Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them:
because greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world. ~ 1 John 4:4
- Born into privilege, “Copperknob” (as he came to be nicknamed because of his red hair) was born into British aristocracy. Spending much of his childhood being raised by people other than his parents, he was independent and rebellious, and although an obviously smart child, made poor grades in school. Suffering from a speech impediment he worked hard to overcome, his life was a series of successes and setbacks.
After years of public service, and suffering from a severely damaged reputation, he went into exile. However, with a world in crisis, he returned to the public eye, and became Prime Minister of Great Britain at the age of 65, leading his nation through its darkest hours and on to victory against the Nazi regime. He famously said…
…We shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.
He was Winston Churchill.
- In 1919, while segregation was alive and well in the South, a boy was born to the daughter of a former slave. After the boy’s father left when he was just a few months old, the boy’s mother Mallie moved, with her five children, to California.
As Mallie’s boy grew, he experienced the racial hatred still aflame, even in California, in the 1920’s. However, Mallie’s example of diligence, hard work, and kindness, as well as her faith, lighted the way for her son. Overcoming the hurdles of a racially divided nation, Mallie’s boy worked hard to become a fine athlete, excelling in multiple sports including football, track, basketball, and baseball. Although he had minor brushes with authorities, the Christian values instilled in him by a good mother and other Godly adult role models kept him on the (fairly) “straight and narrow”.
After a period of playing semipro football, as well as serving honorably in the United States Army, “Jackrabbit” — as he came to be nicknamed — accepted an offer to play baseball in the Negro National League. His exceptional ability on the diamond attracted the attention of an older gentleman…
Branch Rickey, the general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers.
“Jackrabbit” Jackie Roosevelt Robinson overcame the obstacles of hatred and racism to become the first African-American to play major league baseball, receiving awards and accolades, a world championship, and the Medal of Freedom (posthumously awarded to him in 1984 by President Ronald Reagan).
We all have untapped potential. We all have an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others. It doesn’t matter if you are born into wealth and prestige, or come from humble beginnings — we all have the potential for greatness.
“How is that?” you say.
It just stands to reason that, if He is great and greatly to be praised, and we are made in His image, we have the potential for greatness as well. So what does it take to unleash that greatness? What does it take to tap into that untapped potential?
It takes courage. Venturing into the unknown takes courage. It is no small thing to go into uncharted territory, personally or professionally. Churchill had the weight and fate of Britain on his shoulders. Jackie Robinson was breaking down the wall of racism in professional sports at a time when vitriol and hate against people of color were in full swing. It takes courage to go down a path no one has traveled, where the path is neither clear nor well-lit.
It takes commitment. Although he faced criticism and opposition, Churchill was committed to his nation, and the principles of freedom that Britain stood for. Jackie Robinson had to be committed enough to, not just baseball, but the vision that Branch Rickey had, that he was willing to look beyond the physical and emotional abuse, threats, and ridicule he incurred for the sake of an ideal bigger than he was. Being committed to your calling is vital to see your vision through to the end.
It takes Christ. Sure, there are plenty of people out there with lots of success who do not believe the tenants of Christ. But in the end, only what is done for Christ will last. Only what is done for God will stand the test beyond time, and still matter when the hands of time have stopped.
We are put on this earth for but a moment, compared with the eternity that awaits us… it’s best that we don’t waste that moment. God has called you to something bigger than yourself, but you’ve got to make the decision to get into the game if you are going to make a difference. In the words of Jackie Robinson…
Life is not a spectator sport. If you’re going to spend your whole life in the grandstand just watching what goes on, in my opinion you’re wasting your life.
In 1997, amidst much fanfare, Jackie Robinson’s number 42 was retired from major league baseball.
When eternity looks back on the race you have run, will your number be retired?
Will you fight the good fight of faith?
Will the sound of your accomplishments echo through eternity?
Will you hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant“?