Sermon Illustrations

A few years ago (2004), Gordon MacDonald, who is one of my favorite authors wrote a little book entitled A Resilient Life. In this book he tells the story of a coach and teacher named Marvin Goldberg who changed his life in a great way. MacDonald said that he tried out for football but was so small and skinny that the football coach did not want him and called the track coach to get rid of him.

In the early stages of his running days, he said that Coach Goldberg put him on an individual training plan that involved him having to run many days alone. He would go out to the track and he would read off of a white bulletin board his plan for the day. Sometimes it would include running the 400 meter run ten times. On other days it would men running up hills over and over again. Numerous times he would try to beg off because of a headache, the sniffles, shin splints, or the famous line “I think I’m dying!” Coach Goldberg would always tell him, “Now Gordie, if you will just get out there and warm-up, you will feel much better when you loosen up.”

MacDonald related that his coach wasn’t a negotiator. He had plans for his runners and he refused to negotiate with them. Actually the coach was not planning for the day as much as he was training these young men for life. There would come a time when greater responsibilities would demand that they ignore their sniffles and headaches and many other distractions to do what needed to be done.

One of the things that running on the track alone and hidden away from everyone else taught MacDonald was that to quit then would make it a little easier to quit the next day or at the next opportunity. It was through the obscurity of running around a little track at Stony Brook Prep School in northern New York that summoned a champion from Gordon MacDonald. It would prepare...

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