IN THE OLD part of San Antonio, Texas, stands an aged Spanish mission. That mission later became a fort. We know it as the Alamo.
On one visit to the Alamo, I copied on a note-pad the following words, inscribed on a bronze plaque hanging on an inside wall. These were words of urgency when they were written. They composed an open letter for help.
“Commandancy of The Alamo, Bexar, Feby. 24th, 1836. To ‘Me People of Texas And All Americans in the World Fellow Citizens and Compatriots I am besieged…. The enemy has demanded surrender…. I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, and our flag still waves proudly from the walls — I shall never surrender or retreat.
…I call on you in the name of liberty, of patriotism and everything dear to the American character to come to our aid…. If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible and die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor and that of his country — Victory or death. /s/ Wm. Barrett Travis, Lt. Col. Comdt.”
Those were noble days and valiant men. Their ideals and policies seem strange in a world governed largely by “diplomacy” and “negotiation.” But these are the affairs of men, and men have a right to change tactics.
The tragedy is that spiritually speaking times have also changed. We have put the sword of the Spirit back into the sheath, hung it on the wall, and sat down at the conference table with the devil. No longer do we say in the Lord’s war, “I shall never surrender or retreat. I shall sustain myself as long as possible and die like a soldier who never forgets what is due.” Such talk is old-fashioned, nonprogressive and fanatical! Fanatical like Paul! Listen —
Agabus “took Paul’s belt and bound his own hands and feet and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this belt and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles. And when we heard these things, both we, and they of that place, besought him not to go up to Jerusalem.
Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? For I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 21:11-13).
This is the twentieth century, we are approaching the golden age, and now it is different. Here is the essential problem today. Many in the church still have the world in them. We are given to what John called alazoneia — the vain glory of life (I John 2:16).
Too often a successful man in business is more in demand for an eldership or deaconate than the godly man described in Timothy and Titus. Preachers, in too many cases, are more concerned with politics and Congress than with confession and prayer. What once were serious churches have become little more than social clubs.
We are building costly temples of marble and stained glass while killing the true temple of God through carelessness and excess. In far too many instances we have forgotten that “our citizenship is in heaven,” and that “all these things shall be dissolved.”
Remember Onesiphorus? Paul did, and told Timothy, “The Lord give mercy to the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain” (11 Timothy 1: 16, 17). Paul had a chain, but not of department stores. He was familiar with stocks and bonds, but his were located on the prison wall rather than on Wall Street.
As at the Alamo in 1836, the going sometimes gets rough today, and it becomes necessary to send for help. Though a few hold out till the last, most reinforcements Dever come, or even send sympathies. This is no new situation in His war, either.
“At my first answer no man stood with me, but all forsook me” wrote the aged apostle (II Timothy 4:16). Some not with Paul were justified in their absence. Tychicus was manning the post in Ephesus. Trophimus was sick at Miletum. Others were not there to help because, like Demas, they “loved this present world.” We do not know Why Demas had gone to Thessalonica — perhaps he had a successful business there. It is possible for us to know how to be abased, yet be unprepared to abound faithfully.
Most people today would insist that they belong with Paul, or at least with Tychicus or Trophimus — certainly not with Demas! But even those who have not deserted seldom regard the Demases the way Paul did. Written today, this epistle would have said “They deserted never were worth much anyway.” Paul said, (91 pray God that it may not be laid to their charge” (v. 16).
Maybe the reason Paul could be so forgiving is that he had never depended on his own strength or the faithfulness of other men to get the job done. Those who put faith in other men, no matter how faithful, are confounded. Even faithful men sometimes fall. Paul was not alone, even when “no man” stood with him. He then said, “the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me” (v. 17). When the Lord is a man’s companion he is not only not alone, he is a majority!
Paul was just a man, too, though we often make the same mistake as the people of Lystra in thinking him more. Any differences between Paul and ourselves in faith or spiritual condition merely indicate our own deficiencies and retardation.
When we become mature, we will be able to appraise the situation and say with Paul, no matter what comes —
“No, we do not lose heart. On the contrary, even if our outer nature is wearing out, our inner nature is, notwithstanding, being renewed from day to day. We have trials, but they are light and for the moment only, and they work out for us a blessedness that is beyond all comparison, and everlasting. Oh, if we could turn our thoughts to things unseen, rather than to things visible! For the things we see are transitory, but things unseen are eternal” (11 Corinthians 4:16-18, Norlie’s translation).
The enemy has demanded a surrender. What is your reply?