Illustration results for competition
K. Edward "Ed" Skidmore
I remember a Youth Minister saying years ago "My problem is not motivating people; My problem is people DE-motivating me!" From years in ministry I have learned the hard way that People will disappoint you. People will oppose you. People will see themselves in competition with you. Sometimes in your own family. (even in your church family!) And I must admit that it can be a real downer to see your fiercest opposition coming from other Christians.
But Paul was able to see beyond the petty attitudes of these competitive Christians. He said, "But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice." Philippians 1:18
Sebastian Kresge started a five and dime in 1899 and it grew – people came to his store for good prices on decent products – his idea of a “blue-light” special reinvigorated the retail industry…at it height thousands upon thousands of stores serving millions and millions of people…
But then, something happened…something happened. Some claim it was do to increased competition – another company started by a young man named Sam Walton was giving Kresge’s stores a run for their money. Still some claim Kresge’s stores just built too much too fast…by over-expanding they found themselves deep in debt.
But today, I’ll tell you why the once mighty Kmart, the eventual product of Kresge’s five and dime, is in bankruptcy today, and its actually a simple reason…they forgot what they were known for.
Instead of continuing to offer great prices on decent products…they began to compete with the Targets and the Meijers in quality merchandise beyond their customers reach, while on the other end facing the low-pricing of Sam Walton’s creation, Walmart, at every turn. (When Kmart announced they were bringing back the blue-light special and lowering prices throughout the store, then I knew they were doomed. If Kmart has too announce that they have lowered prices, then they’ve lost their identity.)
Soon, being pulled at both ends, Kmart finds itself with the agony of closing stores and firing workers because instead of continuing as they were “known” they tried to change…and failed.
Why do I tell you this story?…because we are “known” too! God knows us. But often we try to be someone different than the way we are known. And if we continue to be something that God knows we aren’t, we are going to end up in a spiritual bankruptcy where God has planned so much more.
Blessed are the merciful. I learned the truth of this Beatitude from Henri Nouwen, a priest who used to teach at Harvard University. At the height of his career, Nouwen moved from Harvard to a community called Daybreak, near Tornonto, in order to take on the demanding chores required by his friendship with a man named Adam. Nouwen now ministers not to the intellectuals but to a young man who is considered by many a useless person who should have been aborted.
Nouwen describes his friend: “Adam is a 25-year-old man who cannot speak, cannot dress or undress himself, cannot walk alone, cannot eat without much help. He does not cry or laugh. Only occasionally does he make eye contact. His back is distorted. His arm and leg movements are twisted. He suffers from severe epilepsy and, despite heavy medication, sees few days without grand-mal seizures. Sometimes, as he grows suddenly rigid, he utters a howling groan. On a few occasions I’ve seen one big tear roll down his cheek.
“It takes me about an hour and a half to wake Adam up, give him his medication, carry him to his bath, wash him, shave him, clean his teeth, dress him, walk him to the kitchen, give him his breakfast, put him in his wheelchair and bring him to the place where he spends most of his day with therapeutic exercises.”
On a visit to Nouwen in Toronto, I watched him perform that routine with Adam, and I must admit I had a fleeting as to whether this was the best use of his time. I have heard Henri Nouwen speak, and have read many of his books. He has much to offer. Could not someone else take over the menial task of caring for Adam? When I cautiously broached the subject with Nouwen himself, he informed me that I had completely misinterpreted what was going on. “I am not giving up anything,” he insisted. “It is I, not Adam, who gets the main benefit from our friendship.”
Then Nouwen began listing for me all the benefits he has gained. The hours spent with Adam, he said, have given him an inner peace so fulfilling that it makes most of his other, more high-minded tasks seem boring and superficial by contrast. Early on, as he sat beside that helpless child-man, he realized how marked with rivalry and competition, how obsessive, was his drive for success in academia and Christian ministry. Adam taught him that “what makes us human is not our mind but our heart, not our ability to think but our ability to love.” From Adam’s simple nature, he had glimpsed the “emptiness that desert monks achieved only after much searching and discipline.
All during the rest of our interview, Henri Nouwen circled back to my question, as if he could not believe I could ask such a thing. He kept thinking of other ways he had benefited from his relationship with Adam. Truly, he was enjoying a new kind of spiritual peace, acquired not within the stately quadrangles of Harvard, but by the bedside of incontinent Adam. I left Daybreak convicted of my own spiritual poverty, I who so carefully arrange my writer’s life to make it efficient and single-focused. The merciful are indeed blessed, I learned, for they will be shown mercy.
Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Pub. House, 1995), 119-121
A newspaper held a competition to find out how people would describe friendship. The winning answer was, “A friend is someone who’s walking in when everyone else is walking out.”
You and I have a friend that will do that, a friend who will stick closer than a brother. Jesus said,
“Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matthew 28:20...
