General Stanley McChrystal, the commander of Joint Special Operations Command, was given a monumental task by President George W. Bush: find and terminate Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of a brutal terror network known as Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI).
Early during his deployment in the second Iraq War, Gen. McChrystal and his elite American forces were routinely outmaneuvered by the agile network of terrorists even though his coalition forces were greater in number, better trained, and in possession of superior equipment and technology. There just never seemed to be a shortage of terror architects who were willing to transport a bomb into civilian populations wreaking unspeakable death and damage, while their leaders remained in the shadows plotting the next travesty.
By McChrystal’s own admission, American forces were struggling in their fight against AQI. He knew serious shifts in their own thinking must take place in order to bring about a positive outcome on the ever-changing battlefield. In his book Team of Teams, an account of his fight against terrorists in the Middle East, Gen. McChrystal shared one of his favorite questions that perfectly illustrated his tremendous desire to adapt and win the fight.
I later used a specific question when talking to junior officers and sergeants in small bases in Afghanistan: “If I told you that you weren’t going home until we win – what would you do differently?” At first they would chuckle, assuming I was joking, but soon realized I wasn’t. At that point most became very thoughtful. If they were forced to operate on a metric of task completion, rather than watching the clock until they went home, the implications would be significant. Almost all were good soldiers and leaders, but they had been shaped into thinking in terms of their tour of duty, a time horizon that rarely predicted successful mission completion.
Subconsciously, those soldiers had replaced “winning” with “waiting.” Instead of doing their job, many were just doing their time.
If we’re honest, a lot of Christians are doing the same thing Gen. McChrystal found his soldiers doing: we’re just watching the clock until we “go home.” In spite of the fact that we’re called to win the lost to Jesus, many of us are simply going through the motions of life.
When the earthly general noticed this complacency in his troops, he confronted them with a question: what would you do differently, right away, if you couldn’t go home until you won.
What is Jesus asking you to do differently, today, to win the lost to Him?
Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World by General Stanley McChrystal. Portfolio, 2015, Page 230.
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(Resource cataloged by David R Smith)