Monday, July 26, 2010

The Tests Of Life part 2

The Tests Of Life part two

Perhaps the biggest challenges in life are those which come when least expected. When one can prepare one’s self for a pending disaster, one has a sense of preparation, which builds a level of confidence. Not so, with those “out of the blue” experiences. These are the ones that often take the wind out of our sails and throw the compass off “true north”.

“True heroism consists in being superior to the ills of life, in whatever shape they may challenge us to combat” ~ Napoleon Bonaparte

I believe the only thing we take with us when we die, is the character we formed whilst on it. Not the accolade of man, nor the trappings and treasures we have accumulated. The legacy we leave behind is the example we showed during the times of adversity and blessing. Yes that’s right! The way we handle good times is equally as challenging to our character as the bad times.

“Praise and criticism should go in the rubbish bin”. This was a piece of wisdom I was given in my formative years of public speaking. Both can kill you. Either ones ego becomes bolstered and we get a big head or it gets deflated and we lack confidence to continue.

“The Lord gets His best soldiers out of the highlands of affliction.”
Charles H. Spurgeon (English preacher of 19th century 1834-1892)

Life has the capacity to makes us “bitter or better”. Like the analogy of the uncut diamond, its true beauty is only created under extreme pressure and released through being ground and cut. Amazingly, its true value is only ever achieved when the work has been done. As with life, it will either polish us up or grind us down.

If we are smart in handling the tests in life, we will be better equipped when they come around next time. The tests we encounter in life are constant. They are not like a grade test; they are continual. The way we respond to them determines their frequency.

“Wisdom is the right use of knowledge. To know is not to be wise. Many men know a great deal, and are all the greater fools for it. There is no fool so great a fool as a knowing fool. But to know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom.” Charles H. Spurgeon

Seasons come around each year and with them comes preparation particular to that season. The key is being prepared with the tools that are applicable to that season. Have you ever tried to plant potatoes or strawberries in winter? Not only is the ground hard and difficult to prepare, but any effort to plant, will soon suffer the consequences of that season.

Here are some tests that we all face during our lifetime.

1. The Time Test - Not everything happens as we would like it. However, all things in life have a time frame that if we mess with, we suffer the consequences. A premature baby requires more resources, more attention and care, so it is with a dream or vision that is ahead of its time. Your gift and talent may well open the door for you, but it’s your character that will keep you there. Character is formed through tests. Hijack this process and rest assured there will be a re-sit.

2. The Character Test – Boundaries and Values:
'Be more concerned with your character than with your reputation. Your character is what you really are while your reputation is merely what others think you are'. John Wooden, former coach of the UCLA Bruins basketball team, quoted in Sanctity of Life, C. Swindoll, Word, 1990, p. 91.

“If we don’t stand for something we will fall for anything”.

Boundaries are imposed limits that both restrict and safeguard our limitations. To live outside of a boundary is to welcome tests. These are laws.
“Surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of man he is. If there are rats in a cellar, you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats; it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way, the suddenness of the provocation does not make me ill-tempered; it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am. C.S.Lewis

One of my mentors (some 20 years ago), told me what he considered to be the two most important criteria for selecting his male leaders.

1. Whether they picked litter up or walked past it.
2. How they treat their wives.

It never made sense to me until years later and now it does.

Fame is a vapor,
Popularity an accident.
Riches take wings.
Only one thing endures,
Horace Greely