Bertoldo de Giovanni is a name even the most enthusiastic lover of art is unlikely to
recognize. He was the pupil of Donatello, the greatest sculptor of his time, and he was
the teacher of Michelangelo, the greatest sculptor of all time. Michelangelo was only 14
years old when he came to Bertoldo, but it was already obvious that he was enormously
gifted. Bertoldo was wise enough to realize that gifted people are often tempted to coast
rather than to grow, and therefore he kept trying to pressure his young prodigy to work
seriously at his art. One day he came into the studio to find Michelangelo toying with a
piece of sculpture far beneath his abilities. Bertoldo grabbed a hammer, stomped across
the room, and smashed the work into tiny pieces, shouting this unforgettable message,
"Michelangelo, talent is cheap; dedication is costly!"
Gary Inrig, A Call to
Plato wrote the first sentence of his famous Republic nine different ways before he was
satisfied. Cicero practiced speaking before friends every day for thirty years to perfect
his elocution. Noah Webster labored 36 years writing his dictionary, crossing the Atlantic
twice to gather material. Milton rose at 4:00 am every day in order to have enough hours
for his Paradise Lost. Gibbon spent 26 years on his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
Bryant rewrote one of his poetic masterpieces 99 times before publication, and it became a
In his book One Crowded Hour, Tim Bowden describes an incident in Borneo in
1964. Nepalese fighters known as Gurkhas were asked if they would be willing to jump from
airplanes into combat against the Indonesians. The Gurkhas didn't clearly understand what
was involved, but they bravely said they would do it, asking only that the plane fly
slowly over a swampy area and no higher than 100 feet. When they were told that the
parachutes would not have time to open at that height, the Gurkhas replied, "Oh, you
didn't mention parachutes before!"
Our Daily Bread, January 30, 1994.
I think of David Livingstone, the pioneer missionary to Africa, who walked over 29,000
miles. His wife died early in their ministry and he faced stiff opposition from his
Scottish brethern. He ministered half blind. His kind of perseverance spurs me on. As I
run, I remember the words in his diary: Send me anywhere, only go with me. Lay any burden
on me, only sustain me. Sever me from any tie but the tie that binds me to Your service
and to Your heart.
Joseph Stowell, Through The Fire, Victor Books, 1988, p. 150.
Former pro basketball star Bill Bradley tells that at the age of 15 he attended a
summer basketball camp that was run by Easy Ed Macauley, a former college and pro star.
"Just remember that if you're not working at your game to the utmost of your
ability," Macauley told his assembled campers, "there will be someone out there
somewhere with equal ability who will be working to the utmost of his ability. And one day
you'll play each other, and he'll have the advantage."
Persistence paid off for American astronomer Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered the planet
Pluto. After astronomers calculated a probable orbit for this "suspected"
heavenly body, Tombaugh took up the search in March 1929. Time magazine recorded the
investigation: "He examined scores of telescopic photographs each showing tens of
thousands of star images in pairs under the dual microscope. It often took three days to
scan a single pair. It was exhausting, eye-cracking work--in his own words, 'brutal,
tediousness.' And it went on for months. Star by star, he examined 20 million images. Then
on February 18, 1930, as he was blinking at a pair of photographs in the constellation
Gemini, 'I suddenly came upon the image of Pluto!" It was the most dramatic
astronomic discovery in nearly 100 years.
Today in the Word, November 26, 1991.
Nothing that is valuable is achieved without effort. Fritz Kreisler, the famous
violinist, testified to this point when he said, "Narrow is the road that leads to
the life of a violinist. Hour after hour, day after day and week after week, for years, I
lived with my violin. There were so many things that I wanted to do that I had to leave
undone; there were so many places I wanted to go that I had to miss if I was to master the
violin. The road that I traveled was a narrow road and the way was hard."
It does not take great men to do great things; it only takes consecrated men.
Not long ago Newsweek magazine reported on what it called the new wave of mountain men.
It's estimated that there are some sixty thousand serious mountain climbers in the U.S.
But in the upper echelon of serious climbers is a small elite group knows as "hard
men." For them climbing mountains and scaling sheer rock faces is a way of life. In
many cases, climbing is a part of their whole commitment to life. And their ultimate
experience is called free soloing: climbing with no equipment and no safety ropes. John
Baker is considered by many to be the best of the hard men. He has free-soloed some of the
most difficult rock faces in the U.S. with no safety rope and no climbing equipment of any
kind. His skill has not come easily. It has been acquired through commitment, dedication
and training. His wife says she can't believe his dedication. When John isn't climbing,
he's often to be found in his California home hanging by his fingertips to strengthen his
arms and hands.
Charles Swindoll, Living Above the Level of
Mediocrity, p. 236.
At a meeting of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Bobby Richardson, former New York
Yankee second baseman, offered a prayer that is a classic in brevity and poignancy:
"Dear God, Your will, nothing more, nothing less, nothing else. Amen."
Johnny Fulton was run over by a car at the age of three. He suffered crushed hips,
broken ribs, a fractured skull, and compound fractures in his legs. It did not look as if
he would live. But he would not give up. In fact, he later ran the half-mile in less than
Walt Davis was totally paralyzed by polio when he was nine years old, but he
did not give up. He became the Olympic high jump champion in 1952.
