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When Good is the Enemy of Great-June 22, 2010

Good is OK. But we should try to turn good into great.

Monday Morning Devotion---June 22, 2020


When Good is the Enemy of Great


Benaiah was a valiant fighter who performed great exploits°He went down into a pit on a snowy day and killed a lion.    2 Samuel 23:20


            There are times when things seem to be going pretty good in your life, right?  Maybe now is not one of those times with the threat of the coronavirus hanging over our heads, the need to maintain social distancing and doing without some of the things we enjoy like sports, travel, even eating a good meal in a restaurant.  But, with the relaxation of some of the restrictions comes a sense that more of the good things will return to our daily lives.

            Not to throw cold water on any hopes but consider this.  Good is often the enemy of Great. It's at this point where I say: 'What in the world were you thinking, Jim, in choosing this topic?'  I'm committed to it now so let's plunge on and see what lies ahead. 

            Mark Batterson ("In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day" writes: "Sometimes taking a calculated risk means giving up something that is good so you can experience something that is great."  OK, now I see where he was going with this.  It's about risk taking, right?  Let's see.

            Batterson follows up with this gem: "In a sense, sin is short-changing ourselves and short-changing God.  It is settling for anything less than God's best.   Faith is the exact opposite.  Faith is renouncing lesser good for something greater.  And it always involves a calculated risk."

            Mark Twain wrote: "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do°so sail away from the safe harbor.  Catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore.  Dream.  Discover."  Well, when put that way, Twain does make risk-taking sound exciting doesn't he?  That's the kind of thinking required to not just be good, but great.

             The research of a couple of social psychologists at Cornell University, Tom Gilovich and Vicki Medvec, found that time is a key factor in what we regret. We tend to regret our actions over the short-term.  Over the long haul, we tend to regret inactions.  The study found in an average week; actions regrets were slightly greater than inaction regrets---53 percent to 47 percent.  When people look at their lives as a whole, inaction regrets outnumber action regrets 84 % to 16%."

            I remember one of the first prayers I learned as a child was this simple blessing said at the dinner table: "God is great, God is good.  Let us thank him for this food.  Amen!"

            So, it figures.  If God is so powerful that he is great and good, he can certainly change things that are simply good in our lives into great ones.  All we have to do is play by the rules. Those rules don't include just being satisfied with what is good but seeking how to make them even better.  Turning good things into great ones.

            In science there is a theory (chaos theory) called the "Butterfly Effect."  It goes something like this:  A butterfly flapping its wings in one place could cause much bigger things to happen in the air currents in another place."  It's like a calmness in the air in Japan where the butterfly is flapping its wings could cause a tornado in Tennessee.  Basically, the idea posits that a small change made by us now can lead to much bigger differences down the road.  Changing good or even bad situations into great ones.

            In his book "Chaos" James Gleick defines butterfly effect as saying: "Tiny differences in input (can) quickly become overwhelming difference in output."

            For our "good-is-the-enemy-of-great-purposes" we say if we are to get off the good and aspire for great things, we must take some kind of a risk. 

            Batterson says whether we decide to put that butterfly effect into our situation or not is almost like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  We are part coward and part daredevil.  The coward is constantly whispering:  Better safe than sorry.  While the daredevil is whispering: Nothing ventured, nothing gained.  Which voice do you listen to?  Which path do you take?

            If these things can be true in science, they can be true in life.  "Small change and small choices become magnified over time and have major consequences.  Everything we change changes everything.  Too often we fail to connect the dots between choices and consequences.  Every choice has a domino effect that can alter our destiny."

            There are things that happen in life that can be considered tipping points.  Whatever occurs in that moment will tip the domino of circumstance which will topple over into the next domino and that one tips the next one and so on down the line. 

            Batterson refers to these times as "One small step, one giant leap moments.  Experiences happened then that forever change the trajectory of our lives.  They are the moments that couldn't be planned or predicted; these are the decisions that divide our lives into chapters."

            Benaiah was a man who turned small step moments into giant leap ones.  He not only killed that lion but because of other acts of bravery and carrying out King Solomon's orders was promoted to commander-in-chief over all the armies.

            Obedience is the key to changing good to great.  It is a willingness to do whatever, whenever, wherever God calls and as Batterson points out "this looks very different for each of us.  It doesn't always necessitate going halfway around the world.  Often the most courageous actions only require us going across the room or across the street.

            No matter what lion God has called us to chase we can't remove risk from the equation.

Faith is risky business.  The goal of faith is not the elimination of risk.  In fact, the greatest risk is taking no risks."

            We have to realize that God never promised us a risk-free existence.  And yes, bad things do happen to good people and good things happen to bad people.

            So, while faith is not the elimination of risk our faith in God is the ultimate win-win relationship because you can never give up more than you get back.

Prayer:  Lord help us to understand when You are calling us to take action and what we should do so that You can turn goodness into greatness in our lives.  Amen!









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