Selina Hastings had a saying, "I thank God for the letter 'M'". She was referring to a passage in Paul's first letter to the Corinthians 1:26. "Brothers think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth."
For Selina Hastings was the daughter of the 2nd Earl of Ferrers (you were wondering where Jane Austen got the name from) and became the Countess of Huntington. Without the letter 'M' it would have read, "Not any were of noble birth." She was a great lady, the link between George Whitefield and the Methodists and the Clapham sect of evangelicals such as Wilberforce.
Paul was preaching on the futility of human endeavor and the centrality of the Cross. No-one should boast, he says (v29) unless he boast of the Lord, quoting Jeremiah 29:23-4. Despite this, Paul was rather given to boasting. In Philippians chapter 3 he boasts of his qualifications - his circumcision, his law-keeping, his zeal and his Jewishness; and in 2 Corinthians 11 he boasts of his sufferings. But in verse 30 of this chapter he comes back, "If I must boast I will boast of the things that show my weakness."
Forgive me then if I indulge in a little boasting - it is intended to show the futility of what the world chases after and the centrality of the cross.
Ask a child what he or she wants to be when they grow up and they often answer, "Famous". I have been famous. Not just as a hematologist, but locally I have even had a street named after me. Often they want to be on television. I have been on TV. I can't remember how many times, but enough not to care whether I am ever on again. Money? I have more than enough.
Hear what some of the ancients thought:
What is fame? An empty bubble.
Gold? A transient shining trouble.
Fame is a food that dead men eat –
I have no stomach for such meat.
Love of fame is the last thing that even learned men can bear to be parted from.
Young doctors long to be published. I have had so many papers published that sometimes I see papers ascribed to me that I can't even remember writing until I re-read them. It's no big deal. If I look back on my life, I might not have been born with a silver spoon in my mouth, but somehow I was born with a good brain. I don't reckon much on IQ tests as a measure of worth, but my father told me that when measured my IQ was 168. I was certainly good at passing exams and had a good memory. I went to schools that stretched me and taught me how to regard authority (skeptically). My experience at school gave me the confidence for public speaking and taught me how to write English. I have spoken to audiences of 5000 and write easily.
At University I met a huge range of people so that I now have a wide range of interests. I explored all sorts of philosophies of life from communism, through existentialism to the absurd. They all lead to despair. It seemed that everything the world desired was useless.
I have been wise in the ways of the world, but the ways of the world hold no attraction for me.
I remember sitting at dinner with a very clever colleague who chided me for believing the Bible. But why should I be surprised? To preach Christ crucified is a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles; but to those whom God has called Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.
All I have achieved with my life is pointless and worthless compared to this, except perhaps in this way: it is worth telling people to get their priorities right. From my experience I can say that the first priority in life is to get right with God. This is simply a question of believing Him when he says that if we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Nothing more. No trip to Jerusalem or Mecca, no special ritual, no special prayers, no masses of offerings.
Christ has done it all.
Being a doctor is a wonderful thing; a doctor can perhaps do more good in the world than anyone in any other profession. As a doctor, I have succeeded. My record is outstanding. The youngest attending in Bournemouth, a pioneer of plasma exchange, first to do idiotype vaccination in the world, first to do a blood stem cell transplant in Britain, a pioneer of monoclonal antibody therapy, one of the first in the world to use both Campath and ofatumumab, discoverer of IgVH genes as a prognostic indicator, pioneer in the UK of adjuvant treatment for solid tumors and one of the few holders of the Binet-Rai medal.
Not only that, I have served in the church. I ran the children’s Sunday school for 11 years and spent 20 years as deacon and elder in a large church. I gave up countless evenings to run the church well.
I hate to boast, but the thing is that if doing it could crack it, I have done it. Do you think that you could do ore than I?
But doing it can’t crack it. No matter how much I try I am incapable of meeting the pass mark. I need rescuing.
This morning I had an attack of postural hypotension. I was lying flat on the bathroom floor. I could not stand up. I knew how to stand up. I knew that I had to stand at the wash basin and shave, but every time I raised my head I fainted. Eventually, I had to admit that I couldn’t do it myself and call my wife. I lay there as she dressed me like a baby and maneuvered me back to bed.
As far as saving ourselves is concerned we are helpless.
That does not mean that we do nothing. We should do all we can, but not in an attempt to save ourselves, but in gratitude to the one who has saved us. For the love of Christ constrains us.