Running with the Giants : What the Old Testament Heroes Want You to Know About Life and Leadership
How would the legendary figures in the Bible advise us today? We're running the race of our lives and it's a long one. We need encouragement along the way a cheering grandstand or a personal trainer or two. John Maxwell reminds us that even in a modern world, the greatest inspiration is still found within the pages of the Old Testament. In RUNNING WITH THE GIANTS, Maxwell brings those great personalities to life. David would remind us how to overcome adversity. Noah would tell us not to fear doing the impossible. And Rebekah would urge us to give and serve generously. Each of these and the many other biblical figures Maxwell examines can motivate believers toward their personal best in the marathon of life.
Author Biography: John C. Maxwell is the founder of INJOY Group, and organization dedicated to helping people maximize their leadership potential. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia.
Leadership guru Maxwell, who successfully bridged secular and Christian markets with such motivational titles as The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership and Developing the Leader Within You, draws on Old Testament paragons in this gifty inspirational hardback. Maxwell asks readers to envision the great "cloud of witnesses" (Heb. 12:1) said to surround us as we run the marathon of life, imagining that this cloud includes "the giants of the faith"-biblical heroes whose lives impart meaningful lessons. He includes the usual suspects: the David-tackles-Goliath tale demonstrates how people can rise above their limitations, while Noah exemplifies a willingness to take new risks (i.e., build a boat when no one had seen rain before). But there are bolder moments, too. Maxwell uses Rebekah as a model of generous giving (a welcome and underutilized virtue in business titles) and provides some gee-whiz facts to drive the point home: he estimates that to water Jacob's 10 camels, Rebekah needed about 200 gallons of water, requiring 40 trips to the well with a five-gallon jug. Such specificity helps to put a face on the virtues extolled here and offers readers a bit of insight into the Bible. Despite Maxwell's overarching metaphor of a marathon, though, the book as a whole feels more like a breathless sprint-intriguing points are raised throughout, but these promising gems lack development.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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September 23, 2002
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Excerpt from Running with the Giants by John C. Maxwell
One Person Can Make a Difference
It's often said that life is a marathon. But I think it's much more challenging than that. When track athletes line up to run a marathon race, they know that a finish line awaits them exactly twenty-six miles and 385 yards ahead. For the very best runners, the finish comes in a little over two hours. They know before they start approximately how much time it will take to finish. And though they run most of the race on the open road, they often finish the course in a stadium of cheering fans.
The race of life is very different because you never know where the finish line is until you're actually crossing it. As I write this, I have been running my life-race for five and a half decades. I don't know where or when my race will come to an end, but I suspect that I am somewhere in the second half of it. You may be closer to the start, or you may be nearer to the end, but know that you are also in the race.
When I read that we are surrounded by "so great a cloud of witnesses" and that we should "run with endurance the race that is set before us" (Heb. 12:1), I picture myself running into a stadium filled with the giants of the faith. But unlike the Olympics, I'm not entering the stadium to finish the race. I am doing it mid-race to receive encouragement from the people of faith who are watching me run.
Join me. You and I can enter that stadium together. While we run for a while on the oval track, you and I can receive energy from the crowd. They will inspire us to run faster and with more confidence--not only in the stadium, but also back out on the open road. And that will serve to empower us and keep us running the race until our Creator tells us we're done.
As you and I enter the stadium and begin our first circuit of the track, we see an ancient man coming out of the stands to greet us. His face is weathered, his hands are boney, and there is a hobble in his gait. He is far older than any other human being we've ever seen. As you and I approach him, we are surprised to find that he manages to fall in step alongside us. He turns to us and says: "One person can make a difference."
He continues, "I know because when God decided to destroy the earth with water, He made a covenant with me so that humankind might not perish" (Gen. 8:21).
We realize, of course, it's Noah. The Bible says he lived to be 950 years old. Quite an accomplishment. But that's nothing compared to the way he lived his life. His righteousness saved humanity from extinction. The book of Genesis explains the world's condition during Noah's time. It says:
Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the Lord said, "I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them." But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. (6:5-8, emphasis added)
Making a Difference
As we run with Noah, he shares encouraging words that offer five ways we can make a difference. He says:
You Can Make a Difference for Your Family
Living a life of integrity and obedience to God always has the potential to positively impact others. We don't always see it while we're fighting the good fight, but it happens just the same.
