Sometimes great talent goes unappreciated. You know you have what it takes to be a success. You’ve worked hard, submitted to the disciplines of your craft, paid your dues. And yet there is that guy, or that woman. You know the ones – the super-gifted, the ones groomed from the womb to be stars, leaders in their field. In your field. You are the Salieri to his Mozart, and you will never play like him. The slide into envy starts innocently enough – with admiration. Maybe even awe at the talent. But then you start comparing. And then you start to lust after his talent. His success. Then you start competing. And it’s all about you, and what you’ll never have, because you aren’t him, and weren’t meant to be. It’s easy for the green of that grass on the other side of the fence to leach into your soul and turn it green with envy.
Dr. Timothy Warren was on the hotseat. He had been called up at the last minute to fill in for Dr. Chuck Swindoll to preach in chapel before the DTS faculty, staff, and student body. Dr. Swindoll had been called away on urgent business, which left Chaplain Bill Bryan, who is responsible for filling the DTS chapel preaching schedule, with the unenviable task of finding someone willing to come off the bench and hit for Chuck. Whoever says “yes” knows he will be a disappointment to all the folks who would show up at chapel expecting to see the Mighty Casey in the form of Chuck swing his homiletical bat. Still, Timothy said, “yes.”
His text was 1 Corinthians 12.4-7. There, Paul is instructing the Corinthians – many of whom embraced dreams of superstardom – that we should not be seeking star status, but to be team players.
Timothy told us that he attended school in the company of Joe Stowell. Joe was the Casey, the Chuck, the Mozart to whom Timothy was tempted to compare himself. Joe was (is) gifted in some very special ways, and has served the Lord in high-profile positions of leadership for many years: President of Cornerstone University, former President of Moody Bible Institute, author of over 20 books, etc., etc. Joe has maintained his integrity, his humility, his family, and his joy in the process. He’s the Jordan Spieth of Christian leadership. It’s really hard not to love the guy. Doggone it. But Timothy came to realize as he matured in his faith, that the Lord blesses each person with his/her own gifts, and expects each of us to serve humbly, to fulfill our calling in the awareness of His sustaining strength. In other words, we can all stop wishing we were someone else – someone with greater gifts, someone with more money, someone with a better batting average. As Timothy reminded us,
“Be content with who you are; everyone else is taken.”
So, if you are called on to play for the officer’s mess, as our friend Schroeder above, or to sub for an all-star hitter in your own profession, you can step into the batter’s box confident that the Lord has given you the opportunity to serve Him in that situation with your unique gifts. For reasons that remain hidden in His private counsel, the triune God wanted Timothy Warren in that pulpit yesterday rather than Chuck. Just as he wants you to serve where you are.
My opinion? Timothy hit an inside-the-park homerun. But what if he hadn’t? What if he had blooped it for an easy out? He might have “failed” in the eyes of the fans, but, as Timothy well knows, his success in the eyes of the Lord isn’t measured by his batting average in the pulpit. Success in your life’s work isn’t measured by the size of your bank account, or by any other standard the world imposes on you. Success in the Lord’s eyes is measured by faithfulness. We are all capable, thanks to the empowering work of His Spirit, to be faithful to Him, and especially (at least in the context of 1 Corinthians 12) as we look for ways to help the team win.
It’s a humbling thing to play second string, to be a bench player, and to be called on only when the star is unavailable. But that’s why we are on the team. There’s no such thing as a one-man roster. It takes a team to win a game. God has equipped each of us with gifts designed to help the team win. When you do that you really shine, but not as a lone star – you are a part of a great constellation that reveals Jesus to a darkened world.
Dr. Timothy Warren is a faithful man. He’s a team player.
And he also happens to be a fine preacher.