Monday, February 16, 2015

Going Fast . . . Or Far?

The late Frank Sinatra sang many famous songs during his more than 60-year career as an entertainer, but one of the most memorable is “My Way,” which he released in 1969. Today, more than four decades later, it seems many people embrace “I did it my way” as their personal motto.

There’s a lot to be said about individual achievement – the resolve, determination, perseverance and single-mindedness often involved in attaining lofty goals and aspirations. In a sense, the Declaration of Independence set the stage for this philosophy when the leaders of 13 colonies agreed in 1776 it was time to “do it their way,” apart from England, by forming the United States.

But there also are limitations to individual initiative. I was reminded of this while viewing the film, “The Good Lie,” the story of a small group of Sudanese refugees who fled tyranny in their homeland and ultimately found a new home for themselves in Kansas City, Mo. At the conclusion of the movie, an African proverb was displayed that well-summarized their amazing pilgrimage:
“If you want to go fast, go alone.
If you want to go far, go together.”

In sports, and much of life, we can achieve much
more together than we can on our own.
We see the truth of this adage exhibited in every area of endeavor. Where would comedian Bud Abbott have been without his sidekick, Lou Costello? What would Orville Wright have accomplished without the aid of his brother, Wilbur? Working out of a one-car garage, William Hewlett and David Packard teamed with others to form a company, Hewlett-Packard, that one day would become the world’s leader in manufacturing personal computers.

In track and field, we see sprinters competing on their own, but usually in longer events, groups of runners compete together, sometimes as teams. We see stock car drivers maneuvering their cars at high speeds on their own, but if you’re traveling on a commercial jet from coast to coast, you want a crew of people in the cockpit.

We may never achieve the notoriety of famous entertainers, athletes or entrepreneurs, but we’d all be wise to approach life from a “we did it our way” perspective than the standoffish “my way.” This truth is expressed repeatedly throughout the Bible, a clear warning against going it alone, urging us instead to seek support, encouragement and strength from one another.

Proverbs 27:17 declares, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man (woman) sharpens another.” In another of the so-called “wisdom books,” King Solomon of Israel observes,
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work. If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!... Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).

Ironically, it was when they failed to heed this advice that Solomon and his father, King David, suffered their greatest failures.

The spiritual life, I’ve discovered, also proves the “go fast, go alone…go far, go together” principle. People make professions of faith and appear to be making rapid progress spiritually, but because they don't connect with other believers, their growth eventually stagnates and over time they disappear from the scene entirely.

This is one reason we’re admonished, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another…” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

The Bible describes those who follow Jesus Christ as the “body of believers” – “you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27). Just as even healthy human organs will die apart from the body, the most determined, well-intentioned believers will flounder without consistent fellowship with other devoted followers of Christ.

So if your goal personally, professionally or spiritually is simply to go fast, you can try going on your own. But if you want to go far, enduring for the long haul, going together with others is the better plan.

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