Dr. Richard “Harry” Harris is an Australian anesthetist and experienced cave diver. He played a key role in the successful international effort that rescued twelve boys and their coach from a cave system in Thailand.
The Thai mission commander was extremely grateful for Dr. Harris’s contributions. He told a news conference yesterday, “Without him, in this operation, I don’t think we could have succeeded.”
Dr. Harris made the perilous two-and-a-half-mile journey in and out of Tham Luang cave every day to check on the health of the trapped boys. He was the last man out of the cave on Tuesday.
Tragically, he emerged from the darkness to learn that his father had died.
“Greater is He who is in you”
Heroism and happiness are not always connected in our fallen world.
Ask any military veteran to identify the real heroes in a war, and he or she will likely point to comrades who gave their lives for the cause. Unsung heroes are no less heroic for their lack of fame.
For example, can you identify Thomas Clarkson, Tenzing Norgay, or Bayard Rustin?
Clarkson was instrumental in William Wilberforce’s campaign to outlaw slavery. Norgay accompanied Sir Edmund Hillary on the first successful summit of Mt. Everest.
Rustin, an African-American, was arrested for protesting segregated bus seating thirteen years before Rosa Parks’s famous act of defiance. He also convinced Martin Luther King Jr. that a policy of non-violent protest was critical to achieving equal rights.
It can be frustrating to watch our culture reward movie stars and athletes with celebrity and astounding fortune while millions of Americans work behind the scenes to raise their children, support their families, and give back to their communities.
Those who follow and serve Jesus are especially likely to be overlooked or misunderstood these days. As the news constantly reminds us, there is an ever-widening chasm between conventional wisdom and biblical morality.
It’s tempting to say with the prophet Elijah, “I, even I only, am left a prophet of the Lord” (1 Kings 18:22). But it’s not true: just as there were “seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal” (1 Kings 19:18), so there are more with God today than we know. And “greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4 NASB).
“My grace is sufficient for you”
If God is God, why isn’t it easier to serve him in our culture?
One answer, of course, is that our Father honors the free will he gives us. He wants us to use our freedom to choose a relationship with him and a life of godliness. But we’re not free to choose for God unless we can choose against him. And many are making the latter tragic decision.
But I think there’s a second factor at work as well.
In Joshua 5, the children of Israel have crossed the Jordan river into their promised land. When they arrived, “the manna ceased the day after they ate the produce of the land. And there was no longer manna for the people of Israel, but they ate of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year” (v. 12).
Clearly, the God who provided manna in the desert wilderness could do so in the fertile Jordan valley. But he wanted his people to farm their new land. As farmers, he wanted them to depend on him for sun and rain, crops and sustenance.
We find the same principle at work with Paul’s “thorn in the flesh.” Though he pled three times for God to remove it, his loving Father refused. Instead, the Lord taught him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9a).
The apostle responded: “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (vv. 9b-10).
Pray for more sails for the wind
Here’s the balance: as we work, God works. Israeli farmers tilled the soil and planted their crops, and God gave them the natural resources they needed to succeed. Paul continued to preach in the face of persecution and suffering, and God gave him “the power of Christ.”
Our Father wants us to see suffering and obstacles as invitations to greater dependence on him.
He could provide manna and remove thorns, and he sometimes does. But when he doesn’t, rather than give up or give in, look up.
Peter promised his persecuted readers, “After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10).
Commenting on this promise, Charles Spurgeon wrote: “Those old gnarlings on the root of the oak tree, and those strange twistings of the branches, all tell of the many storms that have swept over it, and they are also indicators of the depth into which the roots have forced their way. So the Christian is made strong, and firmly rooted by all the trials and storms of life.”
Rather than pray for less wind on the sea, let’s pray for more sails for the wind.