In the Arena


Theodore Roosevelt is by many respects seen as the quintessential man. He had an incredibly high energy and drive complete with a bright mind for science, politics, and history. The guy could flat out read too--often voraciously reading a book every day before breakfast. Roosevelt embodied his philosophy of “living in the arena” through his incredible military, political, and scientific careers.

I ran across this quote from Theodore Roosevelt a few weeks ago. Enjoy:

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, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.


As a cautious and often critical man by nature, these words are an explicit challenge to me. Words such as “great enthusiasm” and “great devotions” do not necessarily mesh with my more laid back and melancholic disposition; forcing me to look in the mirror and evaluate.

Everyone loves to sit back and critique. We all love to point and laugh; it comes naturally and it is safe. In sports we praise athletes when they succeed, but we take special relish in tearing them down when they fail. Modern society seems to make a living off of glorying in the failures and embarrassments of celebrities and politician. The tabloids make money by rejoicing the frequent moral collapses of the famous. Perhaps it pads our egos to watch giants fall.

But Roosevelt’s quote rebukes the “cold and timid masses” (myself included). What have you risked for something valuable? What have I ever done in the arena for a “noble cause?” At least those "Great Failures" fell chasing something. At least they got off their plush sofas and gave it a go.

We all need to take a look in the proverbial mirror and ask ourselves: "What am I risking?" Am I living in the sidelines or in the arena? And as Christians more importantly we need to ask, "What am I doing for the most noble cause—the cause of the gospel?" What am I striving for the eternal Kingdom of Jesus Christ?

It is my hope that when our Savior returns, he finds His church not distracted on the affairs of the world, nor comfortably playing it safe--but rather fast at work, toiling everyway we know how; both succeeding and even failing boldly for His name sake.

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