Robert Jeffress - Learn From The Past
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Were you one of the kids in school who hated history class? Or one who absolutely loved it? Well, not all of us were destined to become history buffs, but most of us at the very least recognize the value of history. I'm not the first person to have a story to tell, and neither are you. Generations upon generations have gone before us, and rather than repeat their mistakes, we can choose to make healthier choices. My message is titled: Survival Tip #8: Learn From The Past, as we continue our series Courageous on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
Juliane Koepcke didn't grow up like most girls. Her parents were well known German zoologists who lived and worked in the Peruvian rainforest. When she was 14 years old, Juliane's parents established a research station in the heart of the jungle, and she became a jungle child. Life in the forest was difficult. They had no running water or electricity, every morning they shook out their rubber boots to dislodge the poisonous spiders that had take up residence overnight. Her days consisted of homeschooling lessons in math and language, as well as research excursions into the jungle to study insects, birds, wildlife, fish, and plants.
However, the educational authorities in Peru didn't approve of her homeschooling, so after 18 months of traipsing through the rainforest, Juliane traveled to Lima, Peru, to finish high school, which she did in December of 1971. Her mother flew to Lima to retrieve Juliane for the Christmas break, but since there was a graduation dance on December 22nd, and the graduation ceremony the following day, they decided to fly back to Peru on Christmas Eve. Every flight was booked except for one airplane belonging to Líneas Aéreas, the smallest airline with the worst safety record in Peru. Onboard, Juliane and her mother sat two rows from the back. She took the window seat, her mother sat in the middle, and a heavyset man was on the aisle.
"I think it will be okay", her mother said. Those words would haunt Juliane for decades. Only 15 minutes before reaching their destination, the plane flew into a thundercloud. Turbulence rocked the plane this way and that, Christmas presents, jackets, suitcases that had been stored in the overhead compartments flew around the plane's cabin. Glancing out the window, Juliane saw a blinding light over the right wing, and then they began to plummet. The noise in the plane was deafening. People were screaming, and the engines roared, and then, as if somebody had flipped a switch, all was quiet. Juliane, still strapped to her seat, was outside the plane, her mother was gone. Falling head first from nearly 10.000 feet, Juliane saw the canopy of the forest spinning and coming closer.
The treetops looked like broccoli, she later recalled. Somewhere on the descent, she blacked out, lost her glasses, and the capillaries in her eyes burst, causing them to appear blood red. Her seat somehow righted itself before she hit the trees, because once on the ground, she was relatively unharmed, with only a concussion, a broken collarbone, and a gash on her left calf. When Juliane came to, she was by herself. She didn't see any wreckage around her, she knew it would be impossible for rescuers to find her under the thick canopy of the trees, so she would have to rescue herself. Thankfully, she knew the jungle, and was comfortable in it. She attuned her ears to the forest and heard the trickling sound of a stream. She knew that streams led to creeks, creeks led to rivers, and that people lived along rivers.
So she moved toward the sound of the trickling water. She intended to follow along the banks of the stream, but the jungle was such a tangle of trees and vines that it was almost impassable. She could walk along the shallows, but she knew stingrays buried themselves in the soft mud along the banks, and that piranhas are dangerous only in the low water. So she decided to wade into the middle of the stream and float. She would have to watch out for the alligator-like reptiles called caimans, but she knew they generally didn't attack people. During the day, Juliane kept to the stream. At night, she cam ashore, and as best she could, warded off the biting insects that tangled in her hair and tried to burrow into her nose and ears, all the time shivering from ice-cold rain. All she had to eat was a bag of Christmas candy she found, which would last only a few days. Everything else, she knew, could be poisonous, but she also knew that she could drink from the middle of the stream with little danger of dysentery because the area was uninhabited.
She floated for days until she recognized the call of the hoatzins, large birds that nest along large rivers and open water. Following the bird call, Juliane walked into the large clearing next to a river. There she saw a boat beside a well-worn trail that led to a shelter. The shelter was empty, but the next day she heard voices. Three men emerged from the forest and were frightened at her presence, thinking she was a river spirit, said to have fair skin and blonde hair. Her bloodshot eyes didn't help ease their minds. But she said to them in Spanish, I'm a girl who was in the Lansa crash, my name is Juliane. 91 people, including Juliane's mother, everyone on board perished in that Lansa Peruvian crash, flight 508. Juliane was the sole survivor. It was a miracle not that she survived being ejected, imagine, from a flying aircraft, a jetliner, but that she also survived 11 days in a peruvian rainforest with injuries, wearing only a sundress and one sandal.
