“This is a good day to die!” shouted Low Dog. “Follow me!” Each man whipped another man’s pony so that no man would fall behind as they raced through the buffalo grass across the prairie ravines toward their foes. Dismounting to face the charge, the bluecoats tried to hold the reins of their terrified, rearing horses, causing the soldiers to shoot poorly at Low Dog’s men.
This bright, hot June day had held such promise for the buckskin-clad, blond-haired boy wonder who, as a cavalry leader in the Union Army in the U.S. Civil War, had advanced to brigadier general by age 23. Now in 1876, a presidential election year, he was 37 and many believe he was anxious to gain a victory in the Dakota Territory that might well have catapulted him into the White House.
He led the Seventh Cavalry up the Little Bighorn River in what is now eastern Montana, searching for the encampment of the great Hunkpapa chief Sitting Bull. The general detached 125 men under Captain Benteen to search west of the river. He led the remainder over a rise, and in the haze of the searing summer sun, the village wavered into view.
Dividing his force a second time, leaving himself in command of 266 cavalry and Crow scouts, he ordered 175 men under Major Reno to attack from the south, while he and his troops moved up the ridge to attack the middle of the settlement. Eager for battle and glory, he uttered his last recorded words: “Custer’s luck! The biggest Indian village on the continent!” Custer’s luck turned out to be Custer’s Last Stand at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.
What General George Armstrong Custer didn’t know was that he could see only one third of Sitting Bull’s “village.” Instead of 2,500 Sioux, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Blackfeet and others as he might have guessed, there were some 9,000 to 12,000 Indians living at this location. Instead of facing several hundred fighting braves, he led his troops against 1,800 to 2,500 fully alerted, well-mounted and heavily armed warriors.
Reno’s force was repelled, driven back to the top of a high bluff, and soon joined by the supply wagons and Benteen’s forces. Custer and his troops found themselves surrounded as they charged the encampment. He had just signaled “dismount” when Low Dog’s men struck. But Custer’s coup de grâce came from the primary assault led by the greatest tactician and bravest, most charismatic war chief of the Oglalas—Crazy Horse.
All of Custer’s men died. Because of poor judgment, bad timing, dividing forces, not getting all the facts and, in this instance, his inordinate hunger for personal glory, this was his and their last stand. In one of the ironies of mankind’s wars, it was also the last major stand for most of the plains tribes as well. They had won a battle, but lost the war.
What do Custer, Low Dog and Crazy Horse have in common with you? Simply this: They stood for something in their lives, and you will stand for something too. But what? And when you know what , then when and where and how? To achieve true success—to become a person of character—you will have to take many stands. What you choose to stand for and how you fight those battles for what you deeply believe will determine before God and man who you are.
Society is already spelling out some of the “fighting” stands you will have to take: sexual morality, the sanctity of marriage and family, the sanctity of life, the sanctity of truth and honesty, true spiritual values, faith and divine creation versus the godless theory of evolution. If you go with the flow of our increasingly immoral and ungodly society, then that society is what you’ll stand for. If you go against the flow—which is harder—you will stand for something far greater and much better.
Timing your stand
Is the time to decide to fight the battle against sexual promiscuity when you are already at some crazy party where people are drinking and doing drugs, with you half drunk or worse and being tempted or seduced to lose your virginity? Of course not.
The time to decide to save your body, mind and spirit for your own divinely sanctioned, loving marriage is while privately praying to the great God who made you or when stirred to a profound decision during a powerful sermon about God’s wonderful law.
When faced with anything that resembles sexual temptation, like parties and belittling peer pressure, the Bible gives a quick, cut-to-the-chase answer: “Flee sexual immorality” (1 Corinthians 6:18 1 Corinthians 6:18Flee fornication. Every sin that a man does is without the body; but he that commits fornication sins against his own body.
American King James Version×) and “Flee also youthful lusts” (2 Timothy 2:22 2 Timothy 2:22Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
American King James Version×). Flee means get out of there— now!
Using good judgment
What kind of “friends” invite you to parties like the one described above? Answer: bad friends. The Bible calls them something worse and warns you away from such “friendships” and completely away from such parties and similar foolish gatherings. “He [or she] who walks with wise men [including wise friends] will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed” (Proverbs 13:20 Proverbs 13:20He that walks with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.
American King James Version×).
