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Home > 2013 > January Online Only > The Secret Ingredient to Success

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He noted (with the Euclidian logic Lincoln loved) that if God wanted the war to cease, it would cease. The war had not ceased, therefore God had not willed that it cease. Therefore, God must have some purpose in the war's continuation that no human being had engineered.

And that purpose, Lincoln discerned, was the destruction of slavery. The war, which had begun over whether or not the Union should be saved, was allowed to continue and spread until it also became the decider of the fate of slavery. Lincoln (who was not an orthodox Christian; whole forests have been cut down to produce paper for books arguing about his religious convictions) came to believe that the war was serving a divine purpose for freedom. He actually told the Cabinet that he had made a vow "to his Maker" that he would see this purpose through. And so he did; this meditation became the foundation for Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address (which historian Mark Noll says was the greatest piece of theological reflection not only of any U.S. president but nearly of any U.S. theologian). Lincoln was killed five days after the war ended, on Good Friday.

It has caused me to reflect—how often do I "meditate on the divine will"? What is it that God is doing in the world that I will either help or hinder? What is at stake in my faithfulness or faithlessness?

I will not be the Great Emancipator, or the Great Anything. But I believe that leadership requires grit, and the grit comes from God, from the conviction that God is doing something in this world and that I am, somehow, despite my inadequacies, a part of it.

So said another gritty leader, a long time ago: "For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had" (Rom. 15:4-5).

John Ortberg is editor at large of Leadership Journal and pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in Menlo Park, California.

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John Ortberg is editor at large of Leadership Journal and pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in California.

Related Topics:PatiencePerseverancePurposeSoul
Posted: January 21, 2013

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Displaying 1–5 of 5 comments

Yastrzemski

April 21, 2013  9:42am

Well thought out & well written. Thanks for the encouragement!

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Jim sparks

February 05, 2013  12:57am

Of course, if Lincoln had simply allowed the South to have the same indpendence that the original 13 Colonies had desired from England, then 660,000 soldiers would not have died. Lincoln was the George III of 1861 - a man who demanded that those who wished to leave, should stay, and who sent tens of thousands of soldiers to inforce his own will. And if Lincoln had not called out the troops, then it is probable that Arkansas and Virginia "may not" have seceeded. Grit. Sure. But it still caused a lot of suffering and pain to everyone else. Pain that would not have been necessary except for his "grit".

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Shirley Wong

February 04, 2013  12:23am

A preacher pointed out that the A list of heroes of faith in Hebrews 11 are actually people who endure, people with grit. See Heb 12:1.

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John-Rodney

January 27, 2013  10:52am

My history a bit vague. But was the elderly Tolstoy sent out ( to die eventually of pneumonia ?--) into the snow by his family.... .? { This over the issue of sharing wealth ??? His take on the Sermon on the mount not accepted then, though I think it was prophetic of the Russian Revolution.. He was seeing what actually needed to be done in Russia, long before the revolution came.} Still not easily accepted ??? & Made me think perhaps , of grit.

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Marshall Shelley

January 22, 2013  8:57am

I needed those words: "leadership requires grit, and the grit comes from God, from the conviction that God is doing something in this world and that I am, somehow, despite my inadequacies, a part of it." That's true grit, indeed. Thanks John.

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