The highly touted rookie raced down the sideline on a fly pattern. His blazing speed left his defender in the dust. He was wide open for a certain touchdown when future Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana hit him perfectly in stride. The ball floated gently into his hands … and went right through them, hitting the turf and turning the touchdown into an incomplete pass and a lost down. What should have been a long scoring play turned into a lost opportunity.
I was horrified. Chatting with fellow Forty-Niners fan Pastor Jim Gardiner, I expressed my disgust. But Jim surprised me with his reply. “You mark my words,” Jim said. “He’ll be a superstar some day.”
He was right. Jerry Rice did make something of himself … just the greatest receiver in football history.
You don’t give up on someone with great potential just because he dropped the ball once. You give him another chance and watch for him to learn and improve.
Years later, another highly touted rookie came up. He, too, dropped a certain touchdown pass, but his similarity to Rice ended there. He dropped another, then another … and another. It became habitual. Dropped passes marked his entire career. He was traded, more than once, and continued dropping balls for his new teams.
In this player’s case, he (and his teams) would have benefited if a coach had displayed enough insight to change his position … or direct him to another vocation.
The church can do a disservice to people both ways: by not giving a gifted person enough opportunity to learn and develop, or by keeping a person in a ministry where he/she is not gifted.
It was not simply raw talent that made Rice a superb receiver; it was also hard work. It has long been noted that no one prepared harder for a game than Rice did, even after he had made his mark.
Local church leadership should help believers find the position they are best gifted for, but it’s up to each Christian to put in the effort, assisted by the Holy Spirit, to be the very best they can be for Jesus.
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