One Bad Apple
Watch out for the pitfalls.
BY ROBERT J. MORGAN
From childhood, Félix Carvajal of Cuba loved walking and running. During the Spanish-American War, he was a courier who ran from post to post, delivering dispatches. After the war he became a Cuban mail carrier.
One day Félix read about the 1904 Olympic games in St. Louis and decided to compete in the marathon. He raised enough money for the trip and arrived in St. Louis just as the race was set to begin. He was in street clothes and heavy shoes, and he hadn’t trained for the race. The marathon began in a stadium; then the runners headed to the streets. The weather in St. Louis was brutal — hot, humid, and dusty. In other words, just like Cuba. While other runners were overcome with the heat, Félix ran like a child, often stopping to joke with spectators. He was so far ahead that he stopped to eat some apples from an orchard alongside the road. Unfortunately, that gave Félix a stomachache, so he lay down for a quick nap.
One bad apple — and just like that, Félix lost the race.
Three other runners passed him up.
The apostle Paul told the Corinthians, “Don’t you know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way to win the prize” (1 Cor. 9:24). The writer of Hebrews said, “Let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us” (Heb. 12:1).
Too many people start out in life with more enthusiasm than maturity. Along the way, we should grow in maturity — but without losing our enthusiasm! How tempting to give in to the fatigue, turn aside, nibble some forbidden apples, and take a nap too close to the finish line!
In the Bible, the young man Joseph began with a lot of problems: He was forsaken by his brothers, sold into slavery, falsely accused of sexual assault, and imprisoned. Yet there’s nothing in the Bible telling us that he sank into despair and sinfulness. He undoubtedly faced times of intense disappointment and loneliness. But he trusted the Lord through thick and thin.
If there’s anything more amazing than how Joseph handled adversity earlier in life, it’s how he handled success later in life. Despite eventually arriving at fame and fortune, he continued to grow in the Lord.
As a young man, Joseph was shoved into a pit. But as a seasoned leader, he avoided the pitfalls of anger, lethargy, bitterness, vengeance, and preoccupation with success. Here are the best ways I know to avoid falling into the devil’s traps as we move from youth to maturity.
- Study your Bible and pray every day. Never miss a day. Or if you do, never miss two in a row. When I was 19 years old, some people showed me how to do this every morning, using a Bible, a simple notebook, and a pencil or pen. Now, 50 years later, I have a wide-margined Bible, a mechanical pencil, and a notebook with my prayer lists. When I meet with the Lord each morning, it’s not really a routine or a ritual; it’s a relationship.
- Keep a hymnbook beside your Bible. How often when I awaken does a classic hymn come to mind! I look it up and sing it.
- Ask the Lord to show you what He wants you to do each day. We have a God who plans our work and who plans our days. In other words, He plans our work for each day. It might be teaching a class, helping a neighbor, or praying for a missionary. But if you ask Him, He will gladly show you something to do for Him, and He will continue to show you day by day.
Never stop doing these things until He comes or calls you home! Only then can we say with the apostle Paul, “I have finished my race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7).
ROBERT J. MORGAN is the teaching pastor of The Donelson Fellowship in Nashville, Tennessee, and a bestselling writer. He and Katrina, his late wife of 43 years, have three daughters and 16 grandchildren.