A lot is being made of the fact that when Alex Smith of the San Francisco 49er’s lost his job as starting quarterback, he acted like a professional and continued to work hard to help his team. Just this morning, I heard that the head coach commended Alex for stepping in to help coach his replacement.
Alex did not lose his job because he failed. The team had a winning record when he was replaced. I doubt that he stopped believing in his ability to get the job done, nor did he lose his desire to play. I am sure that when the first whistle blows on Sunday that Alex will feel a pang knowing that unless his replacement gets hurt or plays poorly, he will not get to play.
It is fascinating to listen to sports talk radio as they discuss this. They admire Alex’s circumspection and reluctance to cause a problem. But, they are sometimes at a loss to figure out what would motivate him to take this so well.
Most attribute Alex’s behavior to the fact that he is likely to get a large contract next year from a team that is in need of a starting quarterback if he does not cause problems in the locker room. Some attribute it to professional pride. Others point to his respect for his coach. Is it possible that he is doing it because it is the right thing to do, no matter the consequences? Without him telling us, it is impossible to know for sure what his motivation is.
Jonathan was the crown prince. When Saul, the king, could no longer reign, Jonathan would assume the throne. Yet we learn in the book of 1 Samuel, that God had a different plan. David, the shepherd and giant killer, was God’s choice to be king after Saul.
Jonathan could have participated with Saul in the attempts to remove David as a threat. Jonathan could have complained, mocked or ridiculed David as a usurper to the throne. Yet, Jonathan did none of these things. What he did do was to help David and to make a covenant with him. Jonathan was content to serve under David, he understood that to submit to David was required of him in submission to God.
The rest of us
Our culture puts a lot of pressure on us to succeed and move up. “Second place is first loser” is often said with regard to sports but this attitude transfers into all of life. We fell pressure to move up the corporate ladder, add more clients, build our income or increase our prestige. We are told that we should never accept a lesser position, that we should strive and do whatever it takes to get the higher one.
Despite what self-help gurus and advertisers tell us, we cannot all be the boss. We cannot all come out on top. Some of us are underemployed. Some of us are in positions in life that are not what we would consider optimal. How do we deal with this?
The Bible has examples of men and women who had legitimate reason to be frustrated with their circumstances but choose to be content while they waited for change. Joseph, Daniel, Abigail, Moses and Ruth come immediately to mind. All of these were commended for their faithfulness despite their frustrating circumstances. They did not wallow in self pity, nor did they give up hope for change, they trusted God with their desire for improvement.
We can learn from Jonathan and Alex Smith that while it may not be glamorous or yield reward in the short run, faithfulness in the role we are currently given is the right thing to do.
For the Christian, who is seeking God through his circumstances while waiting (and perhaps striving) for change, we have the assurance that God “is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6 NASB)
Play backup if it is necessary but be preparing for the move up when God deems the time to be right.