Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city. Proverbs 16:32 (New International Version)
There are lots of lessons we can learn from history and from certain remarkable men and women who have lived before this present time. We can learn time-applicable lessons from their successes, accomplishments, and even their failures so that we can navigate in our Christian pilgrimage on this side of eternity. One of such historical figures that the Holy Spirit will want us to learn from in this discourse is: Alexander III of Macedon, also known as Alexander the Great.
He lived from 20/21 July 356 BC- 19/11 June 323 BC, and he became a King in the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon after he succeeded his father Philip II in 336 BC at the age of 20. He spent most of his ruling years conducting a lengthy military campaign throughout Western Asia and Egypt. By the age of 30, he had created one of the largest empires in history, stretching from Greece to northwestern India. He was undefeated and indomitable in battle, and he is considered one of the greatest and most successful military commanders in history.
To be sure, when he returned from his successful military conquest and campaign, he decided to visit a Jewish Rabbi who was a great scholar. When he met this Rabbi, he began to tell him about his very successful military conquest, but the Rabbi seemed uninterested. And after a while, Alexander the Great seemed upset, and asked him why he wasn’t paying any attention to his stories and his person. What the Jewish Rabbi told him afterwards shocked him to his marrows because he sure wasn’t ready for it.
The Jewish Rabbi told him, “to get out of my sight, and go and conquer himself”. Why would this Jewish religious scholar tell this great historical military figure, a man who had conquered the world to go and conquer himself? What audacity! In the Rabbi’s remark to Alexander the Great lies the punchline of this discourse.
In the opening verses of this discourse, the wise King Solomon gives us some words of wisdom and time-applicable counsel to understand the Rabbi’s remark. He remarks that “a patient man is better and stronger than a warrior, and a person with self-control is better and more powerful than a person who conquers a city”. This remark from King Solomon is really profound and noteworthy because history has proven it to be true.
We have seen in history great men and women who took by storm their respective fields of human endeavour, career and vocation. From the religious, financial, Bretton Woods Institutions (World Bank and International Monetary Fund), sports, entertainment and some even conquered empires like Nero.But because they could not conquer themselves, they fell from towering heights like a pack of cards.
Dearly beloved, you should take some time to ponder on the Jewish Rabbi’s instruction to Alexander the Great, if you don’t also want to become one of the examples of those who are dumped in the dustbin of history. But you can become one of the examples of those who built an enduring and lasting legacy in time and eternity even after you’re long gone.
You may have conquered and succeeded in your chosen field, vocation, career and ministry, but have you conquered yourself and gained mastery over your own emotions and desires particularly in the arenas of fame, money, sex and power? We have seen so many great men and women in history who have conquered the world of politics, finance, entertainment, education and religion but who have been brought down from the mountain top to the valley and into pitiful states because of self- indulgence and indiscretion.
Similarly, if you don’t conquer “self” which is the strongest city, and the greatest empire of them all, it will destroy all you’ve ever laboured to build and end up destroying you. But you can only succeed in conquering “self” by the help of the Holy Spirit through the agency of the cross, and not by sheer human will. Our old man is indeed defeated and crucified with Christ! (Romans 6:6-7).
Romans 6:6-7 (The Passion Translation)
Could it be any clearer that our former identity is now and forever deprived of its power? For we were co-crucified with him to dismantle the stronghold of sin within us, so that we would not continue to live one moment longer submitted to sin’s power. Obviously, a dead person is incapable of sinning.
You should ponder on these solemn thoughts.