Word from the Center: Monday, November 12, 2018

Welcome to “Word from The Center” MONDAY, a devotional word from the Center of our
faith, Jesus Christ, with reflections from His Word. I’m Gregory Seltz, Today’s verse is from
Hebrews 9:27-28, where the Bible says,

Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was
sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin,
but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

Straight Talk about What Matters

Brutal facts. I hate to tell you, but we all have some brutal facts in our life. Facts that must be
overcome for our freedom. Such facts might be the troubles of the day. They might be the
obstacles that we face in life, whether those under our control or those out of our control. But this
Bible verse goes further, telling us about the ultimate “brutal fact” of life. Namely, that because
of our sin, people are destined to die once and after that to face the judgment.” A sobering
thought for sure, but that final fact, if faced in Christ, can change your life.

His name was James Stockdale. He was the highest-ranking Naval officer ever to be held in
captivity. Worse, he was held in the Hanoi Hilton during the Viet Nam war and the facts of that
captivity were completely brutal. He was shackled in a 3×9 foot solitary confinement cell, a
single light bulb shining both day and night. By the time he was released in 1973, his shoulders
had been pulled from their sockets from torture, his legs had been shattered, and his back had
been broken. These were the brutal facts of the price he paid fighting for our freedom. But these
were the facts to be overcome for his freedom too.

When asked how anyone could survive seven years of such torture, he recounted what is today
known as the “Stockdale Paradox.” It was his undying faith in the “end of the story of his life,”
not the issues of the moment. He said,

I never lost faith in the end of the story, I never doubted not only that I would get out, but
also, that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my
life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.1

And that wasn’t wishful thinking or the power of positive thinking. No. When Stockdale was
then asked who didn’t make it through the ordeal of captivity. He replied,

Oh, that’s easy, the optimists. They were the ones who said, ‘We’re going to be out by
Christmas.’ And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they’d say, ‘We’re
going to be out by Easter.’ And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then
Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart.2

Stockdale emphasized another crucial point:

You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never
afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current
reality, whatever they might be.3

As powerful as the “Stockdale Paradox” might be, there is an even greater power for you today. I
call it the “Cross of Christ Paradox.” Faith in the future, in the “good end of the story,” gives
power to live today. That faith must be rooted in something that’s real, that faces the brutal facts
of reality, and gives life and salvation in the midst of it all. The writer of Hebrews says that the
death of Jesus Christ did just that! In His life, death, and resurrection, the God/Man Jesus faced
the brutal realities of this sinful world in their fullest form so that His gift of life might be your
certain future no matter what you face today. That’s the powerful paradox of life and salvation
through the cross of Jesus.

It’s amazing to think of the power of the “Stockdale Paradox” today and how that might bless
your life. But I encourage you to not stop there. Also trust in the “Cross of Christ Paradox,” God
at work in this world to overcome all that is against you. May that powerful paradox truly bless
your life now and forever.

PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for your willingness to leave heaven and enter our sinful
world, and die once and for all in our place so that we might be saved. Give me faith to trust in
that powerful, paradoxical reality as I seek to live boldly in your name today. AMEN.

1 http://www.isharelight.com/the-stockdale-paradox/
2 http://www.isharelight.com/the-stockdale-paradox/
3 http://www.isharelight.com/the-stockdale-paradox/