Use good judgment. Good judgment is based on obeying God’s law as taught in God’s Word. A special book within that divine volume, called Proverbs, is dedicated to teaching young people the wisdom of good judgment—how to be vertical thinkers. “Through these proverbs, people will receive instruction in discipline, good conduct, and doing what is right, just, and fair,” it says. “These proverbs will make the simpleminded clever. They will give knowledge and purpose to young people” (Proverbs 1:3-4 Proverbs 1:3-4 3 To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity;
4 To give subtlety to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion.
American King James Version×, New Living Translation).
Study the lessons of wisdom in Proverbs and learn the lessons of good versus bad judgment taught in the rest of the Bible. Then watch people and read some history. When you see good judgment, remember and repeat it. When you see bad judgment, remember and avoid it.
Seeking whose glory?
What is the greatest problem facing mankind today? As it has always been since the Garden of Eden, the greatest human problem is too much focus on self.
Foreshadowing today’s egocentric songs blaring and throbbing from boom boxes, MP3 players and car stereos, the lyrics of a hit song from the 1920s went like this: “I love me. I’m wild about myself. I wrap my arms around myself and give myself a squeeze. I love me!”
I, me, my, mine, ego, selfishness, self-absorption—human nature always seeks to get for self first. Genuine, outgoing concern for others plays last fiddle to the inward concern for self. Friendships are ruined, marriages are broken and wars are started over selfishness.
The philosophy of self-esteem so thoroughly entrenched in schools today systematically teaches students to “learn to love yourself first.” This is the wrong track because everybody already loves himself or herself (see Ephesians 5:29 Ephesians 5:29For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourishes and cherishes it, even as the Lord the church:
American King James Version×). What needs to be taught is proper respect for others, not just oneself. The problem is that people can’t get past self, they love self too much, and they don’t love others enough.
In choosing personal battles, nearly everyone will stand for what he wants and desires for himself. You’ve got to stand for something, but ego shouldn’t be it. Jesus taught as the second great commandment: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39 Matthew 22:39And the second is like to it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
American King James Version×). That’s a stand to fight for. The battle takes place primarily in your own mind.
But the stand against self is a tough battle. Our minds love themselves very much and are loath to share, serve or give any time and energy to help others. Honoring your parents, working hard for your boss, lending a hand to those in genuine need, listening respectfully to your teachers, grooming and dressing modestly and appropriately, cleaning your room and the house—these are all practical ways to fight selfishness and show love for others.
True success in life means taking a stand for others as much as you stand for yourself and to stand up for God above all things. Then God will stand up for you, as Christ concluded: “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:13-14 Luke 18:13-14 13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes to heaven, but smote on his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalts himself shall be abased; and he that humbles himself shall be exalted.
American King James Version×).
Another word for warrior among the Sioux or Dakota tribes was “brave.” By some traditions a young warrior could only be called a brave after he had successfully fought his first battle.
In essence, you had to be brave to become a brave.
All the chiefs facing the Seventh Cavalry were brave men, but according to the histories none was braver than Crazy Horse of the Oglalas. From his youth he had developed a powerful reputation for bravery in the face of danger and a gentle and abiding concern for his people.
George Custer was a sort of mirror image to Crazy Horse from another culture. He gained an incredible reputation for personal bravery while fighting for the Union Army in the Civil War. That fearlessness and dedication gave him the title “the boy general.” From brigadier at 23, he was promoted to major general by age 25. Custer was also committed to the good of his people.
Both men and the other men with them bravely stood their ground, fighting fearlessly for what they believed in. In spite of other shortcomings, bravery was not lacking at the Battle of Little Big Horn.
When you are challenged for what you believe, whether in terms of biblical doctrine, sexual morality, basic honesty, or God’s existence, hold your ground, stand and deliver, and be brave—that is, of course, as long as your beliefs are firmly rooted in God’s Word.
The right thing
Consider the wise saying of one more American whose last stand came at the Battle of the Alamo in Texas in 1836. Davy Crockett, pioneer, political leader and defender of American freedom had a motto: “Be sure you’re right, then go ahead.”
As you hear or read the truth, you must prove it to be true from the Bible. When you prove it true and right, then you have the responsibility to “go ahead.” Acting upon and living the truth of God is your vertical challenge that will require you to choose your battles and make your stands.
Low Dog said it was a good day to die, and when that’s necessary in standing up for what one believes, such a sentiment is correct. This does not mean fighting in human warfare, as Christians are not to do that. Rather, people may one day seek to kill us for what we believe. Should they succeed, God will reward our faithfulness in His Kingdom. But of course you can die only once in this life. So also remember this: It’s a good day to live. Live for what you know is right and true—devoting yourself as a living sacrifice to serving God and others. You’ve got to stand for something. Make sure it’s the right thing. VT