Do you know what I was doing on Thursday, April 20th, 2017 at 4:00pm Eastern Daylight Time? (I know…why should you care, right?) Well, if you want to know, I was ringing the closing bell of the New York Stock Exchange along with the rest of the Inspire Investing team. So crazy! It was a dream come true, a completely surreal experience. Have you ever had an experience like that? Something so great that you float through it like a dream, the reality of it all only sinking in over the next several days after? I hope you have.
With the bell ringing a few days behind me, I have had some time to ruminate on the experience and thought I would share a few reflections that could come in handy the next time you find yourself ringing the NYSE bell, or doing something even more important.
The New York Stock Exchange is quite a place. The energy inside that building is frenetic and contagious. The pomp and circumstance, the liturgy and ceremony of the bell ringing connects you to a rich history dating back hundreds of years, all the way back to the first trading sessions under the famed buttonwood tree and the amazing growth of a young America into the world’s most thriving economy.
Standing up on the podium, overlooking all of this with my finger on the bell button (yes, it is a button), is exhilarating. They allow you 14 people up on that podium, and we packed it out. The experience was infinitely more rich because I shared it with people I love and who love me: my wife, my business partners, and their wives. We have labored hard and sacrificed much together to get to that platform. I cannot imagine being up there all alone. Next time you do something great, bring people with you.
No matter how great an accomplishment ringing the closing bell of the NYSE is, or whatever achievement you are celebrating, if it is just an earthly triumph it will not last and really doesn’t matter at all. As the apostle Peter reminds us,
“All people are like grass,
and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of the Lord endures forever.” (1 Peter 1:24-25)
Ask yourself how you can imbue your great deed with eternal significance. If you don’t, then what have you really accomplished? Nothing. As Vernon Brewer, my friend and Founder/CEO of World Help (who joined us on the bell podium, BTW), says often, “Do something everyday that will outlive you and last for eternity”. That is a great idea.
We brought eternity to bear in our bell ringing in a few different ways. First, I preached a short message for our guests and NYSE staff on Matthew 5:13-16, letting your light shine, in the NYSE “Big Board Room” before the bell. Second, we made sure to point people to God while we celebrated on the podium. Third, we used the “tag the wall” tradition (where bell-ringers get to write on the wall in the stairwell just behind the bell podium) to share the eternal hope of Jesus through scripture. All the previous bell-ringers just signed their name and date, like some grown-up financial version of a yearbook, but our team took that opportunity to write in permanent ink, indelibly in plain view of all future bell-ringers, verses of scripture and proclamations of God’s goodness and glory. Why write our silly names when we could write something eternally profound?
Which leads me to my third and most important exhortation…
It is tempting to soak in the spotlight when the world shines it on you, but that is the biggest mistake you could ever, ever, ever make. When people all over the world are telling you how great you are and how magnificent your accomplishment is, don’t fall for it. Don’t buy the lie. You are not great and you are not magnificent. Sorry, but you’re not. And I most certainly am not.
All you have is from God, who alone is sovereign over your successes and failures. If there is anything good that you have done it is only because of the grace of God in your life — whether you believe in Him or not. I am more keenly aware than anyone how incapable I am of doing anything good or noteworthy apart from the blessing of God. I seek His grace each day, and ask desperately for His favor, because without it I am nothing and neither is our company. And I pray fervently that I never make the mistake of King Nebuchadnezzar, who claimed for himself the credit for his great kingdom and was reduced to nothing until he acknowledged God as the source of his blessing. (Read the story in Daniel 4:28-37. It is a fascinating story of how “those who walk in pride he is able to humble” (v. 37), especially the greatest among us).
So, next time the spotlight shines on you, be a mirror and not a sponge. Reflect the glory to God, who alone is worthy. Only if you do that are you or I truly a success.
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