It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
— T. Roosevelt

Met a guy for coffee last week while I was on vacation. I knew that we shared the same name, that he was a graduate of my hallowed university, and that he carried a significant role in the local community. But even before a first meeting, the stories I heard of him told me I likely knew him in deeper ways than almost anyone that inhabits my day to day existence.

I liked him immediately. The humility in him, the strength, and the rebel in him (though he doesn’t like the label). Standing apart from the mainstream of the culture is rebellious, disruptive, and glorious to behold. I told him that I had an overwhelming urge to honor him even as I just met him, much like Paul honored the exploits he had simply heard about of the people in Thessalonica…

“For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that He has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere.”

He was finishing a rough year and his face was marred by dust and sweat and blood. He has strived valiantly… he is no timid soul.  The moistening of his eyes, but the twinkling in them still, tells me has known great enthusiasms, great devotions, and has spent himself in a worthy cause. He has known both the sweetness of victory and the pain of defeat.

He was not “weary of God’s service” but often “weary in it” as Schaeffer was known to say.

I am also aware that he knows how beautifully Teddy said something that was so right about being in the arena, but also missed the mark by a country mile.  For this man knows that it is neither his victory or his defeat.

“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.”

Both the humility and ability to withstand the enormous pressure of his Kingdom assignment, come from carrying the easier burden and lighter yoke of his Father. In his heart and mind, it is not to his credit or discredit. He is merely executing on the great call on his life that most of us seem to avoid.

But let me clarity something through what Augustan said:

“Without Him we cannot, but without Him, He will not.”

This is a gospel that invites our participation. We much choose to follow the path we were each uniquely created to walk. An act of volition is required. While he was chosen first, he chose to follow in kind.  It is not the successes and failures that I celebrate and attribute to this man, but the humility and courage of his conviction to follow. He is esteemed among men, most particularly, me.

As we were leaving, I told him I thought of this place often. This part of Colorado is holy ground to me and my family. When I think of it, I will think of him and the work he has set his shoulder, heart, and mind to. I asked him how I could pray for him and he handed me one of the greatest compliments I have received in a long time. He said…

“You already know.”