I’d suggest that if we are working today to simply stop working tomorrow, we are overlooking one of life’s greatest purposes. Despite our 21st century way of thinking, the world hasn’t always considered that when one reaches a certain age or economic status, he can then simply turn his attention inward, seeking to devote much of his waking hours at that point to his own fancies and pleasure.
To the contrary, I would suggest that at the point one leaves the office for the last time, it is then that one’s experience, wisdom and perhaps even passion have likely reached a crescendo. And if we believe the truth that “to whom much is given, much is required” then we will be compelled to share the wisdom and life experiences we have gained with others in need. Those “others” could be a young man who is just beginning his family and career, or a woman who is facing a difficult midlife challenge, or even an organization that is in desperate need of our expertise.
I have a friend who is an honorably discharged twenty-three year combat veteran of the US Army who beautifully exemplifies the idea that warriors don’t retire. Rather than head for the golf course or sandy beaches, Bob in his post-retirement years launched a new non-profit organization with a two-fold, synergistic mission: “To support military veterans by training and employing them in schools as classroom volunteers, tutors and mentors.” And today, Bob and his colleagues are making a huge difference in the lives of veterans and school children in my community.
So what about you? No matter whether you are in the first half of your career, or approaching those final years in your job or business, it’s never too early, or too late to be thinking about and planning for life after employment. I encourage you to seriously consider how you will invest into the lives of others in a way that will have deep and lasting impact for good… because “warriors aren’t trained to retire.”