You know, the fact is whether you're climbing a mountain, trying to survive an airplane crash, or facing some other difficult situation, challenging situation in your life, your survival depends not so much on making every decision the right decision, your survival really depends upon making sure you don't compound one mistake by making a worse mistake. And the way we mitigate mistakes in life is by learning from the past. To learn from our own experience, but also learn from the experiences of others who have gone before us, that's exactly what Juliane did. The reason she was able to survive those 11 days is she was no stranger to life in the jungle. She relied on her past experiences, but she also relied on the lessons she had learned from her father and her mother.
From her father, she had learned that streams lead to creeks and creeks lead to rivers and rivers are where people are. She had learned to avoid the shallow water where the stingrays and the piranhas were. Her mom was an ornithologist, and she learned about birds, and especially the hoatzins that would lead her to where people were. Generally, people who survive difficult circumstances, who put themselves in dangerous circumstances, like mountain climbing, or other challenging situations, they learn from the past, they look at those who have gone before them, they mimic their strengths and try to avoid their mistakes.
You know, we're in a series I've titled "Courageous: 10 Survival Tips, 10 Strategies, For Thriving in a Hostile World". Every one of us here today or watching this program, we are living in a challenging situation. We have an adversary, the devil, who is hellbent on destroying everything important to us. We have our own fallen nature that continually drags us away from God. We live in a culture that is increasingly hostile to the things of God, that's why C. S. Lewis described this world as "enemy occupied territory". If we're going to survive and thrive in this world in which we live, we've got to employ the same survival tips that survivalists use, and today, we've come to survival tip number eight, and that is to learn from the past, to learn from the past, whether it's our past, or the past of others who have gone before us. And of course, what we're really talking about is learning from history. Learning from history is key to your survival.
Now, I admit today there are a lot of people who don't think history is very valuable, that's nothing new either. The great industrialist Henry ford once said, "History is more or less bunk. We want to live in the present, and the only history that is worth anything is the history we make today". There are a lot of people who believe that, have you seen those late night comedy programs on television where they do the man in the street interviews and they quiz people on their knowledge of certain things, like American history, for example? Isn't it amazing how stupid people are? Always makes me feel better to watch those things, I mean, people are so ignorant, they're really ignorant about history and American history. For example, one survey showed that only one in three American citizens can pass the US citizenship test, only one in three Americans. And that number falls to 19% when it's people under the age of 45. In fact, on one survey, over half of Americans surveyed could not even name the countries we fought against in World War II.
People are ignorant of the past, but there's one person who doesn't think history is bunk, he doesn't think history is unimportant, and that is the Author of history, God himself. History is really his-story, and over and over again in both the old and the New Testaments, you see God putting a preminum on people remembering their history. That's true in the book of Deuteronomy. You know, Deuteronomy uses the word "Remember" 16 times, 16 times Moses says "remember, remember, remember". Why did he say that? You remember that Moses and the Israelites were on the precipice of entering the Promise Land when they sinned against God by failing to believe the promises of God, and God sentenced them to 40 years of wandering in the wilderness until a whole generation died out, and then when Moses was an old man, the people once again stood at the precipice of the Promise Land, and Moses preached, he re-preached the law to the people.
The word "Deuteronomy", deutero, second, nomas, law, it is a second preaching of the law. And Moses was saying over and over again remember the past, and don't make the same mistakes that your forefathers made. Remember his famous words in Deuteronomy 11:26-28? He said, "See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse, the blessing, if you listen to the commandments of the Lord your God, which I am commanding you today", and the curse, "If you do not listen to the commands of the Lord your God, but turn aside from the way in which I'm commanding you today, by following other Gods which you have not known". He was saying you've got a choice, you can repeat the mistakes of your forefathers, or you can act differently. You can experience God's blessing or his curse, and the same is true for us today.
The apostle Paul talked about the importance of history in Romans 15:4, he said, "Whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and in the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope". The reason we have all of these stories in the Bible is not to entertain us, it is to instruct us so that we can persevere in hope. In Job 8:8-9, the Word of God says, "Please inquire of past generations, and consider the things searched out by their fathers. For we are only of yesterday and know nothing, because our days on earth are as a shadow". He was saying we are here for such a short time, we can't know everything there is to know on our own, look at the past, learn the lessons of the past. That's the key to surviving and thriving.
