The One Important Day
On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, November 11, 1918, World War I fighting ceased. The following year, President Woodrow Wilson declared November 11th to be the first commemoration of Armistice Day, a day set aside to honor military veterans who gave their service and their lives for freedom in America.
Over the years the day changed from honoring veterans of World War I to honoring all military veterans.
Well, on days like today in the United States, but all around the world, when you remember the sacrifice of those who make your freedoms possible, remembering that one day, that one important day can make all the difference in life.
Days like today remind us that the cost paid for freedom has been high down through history. At times, the cost of this sacrifice has been much higher than we could ever imagine or fathom. You may have heard of Admiral James Stockdale. On September 9, 1965, an explosion sent his jet plummeting to earth in North Vietnam. Stockdale ejected and parachuted into a small village in enemy territory. Immediately he was severely beaten and taken as a prisoner. In just one day, James Stockdale’s life took a dramatic and dangerous turn. He would remain a prisoner of war for the next seven years.
Confined to one of the most notorious prisons in North Vietnam, Stockdale was routinely tortured and beaten. He heroically resisted being used as propaganda by his captors. He suffered more agony than a person could imagine in an effort to prevail over those who imprisoned him.
In Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great, Stockdale recounted how he survived. He said, “I never lost faith in the end of the story, I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.”
Stockdale was then asked who didn’t make it through the ordeal of captivity. He replied, “Oh, that’s easy, the optimists. They were the ones who said, ‘We’re going to be out by Christmas.’ And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they’d say, ‘We’re going to be out by Easter.’ And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart.”
Stockdale emphasized a crucial point: “You must never confuse faith,” he said, “that you will prevail in the end-which you can never afford to lose-with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they may be.”
Jim Collins called this the “Stockdale Paradox,” confronting the brutal facts of the current situation, but having faith that you will prevail in the end.
For James Stockdale, the highest-ranking naval officer ever to be held in captivity, the facts were completely brutal. He was shackled in a 3’x 9′ solitary confinement cell, a single light bulb shining both day and night. By the time he was released in 1973, his shoulders had been pulled from their sockets from torture, his legs had been shattered, and his back had been broken. These were the brutal facts of the price he paid for our freedom. These were the brutal facts that had to be overcome for his freedom, too.
What brutal facts are you facing in your life? There are plenty of them, aren’t there? You may not be in a literal prison. You may not have captors tormenting you. But are you tortured by guilt? Are you harassed by grief? Are you imprisoned by hopelessness? Is a broken heart and a broken spirit holding you captive? Do you feel all alone, as if no one cares? Do you feel at times as if God doesn’t care or that He doesn’t hear your cries for help? Are you frustrated because life isn’t going where you thought it would, where you hoped it would?
Facing the brutal facts of life is so difficult, isn’t it? But today, I want to encourage you not to lose heart. You can have faith in the end of the story no matter what you’re facing today. Why? Because Jesus Himself paid freedom’s eternal price so that you and I might have life in Him no matter what. You see, Jesus was broken and shattered. He was taken captive and finally killed. But the story didn’t end there. Jesus rose from the dead. He conquered death and He did it all for you! He died and rose again so that the end of your story can be life, not death. He loved you and gave Himself for you so your story can be one of hope and not defeat. No matter how brutal the facts of your life today, dear listener, you can have hope. Because of God’s love for you in Jesus Christ and because of His grace for your life, you will prevail in the end with the forgiveness of your sins, the gift of salvation for you, and the enduring presence of Jesus who is with you always.
There are those days in life when things just seem to go awry, aren’t there? The Bible says that such things happen because there was a historic day like no other, one day when it all came crashing down. In the Garden of Eden, long ago, Adam and Eve disobeyed God. Filled with self-interest and rebellion against their Creator, they started a chain reaction of sin and brokenness. And we keep the chain reaction going, don’t we? How easy it is to slide into selfishness! How natural it is for us to rebel against God! How fragile we are as we slip into despondency and despair!
If that one day was all there was in life, then there would be no hope, no confidence that the “end of the story” for any of us would be anything but misery and despair. But the Bible declares that there was yet another day, a day when God acted on behalf of us all.
You see, there was a day, one day, the most important day, when everything changed. It was a day that reverberated into all of time and into your life! The Son of God entered into the pain and emptiness of this world broken by sin. The Stockdale Paradox was seeing victory at the end, no matter what the brutal facts of the moment. Well, no offence to the incredible heroism of Admiral Stockdale, but there is another Paradox that makes that true, eternally for us all.
It’s the Jesus Christ Paradox of the Scripture! Jesus, the Son of God, died that we might live! The Bible says in Hebrews 9:24 that, “Christ has entered, not into the holy place made with human hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. ” Oh, the Paradox of Jesus, the sinless Son of God, carrying the sin, the pain, and the brokenness of every person in the world before the Father in Heaven. Jesus facing a perfect and Holy God with your sin and mine on His shoulders. The brutal facts of our sin were heaped on Him. And He was punished in our place. He took the consequences for the brutal facts of life and was nailed to the cross, abandoned by God the Father.
On that day, that one day, Jesus paid the price for you. On that day, that one day, Jesus purchased your new life, your freedom from the sentence of death and the hopelessness of sin.
Once for all. One day, the ultimate sacrifice, for you! It’s true that wars continue to rage. Yes, pain and difficulty keep pounding each day. But Jesus’ sacrifice is complete! His work for you is accomplished once and for all!
Do you need some Good News today, then? I know I do. And isn’t it incredible that our God has News for us that not only blesses us, but gives us strength to live life boldly in His Name today? Do you need relief for your suffering or support in your weariness? The Jesus Christ Paradox means you can know the end of the story, the victory of His life for you. The good news is that your life in Him is brand new! You can have hope because of Him! By faith in Him, the Holy Spirit poured the forgiveness of sins and new life into your life and claimed you as God’s precious child.
So, right now, right now as you hear this living Word of God today, certain hope is being brought to the reality of all the challenges and heartaches you face. Jesus, your Savior, is alive and He is with you every step of the way.
You can confront the brutal facts of your current reality with the unwavering faith that you will prevail in the end because of the death and resurrection of Jesus for you. No enemy, no imprisonment, no torment can defeat your victorious Savior!
Jesus is coming again. One day He will return. And what a day it will be! It is the day of salvation. It is the day when the eternal, end of the story for all will be realized. For believers, then, it’s not just a “Stockdale Paradox” come to fruition, but the final victory of Jesus Christ come true in your life. It is the day of restoration. It is the day of being reunited with those who have gone before us to their heavenly home.
Never forget that by God’s grace, you will prevail in the end! You can have faith in the end of the story, for it is your Savior who has already written the ending. The Bible declares: “We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield” (Psalm 33:20 NIV). Even more: “Those who wait upon the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31).
This message from Pastor Greg Seitz is brought to you by Grace Lutheran Church, Web and Park Street, Mountain View, Arkansas. For prayer or more information, contact Pastor Kenneth Taglauer by email: [email protected]. A Pass it On Project you can read more at: The Lutheran Hour