A0347_The Stockdale Paradox
Date: 25th November 2007 (Sunday AM) Ref: A0347
Place: Kambah P.S.
Title: The Stockdale Paradox
Text: & Acts 20:22-24
Illust: US Admiral Jim Stockdale was the highest ranking US military officer in the Hanoi Hilton, Vietnamese POW camp during the Vietnam war. Tortured over 20 times during his 8 year imprisonment from 1965 to 1973, He lived out the war without any prisoner’s rights, no set release date, & no certainty as to whether he would even survive to see his family again. At one point to make sure he could not be used for propaganda purposes he beat his face up with a stool & slashed himself with a razor. Despite the hardship he eventually was returned to the US at the end of the war & awarded the Congressional Medal of Honour.
I. Dire Straits
A. Life’s Challenges
i. None of us may have been tortured or beaten up in a POW camp, may never have been physically assaulted by others but the truth is in one way or another we can go through trials that can seem everybit as tormenting as those faced by Stockdale.
ii. Trials of sickness, physically beaten up by debilitating chronic illness / pain – think of the woman bowed over by a spirit of infirmity – “think of it—for eighteen years” , or the woman with the issue of blood.
Luke 8:43 Now a woman, having a flow of blood for twelve years, who had spent all her livelihood on physicians and could not be healed by any, (NKJV)
As much a trial with no answers and no end in sight.
iii. Then there are the struggles of family / relationships – These can go on for years, even generations family conflict Husband / Wife / inlaws / outlaws / parents / kids / Ex’s / etc all potential areas of conflict and ongoing mental & emotional torture. – Can appear to have no possibility of resolution
iv. Also ministry – Wanting to see God’s destiny for your own life fulfilled, struggling with destiny, wanting to see results, church grow; - Can continue to struggle year after year with no change / no seeming advancement. – Struggle – spiritually / emotionally
B. Our Struggle
i. Like Stockdale, in the midst of our trials, we struggle to cope, to continue on – to keep going - This is where Character comes in we need to persevere in the midst of these trials. – To continue to press through
Stockdale made a statement:
"The test of character is not 'hanging in' when you expect light at the end of the tunnel, but performance of duty, and persistence of example when you know no light is coming."
ii. Paul exemplified this in our text, He could see no light only chains and tribulations, but this is not going to stop him from doing what he knows is right. – He is going to press in.
Philippians 3:13-14 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (NKJV)
II. Faith’s Grip
A. Light at the end of the tunnel
i. What is needed to persevere is Faith. ~ Faith see’s the unseen, the things that are not as if they already were.
Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (NKJV)
ii. Faith lays a hold of the promises of God ~ Victory, joy, hope, deliverance, healing, advancement, destiny & restoration and then continues to walk in these promises as your reality
iii. Faith is knowing that there is light at the end of the tunnel even when you still don’t see it.
"I never lost faith in the end of the story, I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade."
B. Our Essential
i. As Christians we simply must have faith: “firm Persuasion” a conviction based upon hearing.
Romans 10:17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (NKJV)
ii. We do not believe just in some vain hope or in fairy tales. We are not reliant on the latest knowledge of man, The object of our faith the one we put our trust in is God and the promises of His word. – When you do this, it is pleasing to God, He will act on your behalf.
Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (NKJV)
III. Optimists Folly
A. Optimists failure
i. Careful that you understand that faith is not just having a positive outlook. In Jim Collins book “Good to Great” he interviewed Jim Stockdale and asked him a question ~ who didn't make it out? - Stockdale replied:
"Oh, that’s easy, the optimists. Oh, they were the ones who said, 'We're going to be out by Christmas.' And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they'd say, 'We're going to be out by Easter.' And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart."
ii. Interesting thought, we always see optimism as the cheerful person, looking at the bright side, but there is a danger in optimism, a danger that confuses positive thinking with the cold hard facts of reality
B. Stockdale Paradox
i. Jim Collins called this the Stockdale Paradox:
“You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end — which you can never afford to lose — with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”
ii. Do not sugar coat your present reality. – If you are sick you are sick – I hear of people who won’t say “I have a cold” (even while their nose is running like a tap, they are coughing and spluttering and their throat is burning up), because to say I have a cold is supposedly a lack of faith. ~ looks & sounds like a cold to me.
iii. In our text we see, Paul is not an optimist, he confronts the brutal facts & vs 22-23 – But he never stopped having faith that he would prevail. – He was determined to do what he needed to do. What he knew was right. & Vs 24
Galatians 6:9 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. (NKJV)
iv. True faith stares coldly and clearly at our present situation, acknowledges your need. – How people get saved not sugar coating their present sinful state “I am a sinner, I need a saviour, I will have faith in Christ Jesus to save me” – Same with you & I regardless of the struggle – Confront the need, acknowledge the trial.- Then have faith that you will prevail, why because God has promised.
Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. (NKJV)
Light at the end of the tunnel