You know, it was George Santayana who said those famous words, "Those who don't remember the past are condemned to repeat it". Those who don't remember the past are condemned to repeat it. The apostle Paul believed that, in fact, that was the theme of the verses we looked at a few moments ago in our scripture reading. Turn in your New Testaments to 1 Corinthians 10, 1 Corinthians 10, remember, Paul wrote this letter to a church that had fallen into immorality and idolatry and bitterness and backbiting, and yet they comforted themselves in thinking this is okay, after all, we're saved by grace, not by works, our place in heaven is secure, we can live any way we want to live. Paul says not so fast, don't use your position with God as an excuse to disobey God. If you think God is okay with the way you're living, just look at how he dealt with your forefathers, the Israelites.
And the first four verses of 1 Corinthians 10, he talks about the Israelites, the unique position they had, they were God's own people, they were the recipients of God's supernatural revelation, and his supernatural provision in the wilderness, they were certainly the objects of God's love and affection. But God didn't look the other way at their disobedience, look at verse five, nevertheless, in spite of their unique place of privilege, "With most of them God was not well-pleased, for they were laid low in the wilderness". They were struck dead in the wilderness. Yes, their eternal salvation was secure, but they lost their lives, they suffered the discipline of God because of their disobedience, and then he said in verse six, "Now these things," these judgments against the Israelites, "these things happened as," circle this word, "examples for us, that we should not crave evil things as they also craved". And then verse 11, "Now these things happened to them," the Israelites, and there it is again, "as an example," circle that, "and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the end of the age has come".
That word example is the Greek word "typos", T-Y-P-O-S, that word literally means the mark that comes from a blow, a mark that comes from a blow. That word typos, we get our word type, or typewriter. How many of you are old enough to remember a typewriter? Remember how that worked? You'd have your little keyboard there with the corresponding letters of the alphabet, and you would strike that letter, and striking that letter would cause a metal bar that had the letter of the alphabet on it, it would send it toward a ribbon of ink, and it would make a blow against that ribbon of ink, and that blow would leave a mark on the piece of paper of the letter that you struck. That's the same word here, the mark that comes from a blow, that's what the Israelites were. They bore in their bodies the blow, the discipline of God on their life, and it was a negative blow, it was a negative example.
Paul said learn the lessons of those who went before you so that you don't suffer the same fate. These things were written as examples to us. And then he says in verse 12, "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall". Learning the lessons from the past. You know, when I think of somebody who learned in a positive way the lessons from the past, I think of an Old Testament king named Josiah. Sometimes he was called good king Josiah, he was a man who allowed history to shape his future. We find his story in 2 Chronicles 34. If you have your Bibles, turn to 2 Chronicles 34. And we find this description of the reign of Josiah, look at verse one, "Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned 31 years in Jerusalem. And he did right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the ways of his father David, and he did not turn aside to the right or to the left".
Now think about it, Josiah was eight when he became king, how did that happen? Well, it says here his father, David. David was not Josiah's father, he was his forefather. Same word, it was his forefather, they were separated by hundreds of years. Josiah's grandfather was a man named Manasseh, and he held the coveted title of Israel's most evil king. Manasseh misled Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to do more evil than the nations whom the Lord destroyed before the sons of Israel. Manasseh led the Israelites in the worship of Baal and the Asherah, in child sacrifice, in consulting with witches and sorcerers, he was an evil king.
Now that was Josiah's grandfather. Josiah's father, Amon, Manasseh's son, stole the title of Israel's worst king from Manasseh, and he did even more evil than Manasseh had done. He was so evil, in fact, that Amon only lasted two years until he was assassinated, and after his murder, it was his son, Josiah, who became king at the age of eight years. But you know, Josiah, you could say, was born to fail in a way. How could he overcome such a generational curse? Have you heard that term, generational curse before? Don't ever buy into that, don't ever buy into that that somebody is doomed to a certain way of behavior because of the environment in which they were raised. Through the power of Christ, you can become a brand new person, you don't have to make the mistakes of the past.
And that is true of Josiah, he said "I am not going to follow in the way of my father and my grandfather", instead, he was like his great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather David, and he did not turn aside from the right to the left. How did he make that decision to follow God? I want you to notice three things about Josiah's decision to follow God. First of all, that decision was influenced by his mother, influenced by his mother. In the companion book to Chronicles, kings, 2 kings 22:1, we find this interesting tidbit about Josiah's mother. "Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned for 31 years in Jerusalem, and his mother's name was jedidah". Even though he had an evil father, it was his mother, jedidah, who taught Josiah the Word of God.