Today I was in the presence of greatness as I heard Donald Trump present an address to Liberty University. Since hearing that he would appear in convocation this year, I have been inexplicably eager to witness this event. Other than the fact that I’ve been inside his Fifth Avenue tower in New York City, I guess the main reason for my excitement is that well…it’s just plain cool. He’s world renowned for many different reasons, but mostly because he’s a billionaire. How often do you get to be in the same room as a billionaire anyway? I also like his spunk.
The 10,000 seat arena was overflowing. We sat on the steps to listen to his address. We had all shown up to be in the presence of greatness. As we sat there, I recognized a particular young man with his camera. He shoots for the University and he was of course photographing The Don as he spoke. I thought back to April when my husband came as a guest lecturer from Nashville to address a senior class in the Graphics Design department. This same photographer shot him that day because somebody deemed David as “great” as well. I sat there connecting these two events in my mind thinking about why both of these men were considered great. Donald Trump certainly has given back in many different ways to the world through his riches. But mostly, I think he is considered great because of the wealthy empire and name he has built for himself. He has worked hard to get there and much can be learned from his business experience and advice. Why was David considered great enough to be photographed by the same person who covered Donald, though? That just blows my mind.
To sum it up, it was because of the work that he has done for others and the way that he got there. The story that David shared when he visited in April was of how he responded and the actions he took two and a half years ago when he was given the news that he was being laid off from a failing small business. Through a hard work ethic on an uphill struggle, God provided many amazing opportunities for him to build his career, ultimately leading to a job with a very well recognized rock and roll band. Donald mentioned something very true today- if you’re going to make it in your industry- you have to be able to handle pressure. Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr. piped up and reminded us of what his father, the late Dr.Jerry Falwell, Sr., always used to say, “You do not determine a man’s greatness by his wealth, as the world does, but rather by what it takes to discourage him.” Considering the many times I heard him say those words while he was still living, I don’t think I really ever understood what that meant until today.
Of course David experienced many moments of discouragement as he ran into closed doors or even walls. But he never gave up. He never reached the point of discouragement to just throw in the towel. He kept pressing on to find a way to support his family. At times he felt guilty that he was not able to provide the support we needed all on his own. He even felt like a failure sometimes. He didn’t give up, though. Along the way, he learned a lesson that money cannot buy- his success is not measured by how he can provide for his family, but by the impact he leaves on this earth for eternity. Yes, providing for his family is a very real goal of his, but he came to realize that everything we have is from the Lord and we are held accountable for how we choose to use it. As the journey out of unemployment progressed for him, because of the talent he displayed as well as humility, he was chosen out of two hundred people for a great job that led to another great job which is in fact, the Lord’s provision for us. The actuality that he got these two jobs isn’t what makes him feel successful, though, it’s knowing that he is able to help build an empire and a name greater than his own- one that will last for eternity-one that is made by putting his own agenda aside and investing in the lives of others. Rather than being bitter about the choice a few people made to end his paycheck, he has vocalized that the best way to get revenge is by how you choose to live your life.
By the world’s standards, Donald Trump has it all. He is considered great for that. But by his own admission today, those riches of his are “peanuts” compared to his faith and family. I hope he really means that. Really I do. Because in the end, all of our greatness falls short compared to the only one whose greatness is truly significant- our great God. The single aspect of a great man that truly matters is what he does for eternity. Our Pastor back in Nashville always encourages us to go beyond the table of common grace and to dine at the table of amazing grace. David commented today that Trump just has a bit of a larger portion at the table of common grace- where the standard gifts of survival that the Lord gives to humanity comes from. However, our daily meal reservations are at the table of amazing grace. We never go hungry no matter how much money is or isn’t in our bank account or how loud our stomachs may growl. We feast on the Bread of Life. We hope that Trump is more than a billionaire. We hope that he is as rich as we are.
The words of Mrs.Rhea F. Miller and melody that George Beverly Shea put to them sang in my heart as I listened to one of the wealthiest men on the planet,
“I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold; I’d rather be His than have riches untold: I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands. I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand. Than to be the king of a vast domain or be held in sin’s dread sway. I’d rather have Jesus than anything this world affords today.”
The same shutter snapped photographs of both of these two great men. Yet, only the photographs of he who is great because of the sake of the unending domain of Christ will remain visible in the frames of eternity. The only one who will be looking at those frames, though, is the one whose reflection is caught in their glass as He says, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant…You have made me great.” The rest of us will simply be looking at Him (that is if our faces aren’t flat on the ground already) because we are finally in the presence of true greatness.