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Just Great.

Something mentioned  in a conversation the other day that struck me about 15 degrees off kilter, but it wasn’t the point they were making and so I let it go….but I’ve been thinking about it in my background brain ever since (you know, those mental programs that ‘run in the background’ while you’re doing other tasks until you eventually lock up and have to reboot your brain with a triple shot Americano).

I’m not even sure of the context anymore, but the statement was that the founding fathers of our nation were ‘the smartest group of men ever assembled’.

Now understand, I love America, have owned a Chevrolet and can throw down apple pie with the best of you.  The Compound features a monster sized flagpole fitting of a US Postal Service facility. I pay my taxes.  I’m just not convinced you can quantify that statement, let alone justify it.

Short of a group-wide I.Q. test, I’m not sure how you’d know whether this is true.  Maybe some sort of inter-centurial game of Trivial Pursuit?  Heck, I could toast John Adams himself in with the 80’s Edition (the answer is almost always Madonna or Mt. Kilimanjaro).

They were smart.  Smartest? Don’t know, and am pretty sure it’s irrelevant. The country benefited more from their fortitude than their intelligence.   Certainly they were intelligent…but it was more important that they were resilient.   It is not enough to be smart.  These men were great.

Which, of course, begs the question of the origin of greatness.  Are men born great, do they cultivate greatness, or are they deemed great in retrospect by largely under-informed generations to come.  I have a tendency to believe the last of those three options.

Faced with the perfect storm of affliction and opportunity, they embraced a challenge and overcame, stumbling into greatness like a toddler spilling their cereal (it wasn’t entirely inevitable, but everyone in the room could see it coming).

I look at the disciples in much the same way.  Yes, they took the Gospel to the ends of the known world, facing untold persecution, internal struggles and misunderstanding…but look at their formative years and you’ll find people much like us – short sighted and unable to get it when it looked like the handwriting was on the wall.

One example is Mark 8.  Midway through the chapter, the disciples come to the realization they forgot to pack a lunch.  Jesus is teaching them to ‘beware the yeast of the Pharisees’ and of course, they relate His teaching to their own stomach pains.  Jesus, sensing a teaching opportunity (and probably sensing that they were missing his original point), stepped in and reminded them….”Guys, I fed five thousand people with five loaves, and you picked up twelve baskets of left overs – enough for each of you to have one.  I fed four thousand with seven loaves and we had seven baskets left.”  Then, in a rare glimpse of incredulity in Jesus’ countenance, He asks them “Do you still not understand?”

The disciples – soon to be powerful apostles – had a knack for forgetting what Jesus had done just a few days before, especially in the face of their own need.  Jesus had fixed this very problem in dramatic, over-the-top ways at least twice, yet they were missing the point, fixated on their own need.   This was not the smartest group of men ever assembled, but they did become the greatest – not because of their qualifications, but because history demanded it of them.

James, in writing his epistle, touched on a similar thought when he said “Elijah was a man just like you….”.  His readers know what ‘just like them’ meant.  Fallible.  Weak.  Occasionally goofy.

Given different opportunities (or more accurately, lesser challenges and no supernatural endowment of power), Elijah, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John Adams and George Washington could have worked the  drive through at Mickey D’s for their whole life.

Some people find this view of history to be cynical…but in reality, it’s full of hope.

If these men, faced with adversity and opportunity, became great men, then I can become great.  You can become great. We don’t have to be smart enough – only fully aware of our challenges and willing to lean forward instead of shrinking back.  In many ways, boldness in the face of a trial trumps brains in the pursuit of greatness.   Our biggest challenge today is probably our ticket to greatness – if we respond to it the right way.

Have a great day.


6 Responses

  1. great blog!

  2. Alexis de Tocqueville said “America is great because it is good…when it ceases to be good it will cease to be great. ”

    Many of the founding fathers were great because they believed their God was great. A great God loves to makes those that honor Him look great. The greatness is truly His though.

  3. Deep. Amen.

  4. Amen!

  5. fame-self

    significance- what we do for others

    wide awake mcmanus

  6. they had to be Kingdom minded, because Kingdom thinking knows that anything is possible! (that was Bill Johnson, not me)

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