What Is the Value of an Olympics Medal?

The U.S. won 46 gold medals at this Summer Olympics.  How much is an Olympic medal worth?  Here are three possible answers.

FIRST, you can look at the actual value of the components that make up the parts of the medal.  The melted gold and silver in an Olympics gold medal is worth about $600 in current market prices.  The last time pure gold was used to make gold medals was at the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden.

The gold medal weighs 531 grams.  Of that, only 6 grams are actually gold plating – 6 grams is the minimum.  The rest is made of other materials.  If the entire medal was made of gold, it would be valued at $22,000!  The silver medal is less expensive to make.  The value of a silver medal is about $550.

There is also another reward associated with the medals.  The U.S. Olympics Committee awards athletes $25,000 for gold, $15,000 for silver, and $10,000 for bronze.  Those cash bonuses are considered taxable income.  The swimmer Michael Phelps has won more gold medals than anyone and is in the top tax bracket.  Phelps will have to pay an estimated $55,440 in income taxes for the 5 golds and 1 silver medal he won in Rio!

SECOND, each individual medal winner gets a lot of satisfaction by displaying their medals.  Some of the U.S. medal winners wore their medals to each of their meals, and even on their trips home.  Many are framed.  Each medal represents the achievement and reward of years of hard work.

THIRD, I think the greatest value of a medal is how athletes use the medal as a platform to do something for other people.  There are many stories about medal-winning athletes who have come back to America and have dedicated a portion of their time to challenging, encouraging, inspiring and helping young people.  When the medal opens a door to serve someone, that makes it more valuable!

The Polish discus thrower, Piotr Malachowski, recently said, “My silver medal is worth more than it was a week ago when I won it in Rio.”  He said this because he sold his medal in order to help pay for eye cancer medication for a three-year old boy named Olek.  Not many athletes would do that!  The value of Piotr’s medal is Priceless!

A similar incident occurred at the Invictus Games.  Britain’s Prince Harry was stunned when he handed a gold medal to an American swimmer, only for her to give it back.  Sgt. Elizabeth Marks, a 25-year-old military medic, won four events at the games, a Paralympic-style competition for wounded service members.  During the award ceremony, Marks, who suffered a hip injury in Iraq, asked Prince Harry to give the medal to the staff at England’s Papworth Hospital where she was treated after developing a near-fatal lung condition.  Marks said, “They absolutely saved my life.  I can’t thank the U.K. enough.”  That gold medal is Priceless!

While few people receive gold medals for competition in the Olympics, we may receive compensation and rewards for good things we have accomplished.  Each of those rewards will have a different value based on the component parts.  Each of those rewards will bring a certain degree of satisfaction to us.  Those things may be priceless.

But when we give away a reward in order to make a difference in someone else’s life, it makes that reward extremely valuable.  In Matthew 25, Jesus said that what we do for people who are hungry, without clothes, in prison, etc., is precisely the way we treat Him.  He said, “In as much as you do this for one of the least of these, you have done it for me.”  Something done for Jesus is Priceless!

Every day, we live our lives competing.  Make sure the reward is worth the effort.  Spend your time and energy on the medals that are Priceless!

God’s Scoreboard

I enjoyed watching the Olympics and was proud of the tremendous victories of Team USA.  It was really interesting to watch a lot of sports that I don’t see often.

What intrigued me most was the variety of scoring systems in different sports.  USA was the big winner in gymnastics, but I had trouble keeping score.  Watching those men and women perform on the balance beam, floor exercise, the rings, etc., was amazing.  But I couldn’t tell the exact score.  Even the TV commentators predicted scores but the judges did not agree.  The same thing occurred in diving, synchronized swimming and other sports.

But the winners came from those who understood the scoring system and won based on how the sport was scored.  You have to understand the scoring system to compete effectively.  I might go out this afternoon and play a game and score a 75.  That would be real good if I were playing golf – it would be very poor if I were bowling!

In sports you have to understand the scoring system.  Do you need more points or fewer points than your opponent?  I have a grandson who was on last year’s state champion cross country team.  His team had the lowest score and won the state championship by one point.  You want a low score in cross country because it indicates your runners finished ahead of the others.  I have other grandchildren playing football, baseball and soccer.  Their teams try to score a lot of points because the team with the most points wins.  In most of the running events in track, the lowest score wins.  In soccer and in diving, the highest score wins.

