Watching the movie, GETTYSBURG, recently got me on a Civil War kick, particularly with regard to that great battle. I have learned much. One item is this. Perhaps, history would have been recorded differently had General Jeb Stuart fulfilled the mission given to him by Robert E. Lee.
Stuart was to serve as Lee’s eyes. His mission was to scout the enemy and provide General Lee with vital information inside the state of Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, for Lee and his army, Stuart forgot his purpose. Traveling with his Calvary throughout the state of Pennsylvania, Stuart consumed his attention destroying train depots and tracks.
Lee sat with his army ready to attack General Mead’s Northern forces near Gettysburg. In his opinion, Lee had, at his disposal, the finest collection of infantry the world had ever seen. However, his attack would be compromised and ultimately fail. Part of the reason was General Stuart, in essence, went AWOL.
When he finally arrived, as historian Gene Smith writes, “fresh from his joyride”, Lee was enraged but under control. “I have not heard a word from you for days, and you are the eyes and ears of the army!” Lee uttered to Stuart.
Lee’s remarked devastated Stuart. Trying to recover, he said, “I have brought you one hundred twenty-five wagons and their teams, General.”
“They are an impediment to me now,” came Lee’s reply. Onlookers later recalled that watching this exchange brought them pain beyond description.
Lee’s army, of course, would suffer epic defeat in the battle of Gettysburg.
Jeb Stuart finds plenty of company in scripture. There are many men found there who exchanged short term pleasure for long term reward. Esau lost birthright to Jacob on a bowl of red bean soup. Samson surrendered his power for a frivolous relationship with Delilah. Judas sold out the Savior for thirty pieces of silver.
Not only does God expect his people to never exchange our mission objectives for short term gain, he expects us to never exchange them for the escape from long-term suffering. To suffering Christians in the Roman Empire, Jesus writes to Christians through John’s pen, “I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown” (Rev. 3:11).
May we never release our crown.