Commitment to a Higher Purpose

Tim Richards   -  

Commitment to a Higher Purpose

Each Christmas someone in my family gives me a book they know I will use for future columns. This year my wife, Kelly, gave me Great American Trivia. Today’s column is based on it.

Many Americans know the Declaration of Independence was approved on July 4, 1776, but few know it was not signed then. On July 19th, the Continental Congress ordered the official copy to be prepared but it was not until August 2nd that the actual document was ready for signatures.

As president of the Continental Congress, John Hancock was first to sign. A quick look at the document shows his signature is larger than those of the other delegates. Great American Trivia described it this way, “Hancock’s inscription is so well known that his name has become synonymous with the word signature, as in ‘put your John Hancock on the dotted line.’”

Hancock’s signature was important because it proclaimed his commitment to the new document, the new nation and its claim to independence from England. Hancock believed his bold signature would encourage both the delegates and others who saw it. Other founding fathers signed in the coming days, weeks, months and even years. The last signature by Thomas McKean was not placed on the document until five years later in 1781. Use this link to see a picture of the declaration and signatures:

Those who signed the Declaration of Independence knew it might prove costly and they were right: five were captured by the British and tortured, 12 had their homes burned, two had sons die in the Revolutionary War and another had two sons captured. Nine others died from either wounds or hardships suffered in the war.

The signers illustrate there are moments when we must “count the cost” and commit to something bigger than ourselves. The Old Testament hero Joshua did that when he proclaimed to the Jewish nation, “But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15, NLT)

For what would you be willing to die? That list is small for most of us; likely including only our family, our country and our faith. If you do not know what you are willing to die for, it is highly unlikely you know what you want to live for. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “No one really knows why they are alive until they know what they’d die for.” John Hancock, the other founding fathers, Joshua and Dr. King all counted the cost and knew what they were committed to living and if necessary dying for. Let’s ask ourselves the same question are we focused on making sure our lives count.

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