Posts tagged greatness
In four decades of voting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, only once before has this happened. Out of the field of 37 candidates eligible for the Hall of Fame this year, the association selected exactly zero. That’s right, none. Not Bonds, Clemens or Sosa. Not Biggio, Piazza or Bagwell. Nobody.
This is somewhat understandable. After all, it’s pretty common for a player to not make the Hall on their first try and this particular class was tainted by a steroid scandal that put a dark cloud over baseball and over some of it’s greatest stars of the last 20 years.
But there’s something more going on here. At the end of the day, these writers have failed to agree on what really makes someone a great baseball player. In a game where statistics are everything and where writers like to make mention of how many hits a player has on Tuesdays in June in the rain, these writers are unable to quantify greatness.
It’s a tough thing to do, when you really think about it. Cal Ripken, Jr., a first-ballot inductee in 2007, had an incredible streak of 2,532 straight starts, but consistency alone doesn’t mean you’re a great player. Hall of Famer Hank Aaron hit over 30 home runs in 15 seasons, but homers alone won’t do it either (just ask Bonds and Sosa).
What makes a great baseball player, it seems, is some combination of consistency, skill, gamesmanship and character – the last of which has been the downfall of baseball greats like Joe Jackson and Pet Rose.
In life, too, our greatness is defined by our character. Accomplishments in business, art or other endeavors only get us so far. If you’re a scoundrel, people know it. If you’re selfish, they resent you, if you are cruel, they despise you. Climbing your way to the top by stepping on the throats of others doesn’t make you great.
Jesus actually had a definition of greatness that he shared with his closest followers. If you want to be great, he said, become a servant. If you want to be important, humble yourself. But far from suggesting that you should not try to be great, Jesus suggested that this was truly the path to greatness. In other words, the most selfish thing you can do is to be selfless.
This is just another one of Jesus’ sometimes confusing teachings which, if you really examine it closely, makes incredible sense. If we live in a self-serving world, then the best way to get people to like you is to do something that feeds their self-serving personality. Serve the person whose admiration you desire and that admiration is almost sure to come. Try to one-up them and they will spend their time trying to defeat you – to squash you like a bug.
Perhaps next year’s Hall of Fame candidates will take Jesus’ words to heart. Perhaps they’ll go up to Cooperstown and polish the brass railings at the hall. A little humility in baseball might be appreciated.
There is an incredible lesson to be learned in the life of David, this man who was recognized as something special when he was just a young boy. There were several times over the course of his life when it was apparent to everyone that he was destined for greatness. In fact, long before he ascended to the throne, the people knew that he would one day become their king.
It seems that no one doubted David’s greatness. Even Saul, who opposed David at every turn, seemed to know the inevitable outcome of his ill-fated attempts to thwart David. No matter who came against David, he would ultimately prevail. Sure, he would have some temporary setbacks, but in the long run, David was going to win.
David was a valiant warrior, respected by just about everyone he came in contact with and yet, he was unable to fast-track himself to the throne. Like all of us, David had to wait. There would come a time in David’s life where he got to call the shots – where he was in control (or seemingly so) of his own destiny. But in order for that to happen – for him to ascend to that position – he would first have to put his life in the hands of God. He would have to surrender control and come to the uncomfortable realization that there was nothing he could do to make things happen.
For David, it was like he had gotten the direct-dial number to throne, only to be put on hold. Most of us have had similar moments in our life – where we feel like we know what our future is or should be, but we feel completely powerless to affect that future. Personally, I have had times in my life where I felt like I was supposed to take a certain job, but the job hadn’t been offered to me. I didn’t have the option of walking into somebody’s office and saying, “God wants you to give me this job.” (They typically call security when that kind of person comes for a visit!)
So what do you do in those circumstances? You wait. You do everything you can to be obedient and you wait for God to open doors – to set things up. For David, that was a long wait. For you and me, it may be longer. But we can’t allow time to dictate our calling. If you feel called to something, cling to it. That doesn’t mean that you stop functioning in the “now” as you wait for the future. It just means that you don’t have to put that calling – that dream that God placed in you – on the shelf.
Are you called to be a writer, but have no chance of getting a publisher to read your manuscript? Great! Keep writing and honing your craft and see what doors God opens down the road. Struggling musician? Same thing. Feel like God wants you to have kids, but you are unable to? Focus on what you can do for kids and seek God’s guidance and wisdom. He has an uncanny ability to open our eyes to possibilities that we never considered before.
It is quite possible (even probable) that God has called you to something that will not come to fruition in the next week, month or year. For some, God may have called you to something that won’t materialize for decades. That doesn’t make the calling any less true. It just means that you have to wait – and to grow in the waiting.
Imagine if David, the arrogant young warrior who defeated a giant, had been anointed king that day. Imagine that young boy being given the keys to the kingdom – the power, the prestige. It could have been disastrous. So, what did he have to do? He had to wait. And as he waited – as he went through all of the ups and downs that come with being a polarizing, special individual – he was being prepared for his calling.
May you and I recognize today that God is preparing us for our future calling. May we enter into our day fully devoted to the pursuit of God’s desires for us and yet, willing to wait for his lead as he opens and closes the necessary doors to lead us to our place of calling.
2 Chronicles 10; 2 Chronicles 11; 2 Chronicles 12; 1 Corinthians 14:1-19; Proverbs 20:15-24 NIV
The story of Rehoboam highlights just how complicated our relationship with God can be. Throughout the story, the writer makes it clear when Rehoboam was following God and when he wasn’t. The writer also makes it clear when there were consequences for Rehoboam’s actions.
