Sermon Illustrations

God Knows I Tried! (10.25.05--Making It!--Genesis 31:1-2)

Success is a measure of looking down and not looking up. It all about winning and losing.

For me that winning and losing began when I left college over thirty years ago. I had spent four years and a lot of money along with thousands of other students preparing myself to be a winner. There was only one thing that mattered--I needed to find a job and become a “winner.” Winning was defined by paycheck and status. The more I earned and the higher I rose in management ranks, the more justified I had been in going to college. Unfortunately, less than ten years later, that all changed. The company I worked for was sold and moved abroad. I lost my status and my paycheck. This happened several times over the course of the next decade. I began to feel like a loser. I kept starting over and losing ground with every move I made. It wasn’t long before I began to compare myself with classmates who had “made it” and I began to feel the loser in a big way. Despite my trying, the striving wasn’t equaling the succeeding I had envisioned.

Cathy Rigby was a member of the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics Team in the 1972 Olympics at Munich, and she had only one goal in mind--to win a gold medal. She had trained hard over a long period. On the day she was scheduled to perform, she prayed for the strength and the control to get through her routine without making mistakes. She was tense with determination not to let herself or her country down. She performed well, but when it was all over and the winners were announced, her name was not among them. Cathy was crushed. Afterward, she joined her parents in the stands all set for a good cry. As she sat down, she could barely manage to say, “I’m sorry. I did my best.” “You know that, and I know that,” her mother said, “and I’m sure God knows that too.” Then, Cathy recalls, her mother said ten words that she has never forgotten: “Doing your best is more important than being the best.” (Soundings, Vol D, # 7, pp. 1-2.)

As I look back on those college years I can now see the one great failing of that educational process. Whereas college had taught me to excel and become a winner, it had never taught me the true meaning of success. I assumed, along with thousands of other students, that winning meant two things: money and prestige. These goals could only be measured one way, comparing myself to the lives of my peers. When I saw their successes I needed to know that mine were at least as lucrative, at least as prestigious. The truth is, that this way of thinking can only lead to failure, not success. The Bible teaches that we need to avoid comparing ourselves to others. Our successes are “our” successes, unique to us and no one else. Comparing is sinful not successful. When God knows that you have done your best, you’re already a winner.

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