Here’s an illustration from the new movie The Last Samurai, courtesy of

The Big Idea:
Faithfulness is what you do when all the odds are against you.

Scene Setup:
After rescuing Lord Katsumoto, the leader of the remaining Samurai, Captain Algren shares some battle strategy with him. As they take counsel on the grass, both are mindful of the massive army with modern weapons that are coming to end their way of life.

Algren tells Lord Katsumoto about the Battle of Thermopylae, where, for two days, 300 Spartans held off a Persian army of over 1 million men. Algren says that the Greeks fought so fiercely for those two days, and made the Persian army “pay so dearly,” that they, “lost all taste for battle and were defeated soon after.”

Katsumoto wants to know what Algren is thinking. Algren says that they have to “take away the advantage of their guns,” and rely on the army’s overconfidence in their superior weaponry. “Lure them close,” Algren says, “close enough for a sword.”

Katsumoto, who clearly thinks that death on the battlefield is his destiny, asks, “You believe a man can change his destiny?”

Algren replies, “I think a man does what he can until his destiny is revealed.”

Algren uses Thermopylae as an object lesson in steadfastness, not in military strategy for ultimate victory. When asked what happened to those Spartans, Algren admits that every one of them died. It is important to note, however, that none of them fled. Their lives were sacrificed to give cover to the retreating Greek army so that they could bring battle to the Persians at a later date.

Faithfulness is consistently doing what is right even when it appears that you might fail. The measure is not success, but faithful execution of the task, leaving the results up to God. Katsumoto wants to know if a man can change his end, but Algren replies that a man can only be faithful, and then his ultimate end will be revealed.

It might be easy for some to see the martyr Stephen, or even Jesus, as failures because they died at the hands of their enemies. That would be to miss the point. Stephen held to the truth when under tremendous pressure to recant. Jesus was faithful to His mission to save sinners through His death, even though he could have stopped at any time and called a legion of angels to His defense. It is faithfulness, not temporal success, that is the measure of a person’s worth. Ultimately, if we are faithful, we will also have success in the eyes of the only One who matters.

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