In Brandon Sanderson’s fantasy novel, The Way of Kings, the high prince Dalinar discovers a long lost teaching called “The Immortal Words” in an ancient text. Within it are a set of ideals for living and an honor code for a group of ancient warriors: Strength before weakness. Life before death. Journey before destination.
Almost everyone around Dalinar thinks he is crazy for trying to live by these ideals, especially in the midst of war. He trusts that these ideals are from “the Almighty” and that living by them honors both the Almighty and those under his command, men and women he has sworn to protect, and his enemies.
I found all three of these teachings fascinating. But the last one has kept my attention for weeks now: journey before destination. At the same time, a slave named Kaladin is also learning this ideal from another slave; it’s explained to him in this way: “There are always several ways to achieve a goal. Failure is preferable to winning through unjust means… In the end, all men die. How you lived will be far more important to the Almighty than what you accomplished.” In other words, the ends don’t justify the means. How you get something done is just as important—if not more important—than what you get done.
When God speaks through Zechariah to Zerubbabel about the rebuilding of the temple, He makes sure he knows it will not be easy. But then He says something very interesting: “Not by strength or by might, but by my Spirit” (Zechariah 4:6). God wants to make it clear that as important as the rebuilding of the temple is, how it is completed is also important. And while they will have to work hard to rebuild it, it will be done by the power of the Spirit.
I know this would’ve been hard for me to buy into, because it’s hard for me to buy into now. I want to muster up my own power and strength when something needs to get done. I’ve been thinking about all of this because I want my family to be a family that honors God, one another, and everyone we meet. But my temptation is to want this Christian ideal—this destination—without the Christian journey. I rely on rules and my ability to exert power and control over people and situations. My temptation is to not trust the power of prayer or the power of God’s Word to mold us into the family God would have us be. But think about it: If we want our families and ourselves to be molded into the image of Christ, then we must trust that His Spirit can do the work far better than we ever could in our own power.
Written by Matt Redmond