Noah was selected by God to build the ark because of the way he lived. Fortunately, his obedience didn't benefit just him. It also saved his family. Genesis 7:1 says, "The Lord then said to Noah, #Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation'" (niv). Those closest to you benefit most when you do what's right.
You Can Make a Difference for God's Creation
No one will ever again fulfill the special role Noah did, but you don't have to be a Noah to make an impact on your world. Each of us can make the place where we live better than it was when we found it. Think about how you can improve your little corner of the world.
You Can Make a Difference for Future Generations
Once a young man observed a man in his eighties planting an apple orchard. The old man lovingly and painstakingly prepared the soil, planted the tiny saplings, and watered them. After watching for a while, the young man said, "You don't expect to eat apples from those trees, do you?"
"No," the old man replied, "but somebody will."
Your actions can help those who come behind you. Because of God's covenant with Noah, we can be assured that we are safe from the worldwide destruction of a flood. Earth's inhabitants are still receiving the benefit that came from one man's life of righteousness. Likewise, you and I can also benefit future generations. When you serve people or influence them positively--and encourage them to pass along to others what they have received--you create a chain of impact that can outlive you.
You Can Make a Difference for God
Too often we fail to realize our importance to God. Scripture says, "For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him" (2 Chron. 16:9). God is always looking for someone to stand in the gap for Him, and He desires to partner with people who love Him.
That was the case for Noah. God was discouraged with the people He had created. Yet Noah found favor in God's eyes and caused Him to save humanity. Because of his relationship with God, Noah changed the course of history.
You Can Make a Difference at Any Age
Some people want to put restrictions on themselves according to their talent, intelligence, or experience. Others worry about their age. But with God, one person can always make a difference, regardless of circumstances or situation. And age means nothing to Him. When Jesus fed the five thousand, a boy provided the loaves and fishes (John 6:1-13). And in the case of Noah, when it began to rain and he entered the ark, he was six hundred years old! You're never too old--or too young--to make a difference for God.
Noah's Words of Encouragement
As we finish the circuit of the track and approach the end of our time together, Noah hurriedly shares a few last nuggets of wisdom with us:
"Don't be afraid to stand out in a crowd. I know what it means to stand alone. No one encouraged me to follow God, yet I stood for Him--even when everyone else in the world stood against me. Difference-makers are different. Don't let that bother you."
"Don't be afraid to do something for the first time. It was strange to build a boat far from any sea or river that could float it. And it had never rained before, so nobody could even imagine a flood. But I was more concerned with obeying God than looking foolish. So I just kept building. Don't allow the words #It's never been done' to prevent you from doing what God asks."
"When you see a rainbow, remember that one person can make a difference. I had never seen a rainbow until after I followed through on what God asked of me. He placed the rainbow in the sky as a covenant to humanity that He would never again destroy the world with water. The next time you see a rainbow, think of God's promise to you: You can make a difference!"
Noah's Prayer for Us
Please help my fellow runners to understand the power of one. Speak to them about the unique task You call them to, and give them the will and the power to follow through so that they, too, can make a difference.
And with that, Noah slows his gait and bids us good-bye. We watch as he returns to his place in the stands, and then we notice that a woman is coming out to run with us.
Noah's Discussion Guide
And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them. But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. (Genesis 6:7-8)
As Noah leaves to go back into the stands, we realize our time with him was too short. Our mind is flooded with questions we want to ask him. This discussion section gives us an opportunity to study Noah's message and reflect on what we have learned from him.
QUESTION FOR NOAH: How difficult was it to obey God and do something that seemed so foolish to others?
QUESTION FOR PERSONAL REFLECTION: How do you explain your own obedience to God to those who do not understand?
QUESTION FOR NOAH: Did your family ever try to discourage you from building the ark?
QUESTION FOR PERSONAL REFLECTION: Name a time when you did the right thing but your family thought it was the wrong thing. How did you respond?
QUESTION FOR NOAH: Was it hard to live a righteous life in such an evil environment?
QUESTION FOR PERSONAL REFLECTION: What helps you to do right when those around you are doing wrong?
QUESTION FOR NOAH: How did you feel when it began to rain and you realized that God's word was true and He was using you to make a difference?
QUESTION FOR PERSONAL REFLECTION: Name a time when God really "came through" and fulfilled a promise He made to you. Name a time when God used you to make a difference.
QUESTION FOR NOAH: What did you think every time you looked to the sky and saw a rainbow?
QUESTION FOR PERSONAL REFLECTION: Do you have tangible reminders of God's faithfulness to you? If so, what are they?