“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming;
but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly….”
These words were spoken by Theodore Roosevelt in a speech he delivered in France on April 23, 1910.
Picture of daring greatly
When I read this quote the first time, two pictures came to mind. First, the picture of Christ at the cross. His face marred by dust and sweat and blood on the cross. He strived valiantly, not speaking against his accusers.
But that’s where the similarities end. He did not err. He did not come up short again and again. He appeared to have been bested. He seemed to have been beat. But in that impression, Christ was victorious and conquered His enemy.
Christ didn’t just dare greatly. He sacrificed Himself greatly to do the will of the Father, and though it was brutal and horrific, in the face of His death, He was triumphant.
Then, my mind traveled back to Roman times and gladiators in the arena. Not gladiators versus Christians or Christians versus lions. The gladiator versus the gladiator was where my mind went.
Gladiators fought hard, they strived valiantly, they came up short and had to adjust. They did the deeds to survive the fight. They were relieved (if not enthusiastic) about their minor victories. They devoted much time to training and spent themselves for the sake of life. They knew triumph when they bested their opponents. Those who failed at least knew they had dared to give it their all.
Daring greatly for Jesus Christ
Jesus stated, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23) If we ultimately want to follow Jesus and be His disciple, He has given us a roadmap to living a life of great daring.
We must first deny ourselves
Gladiators, when they were preparing for the arena, began with a strict diet. They could not eat just anything.
Rich and heavy foods, excessive alcohol and lavish desserts made them soft. They needed protein and clean foods to build muscle. They needed to be fully hydrated to keep their bodies alert.
Similarly, we must be selective in our diets. “Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)
We cannot fill our appetites for truth by agreeing with philosophies and worldviews that do not align with the Word of God. We must be wary of what we put into our heads so that we do not become soft. We need to know God’s Word so well that our minds are alert.
Daring greatly begins with denying ourselves.
We must take up our cross daily
Gladiators were put through an uncompromisingly rigorous routine. They needed to prepare their bodies and build them into well-crafted fighting machines, honing their reflexes to retaliate automatically. Not only that but they needed to know how to behave in the arena and how to die.
In the same way, we need to train for battle. Though our battles are not necessarily physical, we need to prepare our minds and our hearts for an attack, expected or not. We need to know our Savior so well that we can respond as He would respond.
When we take up our cross daily, we are prepared to react to what the world throws at us.
We must follow Christ
The moment of truth came in the arena. Celebrated gladiators were only those battling in the stadium. None of their training mattered until they were in the field. That’s when it counted.
As well with us. God sees us when we follow Him. The training is important. Focusing on the truth in His Word is important. Distancing ourselves from false religion is important.
But where the rubber meets the road is where our feet hit the pavement and we follow Christ. Celebrated Christians are those who choose to follow Christ.
Gladiators had trained for these moments of life and death. Those who trained were daring greatly. Those who did not, died.
Christians who dare greatly are those who are training and preparing their hearts for following Christ.
Gianna Kordatzky has been a part of the First Free family since 1997. She graduated from Northwestern College (now University of Northwestern–St. Paul) in 1999 with a B.A. in youth ministry which prepared her and her husband, Chris, to raise four amazing kids. She is one of the founders of Family Fun Twin Cities and the Moms in Prayer leader for Bel Air Elementary in New Brighton. Gianna is passionate about serving families whether she is volunteering with New Life Family Services in St. Paul or overseas at the ELIC conference.