In Henley’s Invictus, however, the attitude portrayed goes much further beyond normal self-reliance and a good work ethic.  There is neither gratitude nor a realization of his reliance on God.  As you read the poem, you can see an almost arrogant defiance.  It is defiance against life, sure enough, but in many ways it is also a defiance against God or faith in God.  He employs a sort of naturalistic animal ferocity, a Darwinian survival of the fittest, a bellicosity against the world that denies that there even is a God.  He uses the phrase “whatever gods may be,” which indicates a dismissive condescension, as if he senses that there might be some higher powers that could possibly have influence on his circumstances, but he is not going to bother to investigate who they are, nor if he has any responsibility to them.  He seems to suggest that we don’t need a God, that we have all things under control and that all is going swimmingly.  I do not need to tell you, if you read the national news daily from various sources, that after thousands of years of technological, political, philosophical, scientific, and economic development, man does not have it all under control. 

We are no better off than the moment when Adam and Eve first fell to sin in the Garden of Eden.  In spite of the great increase of knowledge and the culmination of all bodies of knowledge, while mankind may have made his/her life a little easier, we are no smarter and no better at solving all the major problems that face the human race.  In fact, we are receding, retrograding, devolving.  Our “war on poverty” has failed.  Our boasts of having peace on earth through the United Nations are merely idle prattle with no validation.  Our entire economic system seems to be on the verge of collapse as our demented political leaders continue to promise to meet all needs and feed everyone as if they are gods themselves.  And our families have never been more fragmented and tenuous.  If we could individually be the “masters of our fate,” then perhaps we could collectively be more effective at solving our problems.  But we, as a people, seem to be getting more selfish and violent every day.  The depravity of man without God has never before been more abrasively evident. 

More than ever before, we need a Savior.  In this season when we celebrate the coming of our Lord to Earth in order to be the Perfect Sacrifice for all of our sins, we need to turn our hearts to Jesus and pour out prayers like never before if anything good is to come out of this chaos.  But we do have to put Him first.  Jesus admonished us, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Mat. 6:33).  Even though the circumstances of our lives may seem impossible, God will make a way where there is no way, and He can change not only the circumstances of our lives, but He can also change our very hearts and the hearts of those around us as we lift them up in prayer to our boundlessly loving God.  Perhaps the best illustration is in the words of Jesus when He spoke to the rich man in Mark 10:  “But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!  It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”   Most people stop reading right there and assume that Jesus was saying that it is impossible for a rich man to be saved.  But if you didn’t read the following verses, you would miss out on a rich blessing of God’s incredible love. 

The verses go on to state, “And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved?  And Jesus looking upon them saith, ‘With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.’”  The real message in this verse is that God can do the impossible.  He can even save someone who seems beyond redemption.  There are people that seem too far gone for anyone else to reach, but God can reach them.  I’ve seen it happen myself.  I’ve seen people that were prayed over for years and years finally come to a covenant relationship with God through His son Jesus.  And history is full of examples of people that were just adamantly opposed to God, only to have their lives miraculously turned around 180 degrees.   One such story is that of Josh McDowell.  He has become one of the greatest apologists and theologians of all time.  He penned the famous, very simple, very accessible book of apologetics More Than a Carpenter, which is a must read for all Christians. 

McDowell has a unique talent for breaking down complex ideas and presenting them in simple form.  Moreover, he has put together a comprehensive body of knowledge about the proof for our faith in the series of books under the title of Evidence That Demands a Verdict.  In those books, he pulls together an exhaustive list of principles and facts from original sources that are absolutely insurmountable for anyone that is skeptical of the faith.  But he knows better than anyone about skepticism of Christianity.  He has told his own story in his various books about how he came to the faith.  He had been a devout atheist in college when he set out to disprove Christianity.  But when he made an intellectually honest attempt to address and challenge the various facts and tenets of our faith, and when he went to original sources rather than just regurgitating what others said, he found that, the more he dug in, the more he realized how much evidence and empirical proof there is for the Bible and for Christianity.  Finally, he came to the end of himself and his foolish denial of God.  At that point, he gave his life to our loving Christ, and the great body of knowledge he developed in trying to disprove God then was turned, in an ironic twist, into many volumes of proof about the God he originally denied.   This is a story that has been repeated throughout the ages for so many countless other lives.  God has redeemed so many people that seemed beyond hope and turned their lives into tremendous victories.  He has done the same in my life, so I can speak from personal experience. 

We all need the Savior, not just at the moment of salvation but every day as we struggle through this difficult life.  Only He can give us the power and the wisdom to change ourselves for the better.  But it all starts with that covenant relationship with Christ.  And thankfully, there is nothing that we can do or need to do to prepare for this salvation.  As Christian comedian Mike Warnke has so appropriately questioned, “Do you get cleaned up to take a bath?”  The obvious answer is no.  You just come to God as you are in all your flaws and sins and brokenness.  As one of our most famous hymns says it, each of us comes, “Just As I Am.”  If we are willing, God will clean up all the filth and give us a brand new start; and He will continue to give us a new start every single day, filling us with the power to do His will as we make time to be in His presence.  He will then take us on a life-time journey to where we become a more beautiful person, someone we won’t even recognize.  In His masterful hands, He can do the impossible and make us into the improbable people that we want to be but which we cannot become on our own power.  From that point, we are a work-in-progress and will be up until we meet our Lord face-to-face, none of us better than another.  Yet all of us are far better than we would have ever been under the corrupt power of our own self-reliance. 

 


Comments

This part 2 is just as good as the part one, The Limitations of Self Reliance at a dissertation site. The post is inspring motivating yet a very honest one. Loved your this piece of writing.

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    I'm a retired soldier, having spent 23 years of my life serving our country, actually 30 years when you count the reserve and National Guard time as well.  I believe in servant leaders, following the example of our Lord, and I believe in giving back to the troops once one has attained a certain status or level of success in life.  But I also believe in fighting back against corruption and incompetence wherever you find it if it hurts people.  Our national values were worth dying for.  They are also worth living for.  A man or woman can actually live a life by these principles of humility, service, love, duty, and honor, and have a significant impact on the world around them...if you have the dedication to see it through. 

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