The most important game is the game of life.  God has a different scoring system than we do.  If we are going to win at this most important game, we must understand God’s scoring system.  It is very different from our scoring system.  Here are some examples:

  1. Giving versus getting.  The world says we should strive to get all we can, and we measure success by how much a person gets.  God’s scoring system is exactly the opposite.  He says it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).  He says, “For anyone who keeps his life for himself shall lose it; and anyone who loses his life for me shall find it again” (Matt. 16:25).  The givers win – the getters lose.
  2. Being served versus serving.  The world’s scoring system counts how many people are serving you.  God’s scoring system is the opposite (Read Matt. 20:28).   He doesn’t count the number of people that serve a  person, but rather how many each of his followers serve.  Successful business people are not those who have the most people working for them, but those who are willing to work for the most people.
  3. Strength versus weakness.  The world says the strongest will prevail.  God’s scoring system is different.  He says that power is not in our own strength but in our willingness to trust and obey Him.  When we think we are strong, we develop pride and overestimate what we can do.  When we recognize what we can’t do, we turn to God and trust His power.  God’s scoring system is not based on size, strength or numbers, but on obedience and trust in Him.  Paul wrote, “When I am weak, then I recognize my real strength” (2 Cor. 12:9-10).  Read the story of Gideon in Judges 6.

Albert Einstein once said, “Everything that counts can’t be counted, and everything that can be counted doesn’t always count.”  If you want to be a winner – you must follow God’s scoring system.

What’s the score?

Time to Exercise – No Excuses!

Exercise and fitness have become big business in today’s culture.  Because exercise addresses many important aspects of life, we shouldn’t just give it lip service, but take it seriously and become engaged.

I had an opportunity to serve as one of the first members on the Governor’s Committee on Physical Fitness when it was formed in 1966.  I learned enough that I wanted to do my best to stay physically fit.  I’ve always enjoyed competing in basketball, tennis, racquetball, etc.  Physical exercise has been a tremendous asset for me not just physically but also mentally, emotionally and spiritually.  (Tweet this)

Today there are a lot of up-to-date studies that verify things that I’ve always believed.  Not only does exercise make us feel better, but it can help deter a lot of things that are challenges as we grow older.

New research suggests that strenuous physical activity can slow brain aging by as much as ten years.  The Los Angeles Times reported a study of 876 older adults which tracked their physical activity and tested their memory and thinking skills.  The study showed that participants’ brain functions were closely tied to how physically active they were.  Strenuous exercise such as running and aerobics had the highest scores and lowest risk for memory loss and decline in executive function.  Other people engaging in less intense exercise activities such as walking and yoga produced moderate benefits.  For people who were sedentary, their brains looked a decade older than the brains of their very active peers.

A good time to start treating your brain well is now.  Researchers say that rigorous exercise improves vascular health, increases blood flow to the brain, and keeps the brain healthier into old age.

One of the challenges in today’s culture is Alzheimer’s disease, which has struck 46 million people worldwide.  CBSNews.com reports that the National Institutes of Health study found that people who are overweight at age 50 can be more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease sooner than their healthy weight peers.  This research tracked the BMI (body mass index) ratio of weight to height of 142 people who eventually developed Alzheimer’s.  They found symptoms of the disease six and a half months earlier for every step up on the BMI chart.  The lead author of this study, Madhav Thambiesetty, concluded, “Understanding how risk factors in midlife may accelerate the onset of Alzheimer’s can speed efforts to develop interventions and treatments.”

The journal Cell Metabolism has indicated that physical activity can change your DNA – for the better.  Alice Park writing for Time magazine reminds us that “we are stuck with the genes we’ve got, but it turns out you can change the way they behave with consistent exercise.”

A lot of people try to get around the responsibility of exercise.  Remember – the Bible says that our body is a temple (I Cor. 6:19).  An overweight friend said that he had added a fellowship hall to his temple and was rapidly becoming a megachurch!  One patient told his doctor, “I exercise religiously – one push-up and I say ‘Amen!’”  Another man reported that his doctor said he and his wife needed more exercise, so he went out and bought himself a set of golf clubs.  His neighbor said, “That’s good, and what have you bought for your wife?”  He replied, “A lawn mower.”  Joey Adams said, “If it weren’t for the fact that the TV set and the refrigerator are so far apart, some of us wouldn’t get any exercise at all.”

