Is Hard Work Enough?

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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When I was a young coach, I had a middle-school student we'll call Billy. He was above average in strength and size but well below average in intellect. He didn't know odd from even and couldn't say the alphabet. But he did love sports. Out on the athletic field, Billy’s size and strength leveled the scales some for him.

As a seventh-grader, Billy was part of the school track team and did all right in the shot put and discus events where he could use his power. He never quite won either event, but he did well.

One spring, the team was building toward the league championship meet. In my youthful exuberance, I motivated the team by telling them to set goals and work to achieve them. We’d talked about this throughout the season.

One day Billy walked into my office. “You know, Coach, I did what you said. I set two goals for myself.”

I replied, “That’s great Billy! What are your goals?”

“I’m going to win the shot and the discus at the league championships,” Billy said and beamed.

I sank into my chair. How do I tell this disadvantaged boy about realistic expectations? I started, but the words drowned in his enthusiasm. He repeated my saying that we could achieve anything if we had goals and worked toward them.

The scene was set; all I could do was figure a way to console Billy after the meet, try to explain what I really meant and that the important thing was to give it his best effort. Privately, I rationalized that he might do fairly well in the shot put. He had come close to winning in some meets that year, but never even placed in the discus.

The day of the meet, I walked down to check the progress of Billy and the boys in the shot put. As I approached, they were all yelling at me. “Coach! Billy got first in the shot!” Wow. What a surprise, and what a relief. I could leave to concentrate on the rest of the meet. Billy would compete in the discus next, and my explanation to him later would be considerably easier. I would tell this mentally challenged youngster that he had achieved something in the shot and that the discus needed more work.

The rest of the track meet was going well. I was in the stands with the team, getting ready for the upcoming races, when two boys ran furiously up the stairs. “Coach, Coach! It’s Billy!” I froze. For an instant, wild thoughts ran through my head. “He did it, Coach! He won the discus!”

Standing down below the bleachers was a smiling Billy, medal in hand.

Each of our lives has stories that teach us. Billy’s medals teach me how the disciples probably felt in Matthew 17:14–20, when Jesus told a story about faith. You see, I believed what I told those boys about setting goals. I believed, but I didn’t have faith.

Faith is an action verb. Billy took words and put action behind them. He never doubted. He did what it took to gain the prize.

When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. "Lord, have mercy on my son," he said. "He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him."

"O unbelieving and perverse generation," Jesus replied, "how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me." Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed from that moment.

Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, "Why couldn't we drive it out?"

He replied, "Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."
Matt. 17:14-20