If you don’t know, the phrase ‘tilting at windmills’ comes from a 17th century novel by Miguel de Cervantes titled “The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha”, or just “Don Quixote”. Don Quixote was a middle-aged Spanish nobleman, who imagined himself a Knight of the Spanish realm who embarked on a number of adventurous crusades against windmills that dotted the landscape of southern Spain that he sincerely believed were enemy giants with huge arms! The “tilting” refers to what we would more commonly call “jousting”. Armed with his lance, clad in an old suit of armor, and accompanied by a neighboring farmer (turned squire) named Sancho, the Man of La Mancha set off in defense of the realm.
During one of their exploits, they came in sight of thirty or forty windmills in their path. No sooner did Don Quixote see them that he said to his squire, “Fortune is guiding our affairs better than we ourselves could have wished. Do you see over yonder, friend Sancho, thirty or forty hulking giants? I intend to do battle with them and slay them. With their spoils we shall begin to be rich for this is a righteous war and the removal of so foul a brood from off the face of the earth is a service God will bless.”
Even though Sancho tried to explain that they were just windmills and the huge “arms” were only sails in the wind, the Don lowered his lance and attacked, with disastrous results when the tip of his lance was caught up by a windmill blade!
To this day, the phrase “tilting at windmills” has been used to describe “confrontations where adversaries are incorrectly perceived, or courses of action that are based on misinterpreted or misapplied heroic, romantic, or idealistic justifications.” (American Heritage Dictionary) Another phrase, “chasing windmills” has the same roots and mean pursuing something with an “open heart”, which was certainly true about Don Quixote. He really believed he was engaged in a noble crusade!
So what does all of that have to do with the question “Are WE tilting at windmills?”
Thanks for asking!
Well, a few days ago a simple question popped up on Facebook:
Hence, thoughts of Don Quixote for us old folks, as well as no small amount of serious consideration. Can a seriously fractured America be restored apart from the Gospel of Jesus Christ? I think not, and let me tell you why. If we who profess Christ honestly ask ourselves WHY our nation is so fractured right now, and if we know our Bibles, the answer is simple. SIN is the root cause of all that ails America, as well as every other nation on Earth. What began in Eden with a single act of disobedience has endured until now and will continue until Jesus returns to pass judgment. Consequently, if SIN is the root cause, a solution to the sin problem will bring healing. Throughout the history of mankind, men have tried to deal with all sorts of evil perpetrated by the human beings that inhabit our planet. Good and moral governments have passed legislation to punish evil and wrongdoing for the betterment of civil society. Programs of all kinds have been instituted to reform all sorts of harmful behavior patterns. I’m sure you get the picture. I’m also sure you recognize that nearly all of the human solutions to human problems are external at best. We can only hope that they will take root in our hearts and result in lasting change for our good and the good of our society. And therein lies the problem.
The root cause of society’s ills is SIN, and sin is a problem internal to every human born after the Fall of Adam. Therefore, any lasting solution must also be an internal one. It means we need new hearts, new motives, new natures. As scripture tells us, we need to be reborn (See John, Chapter 3 and Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus).
Do you see where this is going? Internal problems need internal solutions? The Gospel of Jesus Christ offers that internal solution? The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the ONLY solution? Exactly.
So about those windmills. . .
Every single day we are told what we need to “do” to fight this or that (name the topic) societal ill by getting involved. We need to write our representatives in Congress, sign petitions, donate money, support podcasts, or to just ‘stand up and fight’ those who are wreaking havoc across the land. Let me be clear – I am not saying we should not be engaged with, or support external efforts to right wrongs. God ordained governmental systems to fight and control evil. By all means get involved in supporting external efforts to right the wrongs in our society and in our nation. Pray for leaders at all levels of civil government. Pray that God would change the hearts of kings (Proverbs 21:1)! However, if we want to see lasting change in our society and culture, the only real solution is the Gospel of Jesus Christ invading the hearts of men.
It’s also quite possible that many of the conservatives who are unafraid to do battle against evil in our culture and society know that the core issue is an internal one, but for whatever reason, many of them just stick to much needed external solutions. I am not criticizing them for doing so. It’s just the way it is. To be fair I admit that there are a few who mention the need for God, while stopping short of talking about Christ’s death for our sins. One popular young conservative has even told his college age audiences that the first thing they need to do is “give their hearts to Jesus”! While that sounds great and noble, when we search scripture for that admonition will we find it? (Just a question, not an indictment.)
In the novel, Don Quixote’s neighbor turned squire, Sancho Panza, tried to explain to our hero that the giants with huge arms were really just windmills and sails and not real enemies, but to no avail. In like manner, trying to correct the ‘windmill chasers’ in our midst might meet with failure.
That’s where we who confess Christ, who know the gospel message, and are willing to be used of God to share the good news with a lost world, enter “stage right”. We can be the standard bearers and ambassadors who can offer the internal remedy to the internal problem that plagues every one of us; our sinful nature. We can be the Paul Harveys who share “the rest of the story”, (Some of you will get that.) And who knows, maybe that’s what God intended for us all along!
