Sunday, July 8, 2018

Learning from the Greatest Generation

“Who escapes a duty, avoids a gain.”  Theodore Parker  

  Each Saturday, though now 94, retired U.S. Senator Bob Dole sets off on his latest mission. A blue oxford is maneuvered over the dead right arm and the shoulder that was blown away on an Italian hillside, pressed khakis over the scarred thigh. He’s driven to a spot just outside the main entrance to the National World War II Memorial in D.C. And then they come, bus after bus, wheelchair after wheelchair, battalions of his bent brothers, stooped with years, veterans coming to see their country’s monument to their sacrifice and to be welcomed by of one of their country’s icons. Over and over again, Dole says, “Good to see you. Where you from?” as they roll close, sometimes one on each side. New York, Tennessee, Nevada, the old roll-call once again. “Let's get a picture.” “Thank you for your service.”
  Sometimes Dole will do that all day, staying until the last one goes by to see the grand columns and fountains behind him. They pump his left hand or squeeze his shoulders. Sometimes he gets home, not just tired but gently battered by humanity. He’s been coming for years now, weather and health permitting, to greet aging vets, brought at no cost from throughout the country by the Honor Flight Network. As the many missions of a mission-driven life fade into history - combat hero, champion for the disabled, Senate majority leader, presidential candidate - this final calling has remained, down to just Saturdays, sometimes derailed by the doctors, still a duty to be fulfilled. “It’s just about the one public service left that I’m doing. We don’t have many of the World War II vets left. It’s important to me. I tell them it doesn't matter where you're from, what war you served in, whether you were wounded or not wounded…We’re all in this together.”
  This past Wednesday we celebrated America’s birthday. The reason that we’re here today, the reason we still have the many freedoms we have, including the freedom of religion, is because young Americans jumped out of planes, stormed beaches, waded through swamps on foreign soils – willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice. We must never forget that responsibility always proceeds freedom, we serve first out of duty, not personal benefit, and freedom is always costly. Yet, our American freedom isn’t comparable to the eternal freedom born-again believers have in Christ.
  Tom Brokaw dubbed those World War II vets, The Greatest Generation. I’m not sure. Our country has had a long history of generations of heroes. I do know though that the Bible teaches that every believer can be part of “The Greatest Church.” How can we do that?
  Take Personal Responsibility for Yourself. One son of a WWII Medal of Honor winner remembers of his dad and his peers, “For them, responsibility was their juice. They loved responsibility…anytime they could get a task and be responsible, that was what really got em’ going.”  When those from the Greatest Generation accepted responsibility, they also accepted all the consequences of that decision. They weren’t whiners or excuse makers. They took personal accountability seriously.
  Taking personal responsibility is essential to being a healthy Christian. Every believer is responsible for their own personal walk with the Lord. They’re responsible to make spending time in His Word, prayer and worship a top priority. They’re responsible to serve and step up when others sit down. Early Christians turned their world upside down because they didn’t rationalize, “I’m too busy” or “someone else will do it.”
  Be habitually humble. Typical of the Greatest Generation is the story of an adult child finding some war medal stashed in the attic after Dad passes away, having never told them about it. Even if their exploits were heroic, the Greatest Generation rarely talked about the war, both because of the difficulty in remembering such carnage, but also from some sense that they were merely fulfilling their duty with no reason to brag. Because our Savior was obedient unto death on the cross for us, there’s great joy found in being obedient to Him. The motive for our obedience isn’t self-glory. We’re motivated to serve out of love and gratitude for all He’s done for us. After Jesus’ great sacrifice, it’s our delight to humbly serve and obey Him.  
  Reach for greater challenges. The Greatest Generation wasn’t great despite the challenges they faced, but because of them. Too many dodge difficulties, erroneously believing the easier life is, the happier they’ll be. Our grandfathers knew better. Fulfillment comes from overcoming great challenges that build character and refine the soul. The challenges they faced made their joy more sweet because it was tinged with the gratitude of knowing how easily it could all have been taken away.
  A Christian can’t afford to play it safe. Eternity hangs in the balance. We must pray for boldness as the Apostle Paul continually did and take great risks for the gospel. The world is headed toward a Christless eternity. We’ve been given the mission of sharing with it hope – that God loves this world, that there’s forgiveness, new life and eternity in heaven.
    Endure. The Greatest Generation wouldn’t give up until the mission was accomplished. Coming home, they carried that same commitment over to the world of work. They didn’t look for personal fulfillment; they labored for a bigger purpose: to give their families the financial security they hadn’t enjoyed growing up.
  Serving the Lord is even more fulfilling. Anything ultimately fulfilling is usually difficult. The rewards for serving the Lord are eternal. What a blessing it will be if we faithfully serve to hear, “Well, done, good and faithful servant” from the lips of the Captain of our souls who paid the ultimate price for us, so we could be forgiven and free forever!  

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