Last night’s college football championship game made history. Alabama had already won more titles than any other team. By beating Clemson, which was ranked number one in the country, the Crimson Tide added another trophy to their remarkable collection. (For more on the game, see Mark Cook’s 3 Aphorisms that Explain the Clemson Alabama Game.)
We want to leave a legacy. We want to build something that outlives us to show the world that we were here and our lives mattered. The builders of Babel are in the Bible because their story is our story: “Let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:4).
God dispersed them, not because he opposes our leaving a legacy, but because he wants to build it. In the next chapter we find his promise to Abram: “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. . . . in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:2, 3). The people of Babel wanted to build a city—God wanted to build a nation.
And not just any nation, but a people through whom he could bring the Messiah who would bless “all the families of the earth.” If you’re a Christian, you’re part of “Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Galatians 3:29).
Clearly, the sovereign Lord can make more of us than we can make of ourselves.
When God called Nehemiah to build the walls of Jerusalem, he began with the man’s natural leadership gifts, integrity, and courage. Then, as Nehemiah says, he “put into my heart” a vision for building the city. And the people rallied around this vision, constructing the Holy City for the glory of their holy God.
By contrast, when Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum rejected Jesus’ ministry, he denounced them (Matthew 11:20–24). Today these once-thriving cities on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee are nothing but ruins visited by tourists.
I read this morning from C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity. When Lewis was preparing his “Broadcast Talks” for the BBC during World War II, he had no way to know that they would be turned into one of the best-selling Christian books of all time and would change my life fifteen years after his death. Paul didn’t know he was writing half of what we call the New Testament. Lydia didn’t know she was helping to build the first church in the Western world.
Their obedience illustrates advice I once received from a wise mentor: Always stay faithful to the last word you heard from God, and open to the next. Oswald Chambers: “We have simply to obey and to leave all consequences with him. Beware of the inclination to dictate to God as to what you will allow to happen if you obey him.”
I don’t know how long the world will remember Alabama’s victory last night. But I know that your next act of faithful obedience will echo in heaven forever.