Shelly Mann was
paralyzed by polio when she was five years old, but she would not give up. She eventually
claimed eight different swimming records for the U.S. and won a gold medal at the 1956
Olympics in Melbourne, Australia.
In 1938, Karoly Takacs, a member of Hungary's
world-champion pistol shooting team and sergeant in the army, lost his right hand when a
grenade he was holding exploded. But Takacs did not give. up. He learned to shoot
left-handed and won gold medals in the 1948 and 1952 Olympics.
Lou Gehrig was such a
clumsy ball player that the boys in his neighborhood would not let him play on their team.
But he was committed. He did not give up. Eventually, his name was entered into baseball's
Hall of Fame.
Woodrow Wilson could not read until he was ten years old. But he was a
committed person. He became the twenty-eighth President of the United States.
In the December 1987 Life magazine, Brad Darrach wrote: "Meryl Streep is
gray with cold. In Ironweed, her new movie, she plays a ragged derelict who dies in a
cheap hotel room, and for more than half an hour before the scene she has been hugging a
huge bag of ice cubes in an agonizing effort to experience how it feels to be a corpse.
Now the camera begins to turn. Jack Nicholson, her derelict lover, sobs and screams and
shakes her body. But through take after take--and between takes too-Meryl just lies like
an iced mackerel. Frightened, a member of the crew whispers to the director, Hector
Babenco, 'What's going on? She's not breathing!'
"Babenco gives a start. In Meryl's body there is absolutely no sign of life! He
hesitates, then lets the scene proceed. Yet even after the shot is made and set struck,
Meryl continues to lie there, gray and still. Only after 10 minutes have passed does she
slowly, slowly emerge from the coma-like state into which she has deliberately sunk.
Babenco is amazed. 'Now that', he mutters in amazement 'is acting! That
is an actress!'" Total dedication amazes people. How wonderful to be so dedicated to
Christ that people will say, "Now that is a Christian!"
C.T. Studd, the famous English cricketer and member of the English XI cricket team,
gave away his vast wealth and became a missionary a century ago. His slogan was, "If
Jesus Christ be God, and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make
In 1912 William Borden, a graduate of Yale University, left one of America's greatest
family fortunes to be a missionary to China. He got as far as Egypt and died of cerebral
meningitis. He died--and was only in his 20s--but there was "no reserve, no retreat,
no regrets" in his consecration to God.
When D.L. Moody was visiting England he heard Henry Varley say, "the world has yet
to see what God will do with a man who is fully and wholly consecrated to the Holy
Spirit." Moody would later comment, "He said 'a man." He did not say a
'great man' nor 'a learned man' nor a 'rich man' but simply 'a man.' I am a man, and it
lies within the man himself whether he will or will not make that entire and full
consecration. I will try my utmost to be that man."
A woman rushed up to famed violinist Fritz Kreisler after a concert and cried:
"I'd give my life to play as beautifully as you do." Kreisler replied, "I
Bits & Pieces, Vol. F, No. 41.
A wife who is 85% faithful to her husband is not faithful at all. There is no such
thing as part-time loyalty to Jesus Christ.
Lt. Col. Terence Otway, commander of the 9th Parachute Battalion of the British 6th
Airborne Division, has an assignment to destroy the four powerful guns of a coastal
battery in Merville, overlooking Sword Beach. If the 9th could not complete the task on
time, naval gunfire would try. The bombardment was to begin at 5:30 a.m.
Otway had an elaborate strategy to overrun the guns, but the plan misfired. An initial
air attack was a total failure, and then his battalion was dropped across almost 50 miles
of the countryside. Of his 700-man battalion, Otway could find only 150 soldiers.
Nevertheless, the men improvised brilliantly. They cut gaps through the outer barricade of
the gun battery with wire cutters. One group cleared a path through the minefields,
crawling on hands and knees while feeling for tripwires and prodding the ground ahead with
bayonets. Now they waited for the order to attack. Otway knew casualties would be high,
but the guns had to be silenced. "Everybody in!" he yelled. "We're going to
take this bloody battery!" And in they went.
Red flares burst over their heads, and machine-gun fire poured out to meet them.
Through the deadly barrage, the paratroopers crawled, ran, dropped and ran some more.
Mines exploded. There were yells and screams and the flash of grenades as paratroopers
piled into the trenches and fought hand to hand with the enemy.
Germans began surrendering. Lt. Michael Dowling and his men knocked out the four guns.
Then Dowling found Otway. He stood before his colonel, his right hand holding the left
side of his chest. "Battery taken as ordered, sir," Dowling declared. The battle
had lasted just 15 minutes. Otway fired a yellow flare -- the success signal -- a quarter
of an hour before the naval bombardment was to start. Moments later Otway found Dowling's
lifeless body. He had been dying at the time he made his report.
Reader's Digest, June,
1994, pp. 196-197.
Govern my heart, that I may be willing and even eager to profit, lest the opportunity
which thou now givest me be lost through my sluggishness. Be pleased at the same time to
root out all vicious desires of seeking thee. Finally, let the only end at which I aim be
so to qualify myself in early life, that when I grow up I may serve thee in whatever
station thou mayest assign me.