A time to be resolute in the face of challenges
Since 1880, most United States presidents have sat behind a desk made from timbers of the HMS Resolute.
That British naval vessel journeyed to locate the explorer Sir John Franklin, but became trapped in ice near the Arctic Circle in 1853. An American whaler found the ship adrift just two years later and returned it to Queen Victoria. When the ship was decommissioned, the Queen ordered that a partner’s desk be made from the timbers, and she presented that desk to President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1880.
Since that time, only three U.S. presidents have failed to use the desk, and it is easy to understand why. The desk is commanding, featuring a carved presidential seal and bearing the glory of history. Furthermore, the name of the desk conveys what a president of the United States means to convey – resolution in the face of whatever challenges may come.
Most of us do not work at desks that bear names, but the fact remains that resolution and leadership are inseparable. Great causes and great institutions are built and led with resolution, or they disappear into the annals of irrelevance.
Every generation of Christians faces the challenge of remaining resolute in the truths and the truthfulness of the Christian faith, and every generation faces its own set of challenges to that resolution. This generation is no different – we face significant challenges that will test the faithfulness and gospel-commitment of the church.
Just consider the flow and velocity of recent events. This generation of Christians has to insist on a revealed definition of marriage and the reality of a normative morality. No previous generation has had to answer that challenge. This generation of believers has to deal with charges of intolerance, merely for articulating the gospel of Jesus Christ. A major private university in the South declared recently that all student organizations, including Christian organizations, must sign a pledge to allow any student, regardless of moral or spiritual commitment, to participate in both membership and leadership. That effectively means the end of any Christian organization for students. Previous generations took such organizations for granted. Now the rules have changed.
We have not always been resolute on the right issues and commitments, and some Christians are embarrassed by the very idea that the church must stand against the spirit of the age. Yet, the only alternative to resolution is capitulation. No Christian can escape this responsibility, but those who would teach and lead bear a higher responsibility.
Southern Seminary’s task is to equip a generation of ministers and missionaries to stand resolute in the defense of Christian truth and to inspire that same generation with a resolution to take the gospel of Christ to the nations. That is no small task, but this institution bears the responsibility as a badge of honor.
Every one of us will give an answer for how we fulfilled this responsibility – to stand resolute in and for the truth. This is what we have been called by God to do, no matter what we call our desks.
This article originally appeared in the summer issue of Southern Seminary Magazine in 2012.