“If You Can’t Beat ‘Em?” Philippians 1: 12-14 Key verse(s): 14:“Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.”
If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em! We’ve all said it at times when it just seemed hopeless and there was no other way to cope other than relenting and giving in to the problem. Back in the late 1940’s the extensive system of railroads that criss-crossed the United States found themselves in just such a situation. For over a century rail had been not only the way to ship goods between towns and cities, it was about the only safe, secure and fast way to travel as well. In the early part of the last century it appeared to most who owned, operated, worked-on and used the over a million miles of steel rails in this country that the future of the railroad would go on forever. The automobile was but as decade or two old and it was prone to mechanical failure, prone to slow speeds and, most of all, relegated to a poorly constructed network of antiquated wagon paths turned into muddy highways. Although several companies were manufacturing trucks, none were designed to go the long haul. Trucks were simply ways of moving things around in town and carting goods to the, of course, rail head. Air travel was primitive at best with little or no goods shipped by air with the exception of the mail. And since air travel was fairly dangerous and expensive, it offered little competition to the burgeoning rail lines of America.
Then in 1906 something called the Lincoln highway went on the drawing boards. The dream of a few visionary believers in the future of over-the-road travel and commerce, the idea was to link New York City with Chicago via a paved highway over over 1,500 miles. It took over a decade to build and some segments of it were little more than repaved country lanes. Nonetheless, as World War I swept through Europe, cars and trucks began sweeping from the New York to the midwest in the incredible time of only eight to nine days. By the mid-1920’s the Lincoln Highway was connected to the Los Angeles and the west coast of the United States by U.S. Route 66. From these two pioneering roadways, a network of U.S. and state highways, county road and eventually metropolitan freeways quickly developed. By 1938, for the first time in nearly a century and a half, more fright was being hauled by truck than by rail. And, by 1948, more people were traveling interstate by automobile than by passenger train. Even air freight threatened the very existence of rail by the early 1950’s. It seemed the future of rail freight as well as travel was in grave doubt.
But the major rail lines refused to accept their own demise. Convinced that they could still compete with the ever-widening network of interstate highways and large full-service air ports, they began to see what had been viewed as a threat as a beckoning opportunity. For too long rail service had been focused on inter-city linkages and not interstate connections. As the railroads developed in the 1800’s, they followed a very parochial pattern of growth. Every city or at least portion of a state had its own railroad meaning that hundreds of thousands of lines of track were independently owned and, therefore, not available for easy pass-through traffic by a rival rail shipper. Seeing an opportunity to buy-out the little guy and merge many of the less than competitive lines, a handful of major railroads began to build a smooth system of long-haul, interstate rail lines. National railroads finally found their niche and by the 1970’s many had once again become profitable as long-haul, freight and passenger services. What had been a threat to their very existence turned out to be the very opportunity that saved them.
Being thrown into prison, especially the brutally cold and dank confines of the infamous Mamertine prison of Rome, was not treat. If you happened to survive the confinement, odds are you wouldn’t survive the diseases and maladies that were part and parcel of the stay. Only a fool would fine any comfort in that. Yet Paul, a fool for Christ, was able to find comfort, even joy in the fact that he had been thrown into prison. Thrown into a dark and cold cell unjustly, Paul, recognizing that he was “in chains for Christ,” gloried in the hardship and reveled in the opportunity. The “brothers” were using Paul’s misfortune and suffering to inspire and teach others about Christ Jesus. They were holding him up as an example of courage, faith and hope, hope that can only come from a believing heart and a spirit that was daily replenished and restore by the pure Word of God. His body may be suffering but his spirit was soaring. Paul turned the bad situation of Mamertine into a wonderful opportunity to reflect the glory of his Lord. Deep in that dark and dirty hole, a magnificent light was reflecting skyward. The circumstance that had dictated his defeat and turned into an opportunity that would eventually reflect his victory. Paul had found through hardship, a new purpose for living even as he was dying to do it.
One of the most touching moment in the Sydney Olympics was when Eric "The Swimmer" Moussambani of Equatorial Guinea swam in the 100-meter free style qualifying heat. The 22-year-old African had only learned to swim last January, had only practiced in a 20-meter pool without lane markers, and had never raced more than 50 meters. By special invitation of the International Olympic Committee, under a special program that permits poorer countries to participate even though their athletes don’t meet customary standards, he had been entered in the 100-meter men’s freestyle.
When the other two swimmers in his heat were disqualified because of false starts, Moussambani was forced to swim alone. Eric Moussambani was, to use the words of an Associated Press story about his race, "charmingly inept." He never put his head under the water’s surface and flailed wildly to stay afloat. With ten meters left to the wall, he virtually came to a stop. Some spectators thought he might drown! Even though his time was over a minute slower than what qualified for the next level of competition, the capacity crowd at the Olympic Aquatic Center stood to their feet and cheered the swimmer on. After what seemed like an eternity, the African reached the wall and hung on for dear life. When he had caught his breath and regained his composure, the French-speaking Moussambani said through an interpreter, "I want to send hugs and kisses to the crowd. It was their cheering that kept me going."