“How can they call on him unless they believe in him? How can they believe in him unless they hear about him? How can they hear about him unless someone preaches to them? 15 And how can anyone preach without being sent? It is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”” (Romans 10:14-15)
This article first appeared in the Christian Military Fellowship June 2021 Christian Report. which can be located and downloaded here. The Christian Report is one of the many resources available from Christian Military Fellowship, a ministry dedicated to helping Christians serving in the Armed Forces grow in their faith and become “Gospel Ambassadors” in uniform.
It’s an excellent article, Dan. Thank you for sharing.
How are you, Chris?
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I’m doing well, thanks for asking Dan. I was just listening to James White of Alpha and Omega ministries talk about how the coronavirus vaccine is being used by elites to decrease the population.
I’ve heard the same from others but not someone who is as smart as he is.
For the past year, I have been wearing a mask and staying out of the public as much as I am able. My daughter has almost no immune system because she had a kidney transplant 11 years ago and is also dealing with an illness called POTS. Because of her situation, I started taking flu shots several years ago. I figure if the conspiracy theories are true I’m willing to take any personal risk for my daughter to live as long as possible. So, our entire family also took the vaccine for coronavirus.
Only about 1/3rd of people in Arkansas have been vaccinated and our numbers are starting to rise again. I don’t think anyone knows for sure if the two are related.
Anyway, I certainly hope that White is wrong on this one.
I’ve been working on my parent’s former home. It is on a lake and would be a perfect home to rent out for vacations. It is modest but it is in a great location. It has been humid and hot here in Arkansas and even though I’ve been able to do quite a bit of the work myself there have been days when my clothes have been wet from head to toe because my sweat glands appear to be working very well. I’m at that time in life when it is difficult to lose weight. Most of my life I was just the opposite. So, the sweating is good for me.
I took a break today as the weatherman said it was going to rain and he was actually right. It was nice to get two downpours after about 2 weeks of no rain. The first couple of weeks of June were very wet but things were beginning to get dry. I’m always thankful for a good rain before the 4th of July because I live in a forested area.
My wife and son are well. My wife retired from teaching for the time being so that she wouldn’t bring the virus home and my son just took his first job as a high school English teacher. They have both been teaching classes online.
Like you I have slowed with my blogging. I try to keep up with what is going on in the world but there is so much information out there these days. I have been listening to John MacArthur quite a bit lately and I watch John Haller’s prophecy update on Sundays. I’m still a Charles Spurgeon fan and I don’t think that’s ever going to change. I’ve got a pretty good Bible app that has organized the Bible for a chronological reading. I’ve been through it once already and I’m starting on my second reading.
I continually watch what I think is a great spiritual decline in America and elsewhere. I can’t keep up with the names of all the false prophets and teachers. Justin Peters has been helpful with that. I’ve been watching the latest news from the SBC. I’ve been interested in that ever since they voted to use Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality as “tools” at their convention in 2019. As you probably know, of the four possibilities for president they just elected the most liberal choice. The vote was pretty close so it will be interesting to see how well the denomination holds together.
I continue to thank God for each day.
I hope you and your family are well. How have you been? May God bless you and yours as we continue to ask Him to help us navigate the interesting days in which we live.
I too hope Dr. White is not right on this one, although I think there IS a political aspect to the “COVID is forever” narrative. Dee and I have both been fully vaccinated. All know for sure in all the “madness” right now is that God is in complete control of all of it. At the same there is a “come quickly, Lord Jesus” sentiment that is growing among we who believe. I also know that Christ died to save His people, not the United States of America. And we have a duty to “do business until He comes” – that business being the Gospel.
I’m still working a regular job (from home still) and have reassumed the position of Chairman of the Board for Christian Military Fellowship, as well as editing and publishing the CMF newsletter. I’ve also begun teaching the adult Sunday School class at one of the Chapels on Ft. Carson. We’ve just begun a series on the book of Revelation using John MacArthur’s study guide. We’ve been using his materials for quite some time with the occasional diversion for a topical study.
Well, it’s nearing supper time, so we can talk more later. If you want it, my email is email@example.com.
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“…there is a ‘come quickly, Lord Jesus’ sentiment that is growing among we who believe. I also know that Christ died to save His people, not the United States of America. And we have a duty to ‘do business until He comes’ – that business being the Gospel.”
I couldn’t agree more, Dan.
On the covid, I think that it has been an opportunity for any and all takers to shore up their political views. I hadn’t even heard of the “Covid is forever” narrative.
I think you may have told me that once about being Chairman of the Board for Christian Military Fellowship. That sounds like quite a responsibility along with teaching Sunday School.
It is interesting that you are using MacArthur’s study guide for Revelation because several of the more recent videos I’ve watched of his have been on that same topic.
I see that we first shared emails back in August of 2016. I had a question back then and your opinion solidified my thinking on the particular subject.
I see you still have the same email so it will be easy for me to contact you if there is something I want to bounce off of you.
Thanks for the invite.
My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. You are welcome to contact me at any time.
Hi again, Dan.
I just looked through your blog and noticed you haven’t slowed down as much as I have. I spotted your latest posts in my WordPress reader and will be watching for anything you post in the future.
What a vivid analogy from a classic story! May we be focus on the Gospel!