I don’t watch many movies, but the ones that I watch I will watch over and over again. Gladiator, starring Russell Crowe is one of those movies. I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but I find it interesting – similar to Braveheart in that there is a man who stands on his convictions and refuses to waver. This is something I desire for my own life – a consistency in my thoughts and actions; a resolve that will keep me steadfast in what I know to be true. Of course for me it is the will of God, found in Scripture and spoken into my life. Like Maximus or Wallace in Braveheart, my consistent submission to God’s plan will bring me to that place where I want to be – where God wants me to be.
But while the decision to live in God’s plan is mine, there are times when others will be influenced by God and do things that in turn drive us forward. In the climactic scene of Gladiator, Maximus is in the arena fighting Emperor Commodus – the man responsible for the deaths of Maximus’s wife and son. What the crowds don’t know is that Maximus had been mortally wounded before the fight began – stabbed so that he would be weakened, guaranteeing Commodus’s victory. Only one man, Commodus’s praetorian Quintus, knew of Maximus’s injury.
Throughout the story, Quintus was loyal to the emperor. He is the one who hands Maximus over for execution. Quintus gives the orders to dispatch the soldiers to kill his family. He did this out of loyalty, duty, and the sure knowledge that he really had no other choice. Quintus is a good soldier. His decisions showed “strength” and secured not only his power, but his survival as well. He is a great example of someone finding it easy to do something hard when they feel that they have no other choice. So were Quintus’s actions really strong or weak? The answer comes in the transformation that we see take place in him.
Watching Maximus continue to fight despite his loses and injuries, Quintus was inspired. He didn’t really understand what it was that drove Maximus to stand firm, but he recognized its power and it moved him to make a decision that would alter the outcome of the fight, and the lives of every Roman citizen.
While fighting Maximus, Commodus lost his sword. Weaponless, he called for Quintus and the other soldiers standing watch to give him a sword. Inexplicably, Quintus stepped forward and gave his men a simple command; “Sheath your swords.” He never entered the fight, didn’t inflict the wounds, but he surely struck the first death blow upon Commodus. So even though Quintus a small character in the story, he stepped up at the right time and surrendered himself to what had finally been revealed to him. Years of confusion and bad decisions were turned around in that one decision which became, without question, the seminal moment of his life.
Sometimes in life we receive good things from God that we don’t see. Like Quintus, we let other factors interfere and cloud us from recognizing it. The Bible shows many believers who stood firm in their beliefs – the Maximus believers – the champions of faith. But equally important to us are the Quintus believers: those men and women who saw it, knew it, but didn’t always live it until that moment where God stepped in and said, “Now is the time.” Think about the story of the criminal on the cross from Luke 23. He obviously knew Jesus, who He was and what He taught. But the man obviously didn’t live it, and now as he was hanging on the cross he finally sees how his actions led him to his demise. But even there, dying on a cross, he had a Quintus moment and his eyes were opened to the fullness of God’s plan for him.
I desire nothing more than to know the fullness of what God has in store for my life. I pray earnestly that the same will be true for all of the people in my life who I love and for whom I care. This sounds like a very Maximus type of thought. But even if I am nothing more than a Quintus influence in your life, I pray that God will allow me the chance to open your eyes to even the smallest measure of what God has in store for you. In turn, I encourage you to consider those people with whom you connect. May your prayer be that your life will provide both Maximus and Quintus moments in which you minster to them, allowing the Lord to use you to move them toward His ultimate destination.