MONDAY, DECEMBER 11, 2000
SELF-RELIANCE IS OVERRATED
I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all. Eccl. 9:11 (KJV)
Life is full of surprises and upsets. Every sports fan knows it. I am sure that more than a few football fans in Washington DC are smarting this morning over the unlikely pounding their football heroes took at the hands of the hapless Dallas Cowboys yesterday. Teams with records of four wins, nine losses are not supposed to toast teams with playoff aspirations. They are not supposed to. But they do.
That is why the original NFL commissioner, Pete Rozelle coined the phrase, “On any given Sunday…” You never know.Sometimes frontrunners lose races. NASCAR fans know this. So do track fans. Sometimes wealthy people make bad decisions or run into hard luck and go broke. JC Penney did…more than once.
Sometimes young, healthy people kill over unexpectedly. Sometimes frontrunners lose races. NASCAR fans know this. So do track fans. Sometimes wealthy people make bad decisions or run into hard luck and go broke. JC Penney did…more than once. Sometimes young, healthy people kill over unexpectedly.For these
For these reasons, we ought to be careful about developing an overactive sense of self-reliance. Smugness does not suit the Christian. We of all people should know that “but for the grace of God, there go I.”
Unfortunately, too many of us have yet to learn to lean on Christ. We would rather trust our own ingenuity, hard work or good fortune – none of which can guarantee a favorable outcome.
Let us not live in such a way that our lives resound with the shocking words of William Ernest Henley’s troubling but timeless poem of individual defiance, called “Invictus”:
“Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeoning of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.
It matter not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.
The cold, bitter defiance of those words strikes me. I wonder if Mr. Henley from his eternal abode would still echo such sentiments, still claim such self-assurance, still offer such open defiance of God? Or would he now, instead, concur with the words of Dorothea Day, the poet who wrote “My Captain” in response to his poem?
“Out of the light that dazzles me,
Bright as the sun from pole to pole,
I thank the God I know to be
For Christ the conqueror of my soul.
Since His the sway of circumstance,
I would not wince or cry aloud.
Under that rule which men call chance
My head with joy is humbly bowed.
Beyond this place of sin and tears
That life with Him! And His the aid,
Despite the menace of the years,
Keeps, and shall keep me, unafraid.
I have no fear, though strait the gate,
He cleared from punishment the scroll.
Christ is the Master of my fate,
Christ is the Captain of my soul.”
I am not suggesting that you fear life’s uncertainty: only that you recognize it and embrace the One in Whose control it lies. You may not be the swiftest, but keep running. You may not be strongest, but don’t throw in the towel. Fight on. You may not be the wealthiest, but you can work hard and invest wisely.
Yes, time will take its toll. Yes, unexpected stuff will happen. Yes, there will be upsets along the way. But just get back in the huddle and listen to the Captain. On to victory!
On to victory!
A Prayer For Today: “Father, thank You for sending Your Son to be my Captain. Thank you that I do not have to rely on my own abilities or good fortune in life. I can rely on You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”
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