Volume. XXX, No. 23
Sunday, 06 December 2015

From The Pastors Heart: George Catlett Marshall

I have written two articles about conflicts for the last two weeks. I intend to continue to write on the subject.  However, today I am going to take a brief pause from writing just on the subject of conflicts to illustrate a point I have been trying to make through the previous articles.  I am going to introduce you to a man, George Catlett Marshall, after whose name, “Marshall Plan,” is named.  Let me quote a few lines from the US Department of State Office of the Historian website to let you understand what the Marshall Plan was about: “In the immediate post-World War II period, Europe remained ravaged by war and thus susceptible to exploitation by an internal and external Communist threat. In a June 5, 1947, speech to the graduating class at Harvard University, Secretary of State George C. Marshal issued a call for a comprehensive program to rebuild Europe. Fanned by the fear of Communist expansion and the rapid deterioration of European economies in the winter of 1946–1947, Congress passed the Economic Cooperation Act in March 1948 and approved funding that would eventually rise to over $12 billion for the rebuilding of Western Europe.”  By now, you must know that George C. Marshall was a Secretary of State in the US and a man behind Europe’s recovery from the WWII.  Of course, he was a general too.  I got to know of him better by reading David Brooks’ book, The Road to Character.  He is also author of Social Animals.  Though I quote his books and name, please do not read his books to increase your Christian faith.  I was interested in the title of his book, The Road to Character, as it is often the case that we cannot discuss matters like conflicts, forgiveness, or reconciliation, without considering a few relevant issues, of which a character issue is a part.  After all, apostle Peter considers character as the most important aspect of the believers in 2 Peter 1.  A large part of the following paragraphs is either directly or indirectly from David Brooks’ book.

Right from the beginning, Brooks says that Marshall was not a bright, sparkling boy.  Here is a story illustrating his academic life in his early life.  “When he was nine, his father enrolled him in the local public school.  His placement was determined by an interview with the school superintendent, Professor Lee Smith.  The man asked him a series of simple questions to gauge Marshall’s intelligence and preparation, but Marshall could not answer them.  As his father looked on, he hemmed and hawed, stuttered and squirmed.  Later, after he had led the U.S. Army through World War II, served as secretary of state, and won the Nobel Peace Prize, Marshall still remembered that excruciating episode, when he had so publicly failed his father.  His father, Marshall recalled, ‘suffered very severely’ from the embarrassment.  Marshall lagged academically.  He developed a terror of any sort of public presentation, an intense fear of being laughed at by other students, and a painful self-consciousness that inevitably fueled more failure and humiliation.  ‘I did not like school,’ he would recall later in life.  ‘The truth is I was not even a poor student.  I was simply not a student, and my academic record was a sad affair.’”  Probably, he would not be considered an ideal kind of child to tiger mums and dads in today’s society.

“After elementary school, he wanted to follow his older and favored brother Stuart to the Virginia Military Institute (VMI).  He would later recall in an interview with his great biographer, Forrest Pogue, his brother’s cruel response: When I was begging to go to VMI, I overheard Stuart talking to my mother; he was trying to persuade her not to let me go because he thought I would disgrace the family name.  Well, that made more of an impression on me than all the instructors, parental pressure or anything else.  I decided right then that I was going to wipe his eye.  I did finally get ahead of what my brother had done. That was the first time I had ever done that, and it was where I really learned my lesson. The urgency to succeed came from hearing that conversation; it had a psychological effect on my career.  This is a common trait among modest people who achieve extraordinary success.”

“Marshall also had learned from his humiliations in school and at home that his rise in the ranks of life would not come from his natural talent.  It would come from grinding, the dogged plod, and self-discipline.  VMI had a moral culture that brought together several ancient traditions: a chivalric devotion to service and courtesy, a stoic commitment to emotional self-control, and a classical devotion to honor.  Though VMI was an academically mediocre institution, the school certainly taught the habits of institutionalized self-discipline.  Throughout his adult life, Marshall displayed a strong desire to be as close to flawless in all things as possible.  Against the current advice, he absolutely did sweat the ‘small stuff.’  At VMI, he learnt renunciation, the ability to forgo small pleasures in order to enjoy great ones. First-year students were compelled to sleep with their large dorm windows wide open, so that in winter they might awake covered in snow.”

