Our Pride Surrendered
21 Manuary, 2016
George Washington stood before the assembly of the continental congress as the most powerful man in the soon to be states. The war was over and he had successful lead an out-numbered, out-gunned, out-trained, and out-matched continental army in defeating the most powerful nation in the world. The road to independence for him meant letting go of his pride time after time in retreat after retreat. His humility let him see that the only way to win the war was going to be through capitulating to the more powerful force. His wisdom helped him understand that to avoid surrender, at times he would also have to avoid a fight.
It’s difficult to surrender our own pride. It’s hard to not only admit, but willfully give up our own potential success. As a General it was Washington’s job to win. The future and the lives of many in America depended on him and his leadership. Few in the history of the world hold so high a responsibility as George Washington held during the American Revolution. But so too, no one in the history of the world has gone without responsibility, whether great or small. It’s in the way we face our responsibilities that determines so much about our accomplishments. But do we ever consider a retreat? Do we ever consider a resignation from potential success?
As George Washington stood before congress, he stood before it as a national hero. He could have become the king of America if he so desired. But he faced his temptations of greatness like he had during the entire war. He resigned his power. Maybe he knew he would never last long as an emperor. Perhaps he understood the perils of concentrated power in the fledgeling states. And it’s possible he was genuinely weary of so much responsibility in the moment. Whatever the reason, it was with tears in his eyes that he volunteered his sword as Commander-in-Chief to that congress. And it was with tears that it was received with grace.
The Bible says, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” – Proverbs 16:18 (ESV) Over and over this General, this Commander refused to let his pride lead. Instead he relied on humility and God’s Providence in his life. And oh if we could see that those two are forever inseparable. May we never make the mistake in believing that humility equals cowardice. While George Washington was willing to sacrifice his pride, he was also willing to sacrifice his own safety, even his own life if needed. The first time I talked about President Washington this Manuary it was about his courage. And oh that we too could see that pride and courage have very little to do with one another. That same man who was willing to have horses shot out from under him and his clothing pierced with bullets to avoid surrender was also willing to evacuate his troops across the East River from Long Island to Manhattan in what was one of the great troop movements in the war in which eight to 12 thousand men were ferried across the river in less than 12 hours.
In life, we must never surrender everything. We must risk ourselves at times. We must fight with all we have at times. But so too we must know when to resign our own power. Because the power is never ours to keep. George Washington knew that, and through the battles and the war for independence he showed a nation that it was true. With his resignation before congress he once again resigned from a fight; showing that he was worthy of something greater. He probably could have been king if he wanted. But by refusing it he verified himself ready to become the first President of the United States of America. An office that has overshadowed any human kingship in history; in power, in influence, and in might.
There is however one King that is greater than all. He too refused fight after fight. In fact He was willing to give His own life to prove His worthiness. Jesus Christ, the King of kings gave Himself up to be crucified in order to save us all from destruction. Earlier I said we must never surrender everything. I’ll add a caveat to that. We must surrender all to Jesus. But in so doing we surrender nothing but our own pride. In so doing we gain all. Will we follow the example of our leaders who never hesitated to be humble? Will we humble ourselves to follow Jesus? He humbled Himself for us. There is a crown promised to all who can. It’s our greatest, truest, and surest decision of destiny.
When General Washington crossed the East River that night on August 29, 1776, it was in defeat. But in defeat he prepared himself to cross another. On Christmas day that same year the Americans made another crossing. But this time it was in victory. Today it’s a crossing that is infamous in American history. The crossing of of 2,400 Americans across the Delaware River in a sub-zero storm to defeat an overconfident Hessian force at Trenton. It wasn’t easy, but crosses don’t usually come easy. The Americans left bloody stains in the ice all the way from the shore of the Delaware to Trenton, and Christ sweat drops of blood before His Cross. The surrender of our pride is not the surrender of victory. Rather, it is the vehicle that makes victory possible time and again. I pray we learn to surrender our pride, leaning into a power that is not ours, gaining a victory we could never achieve ourselves. Christ has already won the war. Will we decide to take His side? It’s a crossing you must decide for yourself.
“Then Jesus told His disciples, ‘If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?
For the Son of Man is going to come with His angels and the glory of His Father, and then He will repay each person according to what he has done. Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.’” – Matthew 16:24-28
God Bless You,