Maurice Andre was one of the best trumpet players the world has known. He once said that a good trumpet player had to be “like a matador in a bull ring.” He continued, “I see flutists and oboists go on the stage gingerly. If you do that with the trumpet you’re finished.” I believe he was saying that only a certain personality type possesses what it takes to succeed as a trumpet player. Trumpeters can’t hide; every note is heard by every listener! If you don’t have the God-given disposition to handle that, it can truly destroy you.
My dog has been trained to always come back to me the instant I call or whistle. It’s taken a lot of work to get this response. And now he consistently listens for me and responds immediately—no matter what distraction is vying for his attention. Since I can trust him, I’m able to take him off his leash and let him run around and explore the fields and woodlands. In short, because he’s been properly trained and can be trusted even when facing temptation, he can enjoy his freedom.
A physical trainer friend of mine will sometimes present his clients with a weightlifting bar with a large amount of weight on each end. He then instructs them to lift the bar, and—of course—they can’t. Next, he tells them to try and lift the weight several times a day for several weeks. After the allotted time, they return and unfailingly report that they can lift the weight over their heads. They often remark that, at first, they never thought this growth in power would be possible!
A chrysalis was hanging from a branch. Inside, a butterfly seemed to be struggling. Curious to witness its emergence, an observer waited. Time passed, however, and the insect was still trapped in its self-made prison. So the person made a small tear in the chrysalis—hoping to relieve the butterfly’s struggle and suffering. It soon died, for the struggle to be free is essential to making a butterfly strong enough to survive. Without adversity, it won’t achieve maturity.
By lap three of seven I was already exhausted. My trainer told me to give 80 percent of my best effort at first and build up to “200 percent on the final lap!” As I rounded the bend before that last lap, he shouted, “I need you to be throwing up at the finish line!” Unfortunately, I duly obliged. But I finished well and clocked a great time.
Some big interviews lay ahead as I continued my quest to join the UK’s Royal Navy as a chaplain. That included psychometric tests, practical leadership tasks, planning exercises, and the writing of essays. I needed to take several trains down to the interview location, plan my interview techniques, and practice answers.
When I was first called to pastor a church, my family and I were, frankly, broke! I had just finished Bible college and my wife had been homeschooling our young daughters. The church was in a popular area, and house prices were at a premium. We needed a home, but they were all so very expensive. We really liked one place, but had no money for a deposit or to offer for rent. The real estate agent asked us if we wanted it.
In the wake of the devastating earthquake that destroyed much of Haiti in 2010, one philosopher wrote, “For those who believe in an all-good, all-powerful God, we’ve seen that they face a question that remains pressing after all these centuries, and which is now horribly underscored by the horrors in Haiti. If a deity exists, why didn’t he prevent this?”
When we watch TV or engage in social media, we’re bombarded with images of individuals doing things we disagree with. Sometimes their actions are even illegal or immoral, and we may find ourselves thinking, I’d never do a thing like that! or, How can anyone even consider doing such a thing?
Over the years, I’ve spent countless hours alone in the woods. As I’ve sat motionless, robins have perched on my knees, mice have nibbled at my bootlaces, an owl once landed inches from my shoulder, and a roebuck advanced to within a couple yards of me—apparently thinking I was an adversary.
George Mallory was an English mountaineer who was last seen heading toward the summit of Mount Everest in June 1924. It’s possible he actually reached its peak but succumbed to the weather on the way down. We’ll never know what happened, for the details passed with the great explorer. Mallory was once asked why he wanted to climb Everest. His answer was simply, “Because it’s there!” This may make no sense to most people, but to a mountaineer it is perfectly logical. Climbing the mountain is something to strive toward that’s an end in itself. The impressive peak is all the fuel Mallory and countless other mountaineers have ever needed.
Eric Liddell, the great Scottish sprinter and missionary to China, won a gold medal in the 1924 400-meter Olympic finals. He was hailed as a national hero in his home country and accolades were heaped upon him worldwide. He could have stayed at home and been treated as royalty for the rest of his life. Instead, he took a boat to China and died in obscurity in a Japanese internment camp during World War II, having turned his back on recognition from anyone . . . except the Savior he obeyed.
When I signed up to become a chaplain in the British Royal Navy as a middle-aged man, the venture could have appeared to be a silly idea—something I should have never attempted. Surely I could have earned a living in a much safer and less strenuous environment. And yet, I felt compelled to pursue what I believe was God’s calling—choosing to rely on Him to strengthen me along the way.
When I speak at high schools, one question I’m frequently asked is, “If God loves us, why do so many people suffer in the world?” In responding to my listeners, I challenge the idea that God best expresses His love to us by giving us things and simply making our lives easy. This inaccurate way of viewing how He operates exists and persists both inside and outside of the church.