Few figures in American history cast a shadow as significant as Abraham Lincoln. Very few have faced as many obstacles or as much opposition as this humble man and yet he is considered by virtually everyone as Americas greatest President. I want us to take a few moments and not only ask ourselves if we are attempting something great with our life, but also want us to ask, do we possess several of the greatest attributes as Mr. Lincoln such as self-confidence, moral courage and a sense of destiny?
Much has been made of Lincolns lack of good looks and sophistication yet this man was able to gain control in difficult circumstances rather than being controlled by circumstances and feelings that would have derailed virtually anyone else. I often refer to Abraham Lincoln as the “Prince of Recovery.” Look at this list:
1831 Failed in business
1832 Defeated for Legislature
1833 Second failure in business
1836 Suffered nervous breakdown
1838 Defeated for Speaker
1840 Defeated for elector
1843 Defeated for Congress
1848 Defeated for Congress
1855 Defeated for Senate
1856 Defeated for Vice President
1860 WON THE PRESIDENCY
Wouldn’t you think embarrassment alone would be enough to curtail Lincoln from trying again?
When I look at this list I see not defeats, but an education. For most of his life, Lincoln attended the School of Reaching for the Goal. The preparation and experience helped to mold the character of America’s most well-known and remembered President. He allowed us an intimate peek into the source of his tenacity when after a Senate race he spoke these words, The path was worn and slippery. My foot slipped from under me, knocking the other out of the way. But I recovered and said to myself, “It’s a slip and not a fall.”
The best way to get a sense of Lincolns self confidence, moral courage and sense of destiny was a featured article that ran in the Philadelphia Press only a few months before he was nominated for President. The article listed 45 possible candidates and Lincolns name was not even on the list. At 49 he was out of politics with little hope of returning to office. Another editor wrote, The honorable Abe Lincoln is undoubtedly the most unfortunate politician that has ever attempted to rise in Illinois. In everything he undertakes politically he seems doomed to failure. By the way, you might want to note that when that was written, he only had seven years left to live. Ive used this illustration to remind myself at several key moments in my life that my greatest work, my greatest service and my greatest accomplishments may just take place in the next seven years.
Author of Team of Rivals, Doris Kearns Goodwin said, His success was both a product of his times and his unique qualities. As a young man, he had worried that the field of glory had already been harvested by the founding fathers; that nothing was left for his generation but modest ambitions. I know I am not alone when I confess that I can relate to the pain and loneliness of Lincoln. I know what its like to be overlooked, discounted and written off. Just as Lincolns faith is what gave him the courage to persevere, I shudder to think what my life would be like without the life-changing faith that has captured my soul. Ive also asked myself, Am I attempting anything great? and the Lord reminds me of the scores of students who have come through SLU. Those of us that are parents, educators, ministers and coaches can honestly say that we are daily attempting something great when we seek to raise up not only young Timothys and Joshuas, Deborahs and Esthers but also young Lincolns and Churchills. Remember, leaders are not made in a day but they are made daily.