In the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, Reggie Jackson’s plaque mentions his many accomplishments as a baseball player. The 11 Division winners he played on, 5 home runs in one World Series, his 563 career home runs, his American League MVP award were all listed. Interestingly enough, his plaque does not list his record for the most career strikeouts for a hitter. Reggie had over 600 more strikeouts than out distances Hall of Famer Willie Stargell by more than 600 strikeouts.
Reggie had to work very hard to strikeout a record 2,597 times. If this is the case, why does his plaque omit his record 2,597 strikeouts, yet it includes his 563 career home runs?
Why is it that we prefer to focus on such things as Reggie’s home runs rather than his 2,597 strikeouts? Why? We tend to celebrate the positive, not the negative as it relates to our heroes. We tend to celebrate the smart, the strong and the successful, even if the stuff of such things is partial in nature.
From man’s perspective we exalt those on top of the pyramid, those who have climbed the ladder, those who have amassed the wealth.
When it comes to selecting those people we esteem, generally speaking, we gravitate toward those who are wise, mighty and noble from man’s perspective.
In 1 Corinthians chapter 1 verses 26 through 28, God reflects a much different standard than man does. There it says, “For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. 27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are.”
The passage notes that God has not selected many wise, mighty or noble. God’s choice of those He calls to represent Him and carry out His work here on earth is the opposite of man’s choice.
In the gospel of Matthew the mother of James and John asked Jesus to grant her son’s positions of great honor in heaven. She wanted Jesus to promise that one son would sit on His right hand and the other on His left.
There Jesus reset His followers expectations when He said in verses 25 through 28, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. 26 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. 27 And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
Jesus established God’s reality of earthly success by inverting the paradigm set in place by man.
The top of the pyramid is the base. Reaching the top of the ladder demands embracing the lowest rung.
If you want to succeed as a follower, Jesus says in verse 26 “but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant.” In verse 27 He adds, “whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave.”
Jesus uses Himself as the standard saying in verse 28, “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
As the Son of God, the Lord came not to be served, but to serve. To what extent did He come to serve? He offered up his life as a “ransom for many.”
Jesus understood His purpose here on earth. That purpose was to serve and sacrifice.
The sort of men and women He would call for the most part were not the wise, mighty or noble, but the foolish, the weak and the base things which are despised.
Why? What was His purpose for calling the lowly into His service? Verse 29 establishes His purpose saying, “that no flesh should glory in His presence.”
By choosing the simple, lowly and broken, neither His followers, nor non-believing onlookers can take credit for their ascension.
Billy Graham grew up on a dairy farm. While attending Bob Jones College, he was almost expelled from the school. The founder of the school, Bob Jones, Sr. encouraged him to take stock of his choices. Jones said to Graham, “At best, all you could amount to would be a poor country Baptist preacher somewhere out in the sticks…. You have a voice that pulls. God can use that voice of yours. He can use it mightily.”
Indeed, God did use Billy Graham through his crusades, books and the like. The young man who grew up on a dairy farm not only would lead many people to Christ, become informal pastor to many Presidents of the United States, and the like, but he did not end up poor either as his net worth is roughly 25 million dollars.
God took a lowly boy from the dairy farm to the White House, and onto the world.
Why did God choose and raise up a lowly boy from a dairy farm? As verse 29 says it, “that no flesh should glory in His presence.” When Billy Graham stands before God, he cannot claim greatness for apart from God, none of this would have been possible.
In Psalm 127:1 it says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the Lord guards the city, The watchman stays awake in vain.”
God takes the lowly and does all the heavy work. He builds the house and the builder. He watches over the city and the guard standing watch. He takes the lowly son of a dairy farmer and brings many to Himself through him.
In 1 Corinthians 1:27 it underscores His purpose saying, “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty.” What greater way could God display His sovereign authority over the affairs of man then by taking that which is “foolish” or “weak” and transforming them into something lofty and strong? The byproduct of this is that only God can claim the credit and the glory as it relates to such things.
The wonderful thing about all of this is that there is hope even for the lowliest of us. If we are down and out, if we feel like life is not worth living as you’ve hit a hopeless dead-end, if there appears to be no light at the end of your dark tunnel, in and through Christ there is hope, there is forgiveness, there is new beginning.
How do we get there? The first step is embracing Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, by recognizing your sin nature, confessing it to God, and turning from your sin to Christ and His sacrificial death on the cross and resurrection from the dead. The second step is to daily place your trust in the Lord’s hands. Proverbs chapter 3 verse 5 through 6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.”
Trust in the Lord and He will direct your path from death to life and hopelessness to hope.