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Friday, October 18, 2013

Born on Third Base

Listening to a news story this week I heard someone say something like: “You were born on third base, so stop going through life believing that you hit a triple!” I did some research on the phrase, and apparently one of the earliest uses of it, was by the former Dallas Cowboys football coach Barry Switzer, who was making the point that he related better to players who grew up poor as he had. Often the phrase is used to challenge wealthy persons to be more aware of the advantages with which they were born so that they will be more sympathetic to those not born with such advantages. Sometimes that comes with the cynical belief that anyone well off didn’t get that way because they worked hard, but because they were born with an unfair advantage.

I wonder if it’s possible to apply the same thinking to people who are emotionally or spiritually well off? For instance, you could believe that people with a great attitude are an accident of their parent’s good genes. Or you could think that such people just haven’t faced serious difficulties. It is true that some are more prone to discouragement or even depression than others are. However, you weaken your ability to overcome difficulty if you just believe that you are naturally a glass half empty kind of person or that you are just not the kind of person blessed with the faith needed to trust God through hard times.

The story of the Old Testament character Daniel is one of the most well-known stories in all the Bible. Daniel experienced heartbreaking difficulty over the course of his life. As a teenager his home country was invaded and taken over by a foreign king. He was then kidnapped and carried away to that country where he had to learn a whole knew way of life. But instead of growing angry and bitter, Daniel thrived. Many years later, while in exile and in the midst of another crisis, he was described as having “an excellent spirit.” This excellent spirit explained how he was able to thrive in a harsh environment.

So the question, is an excellent spirit an accident of good genes, sort of the emotional and spiritual version of being born on third base, or is there a way of developing such a spirit? How you answer that question determines whether you pursue life with hope or grow increasingly bitter. An excellent spirit is a gift of God’s grace, but this does not mean there is nothing that we can do to cooperate with God’s work in us to develop it.

Sunday I’m beginning a two-week series on vision called, Character Required.  We will examine an incident recorded in Daniel 6 and then explore the kind of person God intends to make us.  Following God’s vision is first about who we are, before its about what we do. You can see outline for the message here.

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