Sometimes the most amazing accomplishments come from the least likely people. Take, for example, the story of how the Oxford English Dictionary came about. In 1879 Dr. James Murray was commissioned to compile a dictionary that was to contain every word in the English language, so Murray invited scholars and literary professionals from around the world to participate.
Many people offered their services, including someone known as Dr. William Minor. He was well qualified, so Dr. Murray brought him into the program. And ultimately, Dr. Minor offered 12,000 submissions to the project, more than any other person.
As a result, Dr. Murray wanted to meet Dr. Minor, so he wrote him a letter to request a meeting. Dr. Minor replied that he was unable to come and see him, but Dr. Murray was welcome to visit him.
Eventually, Dr. Murray went to visit Dr. Minor. He took the train, and when he reached Dr. Minor’s address, he trudged up a long road lined with beautiful poplar trees. Arriving at a very large house, he entered through two large green doors and was ushered by a servant up a marble staircase to a vast room on the second floor, where a man of obvious importance was sitting behind a desk.
The man, however, was not Dr. William Minor, as his visitor assumed. Rather, he was the superintendent of the Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum, where Dr. Minor was a long-term resident.
Some of the most amazing accomplishments can come from the least likely people.
The 11th chapter of the New Testament book of Hebrews contains an impressive collection of characters in what I call the Hero’s Hall of Faith. Some of the people that made it into this chapter are expected: Moses, Noah, Enoch and, of course, Abraham. Then there are some surprising entries as well, like Abel, Lot, Samson and Jacob.
This serves as a reminder that the Hero’s Hall of Faith is filled with ordinary people like us who changed the world. They discovered that the secret of staying on top is not talent. It is not opportunities or status. It is faith in God. These people were far from perfect. They failed often. But they are not in the Hero’s Hall of Faith because they were great people; they are in it because they had faith in a great God.
What I find fascinating is that we don’t find a single mention of any of their sins in this chapter. And they sinned. Abraham lied twice about his wife, Sarah, saying she was his sister. Isaac did the same thing. Sarah laughed at the promises of God. The list goes on.
These winners did not always collect medals. Sometimes they collected scars. But not one word of their failure is mentioned. Why? They were forgiven, and God gives second chances. They were looked at for what they became, not what they were.
When God looks at you, he sees a work in progress, while you probably see your flaws. Sometimes we see our flaws, our shortcomings and our sins, and it isn’t a bad thing to see those things. But God doesn’t just see you for what you are in the moment. He sees you for what you can become, just as he saw the potential in the lives of each of the world changers named in Hebrews 11.
There has to come a moment in every life when we surrender to God. It is not always easy. God’s plans are often plans that we love and agree with. But sometimes God’s plans are different from ours. It is then that we have to say, as Jesus said in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Not my will but yours be done.”
If you were to go to a doctor because you were having unusual pains or some other issue, the doctor may have to give you bad news initially. He might have to tell you that you have cancer, or there is a very serious problem for which you need surgery or some kind of treatment. You wouldn’t like to hear that, but you would need to accept the course to change it.
In the same way, God will tell us the truth about ourselves: Yes, we are sinners. Yes, we need a Savior. But once we accept that, then we can go from sadness to happiness. The way to find life is by losing life, which means committing it to God.
You have your dreams and aspirations, and that is all good. But here is my advice to you: Commit your life to God and understand that his plans for you are better than your plans for yourself. He may say no to this and no to that. But what he will say yes to is so much better, and you will look back and say, “Thank you, Lord.”
If you want to be strong spiritually at the end of your life, then be strong spiritually right now. The end is determined by the beginning. The evening is determined by the morning. Walk with God now, and you will be walking with him then. One day you will be able to look back reflectively over your life and worship God, recognizing that he was in control all along.