The Reassertion Of The Will
|In Matthew 6:21 (The Lord’s
Prayer) we are taught to pray to God, “Thy will be done.” In Matthew
Jesus teaches that those who enter the Kingdom of Heaven are the ones who do
the will of God. Now how
can those who have not built up a “will” inside themselves do the will
of God? To know the will
of God is not enough. Nearly everyone knows something of the will of
God, how to do some things right,
but of those knowing right, how many do it?
In order to do the will of God takes grace and a powerful will, well trained. To build a strong will takes grace and practice. One must develop and build a strong will in order to do God’s will. But where are our wills occupied today? Mostly they are underdeveloped, unknown or weak. People today lack strong personal wills and social units developed to do God’s will, follow His interests and recognize His claims.
Nor do we often even have strong enough wills to further our own personal interests. But the concept of a strong will has been laid mindlessly aside in order to fit in and to follow behind the ignorant, the vulgar and the secularly schooled to achieve mere popularity, vulgarity, rudeness, showing off, and living shamefully materialistic lives. Even Christians without strong wills tend to follow the vast unredeemed and generally unthinking majority in all things. This condemns them mostly to mediocrity, baseness and unprincipled selfishness in thought and action along with their lives of shallow materialism and secular outlook.
If we are to be spiritual people, as Christians, a people aware of the claims a spiritual universe lays upon us, (and this includes nearly all people of every spirit-affirming religion or viewpoint, Christian and non- Christian), then we need a developed personal will to accomplish spiritual goals. Actually we usually need a highly developed will to accomplish any goals. The development of a personal Will produces character. It teaches us how to discipline ourselves and to suffer for goals, “knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character.” (Romans 5:3-4 RSV)
Now we have experienced a vulgar and shallow period in Western history when psychology has been misused by vulgar and shallow thinkers, engineers of the mind seeking a technology to manipulate others, looking for a way to have power over others. Looking for a way to evade personal responsibility. But in order to have responsibility, there must be a will to exercise it, and if there is to be a strong personal will, it must be developed. This is done through challenging the will, developing good habits and an iron purpose. The Protestant, John Calvin, the Roman Catholic, Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, and General George Patton of World War II and Napoleon understood this. None of these men were perfect, nor did they try to appear so, but they understood the need of a strong and developed will and an iron will and purpose for any kind of victory either spiritual (Calvin, Loyola) or secular. (General Patton, Napoleon). So I am sharing what is usually true and needed for accomplishments of any nature.
In psychology we may learn why we did something. Who is then excused from it because he knows why he did it? The Apostle said, “I know what I ought to do but I do not do it.” This helps to define original sin. How are we to deal with sin or any other problem unless we develop a strong personal will that helps us to do the things we feel called upon to do?
Cultivating a personal will is affirming our free will power and making us somewhat more able to do what we need to do whether in the temporal or spiritual world. The answers psychology affords us today may help our insights as to why things are done, but, fairly, how many today ever apply their insights to their actions? Not many. Those few given grace to think. But where grace has often been given, how much more often has it been “frustrated.”
How do we cultivate personal strength? How do we develop the will? First we do not use it just when we have need of it because strength of will is like strength of body, it must be trained and cultivated beforehand That way strength and self-control are at hand when we need it. Let us not forget in the Gospels the Roman centurion or officer, a person under authority who had received discipline and training of the will, and of whom Jesus said “I have not found so great a faith, no, not in Israel.” (Matthew 8:10) This was attributed to his military background of obedience and delegation of authority.
Now you may say you dislike or distrust the army. What is that to me or thee? I am not endorsing strange causes for which an army may be used, or the use of force, but some virtues military life stresses! It is a sad day when we do not acknowledge that some of the virtues often taught in the military are useful and often needed in successful life and good citizenship for both men and women. It is true that “imposed discipline often creates self-discipline” when discipline is done fairly and not contemptuously.
