January 19, 2015
He was only 39.
It has been 20 years since my friend Bob Buford wrote his signature book, Halftime. I remember reading the manuscript – in a three-ring-binder – before its publication, and writing my endorsement.
Now 800,000 copies are in print; Bob’s challenge has been heard around the Christian world: why settle for success – in your career – when significance awaits – through your calling? The question seems appropriate when one reaches “halftime“ in life. The mystery: when, exactly, is halftime?
Life expectancy – for American Baby Boomers – is now calculated at 78 years for men, and 81 for women. Do the math: the game is half over – for Boomers – when you hit 40.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Baptist minister. He was 28 when he helped form the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and served as its president. He was 34 when he stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and delivered his timeless address, “I Have a Dream.” At 35, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He was only 39 when James Earl Ray assassinated him in Memphis, Tennessee. He was finished, before he was 40.
If King had waited for halftime to get busy about his life’s work, the history of race relations in America would have been profoundly different. You’d be at the office today…
“Halftime” is a great life strategy; the only better approach is the one that Dr. King employed: get in early, and get in big. Figure out what you’re here for, and get busy doing it.
He was only 33.
Jesus was 12 when his parents got distracted during a Passover pilgrimage to the temple in Jerusalem. They were in a group, traveling together, and were a day into their return journey to Nazareth when they noticed that their son was missing. Back to Jerusalem; three days of searching, and they find Jesus in the temple, dialoging with the religious teachers and wowing the crowds. Jewish mothers know how to play the guilt card: “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you,” (Luke 2:48). His amazing answer: he had to be about his Father’s business (v. 49).
For the next 18 years, his stepfather’s business – as a carpenter in Nazareth – was his focus. At 30, he transitioned from his stepfather’s business to his Father’s business. In just three years, he nailed it: “I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do,” (John 17:4).
The question for us all – for Bob Buford, for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., for the Lord Jesus Christ – is the same: why – exactly – are we here? And, when will the distractions of life give way to the meaning of life? What will it take for me to recognize, serve and accomplish the purpose that the Father had in placing me in this brief period of history that I call my lifetime?
Just a few weeks ago, we celebrated the King of Kings’ birthday. Today is the holiday connected with Dr. King’s birthday. What – exactly – did those two men do during their brief lifetimes? Together: between them, just 72 years of human life; less years than you and I will have, en toto.
Here’s an observation about both of those lifetimes: as leaders, they used their time and talent (neither had much to measure in terms of treasure) very strategically. Human leaders build monuments; historic leaders build movements. Brick and stone last awhile before they erode into dust; flesh and blood doesn’t erode, it explodes into exponential impact, over time.
Take a break today, but think about it: you’re no different than Dr. King. He had a dream, and he pursued it. He accelerated a movement that continued after his time passed. Are you accelerating a movement – the Great Commission – or are you building your own monument that will soon pass?