All In God's Hands, But Even If He Doesn't

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Sunday, August 31, 2014 0 comments

by Michael Homula

While I do not recommend the movie Gettysburg for historical accuracy (it is fraught with issues and based on historical fiction – the novel Killer Angels) it is a very low barrier and fairly entertaining entry point to start a learning journey about Gettysburg provided it is followed by some effort to discern the facts from the myth.

In the movie, Robert E. Lee (played by Martin Sheen), is repeatedly heard saying, “It’s all in God’s hands.” While there is no firsthand account or eye/ear witness who heard Lee speak these words at Gettysburg, it is historically accurate based on the writings and other words spoken by Lee in his lifetime and during the Civil War.

In studying Robert E. Lee for over 20 years, it has become crystal clear to me that Robert E. Lee was a devoted follower and humble servant of Jesus Christ. The teachings of Christ and the words of the Bible shine brightly in his walk and life. Lee was a man of prayer and devotion and his life, words and personal writings demonstrate his profound faith.

General Lee was a saved, born-again, Christian man and everyone knew and respected him for it. He wrote to his chaplains who informed him of their prayers for him that he thanked them and needed all of the prayers they could offer in his behalf. And then he said: “I can only say that I am nothing but a poor sinner, trusting in Christ alone for salvation.” (Titus 3:5; Eph. 2:8-9; John 3:7)

Given his role as the commanding General of the Army of Northern Virginia, and the reverence and esteem his officers and men held for him, it would have been easy – and perhaps understandable – if Lee would have been filled with self-pride and view that he was in control of circumstances, events, and outcomes. But this was not the case. Lee believed everything was God’s will and all of the evidence shows Lee possessed a granite like conviction of trusting God’s will implicitly.

At Gettysburg, on the afternoon of July 3, 1863, the day had turned hot and humid. At his headquarters just west of town, alongside the Chambersburg Pike, Gen. Robert E. Lee was feeling a heat that had little to do with the sun. Everywhere he looked men, animals, and weapons were moving with a sense of purpose instilled by orders he had given just a short time before. A climax to two days of battle was coming, announced by an action sure to be bloody, and certain, he fervently hoped it would be decisive and victorious. The now famous Pickett’s charge was imminent.

To anyone passing by his modest headquarters tent, the 56-year-old General Lee appeared, as one soldier recalled, “calm and serene.” There is no reason to believe otherwise. “I think and work with all my power to bring the troops to the right place at the right time; then I have done my duty,” Lee said. “As soon as I order them into battle, I leave my army in the hands of God.”

That day did not turn out well for Lee, his Army of Northern Virginia, and the Confederacy. In perhaps his finest moment, after his men had been repulsed convincingly, he rode out amongst his retreating men and blamed himself for the failure saying, “It is all my fault – I asked more of men than should have been asked of them.”

But Lee had trusted God. He committed himself, his men, and his army into the providence of God’s will. Yet, the outcome was not what he had hoped for. For Lee, God’s will had been done in the repulse of his men.

Dr. Charles Stanley said, “Be obedient and leave the consequences to God.” This is what Lee did and it is a valuable lesson for us today. Go ahead and apply it to any circumstance you’re facing. Trouble in a relationship? Making a decision about money? Need to trust God with a health issue? Be obedient and leave the consequences to God. Stands up, doesn’t it?

Lee’s attitude and behavior were a result of his faith in God and it reminds me of an amazing true story from the Bible. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego also lived out their implicit faith and trust in God’s will as we read in Daniel 3. At the edge of a fiery furnace, they had a decision. Bow to an idol or be thrown in a furnace. They chose faith, believing that God would deliver them from the very fire that tested it. But then they said, “But even if He doesn’t.” (Daniel 3:18)

They didn’t jump into the fire knowing they’d be delivered. They jumped knowing The Deliverer. I’m shaking my head as I type this sentence. I want an “Even if He doesn’t” kind of faith. Save me, help me, heal me. But even if He doesn’t…

I am confident, though I don’t know with any fact based evidence, that this part of Daniel 3:18 had taken up residence in the heart of Robert E. Lee at Gettysburg. “It’s all in God’s hand” he firmly believed as he committed his army to that fateful charge. He also firmly believed God would deliver him and his men a victory. But it is plainly evident that he also had the faith of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. “But even if He doesn’t…” Lee would continue to trust in God and His perfect, good, and pleasing will.

Do you have an “Even if He doesn’t” kind of faith?

For more reading on Lee’s faith, please check out “Christ in the Camp: or, Religion in Lee’s Army,” by Chaplain J. William Jones, known as the “Fightin Parson,” who knew Lee personally.