Some have tried to find some “logical excuses” for avoiding exercising by saying – “A whale swims all day, only eats fish, drinks water, but is still fat.”  “A rabbit runs and hops and only lives 15 years, while a tortoise doesn’t run and does mostly nothing, yet it lives for 150 years.”  “Did you say ‘extra fries . . . or exercise?’”

Instead of putting off or finding excuses, begin exercising today!  Treat your brain, body and soul to a more healthy future.  Don’t forget to exercise daily your spiritual life.  “Physical exercise has some value, but godliness is valuable in every way.  It holds promise for the present life and for the life to come” (I Tim. 4:8).

A Young Man With the Right Answers

How would you introduce yourself?  What words would you use to communicate to somebody who you are?

I had a great young friend who did that.  Nathan Harris was an outstanding athlete and a tremendous young person.  About a year ago, Nathan’s coach had asked him to write his own introduction for a special event.  He finished high school and was completing his first year at Troy University.  He was involved in a terrible accident on April 30, 2016 that took his life.

In late August 2016, Gulf Shores High School retired Nathan’s number and jersey.  The two schools where he played, state champion Spanish Fort and Gulf Shores, gathered at the 50-yard line for the ceremony and joined hands and prayed.  The State of Alabama and the City of Gulf Shores planted trees in his honor.  They also both erected plaques which contain the introduction Nathan wrote to describe himself.  They read:

My name is Nathan Harris.  I am a son, brother, brother in law, uncle and grandson.  I am a student, quarterback, shortstop, spear fisherman, hunter, fisherman.  I spent the first 15 years of my life growing up on a cattle farm.  I am proud to be an American, Southerner and Alabamian.  All of these labels may say something about me but the only thing that defines me is my relationship with Jesus Christ.  More than ever I have seen how things don’t always go as planned.  Injury can change so much in sports but God is always faithful.  I don’t know what the future holds or where I will be this time next year but I do know it will be exactly where God wants me to be.

I met Nathan’s grandparents, Dr. and Mrs. Andy Harris, when I first moved to Montgomery in 1972.  They were new to Montgomery as well.  I remember going to visit them in their home after they visited Frazer one Sunday.  They joined Frazer, and Andy and Kay became two of the best leaders the church has ever had!

They had two wonderful boys, Johnny and Scott.  I watched them grow up.  Johnny married Carol, a member of Frazer.  They had two daughters and then came Nathan.  They moved out of town.  I followed Nathan’s athletic career with great interest.  He was an extremely talented athlete.  More importantly, he was a Godly young man.  He influenced countless people with his friendship and Christian witness.

Nathan understood his priorities.  He wanted everybody to know that of all the things he had accomplished in his life, the thing that defined him was his relationship with Jesus Christ.  He had a terrible football injury that robbed him of one year of high school football, but he had a great attitude toward that injury.  He knew who he was and Whose he was.

It’s an amazing thing that one year ago he wrote, “I don’t know what the future holds or where I will be this time next year but I do know it will be exactly where God wants me to be.”  His faith was so strong when he wrote those words, and I know that today he is in a Place enjoying life much better than he ever enjoyed here!  It is a statement of faith to know that he is exactly where God wants him to be.

What defines us?  What (who) is most important to us?  What kind of attitude do we have in times of hardship?  How committed are we to always stay in God’s will?  Do we know for sure Who holds our future?

Nathan Harris had those answers.  Do we?

Is That the Truth?

Do you ever have trouble delineating whether something is true or not?  Our society today is inundated with social media and television reporting “facts” in things that have happened.  But are they really true?

Some scientific reports have been tainted by lack of truth.  Last year a highly respected journal Science had to distance itself from a New York Times’ major headline-generating study on same-sex marriage.  One of the social scientists doing the study falsified the information received and turned it into a scam.

Last year Japanese researchers reported a breakthrough on stem-cell research.  It was based on a scientist’s falsified results.  In 1998 phony data was used to link autism to childhood vaccines.  A scientist stated that “every day, on average, a scientific paper is retracted because of misconduct.”

