Before James Garfield went into politics and became president, he taught at what is now Hiram College in Ohio. The ambidextrous Garfield would amuse his students by writing on a chalkboard with both hands—one in Greek and the other in Latin—at the same time! It is said that on one occasion a father came to Garfield and complained that the academic course at the school was too long and arduous and asked if it could be shortened. “Certainly,” Garfield replied. “But it all depends on what you want to make of your boy. When God wants to make an oak tree, He takes a hundred years.
William Sydney Porter, better known by his pen name “O. Henry,” became one of the most popular authors in America at the turn of the last century. He wrote for years, but his literary career really took off from a most unlikely place—prison. Porter had been convicted of embezzlement from the bank where he had worked in Texas (although there is some evidence that it was not theft but carelessness that led to the loss of funds) and was sentenced to five years in prison. While there, he wrote and published some of his best-known stories, establishing himself as a premiere author.
In May 2013, thirteen-year-old Arvind Mahankali correctly spelled the word “knaidel” (a German-Yiddish word for a dumpling) to win the 86th Scripps National Spelling Bee. Mahankali had finished third each of the two previous years. In both of those years he was eliminated when he failed to correctly spell a German-derived word. In preparation for his third attempt at the prize, Mahankali diligently worked to strengthen his area of weakness. “This year I prepared German words and I studied them, so when I got German words this year, I wasn’t worried,” he said after his victory.
Though he would later be acclaimed as one of the greatest inventors of history, Thomas Edison’s school career lasted three months. The teacher believed he was incapable of learning anything and sent him home. Edison’s mother taught him, and he was on his way to a lifetime of overcoming what seemed to be insurmountable obstacles. Among his most famous inventions were the commercial incandescent light bulb, the phonograph, and the fluoroscope. Most of his inventions required months if not years of dedication to overcoming obstacles before seeing any results.
It took less than ten seconds for Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt to cover the one hundred meter distance on the Olympic track and win the gold medal in London. Those few seconds cemented his status as the “fastest man alive” and placed him on the winner’s podium once again. But the race was not won in those seconds—it was won by hours and hours of practice, workouts, weightlifting, special diet, and coaching.
Someone once observed that a wasted life is really nothing more than a collection of wasted days. As God gives us life, each one of us starts the new year with the same number of opportunities—365—that we can choose to either use and invest in eternal things or allow to drift by without taking advantage of the gift we have been given. The difference between those who succeed and those who fail is not found primarily in talent but in diligence and effort.
A mother walked into her teenage son’s makeshift weight room and watched him work out on the bench press. After seeing him move through several heavy repetitions, she asked, “Why is it you can lift nearly two hundred pounds, but you can’t pick up your clothes?”
She said her
hands were ugly, and she tried to hide them, too.
But in God’s sight ‘twas different, for He knew what they could do.
They were busy
hands for Jesus—doing tasks for Him each day.
They washed and ironed and sewed and scrubbed in the most willing, cheerful way.
They kept a clean
and shining home. They cared for a family,
And did the humble, homely jobs in a manner sweet to see.
They were ready
to help others whenever there was a need.
And those ready, willing hands of hers were a source of help indeed.
Kreisler, the famous violinist, said, “Narrow is the road that leads to the life of a violinist. Hour after hour, day after day, and week after week, for years, I lived with my violin. There were so many things that I wanted to do that I had to leave undone; there were so many places I wanted to go that I had to miss if I was to master the violin.”
Source: Zondervan 2011 Pastor’s Annual, T. T. Crabtree
Submitted by the homiletics class of West Coast Baptist College
Too busy to read the
Bible, too busy to wait and pray;
Too busy to speak out kindly, to someone who passes by the way!
Too busy working and
worrying, to think of the life to come;
Too busy building earthly mansions, to plan for the Heaven above.
Too busy to help a
brother, who faces trials and suffering woes;
Too busy to share his burden, “No time, I’m busy you know.”
Too busy for all that is
holy, on earth beneath the sky;
Too busy to serve the Master, but not too busy to die.—Author Unknown
The Master was searching for a vessel to use;
On the shelf there were many—which one would He choose?
Take me, cried the gold one, I’m shiny and bright,
I’m of great value and I do things just right.
My beauty and luster will outshine the rest
And for someone like You, Master, gold would be the best!
Unheeding, the Master passed on to the brass,
It was wide mouthed and shallow, and polished like glass.
Here! Here! cried the vessel, I know I will do,
Place me on Your table for all men to view.
“Professor Drummond once described a man going into one of our after-meetings and saying he wanted to become a Christian.
‘Well, my friend, what is the trouble?’
He doesn’t like to tell. He is greatly agitated. Finally he says, ‘The fact is, I have overdrawn my account’—a polite way of saying he has been stealing.
‘Did you take your employer’s money?’
‘I don’t know. I have never kept account of it.’
‘Well, do you have an idea you stole $1,500 last year?’
‘I am afraid it is that much.’
Billy Bray was a Cornish miner who accepted Jesus Christ as his Saviour in 1823 at the age of 29. He lived a life of drunkenness and debauchery before his salvation, but he became such an outgoing witness and testimony for God that he became known as “God’s glad man.”
One time he was digging potatoes from his garden and felt the devil oppressing him. It seemed to him that the devil said, “Billy Bray, God doesn’t love you. If He did, He wouldn’t give you such puny potatoes and so few.”
A farm boy got a white football for Christmas. He played with it awhile and accidentally kicked it over into the neighbor’s yard. The old rooster ran out, looked at it, and called the hens to see it. “Now look here,” the rooster told them, “I don’t want you to think I’m complaining, but I want you to see what they are doing next door.”
Submitted by the homiletics class of West Coast Baptist College
There is a marker on a rock near the top of Mount Washington, marking the spot where a woman climber lay down and died. She was so close to the top that she could almost hit it with a stone. A hundred steps more and she would have reached the shelter she sought, but she did not know this. Disheartened by the storm, beaten in body and distressed in spirit, she was at the end of her courage. She could not see a step ahead, so she lay down and died one hundred steps from her goal.
Colonel George Washington Goethals, the man responsible for the completion of the Panama Canal, had big problems with the climate and the geography. But his biggest challenge was the growing criticism back home from those who predicted he’d never finish the project. Finally, a colleague asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer these critics?”
“In time,” answered Goethals.
“When?” his partner asked.
“When the canal is finished.”
A number of years ago, the Associated Press released a study done by an agricultural school in Iowa. It reported that production of 100 bushels of corn from one acre of land, in addition to the many hours of the farmer's labor, required 4,000,000 lbs. of water, 6,800 lbs. of oxygen, 5,200 lbs. of carbon, 160 lbs. of nitrogen, 125 lbs. of potassium, 75 lbs. of yellow sulphur, and other elements too numerous to list. In addition to these things, which no man can produce, rain and sunshine at the right time are critical.