The Sweet Stuff Ministry

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Stockdale Paradox

2 Timothy 4:7-8  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day-and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

Vice Admiral Jim Stockdale was the highest ranking Naval officer at the time of his capture by the enemies during the Vietnam War.  When his aircraft was hit by enemy fire, he ejected from the plane and parachuted into a village where he was captured.  For the next seven and one-half years he was a prisoner of war.  During those years, he was tortured physically and emotionally.  His arms were twisted until they were dislocated from the sockets and he was severely beaten.  Because he was a high ranking military official, his torture was more severe than the other POWs.  In the midst of it all, he served as an encourager to the other prisoners instilling in them mental fortitude by reminding them of their naval code of honor.  

Stockdale endured.  He persevered.  He stated after his release that he would not trade the experience because it was a defining event in his life.

I am captivated by his statement regarding the lesson he wants others to glean from such an experience, "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".

Read that again and process what he is saying.

Jim Collins, the author of Good to Great refers to this principle as the Stockdale Paradox.  In his situation of torture and possible death at the hands of his enemy, Stockdale remained confident that he would endure.  It seems contradictory that a person can have such hope in the midst of such agonizing persecution.

The duality of his statement exemplifies the type of faith that we must possess.  Most of us will never have the experiences that he endured and I thank God for that.  However, in this world of brutal realities, we do need to develop the same attitude of faith and perseverance.  Each day, we face enemy territory where the spiritual battles are real.  The facts around us can cause us to feel as if our efforts to work for God are insignificant.

We must hold firmly to the belief that we will prevail in the end by holding on to our faith and trust in God.  We have a commitment to continue to work for God even when things around seem bleak and without hope.  Even when our current reality is filled with pain, sorrow, or uncertainty, we must stand firm and carry on.  

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