Not everyone who wants to be champion, super savvy or wealthy get to fulfill their dream. Why? Because success, in any field, involves following a simple, boring, and duplicable recipe: desire, sacrifice and hard work. Instead, they are looking for “magical recipes”, “shortcuts”, ways to bring them the same results, but without the effort. We wish them good luck!
Experience shows that in most cases, those who earn an impressive wealth overnight cannot keep it for long time. Why? Because, at that time, they do not have the knowledge or the mindset of a rich man. Rich people did not become rich by chance. They did not use magic shortcuts or recipes. And this is true in every field!
One of the greatest boxing champions of all time, Muhammad Ali (Cassius Clay) once said that “everyone wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.” It was a direct reference to the extreme effort that great performance implies. Perhaps many are talented, have everything they need physically, but they clink when they have to work almost indefinitely and respect a strict regimen to become champions.
This was the case of the people in heaven. They were there, they were endowed with everything they needed, they were in direct relationship with God, and they had at their disposal all eternity to progress morally. Success, in their case, meant closer communion with God, and extraordinary spiritual gifts.
But the devil tempted them with a magical recipe, with a shortcut: “The day that you eat of it (the tree stopped) will open your eyes and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis, chapter 3, verse 5 ). He did not tell them that you would become gods, but he only promised them that they would have one of the qualities that God has and they did not have. And yet, they thought it is worth it to break the God’s commandment. Why?
Perhaps, because it is a form of pride that appears as an inner dialogue: “I am smarter than the rest. They were not able to see the things that I understand. Therefore, the way I do things is better and I will prove them wrong “! At first sight, it seems normal. After all, is not this the way of progress, by challenging things, processes and realities? However, there is a difference between continuous improvement and this kind of pride.
When you want to progress, improve or innovate, you have to study. It is absolutely necessary to see how others have done it, why they did so, to wonder what has escaped them, to put your mind to work in order to learn what you could do faster and better, to do a lot of experiments and, only then, to come and show all the fruits of your work, and to be willing to accept criticism along with the credits.
Instead of following this recipe that has proven to be valid over and over again, those who are adept of magic prescriptions do not trouble themselves with all this effort. They simply want something quicker and better, because they “feel” they are smarter than others, and they deserve it. Consequently, they will cheat. But in order not to feel guilty, they will try to convince them and the others that they have not stolen, but have worked more “efficiently”, “more intelligently”.
I believe that the most important example in this regard is that of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is God, and yet to save us, He did not use a shortcut, did not use a magic recipe that He certainly knew. He went down to our level and became a man like us (Epistle to Philippians of Apostle Paul, chapter 2, verses 7-8). He did not suddenly deify His human nature, but lived on earth, was tempted (Gospel according to Matthew, chapter 4, verses 1-11), suffered and died (Gospel according to John, chapter 19, verse 33) .
Had He not done all of this, His resurrection would not have the same result. It would have been the “shortcut”, the “magic recipe” that would have been useless. The human nature in Him would have had no way of progressing, had no way of reaching “the state of the perfect man” (Epistle to Ephesians of Apostle Paul, chapter 4, verse 13).
This must make us meditate, because, when it comes to salvation, we cannot cheat as well. I know! The case of the robber, who, after a life of transgressions, has “stolen” salvation at the last moment of his life, seems to contradict everything I have said so far. But in his case, it was no longer cheating, no more pride. He has turned honestly. He acknowledged his state of moral decay (Gospel according to Luke, chapter 23, verse 41), and probably, if he had lived, he would have radically changed his way of life.
The other robber was the follower of the quick, effortless solution. He did not acknowledge his decaying state, but rather considered himself intelligent, tempting even Christ with vain glory “Are not You the Christ? Save Yourself and Us “(Gospel according to Luke, chapter 23, verse 39). Why should Christ have saved him, what did he do different in the last moments of his sinful life, what would be the merit of that robber? None! And yet, he had no problem in asking Christ for salvation! Normally, God’s justice did not allow him to get it!
This episode of the Gospel according to Luke is interesting because it demonstrates that salvation or sanctification are the results of an inner transformation process that has stages which one cannot skip. Like the thief on the cross, we cannot become saints overnight, especially after we have spent a lifetime far from God. For this, we have to change our way of life, we must get out of the spiritual comfort zone and recognize, first of all, that we have sins and that we need help.
Any champion has at least one coach near him, not to mention the other professionals who assist him. That is why we must find our coaches, our guides. Whether they are mentors (people we admire for what they have done), whether they are spiritual fathers who can help us with their advice and prayer, we must accept this help and follow their instructions.
In order to be saved, we must believe in God and seek Him every day of our lives. God’s search does not just involve reading a religious book on the terrace of a café where they have extraordinary coffee in an afternoon with a superb sunset. This process involves the grinding of our soul through prayer (including participation in the services of the Church), the strengthening of our will by means of restraint (fasting) and deeds of mercy. We also do not have to be selfish! Therefore we must confess our belief to others when necessary. Because, by doing so we help them transform their lives as well.
Certainly, not all of us have the call to be preachers or great Christian writers. But there is no need for that. Each of us has at her/his disposal the most powerful means of communication – the personal example. We do not have to take a trumpet and go to the downtown square and preach. Simply, we have to “do our job of Christians,” to live the Christian way of life.
This will show the others that “it can be done”! That there is no magic recipe, but a way of life that everyone can duplicate. It entails falls, failures, doubts, and sufferings. But this is how the winners are born! And winners are not afraid to get out of their comfort zone, to work hard to overcome obstacles and to transform themselves. Because success does not have a magic recipe, but a simple one that we can repeat as well!