The world of entertainment has experienced misrepresentations of truth.  Remember the rock star NBC news anchor Brian Williams?  He appeared on all the late night talk shows and hosted “Saturday Night Live.”  He was considered the number one news anchor and was recently ranked as one of the most trusted people in America.   Investigations showed he wasn’t always telling the truth.  At first there were two or three incidents reported.  An investigation later showed there were 11 additional stories where Brian Williams did not tell the truth.

This problem also touches the world of religion.  Remember Alex Malarkey who was critically injured in a car crash?  He wrote a book, The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven, in which he told how an angel took him through the gates of heaven where he met Jesus.  This book sold millions of copies.

This past year Alex admitted that it never happened.  He said, “I did not die.  I did not go to heaven.  I said I went to heaven because I thought it would get me attention.”  He lived up to his name – “Malarkey!”  Recently a couple of “Christian” musicians admitted they lied about their faith and used Christianity only to sell records.

This past year we saw Philippine President Benigno Aquino tell a lot of untruths in order to white wash last January’s disastrous police massacre.  The president sent special police forces to Mamasapano to arrest two alleged bomb makers.  This was a stronghold of Islamist militants.  The entire operation was badly planned and the police were ambushed.  Forty-four officers were killed – the largest loss of elite forces in Philippine’s history.  Aquino didn’t tell the truth about his ordering the operation, then he didn’t tell the truth about his refusal to send a rescue mission.

Lack of truth has also hit the sports world.  Penn State is learning about consequences.  The world champion New England Patriots will be without their starting quarterback for a few games because of “Deflategate.”  Four great American Olympian swimmers couldn’t tell the truth in Rio.  A lot of college athletic programs are on some kind of probation because of disregarding the truth about adhering to rules.

Sometimes we think repeating a lie will make it come true.  Falsehood is false regardless of how many times we say it!  (Tweet this)

The first step in determining truth is to recognize genuine truth.  Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life” (John 14:6) and “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:36).  Solomon writes, “Lies will get any man into trouble, but honesty is its own defense.  Telling the truth gives a man great satisfaction . . . Truth stands the test of time.  Lies are soon exposed” (Prov. 12:13-14; 19).

And that’s the truth!

What Is It Worth?

How good are we at determining the value of things? Some people are experts in their field such as a car salesman who has to know the value of a trade-in vehicle, or a person examining a piece of jewelry, or an appraiser giving a value to an antique. These things are important, but in everyday life we all have to make value judgments.

Kevin Nguyen is 16-years old and TJ Khayatan is 17. They were visiting the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and were somewhat amused that some of the museum’s exhibits were considered art.

The boys decided to conduct an experiment to see how smart the people were in determining the value of museum artwork. Kevin and TJ decided to create their own artistic piece. They took Kevin’s glasses and placed them on the floor. Sure enough, visitors started crowding around and mistakenly took them for an avant-garde exhibit. People were taking photos. It was just a pair of glasses on the floor! The teenagers got a big laugh out of the event. I doubt if the Museum of Modern Art staff thought it was very funny!

Stephen Fletcher is an appraiser on Antiques Roadshow. Once he was given a “grotesque face jug,” and he dated it to the late 19th century and valued it at $50,000.

A viewer was watching the show and called to say she recognized the piece, and that it had been made by her friend Betsy from an Oregon high school ceramics class in the 1970s. Betsy Soule, now a horse trainer, confirmed the story and produced a photo of herself as a teen surrounded by several similar looking sculptures. Stephen, the appraiser, admitted he had been very wrong and downgraded his estimate of value to $5,000.

What is the value of a one dollar bill? The value of the dollar might be dropping, but some one dollar bills may be worth more than the face value. Brian Hershberg in the The Wall Street Journal says that if it has the right serial number, a one dollar bill can bring a lot of money as a “fancy bill.”

A low serial number – 00000046 – recently carried a bid for $114 on eBay. If serial numbers ascend or descend (like 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8) called “ladders,” they are quite valuable as are those bills with “radars” where the numbers read the same back and forth (1 2 3 4 4 3 2 1) and “repeaters” (like 2 0 1 5 2 0 1 5). Don’t spend too much time checking the serial numbers on your one dollar bills! Some are very valuable, but there are very few of them.

You can find something valuable in the least likely places, if you are alert and looking for it. Lindsay Hasz was eating a plate of mussel and clam linguini at a favorite Italian restaurant in Washington State. She bit down on something hard and spat out the offending item. It turned out to be a spherical, purple stone, identified as a rare gem stone produced by saltwater clams and valued at over $1,600. Even a good mouthful of food might have unexpected extra value!

