What Martin Luther King, Jr. taught me about faith

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope. -- Martin Luther King, Jr.Today we will read words honoring a great man here in the United States, Martin Luther King, Jr. His life changed our perspective and society in ways few have since, and probably ever will.

Since his death more than 50 years ago, his story has become part of our American narrative, a grand picture of destiny and purpose. We extol him as a man of vision who dreams of a better world, in spite of the evil swirling around him.

His name signifies the promise of the heritage he would ultimately come to embrace.

King’s birth name was originally Michael King, Jr. But his father changed both his and young King’s name after returning from a trip to Germany in the 1930s, just after Hitler took power. The elder King was moved by what was unfolding in the homeland of the father of Protestantism, Martin Luther.

Martin Luther quite literally changed the face of Christianity in the 1500s using his powerful words and his sense of destiny.

No pressure, young King.

Both he and Martin Luther King, Jr. became pivot points in Christian history.

Game changers.

And both men were unashamed in living out their purpose and engaging the world they were born into.

To me, Martin Luther King, Jr. embodies all that we can imagine through simple and persistent hope and faith.

Since his death I think King’s life as a great man of faith has gotten a bit lost.

Before he was an activist and master orator for civic change, he was a man who believed that God’s hand was on his life in the most powerful way.

It all starts there.

Few of us will realize our life’s destiny the way King did. He realized his through the lens of his unmoving faith.

  • This kind of resolute faith is what compels you to take action, regardless of risk to life and freedom.
  • This kind of resolute faith doesn’t always make you feel happy about how things are going in your life.
  • This kind of resolute faith can be full of fear at what may lie ahead because you may just be shaking the foundation of institution.

His faith wasn’t something he decided to try out at a self-help seminar one weekend. This was a conviction and a way of life that went to his core.

His ability to speak the truth so powerfully and without apology was rooted in an unshakeable faith in who he was, who his God was and what he knew his God could do.

  • He must have had some desperate thoughts because he was human.
  • He must have struggled to see the full picture ahead because he couldn’t know exactly what the future held.
  • He must have wondered if he was living up to what he was designed for because it wasn’t as easy as he wanted it to be.

What makes him so special in my eyes is not just his inspiring words for change, but his steadfast obedience to his call.

He didn’t allow setbacks to remove him from his destiny. He didn’t allow the daily challenges of living his destiny to pull him away from his purpose.

Where would we be if he had?

King’s legacy is even more important to us today.

For many of us (certainly not all of us), life has become comfortable and entertaining.

We don’t challenge much.

  • We give away one of our greatest assets — our attention — to the day’s lowest common denominators.
  • We expect fairness in all things and demand that life brings us what we need and want or we won’t play.
  • We allow setbacks to steal our hope in one snap of a finger.
  • We invite the words of others who have nothing invested in us to injure us and pierce our peace.
  • We allow the thoughts inside the space of our very own heads to run unchallenged and roughshod over our purpose and steal our destiny from us.

We give in to a victim mentality that demands our circumstances change before we will engage.

This, even as most of us will never be asked to give our lives for our call.

And we wonder why we struggle to find purpose and meaning in our work and personal lives.

In just 39 short years, King showed what a persistent and obedient life of faith can do for millions of people that he would never meet.

Will we do the same in the much smaller sphere of our own lives?

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