However, in Rehoboam’s life, as in ours, there had to be times that were “in between” – times where he wasn’t really following God closely, yet was having success in his kingdom. I’ve had similar moments in my life where I assumed that because I was being successful that I was following the plan of God.
There are serious flaws in this thinking, of course. The first is that it seems that God sometimes gives us a “grace period” when we head off in the wrong direction. He gives us time to figure it out and make a course correction. The second flaw in thinking, however, is worse than the first. It is when we assume that God’s desire is for us to succeed (in the way we most often define success).
There are plenty of TV preachers (and many more non-TV preachers) who insist that God wants us to make lots of money, get lots of promotions, drive nice cars and live in big houses. Now, let me be clear, I don’t think God is necessarily opposed to those things. I just don’t think any of those things are God’s main interest, nor should they be a litmus test for whether or not we are “blessed”. In fact, I think the whole concept is a lie and a trick from the author of lies.
If we can be tricked into thinking that we can measure God’s love by how much money we have, how healthy we are or how comfortable our life is, then it becomes really easy, in times of discomfort, to convince us that God doesn’t love us at all. In fact, if we judge anyone’s love by whether or not they make our lives easy, we might conclude that no one loves us!
However, when I look at the story of Rehoboam, what I see is a never-ending love of the Father. Like a parent disciplining a child, God didn’t simply allow Rehoboam to do whatever he pleased, but instead, gave consequences for his actions. But through it all, God loved Rehoboam and was ready to extend a hand of grace whenever it could be received.
I’m glad He does the same for me.
Ecclesiastes 1; Ecclesiastes 2; Ecclesiastes 3:1-22; 1 Corinthians 7:1-16; Psalm 94:12-23
We’ve all had those days. You know, the days when we feel like a failure – when anything we may have accomplished in life seems miniscule and we wonder what it was all for. I mean, maybe I shouldn’t speak for “all”, but I’ve certainly had them. There are days when I think that I should have accomplished much more than I have by now. Other days, I think that no matter how much I accomplish, it’s all in vain.
Solomon seems to be having one of those days at the beginning of Ecclesiastes. It’s kind of a downer to read while he (sorry ’bout this, Solomon) whines about how everything is meaningless. Don’t get me wrong, I know there’s wisdom in what he is saying here, but I have a feeling that God revealed that wisdom to him when he was at a low point. Maybe it was a bad day, or perhaps a bad week or month. Whatever the case, one of Solomon’s most famous writings came when he was in a funk.
Now, I don’t know how famous it was before songwriter Pete Seeger and The Byrds made it famous in the song “Turn! Turn! Turn!”, but the lines of Ecclesiastes 3 are now instantly recognizable around the world. Over the years, they have meant a lot of things to a lot of people, but there is no denying that they are something special.
It occurs to me that a lot of “something specials” happen in our worst moments. Songwriters notoriously write better when they are down, depressed, upset, etc. Some have made entire careers of angst-ridden lyrics. Then there are the many entrepreneurs who have come up with their brilliant idea only after hitting rock-bottom (some hit it several times). Civil rights leaders, humanitarians, politicians, pastors, surgeons…and the list goes on. There are many who have found their calling, destiny, or moment of great importance while in a time of great struggle.
For others of us, the results aren’t quite as dramatic, but we find clarity or purpose or meaning when we are at our weakest. There’s a biblical principle at work here. The bible says that when we are weak, God is our strength. I think that’s when the good stuff happens. We lean on God and he gives us the kind of strength that we couldn’t manufacture on our own.
It’s not always pretty, but interesting things happen during our bad days.
1 Chronicles 22; 1 Chronicles 23; 1 Corinthians 2:6-16; Psalm 91:9-16
There are some great words about the wisdom of the Spirit in the passage from 1 Corinthians today. Be sure to read it!
But the thing that has stuck with me all day is this idea of purpose that’s presented in 1 Chronicles. David loved God and wanted to honor him by building an incredible temple. The nation of Israel hadn’t had a temple in a really long time and David, once appointed king, realized that he had all the resources at his disposal to build something really worthy of the Lord.
His heart was in the right place. What he wanted to do was nobel. Yet, God stopped him from going forward with the project. Now, God had his reasons – David had fought a lot of battles and killed a lot of people to secure Israel – but the bottom line was this: God had not purposed David to build the temple. For that project, he would prepare David’s son, Solomon. And that’s where I find my lesson in all of this.
You see, I, like many others, have an urge – a desire – somewhere deep down inside to be great. I want to accomplish great things and leave a legacy that lives on long after I’m gone. And it’s not entirely a selfish thing either (although, if I’m honest, those feelings of pride and self-assurance slide in all too often). No, sometimes my desires for greatness are to accomplish something incredible for God. What if, for example, I could somehow manage to provide clean water for the world? I often think about what I would/could do if I had access to the billions of dollars of Bill Gates or Warren Buffet. I could do great things!
I don’t really think about the fact that maybe God hasn’t purposed me for those things. Maybe he’s purposed me for the things I’m doing right now. Maybe I’m not supposed to do the great big huge thing, but a lot of little things. Or, perhaps, like David, he has purposed me to make preparations for the great thing that is coming. Whatever it is, I always want to seek out what God’s purpose is for me and follow that, rather than trying to force him into my own plans.