When you think about it, most every cause and culture has its own flag. For instance, most Americans take pride in putting their hands over their hearts and pledging allegiance to the flag of the United States. Most schools have a flag that is waved at ball games. Each of our fifty states has a flag. The Retooled and Refueled Seminar could create a flag.
In a way, a flag cements and validates a cause. It is the visual proof of something bigger than the individual parts that it represents. A flag recognizes that there is an order - a hierarchy. When an individual salutes a flag, he is acknowledging allegiance to something greater than himself. And, in the process, subordinating himself to that greater cause.
Pondering the realities I see in the world around me, I’ve noticed that God set things up in a similar way in the animal world. He designed all the animals to accept a certain hierarchy. It’s instinctive for little animals to run for cover when a predator gets too close. In many species a dominant male asserts his control over the flock, the herd, or the pride only when all the competitive male counterparts applying for the job have accepted the dominant male’s authority.
But on a more profound level, we humans tend to resist this notion. We hesitate to acknowledge headship. Sure, we may salute certain flags and we recognize the concept of pre-eminence in the animal kingdom. But many of us do not want to surrender our wills. So we end up saluting the wrong flag—or no flag at all.
When God wired us up he essentially made us all free agents. We have free will that allows us to make choices. He didn’t force us into a fate we have no control over. Instead, he approached us with a loving hand essentially saying, “I am here to hold you, protect you, and discipline you in a way that will give you the greatest joy over the longest period of time. But the decision is yours.”
Then the devil was allowed to make his pitch to humanity. It started in the garden when he convinced Eve that the “good life” was only a bite of fruit away. He convinced Esau that a bowl of soup (probably without even a stack of saltines) was worth his heritage and birthright. He convinced Peter that it was time to seize control of his own future—and deny his best friend with curses on the eve of Jesus’ crucifixion.
Today, Satan is poised to seize the next moment of weakness in your life by trying to sell you the same bill of goods. When the company downsizing memo goes out, will you be willing to “dis” a fellow worker in order to keep your job? When friends at the clubhouse are complaining about their spouses, will you join in telling yourself that it’s okay—after all “it’s just a joke?” When you see the next attempt of a godless culture to further divorce itself from acknowledging our God in the public arena, will you go along to get along?
The apostle Peter had this same struggle. Early in his career with Jesus, he ran hot and cold. When the going was easy, he was squarely with Jesus. But, Matthew 26:69-75 on the crucifixion night, he lowered his “Jesus flag,” buckled at the knees, waffled, and stole away into the night. Some days later Jesus told Peter that, in time, this would all change. In theJohn 21:17-25, Jesus told Peter that there would come a time when he would willingly take his stand for the Master—even at the cost of his own life. According to tradition this all came true when, decades later, Peter and his wife, Concordia, both elected to accept death for Jesus rather than denial of Jesus.
Chuck Swindoll puts it well when he reminds us that life is short and being a living sacrifice is tough because living sacrifices keep trying to crawl off the alter. Maybe the key is for me to grow up like Peter grew up. Peter finally caught the vision. He realized that he could only salute one flag. Joy, balance, and purpose only happen when an individual realizes that, as Bob Dylan put it, “you got to serve someone.”
Steve Diggs is best known for 2 internationally acclaimed seminars that he has presented at nearly 500 churches. Steve can be reached through either of the websites below, or call him at 615-300-8263:
No Debt No Sweat! Christian Money Management Seminar teaches God's people how to use God's money God's way. More at www.NoDebtNoSweat.com.
ReTooled & ReFueled: The Essential Christian Life-Skills Seminar shows Christians how to live for the beautiful bye and bye—while dealing with the nasty now and now. More at www.RetooledAndRefueled.com.