Monday, December 16, 2013

Overcoming the giants in your life

Being a Baylor athlete and graduate, I've known what it is like to be the whipping dog, enduring years of getting beat down in sports.  Being a private Christian University presents quite a challenge in a league filled with giant state universities.  As recent as three years ago, many said Baylor didn't belong playing with the big boys. It was impossible for this private school to compete in the big sports. But something changed a few seasons ago, starting with the women's basketball team.  Baylor began to whip both the basketball and football Goliath's more than they lost.  And now, the little University that couldn't, has risen to the elite ranks of the college football and basketball rankings with their first BCS bowl game and national championships in women's basketball and an NIT championship in men's basketball. Exactly how Baylor accomplished this, not just in one sport but in the big three; football, and men's and women's basketball, would be a great study in overcoming what others perceived as insurmountable odds.

Malcolm Gladwell's book, David and Goliath tackles exactly that subject, the battles and victories of the weak over the mighty.. He uses a lot of examples and research to show that what many perceive as advantages may well be disadvantages and what looks to the world as a disadvantage may actually be to your advantage. Young David of the Old Testament dismissed the king's method of arming himself, (conventional wisdom), and used his unique slingshot skills to take advantage of a big, well armed, Goliath.  All were surprised that the little, undermatched David could conquer Golitath so easily.  But when you look at how he did it, you see that David used what was perceived as Goliath's strengths against him and his strengths were actually weaknesses.  watch Gladwell talk about David and Goliath 

Baylor has somehow taken its disadvantage (being a smaller Christian school) and turned that into an advantage to lure the kind of coaches and athletes to the school to make this remarkable turnaround that many believed impossible. The football team has transformed it's image into a entertaining, high flying, offensive team with contemporary, colorful uniforms.  Now high school athletes perceive that it is cool to be a Bear and when they come for a visit, they experience community, values and an intimacy that they may not get at other schools.  And winning makes it all the easier to draw the kind of athletes that you want. 

On the flip side is the giant University of Texas. The creation of The Longhorn TV network was perceived to be an incredible advantage for the Longhorns, so much so, that Texas A&M left the Big 12 as other schools cried foul!  But since the start of the network, the UT football, basketball and baseball teams have fallen to their lowest levels in decades. Now the jury is still out on how much of an advantage the network will actually be for UT athletics. Most everyone agrees (except Aggies) that Texas will return to the top and it may just be a coincidence that the football, baseball, basketball and women's basketball team's struggles have coincided with the start of the network. But could it be that the added responsibilities of the network to the coaches has affected negatively on their coaching? Perhaps starting such a venture has taken the focus from the games themselves. Who knows. But what everyone perceived as a huge advantage may actually be a disadvantage.

Another great example of what we believe to be a disadvantage, has actually been the stimulus to rapid growth of the Gospel in China.  The government's persecution of the institutional Church in China has caused the movement to go underground and grow rapidly through small groups. You may read about how Christianity has thrived in China in the face of massive persecution. 

Gladwell's premise along with the many examples in the Bible, show us that perception is not always reality. What we often see as disabilities, problems, and challenges with insurmountable odds can often be used as actual advantages and the training ground that propels us to success.  The unique weaknesses in our life can become our greatest strength when we place them into the hands of God and allow Him to use them for His glory!  And sometimes what we think are great advantages, such as wealth, power and size can actually be weaknesses.  

Never allow the giants in your life to intimidate you. As you work to defeat or overcome them, God will use each one to help you become the person He created you to be and to accomplish what God wants you to achieve.

2 Cor. 12:9-10
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 
Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

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