Categories
character development influence leadership optimism

How To See The Good In Others

Neal Pollard

Some just can’t! They assume bad motives, intentions, and behaviors in others. They like to predict failure and disaster. Some take that attitude toward people, including Christians. “They won’t last!” “They can’t cut it as a deacon/elder.” “He won’t ever be a good preacher!” “They just want the praise of men.” Think about all the people you know and interact with. Some are exceptionally talented and pleasant and some are pretty worthless and repulsive, but most are in-between the two extremes. But, what if I told you that you could influence what others become?  Barnabas did (Acts 4:36).  He was so good at encouraging people, “encouragement” wasn’t his middle name but his first name. Who was the first one to see good in Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9:27)? Who saw great potential in Antioch (Acts 11:23-26)? Who still believed in John Mark (Acts 15:37), who Paul would later think valuable once more (2 Tim. 4:11)? Barnabas was a great leader because of what he could see in others. We can make an eternal difference in people by seeing the good in them.

First, take them where they are. Jesus did.  Do you remember when Jesus met Peter (Luke 5:1-11)? Peter calls himself sinful.  We know he was impetuous (John 18:10) and could use unsavory words (Mat. 26:74). Peter’s business partners, the Sons of Thunder (Mark 3:17) seemed to have some anger management issues. In fact, Jesus made it an emphasis to take sinful people and work with them wherever they were (the woman at the well, the sinful woman caught in adultery, Bacchus, publicans, sinners, etc.). We will never help people get to heaven if we can’t take them where they are.

Then, see them for what they could be. Whether it’s a non-Christian or Christian, they need us to be able to see their potential and think the best of them. I don’t mean gullibility or compromise, but optimism! Why did Christ put such effort into Peter? He was a sinful man when He met him, made many mistakes while he was with Him, and denied Him in His greatest moment of need (Luke 22:60-62). He saw what Peter could be (John 21:15-17). Look past people’s quirks and flaws; imagine the possibilities.  There’s got to be a soul-winner in every Christian, since Christ commands it of us all (Mark 16:15-16). Every one of us can be faithful, dedicated, and fruitful Christians. Every lost person could have their hearts softened by the gospel–at the least the gospel has the power (Heb. 4:12; Rom. 1:16). Remember, love “hopes all things” (1 Cor. 13:7).

Finally, help them be what they can be. It’s far easier to be the critic and tell people what they’re doing wrong. But remember, “To belittle is to be little.” Criticism alone is useless.  It’s a lot tougher to help people improve and to go about helping with patience. Jesus didn’t end His work by telling people what sinners or failures they were. He guided them to the better way (Mat. 7:13). He told the adulteress to stop sinning (John 8:11). He told Peter to go feed His sheep (John 21). When He was through with Zaccheus, he went from thief to philanthropist. Jesus’ whole purpose was to take people afflicted with sin and transform them. It is rewarding work to invest in people and to help them grow. The Bible tells us to help people do better and be better (Gal. 6:1). To see the best in others, be willing to help and lead them (Luke 6:39-40).

If we are negative and pessimistic, that really is just a commentary on us. Look for good in others. Accept, anticipate, and assist!

Categories
attitude flight hope Kitty Hawk optimism Orville Wright positivity potential Wilbur Wright Wright Brothers

What Does God See In You?

Neal Pollard

The inimitable historian, David McCullough, has churned out another masterpiece in his new book, The Wright Brothers.  Chronicling their lives before, on, and after that famous December day in 1903 in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, McCullough, in his unique way, peels back the layers of the people who made the history.  One particular example of this is seen in the author’s conveyance of Wilbur Wright’s misgivings about what he was going to make of his life.  Writing to his older brother Lorin, Wilbur said, “The boys of the Wright family are all lacking in determination and push. That is the very reason that none of us have been or will be more than ordinary businessmen” (24). It is amusing to think that Wilbur made this statement in 1894, less than a decade before that historic first flight.  Every airplane trip you make is a testimony to the Wrights’ determination, push, and extraordinary industry of the bicycle shop brothers, Orville and Wilbur Wright.

What do you see when you look at your life?  Are you dismissive of your talents and opportunities?  Do you think yourself in terms of your “can’ts” or your “cans”?  Perhaps you are prone to discount your potential.

If that is you, you should consider the case of a few other people.  Moses resisted leadership, claiming to be a nobody (Exo. 3-4).  Saul hid himself in the baggage (1 Sam. 10:22).  Jeremiah apparently tried to hide behind his age (Jer. 1:6-7).  Timothy seems to have been fearful (2 Tim. 1:7).  Yet, each rose to a position of greatness and played an important part in God’s plan.  What was the “X” factor in every case?  As God told Judah through Jeremiah, “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope” (Jer. 29:11).  Solomon would say, “Commit your works to the Lord and your plans will be established” (Pro. 16:3).  Then, a millennia later, Paul tells the church at Philippi, “It is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phi. 2:13).

Relax! Take the pressure off of yourself because, frankly, it is not about you.  It is about the God who is at work in you.  Chart a course that puts Him first in your life and dedicate yourself to trying, as hard as you can, to please Him.  Isn’t He strong and smart enough to open the right doors?  Is He able to do great things? Yes!  The incredible thing about that is that He has chosen to do great things through lowly people like you and me! Stop and consider this.  What does God see in you? What will He do through you to His glory?  Never stop asking that question!

Categories
potential

“Not Yet, Not Yet”

Neal Pollard

American born painter, James Whistler, was as controversial as he was competent.  The artist best known for Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1 (or, Whistler’s Mother), the famous painting depicting an aging woman in side profile wearing a bonnet, was as known for his arrogance and egotism (Peters, Lisa N. James McNeill Whistler. Smithmark: New York, 1996. p. 4).  On one occasion, Whistler was told that a shipment of blank canvasses he had ordered was lost in the mail.  He was asked if they were of any value and he replied, “Not yet, not yet” (Today In the Word, 12/3/92).

