Jeb Stuart was the Civil War’s version of a B-2 Stealth Bomber. This gutsy West Point grad had the uncanny ability to infiltrate enemy lines without being detected. He was nicknamed “The Eyes of the Army” and was unquestionably Gen. Robert E. Lee’s most trusted soldier.
In June 1862, in defense of Richmond, Gen. Lee sent Stuart to scout and assess the right flank of Gen. McClellan’s Federal Army. Stuart not only achieved his mission, but rode completely around all McClellan’s troops to deliver a comprehensive report to Lee.
In his next campaign, Stuart was ordered to infiltrate enemy lines and destroy a large cachet of Union weapons and supplies. However, while there, Stuart confiscated secret documents showing the strength and position of other Federal forces.
Stuart’s bravery and extraordinary skill as an intelligence officer were unparalleled in Civil War battles. With each mission, Stuart would submit his report to Lee, signed, “Yours to count on, Jeb Stuart.”
In every battle and every war, there are those who are reliable. Many wear the uniform, but only a handful stand out as heroes—those who go beyond the call of duty and are a rare breed indeed.
The church produces the same kind of heroes from its battlefields. They, too, are the ones who accept the road less traveled. They’re uncommon men and women of whom the world was—and is—not worthy. They’re reliable champions.
• In the third century, church theologian Origen was the target of vicious attacks by the vile Greek Emperor Decius, who hoped to discredit Origen’s character and teaching with accusations of immorality. To further safeguard his testimony, Origen castrated himself in order to protect the gospel from any possible scandal.
• In the fourth century, Ambrose led the church in its fight for survival against hostile heretics. In a daring move, he challenged the Catholic Emperor Theodosius to do public penance for his slaughter of 7,000 lives at the Thessalonican circus, insisting that the emperor may be “within the church, but not over the church.” His bold move powerfully impressed a local pagan leader, a young man named Augustine…all because Ambrose was dependable.
• In the fifth century, John Chrysostom, the leading biblical expositor of his day, was kidnapped and carted off to Constantinople because the Roman hierarchy determined he should be its archbishop. Rather than protest his forced promotion, Chrysostom preached a painfully direct message to the city’s royalty. Soon he was banished by the emperor’s wife, Eudosia, for insulting her. He had the gall to call her a sinner.
Every century has those on whom the Savior can depend. Francis of Assisi walked away from wealth in order to kiss the hands of lepers. John Knox endured the ridicule of Mary Queen of Scots in his effort to save Scotland. Dietrich Bonhoeffer turned his silent pulpit into a megaphone in Nazi Germany before suffering Hitler’s wrath.
It’s a frightening world to which we minister. The scoreboard rarely shows us in the lead. There’s a great temptation to take the easy way out, slow down, water down or calm down.
Still, our assignment never has changed: “To fight the good fight, to finish the course, to keep the faith”…to be able to say to our Master, “Yours to count on, Lord!”