“We who first trusted in Christ…” -Ephesians 1:12
When I was a kid, I was challenged by the advertisements at the back of comic books that shouted in large type, “Be the First on Your Block!” As I grew older, the challenges for first place grew: to be a starter on the Junior High basketball team, to be first chair in the school band. The spiritual concerns grew as well: the challenge to be the first to stand when some revivalist gave a call to commitment at our Houston church. I wanted to be first.
God is no respecter of persons. But He does have a need, a great need, for first responders. Every American football team needs to have a good quarterback. Why? Because he is the guy who first touches the ball to begin the play. He may hand it off or he may pass it. But all the action begins with him. If he doesn’t step up, the team’s engine has no starter. God needs starters. He needs action people.
The tipping point of the Texas Revolution of 1836 in the fight with the ruthless Mexican dictator General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna began with a few fed-up, fearless individuals. They were not trained fighters. They were farmers.
Remember the Alamo! This famous small structure was not built to be a fort for a major battle. It was a mission chapel with an adjoining presidio, a secure residential building. But it was important because it was located on the Old San Antonio Road which led eastward into the populated countryside of old Texas.
When Col. William Travis and his undersized force of defenders took a stand at that historic place, it was his plan to forestall Santa Anna’s invasion of Texas, an invasion meant to decimate and rout out the Texan settlers. The dictator had already destroyed the capitol of Zacatecas and executed the whole state legislature. He had come to savage Texas. He could have ignored the Alamo with its 150 or so defenders. But he was enraged with their flying the loyalist Mexican flag with the year “1824” emblazoned on it. That was a reference to the Mexican Republic Constitution of 1824 which Santa Anna had trashed. He hoisted the blood red battle flag that meant “We will show you no quarter, no mercy!”
Travis’ group answered that display flag with a defiant cannon shot fired over it. The steady bombardment of Santa Anna’s cannons began pounding the Alamo day and night.
When Travis drew his epic line in the dust with his sword, he was honest about the risk they all faced. Who would step across his line and stand with him? Santa Anna’s regular army surrounded the Alamo, outnumbering the resistors at least 25 to 1. He offered the defenders the option of fleeing under cover of darkness.
Texas lore claims that it was a 25 year old farm boy named Tally Holland who stepped over, without hesitation. Davy Crockett, the famous long rifle sureshot, and about 150 other men followed him. Jim Bowie, who was sick and debilitated, had to be carried across. Travis dispatched a letter pleading for help. It brought 30 more fearless farmers from Gonzales that night.
Santa Anna’s army prevailed. The Alamo was overrun, but not without a cost. That battle cost the dictator much time and a huge loss in his fighting force—over 600 men. The Alamo had no survivors except a few women, children, and slaves.
When word reached the Texas General Sam Houston, he began to move his small army to a more favorable defensible spot eastward. He had earlier advised against garrisoning the Alamo. But the delay gave Houston time to better maneuver, to train and equip his growing band of volunteers. The delay also gave the panicked settlers time to flee eastward across the Lynchburg ferry toward Louisiana.
The fortunes of war can change quickly. It was at that Lynchburg crossing of the wide San Jacinto River, just weeks later, that Houston’s fighting man men cornered Santa Anna’s army. With cries of “Remember the Alamo! Remember Goliad!” they attacked at siesta time in the afternoon. In a lopsided 18 minute battle, Santa Anna’s army, caught off-guard, was devastated. He fled for his life, but was captured the next day. His surrender at San Jacinto brought independence to Texas.
Every great cause requires someone to make a first move. A stand. Sometimes that stand means the ultimate sacrifice. But the results are world changing. Usually the move becomes a tipping point, like a bucket that is over filling.
Do not be weary in doing good. Don’t be misled either. The justice of God will not be mocked. As in the case of Santa Anna, he reaped the harvest he had sown. So also with us. We who first trusted in the Lord will reap the efforts of our discipleship which we have sown into a younger generation. Don’t give up. Don’t quit—even if your stand seems futile. In due season you will harvest a great victory. Be the first on your block!
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