We are born into this world innocent and with endless potential.  Some are born with many more advantages and opportunities than others.  All of us who live to maturity leave this life, whatever we achieve, stained by sin having disappointed or transgressed against others.  Yet, of what value will we be to those we meet?  What to our families, our friends, the church, and the world?  It depends upon what we allow God to do with our lives.  He can take the most mundane, ordinary material and work a masterpiece through it.  If we allow Him to work on the canvas of our lives, we will become infinitely better parents, spouses, and Christians.  But, how can we become masterpieces in the hands of the Master?

  • Keep your heart soft (Eph. 4:32).
  • Have hands that are willing (Neh. 2:18).
  • Have feet that are ready (Eph. 6:15).
  • Maintain an open mind (1 Chr. 28:9).
  • Turn your face toward Him (cf. Job 22:26).
  • Strengthen your back (cf. Nah. 2:1).

Such is the possibility for everyone who submits themselves a blank canvas to be worked upon by the Master Artist.  He is not arrogant.  He is perfect.  It is not a boast for Him to declare His ability to transform the dullness of our lives into the brilliance produced by the influence of His Word and will!  You are not yet what you could be.  When all is said and done, will you have been what you could be?  The decision is made if you let Christ work upon you.

Whistler’s Mother (1871)
Categories
endurance perseverance

Where’s Greg Reynolds Today?

Neal Pollard

Being a Rockies’ fan has its ups and downs—historically, there have been more downs than ups, I’m afraid.  Being no-hit last night by Dodger’s pitcher Clayton Kershaw was pretty low!  While it was only the third time in franchise history that no Rockies’ hitter got a hit in an official baseball game, there was a particular pain to the “no no” last night.  Kershaw was picked by the Dodgers with the seventh overall pick in the 2006 Major League Draft.  That means he was available when the Rockies used the second overall pick to take right-hander Greg Reynolds out of Stanford University (via http://www.baseball-reference.com).  While Kershaw is arguably the best pitcher baseball has seen this generation, Reynolds is duking it out in Japan’s professional baseball league with the Saitama Seibu Lions.  So far, he’s notched a very mortal 6-11 record in America’s professional baseball league. He’s 0-5 with a 5.52 ERA with the Lions (bis.npb.org.jp).

This is not intended to be a rip on Greg Reynolds or even Colorado’s front office, though the local fan base may like to see it.  Nor is it simply an opportunity to vent frustration against our local diamond dwellers. It is, however, a great illustration of something that can happen elsewhere in life.  Reynolds was selected so high in the draft because of potential, a record of achievement he had compiled to that point, and certain tools and traits that seemed to scouts and organizational brass like a “can’t miss” opportunity.

How often are we reminded that superior intellect, physical strength, charisma and charm, and abundant material resources alone are insufficient?  Whole nations like Edom, Canaan, Egypt, and even Israel learned this in the Old Testament.  Individuals with such potential, whether Samson or Saul or the Rich Young Ruler, prove that performance is the ultimate measurement over potential.  “Almost” is an unsatisfactory and incomplete idea, as is nearly, close, and “could have been.”  The graveyard is littered with stories of those who did not parlay potential into performance.  History’s pages portray so many figures who flirted with greatness without getting there.

The stakes are different for us.  It’s not millions of dollars, All-Star status, or the Hall of Fame (or even being able to stick on a Major League roster).  Intentions are insufficient.  Action is all-important.  When we are thinking about God’s commands and considering that eternity is at stake, we must have more than tools and talents.  We must, simply, do (Mat. 7:21; Luke 6:46).

 

No, THAT is not Reynolds. Guess who it IS?
Categories
Current Events youth

The Truly Amazing Kwasi Enin

 

Neal Pollard

How often does the college application process for a single student make the front page of a national paper like USA Today?  It happened on Tuesday, April 1, 2014.  The feature centered around the academic ambitions of a Shirley, New York, Senior, whose academic future would seem secure and assumably provided for.  He made history when last week he opened an acceptance letter from Harvard University.  That alone is impressive, but that letter made it complete. Every single one of the eight Ivy League colleges formally accepted Kwasi Enin as a student.  It is amazing that Kwasi would apply to all of them, and almost unheard of to be “invited to attend them all” (Greg Toppo, 1 A, 4/1/14).   His guidance counselor said, “It’s a big deal when we have students apply to one or two Ivies. To get into one or two is huge. It was extraordinary” (ibid.).

So maybe our congregation does not have any academic prodigies like Kwasi Enin.  With all due and considerable respect, we have something even better.  We have a large repository of talent and spirituality in our midst among our youth and teens.  Their dreams are endless.  They dare to do great things, ask friends to services, stand up for their faith, share profound spiritual thoughts, and much more that we, as adults, find jaw-dropping.  They reach for the sky because they are too young to be bothered with such mole hills as worry, fear, and limitation!  They believe they can change the world and make it a better place and their faith in Christ can put some of ours to shame.

When Paul tells Timothy to let no one look down on him because he is young (1 Tim. 4:12), he is speaking to us, too.  Our youth have growing and maturing to do.  They will accrue wisdom and experience in the process of time.  But, may we help nurture their enthusiasm and stoke their optimism.  They need to keep it.  We need them to keep it.  With dark days ahead, we will depend on the faith and valiant efforts of today’s youth!  May we recognize how truly amazing they are and help them see how important they are to God’s work.