Most presidential campaigns have moments of humor, but the campaign of 2016 was tops in every regard! If it weren’t for the seriousness of the task of choosing a Commander-in-Chief, we’d have tuned in every day just for stress relief.
Many of us remember another moment of levity in 1992. Texas businessman H. Ross Perot threw his hat into the presidential ring and selected Admiral James Stockdale as his running mate. The vice-presidential debate was on Oct. 13 at Georgia Tech University. Right out of the chute, Stockdale’s first words to the nation were: “Who am I? Why am I here?” He became fodder for late-night comics for many months to come.
This caricature of Admiral Stockdale is unfortunate since he was a decorated Naval officer, a Vietnam veteran and a former POW.
But his two questions are good ones for followers of Christ.
Who am I? As a Christian, I am a minister in the church of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul makes this very clear in Ephesians 4:12. He said that the pastor’s job is to mature the saints for the work of ministry. Every Christian is a minister, or servant, and every Christian must busy himself or herself in the work of the Lord. Our ministries are varied, but each has significance.
I think it’s unfortunate we often categorize laypeople as being somewhat less in the pecking order than the vocational minister. Paul likens Christians to parts of a body, and insisted the body is impaired if one or more body parts refuses to function. I’ve often told congregations that the validity of ministry is never determined by the spotlight. Some ministry is very public, but most is outside the view of the masses. This doesn’t make such ministry any less valid.
Why am I here? This question is more esoteric than the first. Why was I born in America and in the deep South in the year I was? It’s the stuff of science fiction when people travel back in time, or forward in time, and consider how their lives would’ve been different had they lived in that era.
Believers affirm that our lives aren’t results of chance. God, the giver of life and the foundation of all wisdom, determined in some way that we be placed where we are in the era we’re born to fulfill a noble purpose. As Mordecai told Queen Esther so long ago, “Who knows that you’ve come to royalty for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14).
God placed us where we are because he knew it was the best time and place for our lives to have meaning.
Admiral Stockdale’s questions are good ones for us to ponder.
Reflections is a weekly devotional column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church in Alabaster. The church's website issiluriabaptist.com.