As we were walking into the front door at church a few Sundays ago, Ken, our associate pastor, was coming out the door with a mop. I think his official title is connections pastor, but his kids have called him the “not the real pastor” pastor. I think his title right then was janitor.
Curious, I asked, “What in the world are you doing?”
“I’ve got the opportunity to serve by cleaning up a mess in the bathroom,” he replied, in a slightly sarcastic voice, as he hurried around the building heading for the bathrooms.
It didn’t sound like much of an opportunity to me. Opportunities should be something fun and enjoyable. Cleaning up a mess in a bathroom doesn’t quite fit the picture. But maybe that’s looking at the wrong picture.
“We are continually faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems.” That’s a quote from John W. Gardner, who was a member of President Lyndon Johnson’s cabinet. And the advice columnist Ann Landers once wrote, “Opportunities are usually disguised as hard work, so most people don’t recognize them.”
We often miss opportunities because they are disguised as problems and hard work. But there once was a young shepherd who didn’t miss his opportunity. And I’m sure many of you know the story.
David was taking care of his father’s sheep while his brothers had gone off to fight the Philistines in King Saul’s army. Well, they weren’t really doing a lot of fighting. Primarily, Saul’s army was cowardly standing back as the Philistine giant, Goliath, made threats and taunted them. Goliath was a problem, a big problem.
David’s father asked him to take some food to his brothers on the frontlines. When David got there, he heard Goliath making his daily threats and he saw the Israelite army run from him in fear. But David wasn’t scared. He saw a problem and he knew he could take care of it.
David had worked hard as a shepherd and that meant taking care of his father’s flock. When a lion and a bear had attacked the sheep, he had killed them. He knew he was prepared to meet the problem of Goliath. While everyone else stood back, David went out and met the giant. Someone needed to, so why not him? David told King Saul, “Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me fro the hand of this Philistine.”
And David did. With his trusty slingshot, he faced the giant and sent a stone into Goliath’s forehead and killed him. David could have carried the food to his brothers and headed on back home. But by confronting a problem that others refused to tackle, he started on a road that would eventually lead to being the greatest king of Israel. Did David know that? No, he just knew there was a giant that needed to be killed, and someone had to do it.
Last week I was watching on TV a program about America’s industrial revolution around the turn of the 20th Century. It centered on the great industrialists of that time, such as Rockefeller, Ford, and Vanderbilt. One commentator on the program stated that the industrialists all had one thing in common. He said their attitude, like the young shepherd centuries before, was, “Why not me?”
It seems like everyone one is making predictions for 2014. Here is mine. There are going to be problems in the world around you. Many are going to be difficult to solve, and will take time and effort. It will be easy to ignore them and let someone else handle them. But what if that problem is the opportunity that you always wanted in disguise? There’s no guarantee, but who knows? Maybe in 2014 you and I will say “Why not me?” and find out.