John Quincy Adams may have held more important offices than anyone in the history of the United States. He served with distinction not only as the president and secretary of state but also as a senator, congressman, and an ambassador to major European leaders. He also played several key roles in the American Revolution, the War of 1812, and the events leading up to the Civil War. However, at the age of 70, he wrote, “My whole life has been a succession of disappointments. I can scarcely recollect a single instance of success in anything that I ever undertook.”
I think there are a couple of things we can learn from the feelings of our fourth president. First, we should not sell ourselves short. No matter who you are, as a Christian, you play an important role in the history of humanity, and you can impact eternity by the simplest of things. The Bible reminds us to “comfort the fainthearted” and “uphold the weak” (1 Thess. 5:14). We never know when something as simple as a visit, a card, a phone call, a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen, or a simple kind word can help someone hold on who was on the verge of giving up. A simple invitation to service on Sunday or Wednesday or to a gospel meeting or a VBS could be the difference in someone’s eternal destiny. Never underestimate your role in God’s eternal plan to redeem mankind (Eph. 3 :8-11, 4:16).
The other thing we can learn from Adams is that unless we pursue things that are spiritual in nature, our lives can seem hollow and meaningless. Here was a man who had achieved the highest and most prestigious position in the United States, arguably in the entire world. He was a man who would have his secular successes displayed in the pages of American history for generations. However, he seemed to be lamenting that his life was disappointing and unfulfilling. The true lesson is that fulfillment comes not from a life of worldly achievement but from a life submitted and committed to the will of God.
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
Pulaski Street church of Christ