Don’t let potential success blur how you see your values. Last winter, Leslie Binns was just 500 meters from the summit of Mount Everest when he abandoned his attempt to reach the peak in order to save another climber. The British army veteran was preparing his final ascent when he saw Sunita Hazra, an Indian climber, sliding down the mountain. He saved Sunita’s life and helped her down the perilous descent back to camp, sometimes falling into waist-deep crevasses. He didn’t reach the top, but he made a far more valuable decision!

Let God help you determine the value you place on the price tags of life!

A General Who Served Us

Twenty-two years ago in Montgomery, a decorated brigadier general retired from the Air Force after 30 years of distinguished service.  He was encouraged by city leaders to help serve as leader of the Montgomery Area Food Bank (MAFB).  General Parke Hinman felt a calling to help people in need.  He wasn’t looking for employment, but he wanted the rest of his life to make a difference.  He accepted the challenge and went on to serve the MAFB for 22 years!  I attended his retirement in July.

Parke Hinman and his wife Cookie were active members at Frazer on two different occasions during his assignments at Maxwell AFB.  Parke became a good friend through our mutual interest in athletics.  He was the first person to letter in football, basketball, baseball and track at the United States Air Force Academy.  He is also one of only two people who ever had a perfect score on the original Air Force Academy and West Point physical fitness testing! 

Parke attended a high school in Washington State that required ROTC.  He chose Air Force ROTC because “his mother said he looked good in blue.”  He initially got a basketball scholarship to Washington State University.  But in his freshman year, the coach took back the scholarship because he said “he wasn’t good enough to play.”  That was the wrong thing to tell Parke!

He applied to the Air Force Academy, received a congressional nomination and was accepted.  He gave leadership to the football team that had a tremendous record.  He was the most valuable player on the basketball team which went to the NCAA tournament.  He set track records that lasted for years.  He didn’t quit when his first college coach told him he wasn’t good enough.  He knew God had something better in store for him.

I wouldn’t think that an Air Force General with 30 years’ service would really fit the role of being a servant leader in a mission like the food bank that serves so many people in need.  I was certainly wrong about that!  He had a fruitful ministry at the MAFB.  I am sure he gave a lot of orders as an Air Force General, but in a service ministry like MAFB, you have to put up with a lot of unjust criticism and not many thank you’s by folks whom you are serving.  Leaders know how to do that.  Parke is a leader!

When Parke assumed leadership at the MAFB, they were dispensing about 4 million pounds of food a year.  In 2015, the Food Bank dispensed over 23 million pounds of food!  When he started, they had 9 employees – today they have 31.  The Food Bank services 37 counties in Alabama – that’s over 50% of the counties!  Compared to food banks in other parts of the country, MAFB has less employees who dispense more food!

Parke and his wife Cookie have been married 52 years.  He is a great leader and a man of deep Christian commitment.  His son described Parke as “a person with 50 years of selfless service; a godly man, a coach, a mentor, a man of unequivocal integrity who is caring, compassionate, leads by example, and is a role model.”

His employees gave glowing reports about his leadership.  They presented him with a nice embossed plaque.  They composed the content of the plaque, which says in part, “You’ve always been the person who was encouraging us to look forward, leading with humility, honesty and courage, challenging us all to do better.  You have transformed us, and we are more than we ever dreamed we could be.  You have made a lasting impact on both your food bank family and the people we serve.”  Wow, that is coming from the folks who worked for him! 

Thanks to a leader who has served the people of Alabama so well.  This should be a call to each of us as to where God is calling us to serve.  Parke followed One of higher and greater rank who said “I didn’t come to be served, but to serve” (Matt. 20:28).  God is not interested in our rank, but in our willingness to go where He calls us.  Thanks, Parke and Cookie, for answering that call!

Burden Bearing

The Bible places a high priority on how we treat each other and work together.  Paul instructs us to “bear one another’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2).  Burden bearing blesses both parties.  Here are some current examples:

Rhemy Elsey is in the fifth grade in Peoria, Illinois.  He is deaf.  A group of his classmates have given up their recess time so they can learn sign language to better communicate with him.

