Inspiring Men and Women

Mark Roques

 

God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore ... he spoke three thousand proverbs and his songs numbered a thousand and five.  He described plant life, from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of walls.  He also taught about animals and birds, reptiles and fish.  Men of all nations came to listen to Solomon's wisdom, sent by all the kings of the world, who had heard of his wisdom.

1 Kings 4 29-34

 

This passage from the book of Kings should activate the most intense joy in any believer in the God of the Bible.  For we are all called to be curious and jolly as we explore this amazing world. Solomon was a poet, composer, botanist, zoologist.  How astonishing that he also found time to be king and master of such a gigantic harem!

 

In this article I want to give some very concrete examples of people who have struggled and are struggling (like Solomon) to serve God in different areas of life. It's easy to talk about dualism and the radical nature of the kingdom of God but most people (including many Christians) can seem both baffled and bemused by this kind of challenge.  Let's get simple and accessible and challenge dualism by giving concrete examples of people who reject dualism and serve God in non-churchy ways. We'll begin with a scientist.

 

The famous astronomer Johannes Kepler wrote of being “called” by God to use his talents in his work as an astronomer. In one of his notebooks, Kepler broke spontaneously into prayer:

 

“I give you thanks, Creator and God, that you have given me this joy in Thy creation, and I rejoice in the works of your hand.  See I have now completed the work to which I was called.  In it I have used all the talents you have lent to my spirit.” [1]


 

This prayer is wonderfully subversive in that it affirms the calling of any scientist and beckons us joyfully to understand the world that God has shaped and crafted so wisely. It would have been so tragic if Kepler had been persuaded to give up his work as a scientist and go 'full-time' for the Lord!

 

Let's now turn to a poet.  Gerard Manley Hopkins had an astonishing vocation as a poet.  This English wordsmith oozed talent and crafted this bobbydazzler:

 

The world is charged with the grandeur of God

It will flame out, like shining from shook foil.

It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil

Crushed. Why do men then now not wreck his rod?

Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;

And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;

And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell:  the soil

Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

 

It seems to me that Hopkins did not bury his poetic talent in the ground; like Solomon he beavered away in his cultural vineyard. We should be thankful for this. It would be very easy to continue this article by celebrating the intellectual and artistic talents of philosophers, novelists and painters but let's now turn to the 'little people' who can be so easily overlooked.

 

Harry S Trueman once said that banks are institutions that lend money to people who can prove that they don't need it. It was this prevailing attitude that led a young African-American Christian named Bob Lavelle to set up a bank that modelled an entirely different approach. In the 1950's in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, he founded the Dwellings House Savings and Loan Association.  It was established in one of the most economically disadvantaged areas of the city.  His aim was to serve those that were most in need of financial backing. This unusual bank offers the lowest possible rate of interest to those people considered far too risky by other, more orthodox banks. Lavelle's approach proved so successful that his association radically altered housing patterns in Pittsburgh and beyond. A brochure explains the logic behind this seemingly suicidal form of banking:

 

“Dwelling House attempts to reverse the traditional banking rule - by lending to people who may not be 'good risks', at the lowest practical interest rate. Our goal is to approach people with respect and through encouragement and patient financial counselling, to help them become good risks. This follows God's command to serve the poor and needy.”

 

Just like Kepler and Hopkins, Lavelle challenges the very core of dualism by integrating his faith with his 'full-time' profession.

 

Tony Campolo, in his excellent book Wake up America, writes movingly about a woman called Nancy. This American woman is crippled and confined to a wheelchair, yet she has embraced a stunning vocation. Nancy runs adverts in the personal section of her local newspaper that read:

 

“If you are lonely or have a problem, call me. I am in a wheelchair and seldom get out. We can share our problems with each other. Just call. I'd love to talk”.

 

The results have been amazing.  Each week at least thirty people contact Nancy and she spends her days counselling and comforting people.  When asked how she became crippled she replied that she had tried to commit suicide!  She went on to explain, "I was living alone. I had no friends. I hated my job, and I was constantly depressed. I decided to jump from the window of my apartment, but instead of being killed I ended up in the hospital paralysed from my waist down. The second night I was there Jesus appeared to me and told me that I'd had a healthy body and a crippled soul but from then on I would have a crippled body and a healthy soul. I gave my life to Christ right there and then. When I got out of the hospital I tried to think of how a woman like me in a wheelchair could do some good, and I came up with the idea of putting the ad in the newspaper. And the rest, as they say, is history."

 

These four people - the scientist, the poet, the banker and the extraordinary counsellor - can inspire and infuse us with a passion for the kingdom of God.

 

The Big Picture Volume2 Issue2 page 36

 



[1] Cited in Christopher Kaiser, Creation and the History of Science (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans), 1991, p. 127.