The Folly of Force
What Will It Be, Force or Strength?
Genesis 26:18 NKJV
And Isaac dug again the wells of water which they had dug in the days of Abraham his father, for the Philistines had stopped them up after the death of Abraham. He called them by the names which his father had called them.
January 6, 2021. A violent mob breached the security perimeter of the US Capitol.
For whatever reason, people sometimes start fires. When things blow up in their faces or burn down around their heads, they come to regret their reckless use of force. Like a steamship forging a path through troubled seas, the necessary fires escape the boilers and ignite the coal bin. Such is the folly of force.
There is an alternative to force—strength. Force has no mind of its own, only momentum. It is an irresistible power aimed at any immovable object. When the collision occurs, it is up to the strong to pick up the pieces. Strength is a state of mind and body. It is intentional and focused on the task at hand. It is the bone of the mind and the muscle of the will. Like a steam locomotive, it runs on carefully laid rails and civilization rides safely inside to a predetermined destination. Force is loud and chaotic. Strength is quiet and orderly. Strength creates; force destroys.
While our nation’s history is often the story of victory over evil, there have been days where force took over for strength. January 6, 2021 was one of the force days and we will long bleed in its wound. Force sought to destroy a constitutional process, but strength picked up the pieces and continued its foreordained work on the very same day.
We must find strength. What is strength?
- Strength is truth. When we abandon truth, all we have left is force.
- Strength is process. The pursuit of the instant can only lead us to the temporary.
- Strength is community. The mob is full of disconnected people, allied only by anger.
- Strength is faith. Cynicism is a thing of hollow hearts, posing as intelligence.
Where can we find strength? Only in the ancient wells of our forefathers can our thirst for strength be slaked. Find these sources hidden in our history. Uncover these wells, for there flows the living water of strength.
Finding the Ancient Wells
The transfer of values from generation to generation is one of the most important functions of a civilization. Isaac set about searching out the wells his father, Abraham, had dug in the land to which God had called him. This was necessary because the Philistines had covered them up and hidden them. Isaac was careful to call them by the same names his father had given them.
At this moment in our nation’s history the strengthening wells of American life have been covered up and hidden. To be faithful in the responsibilities of our turn at the helm of the steamship plowing the seas, we must rediscover the sources of strength known to the founders of this nation, to her God-sent reformers, and to our brothers, fathers, and grandfathers who risked their lives to preserve it. What are these ancient wells of strength?
We can uncover them as we understand how we are made in the image of God. The Creator has revealed Himself in His Word as a triune being, three as one: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is the subtext of the New Testament and the Church Fathers in the first centuries of the Church formed it into a doctrine. Likewise, each of us is also a trinity: body, soul, and spirit. The body is our sense-consciousness. The soul is our self-consciousness, and the spirit is our God-consciousness. Each of these parts of each of us has an ancient well of strength.
Strength for the Body
Care for the human body begins in the womb as the developing child commands the mother’s body, supplying what is needed for her health and that of her child. An important part of growing up is learning how to grow strong in body. Play for the small child grows into games and sports for the teen and proper diet and exercise for the adult. Developing and keeping physical strength is a life-long challenge.
Strength for the Soul
Each of us has an inner life: private thoughts, persistent impulses, hidden dreams, formative memories and other positive passions of the soul. When good and bad things happen to us, these inner lives are affected, sometimes with wounds and other times with rewards. These shape our inner lives, driving us or hindering us in unconscious ways.
How do we strengthen our souls? Just as our bodies were designed and created by God in our mother’s womb, our inner lives are also products of God’s craftsmanship. When we are children, our play is more than just fun and games. We are forming our inner person. The role of the imagination is primary as we grow, connecting our inner world to the world around us. The child is in a constant state of observation, learning, learning, learning all the time, even before language is developed. A baby can read faces better than adults read books. Input and sensation join this constant observation to fill the waking hours of the infant who is properly cared for. In childhood these processes continue with more input through more means of communication. The atmosphere of the home makes a myriad of contributions to strengthen or weaken the developing soul of the growing child.
As we mature, the responsibility for this growing strength of the inner person shifts to us. We control what we read, watch, and think about. We respond to the events of life, good and bad. This inner self may be unseen by the world and we may even be unconscious of it, but our soul is who we really are becoming. The input we choose determines the nature and quality of our public lives. Computer people used to say, “Garbage in. Garbage out.” The Bible is more graceful. Hear the words of Jesus Himself!
Luke 6:45 NKJV
A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good, and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
Every time we open our mouths, we reveal the contents of our hearts to those who might be paying attention! To be strong of soul, we must fill our secret selves with strong things: truth, proper passions, and dreams and visions of a meaningful life.
Strength for the Spirit
In our souls, we know our secret selves. In our spirits, we know our God. We know Him if we are in relationship with Him. If sin stands between our hearts and His, instead of knowing God, we are searching for Him. We may not give Him a name or even recognize Him as our Maker. We may not even be able to give our search an object or a name, but something is missing from our life. A void, like a black hole in deep space, occupies the center of our hearts, siphoning all our somethings into nothingness. No matter what we may have accomplished or what we may possess, nothing fills that void until we are in relationship with the One who made us for Himself. When we see evil in the actions of a person, we can be sure there is emptiness in his/her spirit. The spirit which has been cutoff from its source only grows weaker with time.
When the human spirit is filled with the Holy Spirit of God, a reenactment of Eden takes place. Just as God formed Adam and Eve from the earth and breathed the ruach, the breath of life, into them, He fills our spirit with life and with strength. This constant, indwelling process will provide the inner strength each of us needs to match the challenges of life and to be an overcomer in them.
These are the practices that strengthen the spirit:
- the Word of God,
- public worship,
- fellowship with God’s people,
- discipleship in the things of the Spirit,
- service to the Lord and to the world, and
- rest and recreation.
The Apostle Paul sums up all these peaceful, powerful practices in this way.
Philippians 4:8-9 NKJV
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — think on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.
With such dynamic spiritual exercise, the spirit, soul, and body become “strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.”
We do not have to live our lives as victims of the force of events or the schemes of ruthless people. There is real strength to be had. With sweet water from ancient, proven wells, we can become strong enough to overcome the forces arrayed against us. Our steamship can split the raging seas in safety and on course. Our steam locomotive can make good time and its precious cargo will be safe every mile.
Force is folly. Strength is wisdom in action.
© 2021 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved