A 5-foot-7 guy wins a slam dunk contest. A kid emerging from a volatile part of Chicago and a broken family becomes an NBA superstar. A 62nd-round draft pick develops into one of the greatest catchers in baseball history. A cyclist rises from his deathbed to win a record seven straight Tours de France.
Had anyone predicted these respective accomplishments for Spud Webb, Dwyane Wade, Mike Piazza and Lance Armstrong, they would have been dismissed by society as crazy. These men defied conventional wisdom, they defied the "odds" — a word I hate to use — and they conquered giants that made Goliath look like Verne Troyer (Mini-Me).
You've heard stories, both fictional and true, of the young athlete who got laughed at or dismissed when he expressed a desire to reach his sport's highest level. Even with all the potential he showed early on, I'm sure Tiger Woods drew some snickers from the golf establishment when his goal of surpassing Jack Nicklaus' 18 major victories was made public. Well, at 30 years old, Tiger's won 12.
Such feats are realized through faith and hard work. The former gives meaning to the latter, and the latter in turn fuels the former because of the success it breeds. Such symbiosis cultivates greatness. An athlete doesn't always have an articulated reason for why he believes he can achieve big things. If it's a result of overconfidence, then failure can bring delusion and bitterness. The ones who succeed the most are often the ones who aren't satisfied with their current level of performance, yet they know that they're good enough to improve and are motivated to work to that end.
The faith they have is immovable, immune to criticism and discouragement. They can see a future others can't comprehend.
My athletic accomplishments are minor and well in the past, but I can identify with the athlete who overcomes seemingly insurmountable obstacles. I've been called names, mocked and derisively dismissed for my Christian beliefs. I must be delusional to think a God created this world, sacrificed His own perfect Son for my sins, and promised that Son's return someday. I must be crazy to believe in a heaven and hell, to think that existence can be meaningful, to assert that the supernatural is as real as the ground I stand on.
Yet faith and hard work will keep me striving each day until everyone sees the truth. As with the athlete, my faith should motivate me to work and give my work value, and the fruit God produces through those works in turn bolster my faith. Unlike the athlete, I'm not dependent on myself. I'm strengthened by Christ and the sanctification process that continually improves me, if you will, as the day of ultimate victory draws nearer.
Laugh all you want. Maybe I can't fully articulate it, but I know what's possible — everything.