As Christians, we have a cheering section encouraging us on when we are tired and calling out to us to do better when we are feeling at our best. The author of Hebrews says, “We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.” What in the world does he mean—great cloud of witnesses? The author of Hebrews is telling us that we are a part of something much richer and deeper than we know. As children of God and as brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, we are a part of a family.
Clovis Chappell, a minister from a century back, used to tell the story of two paddleboats. They left Memphis about the same time, traveling down the Mississippi River to New Orleans. As they traveled side by side, sailors from one vessel made a few remarks about the snail’s pace of the other. Words were exchanged. Challenges were made. And the race began. Competition became vicious as the two boats roared through the Deep South.
One boat began falling behind. Not enough fuel. There had been plenty of coal for the trip, but not enough for a race. As the boat dropped back, an enterprising young sailor took some of the ship’s cargo and tossed it into the ovens. When the sailors saw that the supplies burned as well as the coal, they fueled their boat with the material they had been assigned to transport. They ended up winning the race, but burned their cargo.
God has entrusted cargo to us, too: children, spouses, friends. Our job is to do our part in seeing that this cargo reaches its destination.
THE CHEERING CROWD
Picabo Street first joined the U.S. Ski Team when she was only 17. She went on to become the only American skier to ever win the World Cup downhill championship. In 1996 she tore a crucial ligament in her left knee. The 30 year-old Street went through extensive rehabilitation just to compete in the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. Street said this about her Olympic experience: "The last four years for me have been about that one moment coming into the finish when I heard the Americans roar and saw kids' faces painted red, white and blue. That's when I felt the pride of being an American in an American Olympics."
And You have a crowd cheering for you.
Picaboo Street did not win the gold, or the silver, or the bronze medal this year. She finished 16th in her downhill competition. But the crowd cheered for her just the same. The Americans screamed and cheered because one of their own had finished the race. And you have a crowd cheering for you. "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great crowd of witnesses, let us throw off ev...
Back when the telegraph was the fastest means of long-distance communication, there was a story about a young man who applied for a job as a Morse code operator. Answering an ad in the newspaper, he went to the address that was listed. When he arrived, he entered a large, noisy office. In the background a telegraph clacked away.
A sign on the receptionist’s counter instructed job applicants to fill out a form and wait until they were summoned to enter the inner office. The young man completed his form and sat down with seven other waiting applicants. After a few minutes, the young man stood up, crossed the room to the door of the inner office, and walked right in.
Naturally the other applicants perked up, wondering what was going on. Why had this man been so bold? They muttered among themselves that they hadn’t heard any summons yet. They took more than a little satisfaction in assuming the young man who went into the office would be reprimanded for his presumption and summarily disqualified for the job.
Within a few minutes the young man emerged from the inner office escorted by the interviewer, who announced to the other applicants, "Gentlemen, thank you very much for coming, but the job has been filled by this young man."
The other applicants began grumbling to each other, and then one spoke up, "Wait a minute! I don’t understand. He was the last one to come in, and we never even got a chance to be interviewed. Yet he got the job. That’s not fair."
The employer responded, "All the time you’ve been sitting here, the telegraph has been ticking out the following message in Morse code: 'If you understand this message, then come right in. The job is yours.' None of you heard it or understood it. This young man did. So the job is his."
Sermon Central Staff
Did you know that the first modern-day lottery was started in 1963 in the state of New Hampshire?
Did you know that the state of Massachusetts, started their lottery in 1972 with 50 cent tickets and a drawing once a week. It now has 33 different games to choose from their sales have soared from $71 million in the first year to $3 Billion today.
Did you know, that in Colorado, the lottery organizers spend more than $400 million dollars each year trying to lure residents to gamble on lotteries.
And in a $25,000 study called Mindsort they analyzed the left and right sides of the brain to understand how to manipulate players behavior in order to get them once hooked, always hooked.
A Massachusetts Lottery Ad sums up the point I am trying to get across perfectly. In the ad they offer two choices for how to "make millions." Here is a quote: "Plan A: Start studying when you’re about 7 years old, real hard. Then grow up and get a good job. From then on, get up at dawn every day. Flatter your boss. Crush competition ruthlessly. Climb over backs of co-workers. Be the last one to leave every night. Squirrel away every cent. Avoid having a nervous breakdown. Avoid having premature heart attack. Get a face lift. Do this every day for 30 years, holidays and weekends included. By the time you’re ready to retire you should have your money. Or Plan B: Play the Lottery." Hey if we can have it quick and easy why not?
(From a sermon by Jay Russell, I Spend So I Can Glorify God, 12/28/2010)