A Christian’s Voice From Raymore – January 2, 2010
I just finished reading a compelling and motivating little book. Only 197 pages in length, it is packed with engaging stories and stirring quotes that illustrate the things that he learned from his mentor. Pat Williams began his business career, as general manager of the minor league Spartanburg Phillies in 1965. Mr. R. E. Littlejohn, who owned the Spartanburg team, took Pat under his wing and taught him many important lessons. He says, “From watching his life, I learned the difference between knowledge and wisdom. I learned that knowledge likes to speak; wisdom prefers to listen. Knowledge takes things apart; wisdom puts things back together. Knowledge prides itself on achievements; wisdom humbly thirsts to learn more.” Realizing a responsibility to give back, he continues, “In recent years, I’ve become a mentor to others, just as Mr. Littlejohn was to me…. I have distilled the most important lessons I learned from Mr. Littlejohn into six key wisdom principles:
- Control what you can (let go of everything else).
- Be patient.
- Pay your dues (you need to have experience).
- Keep it simple.
- Don’t run from your problems (they give you an opportunity to sell yourselves to others).
- Pay attention to the little things.”
(The Pursuit by Pat Williams, pages 12-13)
Consider the application of these six principles to our spiritual pursuit ….
CONTROL WHAT YOU CAN
You cannot control how others respond to the gospel. You must be busy about planting the seed and leave the increase to God. The same gospel may soften a heart that is good and honest but harden one that is determined to follow his own desires.
The zeal of a new convert may blind his eyes to the faults in others. My father wrote in his autobiography, “Six months after my conversion, I fell away, stopped attending and became concerned about what seemed to me to be “inconsistencies” between what some members said and did. Looking back I see that there were a number of things which contributed to me falling away, however. There was much that I didn’t understand; and I had over estimated the purity of character of some who claimed to be “faithful” members. One year after my baptism, I realized that there were and always will be “human weaknesses” in character. Also, I came to recognize that it behooved me to do first what I know to be right, and then I could go about trying to correct wrong that I saw in others.”
Patience is hard to learn but it is necessary if we are to grow spiritually. We cannot open a bottle of “spiritual knowledge,” uncork our brains and pour in enough to immediately answer any and every question that might be asked us in a study. Wisdom requires a lifetime of acquiring and applying knowledge to the situations we encounter. Consistent study, prayer and meditation over time is all that is required! God does not require much, just our all; all of your soul, all of your body and all of your mind (Matthew 22:37) .
PAY YOUR DUES
The “school of hard knocks” is the phrase that we sometimes use to refer to the experiences that teach one the lessons of life. These lessons usually come at a great price, measured in terms of sacrifices, mistakes made and damages done to pride along the way. Williams says, “Aldous Huxley observed, ‘Experience is not what happens to a man. It’s what a man does with what happens to him.’ Experience doesn’t truly become a learning experience until you reflect on it, analyze it and understand it (p. 85).”
KEEP IT SIMPLE
Williams points out that our lives become so complicated because we have so much “stuff” that we accumulate thinking it will make us happy! He suggests that our pursuit ought to be characterized by an attempt to simplify our lives. He says, ” It’s all about time spent with family and friends, time spent in fellowship with God, time spent enjoying life and discovering life’s deeper meaning. If we want to experience rich and rewarding lives, we need to clear out the clutter and simplify, simplify! (p.98)”
The gospel of Jesus Christ is simple. The plan of salvation is simple. But sometimes we complicate them with our attempts to make them fit our lifestyles. When we ought to yield ourselves in complete obedience to the gospel and allow it to mold our lives, we often try to have it the other way around. Because we have failed to mold our lives to God’s standard on marriage we come up a set of convoluted rules to explain when divorce and remarriage are acceptable. Because we fail to yield to God’s boundaries that define male and female roles, we formulate elaborate explanations of plain passages.
DON’T RUN FROM YOUR PROBLEMS
Pat Williams describes a particularly disastrous end to a promotion, when he was General Manager of the minor league Spartanburg Phillies baseball team. Describing the lesson learned, he said, “It seems counter-intuitive, but instead of running away from our problems, we should run to them. If we face our problems, embrace our problems, and solve them, we’ll show the world what we’re made of and what we can do. It takes courage to face our problems and character to embrace our problems. I’ve never known a problem solver who didn’t possess these traits (p.115).”
The opportunity to grow and develop often accompanies times when we must explain ourselves to others after taking a stand on a particular issue. There may be issues on which we have taken a position without having fully studied the issue for ourselves. We come to our values through a combination of forces and from time to time we need to do a “gut check” that may cause us to take another and perhaps closer look at our beliefs.
PAY ATTENTION TO THE LITTLE THINGS
Occasionally we fall into the trap of thinking that it is only the big decisions in our lives that are important. Life is really a series of small decisions made consistently over time. Novelist James Jones, who wrote From Here To Eternity, was once asked “How do you write a novel?” He replied, “It’s simple. You write one page every day and at the end of the year you have 365 pages.” Williams says, “Our choices lead us ro places we never expect to go. The right choices could set us on the path to unimaginable success and happiness. The wrong choices could destroy our lives. The next choice you make could trigger a chain of circumstances that could put you in the White House — or in prison. So we dare not overlook the little things. We need to maintain our character and integrity, even in the smallest things. If we refuse to tell even a little white lie, then we’ll never be convicted of perjury. If we vow never to steal even a paper clip, then we’ll never be convicted of embezzlement. People who maintain their integrity in the small things can be trusted in the big things (p. 155).”
In the closing chapter of The Pursuit, Williams says, “After spending time with Mr. Littlejohn, I always came away feeling transformed in two important ways: First, I felt confident to face my problems and make good decisions. Second, I felt empowered to handle any situation.” One of the many great quotes in the book is from Maya Angelou, “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.” How do you make people feel that you mentor in the faith? Do you make them feel confident and empowered?
Pat Williams closes his book with the encouragement to be aware of your influence. He says, “Ultimately, The Pursuit is all about the life you are building, the influence you are having on others and the legacy you are leaving behind…. In short, use your wisdom, your learning and your influence to change the world and leave it better than you found it. That is why you’re on this journey. That is why you are in The Pursuit.” (Ibid, pp. 190-197)