“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2).”
In the movie “12 O’Clock High”, General Frank Savage (played by Gregory Peck) is sent to the 918th Bomber Group to turn the unit around. It has become known as a “hard luck group”, beset my heavy losses and morale problems as they fight Germany in World War II.
Savage’s superior officer, Major General Ben Pritchard, tells him,”I’ve gotta ask you to take nice kids and fly them until they can’t take any more, and then put ’em back in and fly ’em some more. We’ve got to try to find out just what a maximum effort is. How much a man can take and get it all.”
Savage arrives and tells these veteran fliers that he doesn’t believe in “hard luck”. He says he believes a man makes his own luck. Then he tells these seasoned fliers they’re going back into training to learn “fundamentals”.
Savage doesn’t stop there. He goes on to tell these men why he believes they are having such trouble:
“But I can tell you now one reason I think you’ve been having hard luck. I saw it in your faces last night. I can see it there now. You’ve been looking at a lot of air lately… and you think you ought to have a rest. In short, you’re sorry for yourselves. I don’t have a lot of patience with this, ‘What are we fighting for?’ stuff. We’re in a war, a shooting war. We’ve got to fight. And some of us have got to die. I’m not trying to tell you not to be afraid. Fear is normal. But stop worrying about it and about yourselves. Stop making plans. Forget about going home. Consider yourselves already dead. Once you accept that idea, it won’t be so tough. Now if any man here can’t buy that… if he rates himself as something special, with a special kind of hide to be saved… he’d better make up his mind about it right now. Because I don’t want him in this group. I’ll be in my office in five minutes. You can see me there.”
The entire bomber group signs up for a transfer.
Of late, life has been full of extreme trial. Instead of things getting better, they are getting worse.
This is beyond my expectations as a Christian. It was my impression that God gives us periods of trial, but also times of refreshment. This hasn’t been my experience.
It is becoming clear to me that I am in God’s training program here in middle age, even though I have been a believer in Jesus Christ my entire life. I am now faced with a choice: am I going to feel sorry for myself like these fliers did and transfer out of the Christian life, or am I going to listen to my Commanding Officer and go back to fundamentals.
Like these fliers, we believers are in a “shooting war”. Our Enemy is the devil and he hates us. He wants to kill us.
One German soldier in World War II said when he was reprimanded by the Allies for killing all the paratroopers who had landed on his unit,”They weren’t coming down to give us candies. They wanted to kill us.”
Satan is not involved in my life to give me a Snickers bar. He wants to destroy me and mine, utterly and completely.
In this spiritual war, in order to live to fight another day, I have to consider myself already dead to this world. I have to forget about trying to save my own hide and the comforts of this world here so I can help those I love and others have a better life after the war.
If God wants me to give “maximum effort” to do this, so be it. If I have to go back to the fundamentals of the Christian life to successfully prosecute this war against Satan and protect my own, then I’ll do it.
My pastor likes to use a phrase I am not that familiar with. He tells me to “dig deeper” in Christ.
When I asked him “how” to do this, he referred me to the disciplines I know so well, the fundamentals: Bible study, fellowship, and sharing Christ.
However, he also gave the reason why we should do these things. My pastor told me that it’s because Jesus Christ is our abundant Resource in our confusion in life. He quoted the Apostle Paul:
“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us…(II Corinthians 8:10).”
General Frank Savage told one of his reluctant warriors that he envisioned the day when the skies would be full of American airplanes. The war would be won. He asked the man to hang on until that day.
In the end, the men of the 918th Bomber Squadron came around, listened to their commander, and gave the “maximum effort” he required of him.
One day the battle with the Enemy will be over. God and His soldiers will emerge victorious.
In the move “12 O’Clock High”, the commanding officers weren’t really sure what “maximum effort” was. They couldn’t define it.
However, my all-wise God knows what “maximum effort” is and what He wants from me. As the spiritual battle rages now, I can do nothing better than to follow my Superior Officer, General Jesus Christ and do what He asks of me, considering the joyful ending that’s coming as a result.