Robert E. Lee, commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, saw the end in sight. He had struggled for years to lead his men to victory – but facing an enemy with greater numbers, better weaponry, and seemingly unlimited funds had taken its toll on his army.
The end of the American Civil War was near.
His army had marched all night and day in a strategic retreat from General Ulysses S. Grant’s forces. Having set up camp just east of Appomattox Courthouse, Lee sat down to read a letter Grant had written him. His opponent was proposing that the two meet and discuss Lee’s surrender.
The Southern commander refused.
Immediately, Grant wrote again. Once more suggesting the two commanders meet to negotiate Lee’s surrender so that the slaughter could finally be brought to an end.
Lee responded, this time saying, “I do not think the emergency has arisen to call for the surrender of this army," however, he agreed to meet Grant the following morning so they could discuss an end to the hostilities.
Having watched his men suffer and bleed and die, battle after battle, provoked him to say these words. . . "Then there is nothing left for me to do but go and see General Grant, and I would rather die a thousand deaths."
The following morning, he traveled through the lines of his shoeless and starving confederate army, and then thorough the well supplied lines of the Union, and finally arrived at Mclean House to meet Grant. He told his adversary – “We are pressed and are ready to surrender. What are your terms?"
Holding all the cards, Grant surprised the Lee. He would accept the surrender with no judgement. No prison. No retribution.
The terms General Grant offered Lee were these – Stop fighting and start living.
The rebels were to turn in their weapons, go back to their homes, and plant their fields. Grant then ordered that Lee’s starving men be given meal rations. And, the defeated army was provided horses and mules so that, upon returning home, they could plow their fields.
The war was over. It was time to stop fighting and start living.
In my times with the Lord recently, here’s the word that keeps cropping up. . .whether I’m reading Scripture or spending time with him in prayer. Surrender.
Look, Lee and his army weren’t defeated at Appomattox. . .their defeat had been signed sealed and delivered months earlier. . . the surrender was a recognition of the state of things. . . and, ultimately, it was a move from death to life.
This is the way it works with Jesus. Listen. And he said to all, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” Luke 9.23-25 (ESV)
Did you catch it!? The Lord said it’s time to stop fighting and to start living. He said it’s time to move from death to life. It’s time to start living.