The kids meet in the library every Wednesday at lunch to be taught by Rhemy’s interpreter, Tammy Arvin.  She explained that often deaf children feel isolated with adult interpreters who follow them around all day.  “So it’s wonderful to see him have interactions with students that are one-on-one.”  When Rhemy realized how much his classmates cared for him by learning to sign with him, he said, “It’s like they want to be like me.”

Landen Palatino was recently diagnosed with brain cancer.  He is a nine-year old from Springfield, Massachusetts.  Landen’s buddy, Brady Kahle, empathized and wanted to help his friend.  He has decided to sell his beloved baseball card collection to help pay for Landen’s treatment.  He has been collecting baseball memorabilia since he was three years old.  He has now earned more than $7,000 from his sales to help Landen.  He is even going to part with his prized signed ball by Baltimore Orioles legend Cal Ripken Jr. to help his friend.  Brady’s mom, Tina, says it is really incredible what Brady has done.  Most adults wouldn’t do that.

Two Pennsylvania middle schoolers, Andrew Mindy and Casandra Stewart, had to sit out their school’s music classes because each has only one hand.  But now they can play along with other students thanks to a 3-D printer and a talented ninth-grader, Nicholas Brown.  Nicholas spent the past year designing two custom prosthetic hands:  A right hand guitar strummer for Casandra, and a left-hand drumstick gripper for Andrew.

Nicholas has made it possible for Andrew and Casandra to participate in music class.  What we cannot do by ourselves, we can join with somebody else and make beautiful music!

Even the corporate world is emphasizing empathy as a means to improve management, retain employees and influence design decisions.  The Wall Street Journal reports that about 20 percent of U.S. employers now offer some empathy training.

At Ford Motor Company, newly hired design engineers don weighted “empathy bellies” to simulate the experience of being pregnant.  This training has led to ergonomic tweaks in the company’s vehicles.  People will be safer, but those new empathy skills have also been a boost to the bottom line.  The top ten businesses on the 2015 Global Empathy Index, which examines factors like how well companies treat workers and communicate with customers, generated 50 percent more income per employee than the 10 lowest ranked firms!

How quickly are we willing to go to those in need?

Martin Aircraft has spent the last 35 years trying to develop a personalized jetpack which can carry one passenger weighing up to 265 pounds more than 3,000 feet in the air.  It’s gasoline powered and can take off and land vertically, “meaning rooftops, gardens and parking lots are all viable launch pads.”  It will go on sale in 2017, and isn’t being marketed as an “expensive toy” but as a device for first responders.  The idea is that it can quickly get to people in need, even in tight, hard to reach spaces.

Burden bearers already have spiritual jet packs provided by God to get to people in need quickly!

Fighting – Finishing – Faith

When you pick someone to fight, be careful about the illusion of outward appearance that can be deceiving. Nobody except God would have picked the little shepherd boy David to fight a nine-foot tall Philistine Goliath. (Tweet this) What you see on the outside doesn’t always measure what is on the inside! An old adage says “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog!”

Let me give you some modern examples of effective fighters:

A Brazilian mugger recently attempted to rob a woman. She appeared to be an easy target. Little did he know that she was a mixed martial arts champion. Monique Bastos, 23, is a professional MMA fighter. She knocked the man to the ground and wrapped her legs around his neck in a “lion killer choke” until police arrived. It was videoed by an onlooker. The mugger picked the wrong woman to deal with!

A great American fighter died in 2015. His name was Ben Kuroki. When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, Ben wanted to enlist in the U.S. Army Air Force. He was rejected by recruiters – they doubted his loyalties since he was the son of an immigrant Japanese farmer.

Ben drove 150 miles to another Army recruiter who signed him up. He had to endure a lot of doubts and racial slurs, but once people began to see his skills, they made him a B-24 tail gunner. Despite the policy that people of Japanese descent could not serve aboard bombers, Ben flew missions over North Africa. The rule was superseded because of his superb talents. He said, “For the first time I belong.”

He also went on missions in northern Europe and took part in raids over Nazi oil fields in Romania. 310 fliers in his group were killed. When he finished 25 missions, the policy was to let people go home. Kuroki insisted on flying more raids “to prove my loyalty.” By outward appearances, he was considered “ineligible.” But inwardly he made a difference in American history. His crew mates nicknamed him “Most Honorable Son.” In 2005, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal. At the ceremony, he said, “I had to fight for the right to fight for my own country, and now I feel vindication.”