Today “we carry ourselves in ways that are more natural and relaxed. We worry about appearing artificial.  But those in Marshall’s military world were more likely to believe that great individuals are made, not born, and that they are made through training. . . . It is through the exercise of drill that a person becomes self-regulating.  It is through the expression of courtesy that a person becomes polite.  It is through the resistance to fear that a person develops courage. It is through the control of facial expressions that one becomes sober.  The act precedes the virtue.”  He recalled, “What I learned at VMI was self-control, discipline, so that it was ground in.”   Later he said, “The truly great leader overcomes all difficulties, and campaigns and battles are nothing but a long series of difficulties to be overcome.”

Marshall was a late bloomer.  He worked professionally, he served other men, but he did not rise spectacularly.  He was such a valuable aide, his superiors sometimes held him back from getting his own command.  Modern men who are competitive and ambitious will never understand him.  In 1918 in France, Marshall was close to being promoted to brigadier general.  The war ended and it would take him eighteen long years to get his first star. . . . He served his superior officers but received few promotions for himself.  Through it all, Marshall worked on his profession and served his country.  He did not serve himself but his country and his organization, the U. S. army.

Very few people in the course of the last century aroused as much reverence as Marshall did, even in his own lifetime, even among people who knew him well.  There were also few people who felt entirely comfortable around him.  While in uniform, he never let his hair down or allowed people into the intimacy of his own soul.  He maintained his composure in all circumstances.  How many of us are keeping such a standard today in worship and professional work?

The CBS war correspondent Eric Sevareid said of him: “a hulking, homely man of towering intellect, the memory of an unnatural genius, and the integrity of a Christian saint.  The atmosphere of controlled power he exuded made one feel oneself a physical weakling, and his selfless devotion to duty [was] beyond all influences of public pressure or personal friendship.”  Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn said no other American had equal influence with Congress: “We are in the presence of a man who is telling the truth as he sees it.” As Truman’s secretary of state Dean Acheson put it, “the thing that stands out in everybody’s recollection of General Marshall is the immensity of his integrity.”  I wonder how many such characters like George Marshall we can find from the worshippers of God today.

Your Pastor

More Lively Hope



Kitchen Roster -  Helpers today: Sisters Kimberley Gan, Jun Lin & Mable Quek. Next Lord’s Day:  Sisters Natalie Cheng, Megan Lim &
Natalie Gan. .Please see Sis Megan Lim if you have any questions.

*Please stay behind for fellowship after Worship to encourage and to get to know one another.

*Special thanks & God’s blessing to our two wonderful sisters who invited our Senior citizens for a sumptuous buffet lunch on Tuesday.

*Catered Fellowship Lunch for the next two Sundays. $3 per person. FREE for primary & pre-primary school children.

*Special 5th Christmas Fellowship Lunch will be held after Christmas Service, starting at 12:30 - 1:00 pm, at the home of Sis Julie Tan.
For details of address, please see Sis Julie Tan or any Session member. Elder Michael Lee is organising this lunch and if you can contribute please see him. This Lunch is open to ALL worshippers.

*Please note: No Wednesday Class & Neighbourhood Bible Study till next year.

Praise & thanksgiving

Journey mercies: others arriving safely at their destinations.

Church activities in the past week.

Visitors & new worshippers.

God’s daily mercy, guidance & blessings.

Improvement: Bro Sun Sokha’s daughter, Jemima

God’s help & strength for our students - University, year 12 & high school exams.  

Wonderful & sumptuous Seniors’ Christmas Lunch.

Prayer Items

Health & God’s healing - Pastor Ki; Dr Gary Cohen (USA), Dr SH Tow (S’pore); Rev Patrick Tan (S’pore); Rev Edward & Sis Lehia Paauwe; & others in affliction.

Special Prayer: Rev George van Buuren; & others in affliction.

iSketch & Tell Ministry: Pr Hai Seng Lim’s ministry in Melbourne.

New Life BPC (London) - Dr Carl Martin; God’s guidance & encouragement for congregation.

Providence B-P Church, Mawson Lakes - Ps David & Sis Susan Weng, & congregation.

Youth & Assistant Pastor for Hope B-P Church.

Journey mercies: those who are travelling during the summer vacation.

Good health in pregnancy: Sis Isabelle Ng.

Interpreters of sermon into Mandarin.

Jobs: Those seeking for jobs in Adelaide.

Persecuted believers in Islamic countries & Communist countries (N Korea, China & Vietnam).

God’s guidance & provision of new church property for worship, office & fellowship activities.

God’s comfort - victims of and for those who lost loved ones in the SA & WA bushfires; those who lost their loved ones & healing for those injured from Islamic militants’ terror attacks in Mali, Kenya,  France, & recently San Bernardino (USA).



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