Many are inspired by William Henley’s poem Invictus. Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma bomber quoted it before his execution. It features regularly in songs, movies and television series. Most recently, in the 2009 Eastwood film of the same name, as an inspiration for Nelson Mandela and the South African Rugby captain Francios Pienaar. The last two lines of the poem are perhaps the most well known:
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
The poem is captivating. The steadfast refusal of the narrator to bow to anything, and to rise, even when crushed, to fight any opposition. It is the ode of the underdog, the hymn of the oppressed and tortured, a testimony to the beautiful yet, belligerent, endurance of the human soul, created in the image of almighty God unable to be defeated so long as it choses not to surrender to circumstance.
James Cameron gave a similar voice to the protagonist Sarah Conner in his Terminator movies where the character’s motto becomes; “No fate but what we make”. Though you be the proverbial David in the face of Goliath’s torment, persecution, disease or death the strength of the human spirit is indomitable. A monologue of Shakespeare’s Hamlet carried the same theme:
What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason,
how infinite in faculties, in form and moving,
how express and admirable in action, how like an angel
in apprehension, how like a god!
In all these man is subject to none except those to whom he choses to yield. As such he cannot be defeated, or conquered.
Such is the resilience of Christ, in the face of the cross, he determined to achieve our redemption and forgiveness, regardless of the cost. The writer of Hebrews said he endured it with joy and furthermore, his resilience is our example. Regardless of hostility and struggle do not grow weary, just as those before you, who stopped the mouth of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword … put foreign armies to flight and others who suffered mocking, flogging, chains, imprisonment and death. Yet there is massive difference between Christ and the heroes of the book of Hebrews and those who have cited Invictus.
In Christ we are compelled to sacrifice and serve God because he has conquered all foes of Satan, sin and death and we are already victors – not by the might of our will, but by the strength of God’s Spirit at work in us through faith. When faced with opposition, with malign and ridicule of the message of faith, hope, forgiveness and reconciliation with our Creator God we stand, in his strength, knowing that HE is our captain and that fate is at His beckoning for He alone is sovereign. We do not endure suffering, and mistreatment because our soul is unconquerable, but because He is. Mordecai knew that God is the determinative factor of victory. If we refuse to serve Him then another will be raised in our place. Our choice is to see God’s hand in placing us in this place at this time for His purpose and glory. Your job, life, and location are part of God’s mission. Do you see that or do you focus on your possessions and achievements? Who is your captain?