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To Achieve, You Must Believe

Tom Harkin had a secret. An embarrassing one that he’d kept hidden for decades – even from his own children.


By almost anyone’s standards, Harkin was successful. Happily married with a family, a millionaire by age 50, respected in the community – Harkin was doing well when he was awarded the prestigious Horatio Alger Award. It was at the award ceremony in Washington, D.C. in 1992 that Harkin revealed his secret to the public for the first time. He could not read.


Successful at many things, Harkin had also been successful at keeping his illiteracy hidden. To avoid menus, he always ordered a cheeseburger at restaurants, assuming they all had one. When his children asked him to read a story, his wife covered for him saying he was too busy. She also did all his paperwork for him.


So, why reveal the secret after hiding it so well for so long? Harkin wanted to change. To do that he had to admit that he needed help, and he had to believe that he could learn to read. Years later, Harkin reads stories to his grandchildren and champions efforts to eliminate illiteracy. Harkin believes if he can change, so can others.


What about you? Do you have some embarrassing deficiency? Pause for a moment and think about what there is about you that needs to improve. Why haven’t you made that change? Does lack of confidence that you can succeed hold you back?


Between a Roman military officer and Jesus there were enormous social and religious chasms. Yet, the officer dared to ask a favor of the Jewish teacher – that he heal the soldier’s son. Jesus’ response? “It will be done just as you believed it would” (Matthew 8:13). And it was.


Could it be that what we achieve is limited by what we believe is possible? If we believed more, could we achieve more? God is not limited by my level of belief. But I am.


Had Harkin not believed he could learn to read, he would have taken his secret to his grave. Had the Roman solder not believed that Jesus could heal his son, he would have carried the boy to an early grave.


The coming of Jesus was announced with this command: “Reshape your lives” (Matthew 3:2, CPV). With God, command implies control. He never requires of us what we cannot do.


He believes you and I can reshape our lives. Do we believe it?

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