Today is “national signing day” for college football. If you follow the sport, you know what that means; if you don’t, you probably don’t care, but please stick with me for just a minute because there is an important point to be made. On national signing day, high school seniors from around the country declare which schools they are going to choose to attend to play college football. In preparation for that day, many recruiting guru’s set forth “star systems” to rank how good a prospect these players are perceived to be. 5-stars is a premiere prospect (there are only a handful of these guys each year), while 1 and 2-star guys are considered to be mediocre prospects at best. However, the number of stars by each player’s name is only a projection of how good somebody thinks he is/can be. The player hasn’t played a down of college football yet, nor is he ever guaranteed to take the field. While these projections are important to people in evaluating the talent a team is bringing in, they are not the final determining factor of how good a player or team is going to be.
From a spiritual perspective, it is interesting to consider how evaluators would rank the “spiritual prospects” of various people as they were “recruited” for the service of Christ. For instance, Paul would have been considered a 5-star recruit by anyone’s standard. He was highly educated, came from an excellent background, was extremely driven, and showed a zeal and intensity few would match. Put in football terms, he’s the recruit everyone would want. But what about someone like Peter? If one were analyzing him from the outside he would have been a 2-star prospect at best. He did not have an elite education, he was not raised in training for this kind of profession (he was a fisherman), he was young and impetuous at the time of his recruitment, and was inconsistent in performance. Nevertheless, both of these men shone brightly as preachers and great servants of God.
So, what’s the point? We all make projections about people in our minds even if they aren’t ever spoken verbally. I have seen many young preachers be heralded as, “the next great ______,” when it comes to preaching. Sometimes they are, sometimes they fail, lose course, or quit. Other times, individuals that nobody would have projected to be great servants in the kingdom have become exactly that. You see, just as with the stars next to a recruit’s name in football, our projections about someone’s prospects in service to God are based upon what we think they can or will be. The reality is, there is no way to know. A man who has the most clear and easy voice to listen to, whose family has been Christians for generations, and has gone to a great school of preaching may fall off the tracks, quit preaching, or leave the church altogether. Meanwhile, a young man with no background in the church, who has had a troubled youth and struggled through life, can wind up being a man who serves the kingdom with a vigor and love that few others match and bring many to Christ.
Projections do not determine results: the work-ethic, desire, love, and focus of each person does. Let us be careful not to say that someone would not make a good preacher, teacher, personal worker, or servant simply because of our perception of them and their background; nor should we say that someone is going to be the best in those areas for the opposite reasons. Instead, we need to encourage each Christian to reach their full potential in the service of Christ. Sometimes you’ll be surprised at everything someone can and will do in the service of Christ, other times you will be hurt and disappointed when they turn from the truth and fall away. Let us ever be those who “run the race” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27) with the desire to be the best we can be in the service of Christ and help those around us to do the same.