The Bible advocates self-control and self-control involves self-discipline and self-discipline involves the training of the will. The training of the will often involves now needed old fashioned virtues that have been left stranded on the beach of time. Such forgotten virtues are numerous. Working together is one such thing. Dealing with authority figures is another. There is a national crisis in “respect for authority.” This respect is necessary in order to have order.
It is all very well to say authority is earned by respect for the person, but people change positions frequently, positions don’t change. Respect for position is also needed. There is a terrible crisis in simple obedience as most teachers in many class rooms can testify to. There is a crisis in good manners and courtesy. There is growing a pervading attitude of look after number one, not considering others. There is lacking a pride in the nation that military service tries, if it does not always succeed, in teaching.
Certainly I do not see hierarchy as the best form of government. I do not by praise of the army mean to imply that I favor all of the goals the army has been used for. But I am aware that many of the virtues now rarely taught elsewhere than in the military services are desperately needed in Western society today. Some place other than military service should be expounding these virtues. One such place should be the churches.
The churches should be teaching the need of the personal development of the will and the personal expansion of will power. The motivation is the joy of God and to glorify God by having a strong will power that is capable of doing right, furthering the good, and disagreeing with tolerance.
We in Western civilization have made serious lapses in emphasis in contemporary history by not teaching Christ powered and motivated “will power.” It is the duty of Christians to develop their personal will power and to learn those disciplines that help peoples to work as harmonious groups. Whatever random psychology may offer to put in the pot to help, the need for personal development of the Will through Christ is part of the glorification of God. We need strong and aware personal development of our wills to being in Christ.
Our personal will is developed in many ways. It is developed through regular praying, Bible Study and serious meditations on grace. It can be developed through fasting. Fasting implies the practice of self-control. Through practicing being ready, we are ready. Through constant discipline and obedience we are made ready to do disciplined things as they are needed. We should constantly exercise our wills that we may be as soldiers ready to do God’s will. The Apostle in II Timothy 2:3 says, “Therefore endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”
It is by enduring things like the advertising constantly around us that we build character, and by enduring hardness we keep from falling into self-indulgence. Considering the advertising around us that constantly tries to trap us into self-indulgence and urges constant self-justification for selfish things no one but a fool needs, we do well to develop moral and spiritual strength against advertising. Around us on the television and billboards is constantly urged “instant gratification” as a way of life. Instant gratification is a false and idolatrous idea. You should discipline yourself to prefer the delayed satisfaction that is more characteristic of the teachings of Christianity and every religion that teaches of a spiritual world.
Christian, Buddhist or Hindu, I am safe in saying, that “instant gratification” is not the spiritual path. Remember, as the Apostle teaches, you are not to be found among the self-indulgent and the instant gratifiers of this world. Such is not worthy of the spiritual soldiers of God the Apostle speaks of in II Timothy and directly through it to you if you are under the influence of the Holy Spirit.
Then there is the matter of virtues used in the military at home if not used in the military manner. To require obedience in the home out of love is being a responsible parent. In the home, church schools or in the church supplementing hours after public schools end is that time which raises the children to a spiritual view the unfortunate public schools cannot give or rise to. Instilling the obedience of the will and development of character through habit can be most helpful in building good character in children.
For mothers and fathers to fulfill their responsibilities in the family and church is also developing in them a personal and social will to perform Christian duties. And for the Christian household to function as one unit to honor Christ is an expression of its effectiveness as a social unit and a part of the Kingdom of Christ on earth.
Now there are two types of success. One is soul success in spiritual things. Another is worldly success in material things. Soul or spiritual success is the most important of course. It helps to turn out spiritual people readied for the next world while greatly aiding society in this world. But the virtues which are developed personally and socially through the Will, oddly enough, are also great helps in success in both the spiritual and material world. I am convinced of this. No matter how spiritually high your expectation for your children, nor how worldly and material your desire for the young, they are more likely to come to one or both types of success if taught good virtues and long lasting sound habits. As long as we live, we should grow spiritually, and we must grow spiritually always and regardless of our age. For when we are materially grown, we are not necessarily spiritually grown up, and it behooves us to grow in both ways.
