Summary: If we want to be worthwhile, trustworthy, respected people, we must be available for life-shaping. That means to downplay disappointment, pick perceptive people, consider consequences, and accept affirmation.

Worthwhile lives are made, not born. No one gets to get be

great just by dumb luck or by the genes they inherited.

Worthwhile people, trustworthy people, respected people are

made. They are formed. They are shaped. Somebody has

to take raw material and shape it into something useful. It

does not just happen on its own.

I’ve learned from watching my artist wife that if you are

painting a landscape or if you are creating a sculpture, you

have to take pains with it. You have to sketch and erase and

sketch again and paint and paint over. And sculpture – that

is a real mystery to me. I cannot fathom how anybody could

shape a sculpture. How can anyone take a hammer and a

chisel and remove unwanted stone to create a sculpture out

of marble? It takes a special genius to do that. Do you know

the story about Michelangelo, who said that he could sense

that in a rough block of marble there was an angel struggling

to get out, and his job was to free that angel? Truly

remarkable! To know that in that rough exterior there was

something beautiful, available for shaping.

But then how much more remarkable it is to know that inside

your rough exterior and mine there is a life available for

shaping! And all it takes is submitting to an artist who can

sense that it is in there and can cut it loose. How much more

wonderful than one of Michelangelo’s stone angels is a life

made superb by the hand of its sculptor! It’s a question of

our being available for life-shaping.

For worthwhile lives are made, not born. Trustworthy people

are hammered out, not just there. And respected people are

shaped, not just accidents. Lives are molded and shaped by

those around us who care enough to sculpt us, and we must

be available for life-shaping.

The boy Samuel was born in a troubled time. The Bible

describes it as one in which the word of the Lord was rare

and visions were not widespread. It was a troubled time.

But Samuel, if you remember, was born to his mother

Hannah and his father Elkanah as the result of Hannah’s

prayer. Hannah cried out to the Lord to give her a child, and

God heard that prayer. Samuel was the result. His grateful

parents dedicated him to the service of God. They loved him

so much they sent him to the temple at Shiloh to be trained

as an aide to the priest Eli. Samuel, there in the temple with

Eli, became, like Michelangelo’s angel, available for life-


I have four simple truths I want you to see in this story. Let

me share them first and then develop each one. We can be

available for life-shaping if we downplay disappointment; if

we pick perceptive people; if we consider the consequences;

and if we accept affirmation.

I am going to repeat those. We can be available for life-

shaping – we can become worthwhile, trustworthy, and

respected people – if we downplay disappointment; if we pick

perceptive people; if we consider consequences; and if we

accept affirmation.


First, to be available for life-shaping means to downplay

disappointment. It means to discount those times when you

feel as though you are heading down a dead-end street, or

barking up the wrong tree, or whatever other metaphor you

choose. The fact is that it takes time to shape a life, and we

are going to start some things that won’t pay off for a while.

But we have to stick with them and downplay

disappointment, or else we will not be shaped.

Young Samuel heard a voice calling, and he said, “Here I

am”. He said that to Eli, who told Samuel that it was not he

who called. A little later he heard it again, and once again

went to Eli, who once more told Samuel that, no, the priest of

Shiloh had not called. And then a third time, the same thing.

But look! Young Samuel kept on going back and kept on

saying, “Here I am”, despite the disappointment of finding out

that he was mistaken. Samuel didn’t give up. He didn’t

surrender to his disappointment. He knew that he was in the

right place, the house of the Lord. He knew that he was with

the right person, the Lord’s servant. Most of all, he knew his

own mind, and he stayed by the stuff. It would have been

easy on that third time to have said, “I must be hearing

things. I’ll ignore this call. I’ll just give up on this thing.” But

Samuel didn’t grow up. Samuel downplayed his

disappointment, and thus became available for life-shaping.

Some of us, if we don’t get immediate results, are ready to

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