ORDINARY AND NOBLE
Anthony (Tony) Robbins is perhaps the best known motivational speaker in the world. One of his catch-cries is “Why live an ordinary life?” Since I assume that he is asking me, I will humbly respond to Mr. Robbins (albeit very belatedly). I wish to put in a good word for the ordinary and feel reasonably qualified to do so. In answering to “Mr. Motivation” I would also like to address all those others who have subscribed to his ideas such as, “You can do anything … You can be who you want to be … Nothing will be too hard to achieve if you just work hard and put your mind to it.” Because I think none of those statements are true. I do not, however, want to be a dream-crusher or sound like I am an advocate for mediocrity. I am not. But I do want to take this time to pastor people to approach life with a sense of reality about what is possible and why this is so. And I suspect in so doing I may be able to help many people who feel like nobodies or even life-failures.
¶ First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior
First Timothy 2:1-3
ADJECTIVES BECAME TITLES
You might remember from Primary School that an adjective is a word that ‘describes a person, place, or thing (‘nouns’).’ At some early point in British history, the King decided to use certain adjectives that could have fairly been used to describe any deserving person and ascribe these words to a new class of people – the aristocracy (which adopted another ordinary adjective “peers”). Words such as noble (a good and virtuous person), sir (a man worthy of honour), lady (a woman worthy of honour), earl or duke (a leader of people), became titles that seemed to suggest that only a select few were now worthy of these adjectives.
¶ For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.
First Corinthians 1:26
YOU DO NOT NEED A TITLE FROM THE QUEEN
You may never be honoured in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List but that does not mean you cannot live an honourable life! Your parents may not have been of the noble class, but that does not mean that you cannot be a noble person — one who is good and virtuous.
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Second Peter 1:5-8
To live a noble life does not mean that you have to do something particularly extraordinary Mr. Robbins. In fact, it seems that history reveals that by far most people who did live a good and virtuous life lived ordinary lives. But when I say ordinary, do think unimportant or even of no consequence. Recently I had a long chat with a lady in our church who told me that after she was married, she spent a deal of time caring for her sickly mother-in-law. She shared how she nursed and cared for her mother-in-law willingly and gladly. She was even there when her mother-in-law died peacefully. After her death, this lady was then, with her husband, charged with the care of our her disabled sister-in-law who had multiple health issues throughout her life. Without complaint, she told me, she tended to her sister-in-law, and cared for her needs. It largely required twenty-four- hour-a-day attention. She battled exhaustion and fatigue for several decades as a result, and even though her sister-in-law’s various medications often effected her demeanour, this lady continued to show patience and care. As I heard her life story, I considered that she had made sacrifice after sacrifice to care for her in-laws. I wondered how many others would have been prepared to enter a marriage involving so many sacrifices. But as she drew her story to a close she stated that all of this was her delight. For her, it was not a sacrifice, it was a privilege. Her life has not been a case-study in national or international political leadership. Her life has not been one decorated by Olympic Gold Medals. Her life has not been honoured by the Nobel Committee. Her name has never featured in Australia Day Honours Awards. She has lived what many might consider to be an ordinary life — a life where you care for those you take responsibility for and show kindness to them even when that kindness is not always returned and must sometimes seem tough. But she has lived a noble life (you may have noticed that I deliberately referred to her as a lady). And truth be told, down through the ages, there have been hundreds of thousands of others who have “given up their lives” to serve others whose names and stories will never be recorded in any history books or be the subject of a major Hollywood movie.
But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.
First Thessalonians 2:7
DISCIPLES OF CHRIST ARE NOT CALLED TO CHANGE THE WORLD
What did Jesus train and commission His disciples to do? We might answer that it involved preaching the gospel and making disciples and if we do, I agree. This is what Jesus modelled to them. After Jesus ascended, His disciples eventually left Jerusalem and were led by the Spirit into various parts of the world and from the pages of Scripture, we never hear of them. What we do know from tradition is, with the obvious exception of Judas Iscariot, they were each faithful in fulfilling what Christ had commissioned them to do. And with the exception of John, they were each martyred in doing so. Their stories are largely lost and untold to the usual annuls of the histories of the great. But their stories were never lost or unknown to the One from whom all true honour derives.
I think of the hundreds of thousands of pastors who have never been household names, or achieved international accolades, or whose stories have filled the pages of biographical books, yet have served Christ and His Church faithfully free from scandal. These ordinary pastors are not “losers”. These ordinary pastors have fulfilled a noble task nobly. Their lives highlight that God does not call each believer to be someone who changed the world; rather, God calls each believer to make a difference in their world — which includes their friends, their family, their church, and their community.
¶ The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.
First Timothy 3:1
I have been around long enough, and attended more church conferences than I care to count, and I have often seen pastors leave these events feeling inadequate, and as if their ministry was ineffective because some international keynote speaker told them to do something extraordinary. This is sad.
This coming week, I will be conducting the funeral of a young pastor. He never pastored a big church. He never considered himself much of a preacher. He never wrote a book (or read very many either). He was never a featured conference speaker. But he was faithful – and together with his wife they touched the lives of people who once thought their lives had no hope, but found hope and transformation in Christ.
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved His appearing.
Second Timothy 4:7-8
MR ROBBINS, HERE’S WHY AN ORDINARY LIFE IS WORTH LIVING
Ambition can be good. Striving for continual improvement can be good. Wanting to be the best can also be good. But these all come at a cost—and often a too high of a cost. God does not necessarily call us to live extraordinary lives (in the sense of achieving fame, fortune, or power). God calls most us to be faithful—a faithfulness that often seems small. We can, however, strive to be the best that God has potentialled us to be. And if, along that journey, we are kind to others, humble instead arrogant, caring instead of indifferent, dependable and reliable, we may indeed run the risk of having others (like Mr. Robbins) think of us as ‘ordinary’ — but I think we should see this as a high compliment indeed when it means that we have lived faithfully to do the ‘little things’ that God has called us to. But in reality we will not just be ordinary, we will have attained the elusive honour (even if the Queen never notices) of being ordinary and noble.
His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ … And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
Matthew 25:21, 40
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