Another Japanese American who fought a different kind of fight is my friend Rev. Ben Sawada. He was constantly fighting against Satan who seeks to destroy – Ben always won! He grew up in Mobile, Alabama and entered the Methodist ministry. He had to endure the same kind of doubts and racial slurs that all Japanese Americans endured during the 1950s and 1960s. Ben is one of the finest Methodist ministers I’ve ever known. I’ve spoken at a lot of churches where he has served, and he is always referred to as one of the most beloved pastors of that church.

Ben Sawada has a keen sense of humor. He once was invited to speak at a banquet that drew people from several states. A high ranking Methodist was also at the head table and just assumed Ben couldn’t speak English. He made such statements as “like-ee tea or like-ee coffee? Like-ee food?” Ben said nothing. After Ben gave a stirring speech using impeccable English, he sat down, and the man and his table mate were embarrassed and astonished. Ben, in his inimitable way, looked at him, smiled and said, “Like-ee speech?”

Whether you are fighting giants, muggers, American enemies, or Satan’s forces – don’t judge an effective fighter by an outward appearance. Be sure you are wearing the full armor of God (Eph. 6:10-18). Be like Paul who finished his career saying “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (II Tim. 4:7-8).

Are you ready to fight, finish, and keep the faith?

Perseverance Pays Off!

Adrianne Haslet-Davis was one of the spectators at the 2013 Boston Marathon when she experienced the explosions ripping through the crowd.  She lost the lower part of her left leg.  While recovering, she set a goal to run the Boston Marathon someday.

This year, 2016, she did just that.  She is 35 years old and had to stop at the seventh mile for an hour because her stump began to swell up, causing problems for her prosthetic running leg.  She kept thinking, “I can’t pull out.”  She knew she had to finish.  She gave a lot of credit to her “pit crew” on whom she leaned in order to experience the emotional finish.  She said, “If you put your mind to something, you can get there.”  That’s perseverance!  No quit in Adrianne!

Ingeborg Sylim-Rapoport was a student in Nazi Germany.  She was not allowed to complete her doctorate because her mother was Jewish.  Getting that PhD was a dream she had. 

She was 102 years old last year when she got a second chance of finishing her education at the University of Hamburg.  The university officials heard about her case on her 100th birthday.  This is 80 years after she had written her thesis on Diphtheria.  She successfully took her final oral exam and graduated magna cum laude!  At 102 years old – she never quit.  She accomplished her goal, and she did it in fine order!  That’s perseverance!

Micah McDade was born with cerebral palsy and has been confined to wheelchairs his entire life.  His goal was to receive his diploma standing on his feet.  He went through two grueling years of physical therapy, conducted largely in secret.  Micah’s big day came when he made his way across the stage at his graduation from Okmulgee High School in Oklahoma in June 2016.  He shocked his fellow students and parents by slowly rising from his wheelchair and taking his first steps.  Everyone at the graduation ceremony erupted with applause.  The announcer said, “Ladies and gentlemen, I have been doing this a long time, but this is the best ever!”

Michael Valudreuil had a plastering business that went out of business eight years ago.  He got a job as a college custodian cleaning classrooms at Massachusetts Worcester Polytechnic Institute.  WPI employees could take classes free.  He started studying engineering.  He worked his classes and his studying around his custodial job.  In June 2016 he graduated with a mechanical engineering degree. 

His accomplishment made national news, and job offers started pouring in.  He has accepted an engineering position at a Connecticut aerospace firm.  Michael didn’t quit, and his degree and his job are value rewards for his perseverance.

How many times do you think Adrianne, Ingeborg, Micah and Michael thought about quitting?  They went through a lot of tough times, but quitting did not seem to be an option for any of them.  They endured and persevered and continued until they finished!

Winston Churchill, speaking at Harrow School, his alma mater, said, “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never – in nothing great or small, large or petty – never give in!”  Thomas Edison said, “Our greatest weakness lies in quitting; the most certain way to succeed is always to try one more time.”  I remember my Dad saying, “It’s always better to have one simple goal and complete it than to have a big goal and never get around to finishing it.” 

We are reminded in Hebrews 12:1 to run our race with perseverance and never give up.  Paul said that good works always produce a harvest if we do not give up (Gal. 6:9). 

Perseverance pays off!