Thomas Edison. Colonel Sanders. Dr. Seuss. Walt Disney. Vincent Van Gogh. Albert Einstein. Helen Keller. Michael Jordan.
If I were to ask anyone to ascribe common adjectives to describe these famous figures, the words “successful” and “persistent” would probably appear on top of the list.
Thomas Edison, the man who revolutionized the world by inventing the light bulb, is known to have failed before succeeding — 1,000 times! Colonel Sanders was rejected repeatedly as he drove around the country, sleeping in his car and knocking on doors trying to promote his famous fried chicken recipe. Beloved author Dr. Seuss had his first book refused by 27 publishers. Vincent Van Gogh sold only one of his 800-plus paintings during his lifetime. Walt Disney was fired from a Missouri newspaper for “not being creative enough.” Six-foot-6-inch Michael Jordan was cut from his high school varsity basketball team his sophomore year for being a mediocre player at 5 foot, 11 inches tall. Albert Einstein did not speak fluently until he was about 9, causing teachers to think he was slow. He was later refused admittance to the Zurich Polytechnic Institute. Helen Keller could not see or hear. And yet, she persevered in creating her own communication systems and became a renowned author, lecturer and political activist.
We applaud their success and benefit from their genius. We cite them as icons of resilience and laud them as the crème de la crème in their field. But if you look at each of these people’s early life, you will see that rejection haunted them until someone believed in them. Thus, many of history’s “greats” were deemed insignificant, inadequate and sometimes even mad. They were almost missed, simply because those around did not look past their awkwardness, flaws or handicap, to realize that there was more than what met the eye.
Scriptures are filled with misfits as well. Men and women who were often viewed as unfit to be used, and yet, their stories of faith and trust in God have inspired and encouraged us for thousands of years.
Perhaps one of Scriptures’ greatest examples of an apparent inadequate and initially overlooked character is David, the shepherd boy turned king.
Israel, in her rebellion against God and desire to fit in with the surrounding nations, begged God for a king. God led the prophet Samuel to appoint Saul – a handsome, tall and strong man. Saul had the pedigree, looks, knowledge and capability to become a great king; however, his outward strength hid a weak character and idolatrous nature. After giving him chance after chance, God rejected Saul as king, and directed Samuel to anoint the next Jewish leader.
The prophet was led to Bethlehem of Judea, to the house of Jesse — a sheep breeder and devout Jew from the tribe of Judah.
Jesse had eight sons. When Samuel laid eyes on Jesse’s firstborn, he was certainly impressed. He thought to himself: “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.” But Scriptures say that God redirected Samuel’s focus immediately: “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Next, Jesse paraded seven of his sons before the prophet, none of which turned out to be God’s choice. It wasn’t until Samuel inquired if Jesse had any more sons that the patriarch thought of David.
An afterthought. The stinky, frail, shepherd boy was not even in his father’s radar! And yet, he was God’s chosen one. The very one rejected by society’s standards as a lowly shepherd and overlooked by those closer to him for his youth and small frame, became the king from whose lineage Israel’s Messiah would come.
Yes. A list of history’s “greats” would be incomplete without several Bible personalities, certainly including the young shepherd boy whose small frame inspired mockery, but whose character stood a head taller than everyone else.
When resilience meets a clean heart and strong faith, the result is a life that conquers limitations, defies the norm and can even be used by God to accomplish the impossible.
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