Jim Abbott was a very accomplished professional pitcher. In high school, he was not only a standout pitcher but also a good quarterback. He played three years of college ball at Michigan State where he led the team to two Big Ten Championships. In 1987, he won the James E. Sullivan Award as the top amateur athlete in the United States, becoming the first baseball pitcher to win the award. He was also elected to the College Baseball Hall of Fame. He even participated in the 1988 summer Olympics, where he pitched the final game to win the United States a gold medal. Also in 1998, Abbot was selected as the 8th overall pick in the MLB draft. Later he was traded to the Yankees and probably accomplished his most significant achievement. Jim Abbot joined the ranks among those who have thrown an entire game without the opposing team getting a hit (only 257 of thousands of pitchers have ever been able to throw a no-hitter at the professional level).
Now, this is all extremely impressive, but there is something else that makes Jim Abbott unlike any other pitcher. Abbott had a severe disadvantage; he only had one hand. Despite having such a disability, he was still able to accomplish incredible feats. Abbott was able to work through these challenges and become an extremely good pitcher. Even with all of this, what really caught my attention was a quote from Abbot. He said, “It’s not the disability that defines you, it’s how you deal with the challenges the disability presents you with. We have an obligation to the abilities we DO have, not the disability.”
Abbott had a great view of himself. He choose to use the abilities he did have instead of focusing on his limitations. Likewise, every person has abilities to use for the Lord, but many times we focus on our limitations and let our “disabilities” keep us from using our talents. We make excuses. Whether we have physical, emotional, or spiritual challenges that hold us back, this does not mean we cannot accomplish wonderful things for the Lord. There are countless opportunities for a person to serve God. God simply wants us to use the talents He has given us (Matthew 25:14ff). Let’s not focus on what we can’t do for the Lord, but let’s focus on what we can do. 1 Peter 4:10 captures the idea well, “ As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”
What are some talents of ours? What’s holding us back from using these for the Lord? Let’s take a page out of Jim Abbot’s life and not let any disability or challenge define us, but let the way we deal with our challenges and the way we use our abilities for the Lord be what define us.