by Jack Watts
I AM NOT ASHAMED: When I was in graduate school at Baylor, I remember reading a book about the beliefs and values of those who fought for and supported the American Revolution. Like most, my assumption was that nearly all of the men and women involved were strong Christians, but this simply wasn’t true. In fact, just 5 percent were church members, but the commitment of this small group was so profound that they have influenced the course of American history ever since.
As I thought about it, I realized it doesn’t take a great number of people to move a nation in one direction as versus another. It just takes a small number of people who are completely committed to their cause. Those early Christians embodied this type of devotion and dedication. Then, I wondered what would be required for our generation to be just as steadfast and immovable. As implausible as it might seem, the following experience provided me with the answer.
I was at a church service, when the pastor gave the following sermon illustration. Holding up a beautiful red rose for all to see, the pastor said, “How many of you think this flower is beautiful?” Within a few seconds, nearly every hand in the congregation was held high, including mine. Continuing, he asked, “How many of you would like a rose like this?” Again, hands shot up all over the sanctuary. Stepping forward, the pastor handed the flower to someone in the audience, asking that the flower be passed around for all to take a closer look.
Returning to the pulpit, the pastor began his sermon on the necessity of maintaining moral purity. He went to great lengths to make his point. Concluding, he asked the audience, “Where is my rose? Someone bring it back to me, please.”
As people watched to see who had the rose, a teenager in the back stepped brought the rose forward, handing it to the pastor. Holding the flower high in the air a second time, the pastor thundered. “Look at what has become of this rose. After being handled by so many, it has lost its beauty, its purity, and its value. Tell me, who would ever want this rose now? If you want it, please raise your hand.”
As he looked around the room, not one hand was raised, including mine. While driving home, however, with my spirit being troubled, I thought about the message all of us internalized that morning. It focused exclusively on how we were to behave, rather than what we were to think. I thought that if Christ had been in the audience that day, He would have looked at the wilted, badly damaged flower much differently. If He had been there, Jesus might have said, “I want that rose, and I’ll pay any price for it.”
When I had that thought, the answer to my earlier question clicked into place, and I knew why we are not as impactful as we should be. There may be more Christians in our generation, but we are not nearly as strong, nor as robust, as earlier generations. It’s because we focus on ourselves, and what we are to do, rather than on the power and authority of the Holy Spirit working within us.
From that point forward, I have thought about what is necessary for us to be stronger and more courageous than we have ever been.