Sunday, September 09, 2007

Life is a Paradox: Least is Greatest

When you think about “the greatest”, what comes to your mind? One of the first things that come to my mind is the boxer, Muhammad Ali. I do think that he was a terrific fighter. Even more than a success in the boxing ring he was a terrific promoter of himself.

He tagged himself as the greatest and he said it often and he said it loudly. He is partially responsible for the success and popularity of a rather obscure sports announcer named Howard Cosell because of the way they used to banter with one another in interviews. During such times Ali would declare his greatness over and over.

For the record, he splashed into the national spotlight in 1965 when he defeated the reigning world champion, Sonny Liston. Ali knocked out Liston in the first minute of the first round. It was unthinkable at the time. Ali went on to fight 61 bouts. He delivered 37 knockouts. He won 56 times and lost only 5 times.

Was Muhammad Ali truly great?

This coming week I can guarantee that you will see some names and faces in the news. Every week these stars are on the covers of magazines. They are featured in dozens of news stories and appear on all the talk shows.

Is Paris Hilton great? How about Britney Spears or Justin Timberlake or Ashton Kutcher?

Most of you may not be willing to declare any of these pop stars as great. How about towering historical figures like FDR, Eisenhower, Reagan or Clinton? Each was President of the United States and arguably the most powerful man in the most powerful country in the world. Do any of them fit your definition of greatness?

What about high achievers in business? Some entrepreneurs changed forever the way business would be done. Is Henry Ford, John D. Rockefeller, Jack Welch or Bill Gates great?

Over the past couple of years Americans have been voting in record numbers concerning greatness. Is there any doubt that the winners of American Idol are great? After all, each of these winners received more votes cast by Americans than any elected President in history.

Fame is not greatness. Wealth is not greatness. Power is not greatness. We could all identify a lot of people who have been famous, wealthy and powerful and were far from greatness.

Jesus said, “Whoever is going to be great must be the servant of all.” (Mark 10:44)

Greatness is determined by what we give up. I think Jim is a great man. He wonders how I could think such a thing. I believe Jim is a great man because he willingly set aside his career, his goals and his aspirations in order to care for two little girls after the death of their mother. For the sake of loving his girls he sacrificed himself.

Every day we face opportunities and choices to serve, give, sacrifice and pour out something of our lives so that others are blessed. It all flies under the radar of a celebrity hungry culture but it is always noticed and celebrated by the One who matters most.

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