So I would say to those who dislike the military and therefore dislike the virtues it inculcates, that the virtues are innocent and needed “against the day.” (Romans 2:5) Consider if military persons did not die keeping the peace, and if they did not expire defending the defenseless? Can the tested and proven virtues of those who dared to die to defend us be dismissed easily? No, I think not. Their memory should be honored. Their goodness and the usefulness of their virtues considered and passed on.
The military virtues may have been used at times for what some people consider the wrong goals, but then with all humans mistakes are common. No one can blame the machine or the technology for the way fools have sometimes used it. Because when fools drive and wreck their automobiles, you cannot blame the automobiles. Blame the fools. In the same way the virtues and habits used by the military are much needed to oil the engines of society. Civilized society needs many of the social virtues the military teaches.
But if we refuse to develop and use the virtues we need, because they were once wrongly used, then we are fools, because we deprive ourselves of needed things. Everything has been used wrongly at times. The truth is the Kingdom of Christ, our society, and a true workable and realistic vision of a harmonious world, needs many of these military virtues. We, the churches, the Christians, the spiritual ones of whatever faiths, should be seeking to supply these virtues in our society where they are needed.
No, our society is not just in need of the virtues but badly wanting. Are we as churches supplying a balanced vision of virtues to meet the needs of the country? No, a thousand times, no! Look around you. Judge yourself. There is terror, confusion, want, amorality, immorality, and selfishness run wild. Crack and “meth” as drugs are everywhere. Some of the children in major cities are into marijuana by sixth grade. They are often in bed by 5th grade. Crime is omnipresent. The jails are packed. Many of the schools are rotten. Are some of the universities but adolescent dope reservations with academics easy on the side? Yes, our society has been cursed with a halfway vision that has little wholeness or balance or spiritual wisdom in it. The country has forsaken Christianity de facto if not de jure. it is a swill of secularism for a breed of crazed pig-minded money-mad people obsessed with the dollar.
America is living on a half baked vision, a fairy land of liberalism, supplied by mirages of liberalism hallucinated by persons who have no consciousness of God and therefore no awareness of sin or man’s unchanging fallen nature. The thought and mind of American society has been sold into an Egypt of materialistic thought by liberals who deny the existence of God, reject the major wisdom of the churches, preach the perfectibility of mankind, and advocate a personal freedom and self-indulgence beyond consideration of others.
What shall we then say? Or shall we (as the media does) simply deny the facts of the matter, overlook the truths about the values, quality of life, morality and spirituality of the nation? These truths are like open sores that everyone can see. Most foreigners have noticed them but said nothing to be kind and polite. No one wants to call attention to these embarrassing facts any more than those about the national debt, and the possible economic collapse that so often accompanies spiritual and values collapses.
To fill up the embarrassing moral silence that everyone feels but no one wants to dwell on, the media will probably show a series of unbelievably shallow new movies, or a prolonged sports field day, or an act featuring six Hollywood monkeys trained to dance. So the American dance of narcissism, the American dance of death continues on. After all, much of the world feels it is watching another Titanic go down.
I suggest their thinking may be correct thinking unless we who are on the sinking ship, the society going down, washing under, make up our minds to have no intention of going down without a first rate struggle to survive. If we do not wish to go under without honor, then through grace we must learn that way that has long been forgotten. It began in America with the Mayflower Compact. It is now needed: REASSERTION OF THE SPIRITUAL WILL, collectively and individually.
Nor should we put aside that fact put so wisely by Edmund Burke, “that among a people generally corrupt liberty cannot long exist.” (A Letter To John Fan, 1777) I suggest now we have reached the position where we must consider if things continue like this, how long our liberty may continue to exist? I venture to suggest, not long. But I also advise that in a society as corrupt as this only those with strong wills and inner abilities to assert them can last at all. Therefore Be Warned.
Dr. James MacLeod may be contacted through the Neill Macaulay Foundation.