Read an Excerpt
Six Hundred to One
by Pat Williams
The story of the great Hebrew lawgiver and liberator, Moses, fills 136 chapters of the Bible. The story of Joseph, a model of absolute integrity, occupies 21 chapters of the Bible. The life of Jesusthe greatest leader, teacher and prophet in historyis recorded in the first 89 chapters of the New Testament.
So how much space does the Bible devote to this hero named Shamgar? Answer: Two verses. That's right, just two versesa mere forty-two words. Clearly, Shamgar could have used a better press agent.
You're probably wondering, 'How important could Shamgar be if that's all the mention he gets in the Bible? What can I learn from a guy whose entire biography consists of forty-two words?'
Read on, my friend, and you'll be amazed at what Shamgar can teach you about successful, effective, influential living. God never wastes his words. Everything he tells us in the Bible is meant to impact our lives. Through those two little verses, God tells us that there is literally no limit to what we can achieve if we will learn the lessons of Shamgar's life. We find his story in the Old Testament book of Judges:
After Ehud came Shamgar son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an ox-goad. He too saved Israel. Judges 3:31
In the days of Shamgar son of Anath, in the days of Jael, the roads were abandoned; travelers took to winding paths. Judges 5:6
What do these two verses tell us?
First, because these verses are found in the book of Judges, we know that Shamgar lived more than 3,000 years ago in the land of Canaan (which is today called Palestine, comprising of the nation of Israel and parts of neighboring countries). The land of Canaan was divided among dozens of walled city-states that were continually at war against each other. Shamgar's people were the Hebrews who had migrated into Canaan after generations of bondage under the pharaohs in Egypt. By the time Shamgar was born, the great Hebrew leaders, Moses and Joshua, were long dead. The Hebrews had no king, no leadership.
Second, we know that Shamgar lived in evil, dangerous times. 'In the days of Shamgar,' we are told, 'the roads were abandoned; travelers took to winding paths.' After the death of Joshua, Israel's great military leader, the land of Israel was repeatedly overrun by foreign invaders. The people of Israel avoided the main highways for fear of the bandits and terrorists, such as the Philistines, who were the Al Qaeda of their day. With no central government or standing army, Israel was vulnerable on every side. Those were lawless times, and the Hebrew people were leaderless and defenseless.
Third, we know that Shamgar was a farmer. How do we know that? Because he 'struck down six hundred Philistines with an ox-goad.' An ox-goad is a long wooden pole that has been tipped with a sharpened iron point at one end and capped with a flattened chisel-like iron blade at the other end. Shamgar probably owned two oxen that he used to pull a plow. The sharp end of the ox-goad was used to poke the tough hide of the oxen to keep them motivated for pulling that plow. The chisel-blade end was used to scrape the plowshare free of roots, thorns and accumulated clay. The ox-goad tells us that Shamgar was a man who spent much of his life in a field, pushing a plow behind a pair of oxen, planting and tending his crops.
Fourth, we know that Shamgar demonstrated more military savvy than Gen. George S. Patton, Gen. 'Stormin'' Norman Schwarzkopf, and Gen. Tommy Franks combined! All by himself, he killed six hundred Philistines.
Who were the Philistines? They were a barbarous, violent race of people who occupied the southern coastal area of Palestine, which is now known as the Gaza Strip. The region of Philistia was organized around an alliance of five Philistine citiesAshkelon, Ashdod, Gath, Gaza and Ekron. The antagonism between Israel and the Philistines began at around the time of Shamgar and continued for centuries to the time of King David and beyond.
When the Romans subjugated the land of Israel, they named it 'Palaistina' (the Latin form of the word 'Philistia'), deliberately insulting the Jewish people by naming their homeland after their worst enemies. Today, the Palestinian Arabs claim to be descended from the Philistines. However, the Philistines originally came to the Gaza region from the Aegean Islands, not Arabia, so this claim has no historical basis.
Before Shamgar defeated the Philistines and saved Israel, no one would have picked him as a man destined for greatness. He was an ox rancher, a clod-kicker, a man with dirt under his fingernails and ox manure on the soles of his sandals. No one would have looked at him and said, 'There's the man who's going to save our nation.' Yet this untrained farmer single-handedly wiped out six hundred Philistine warriors and saved a nation.
How did he do it?
A Leap of Faith
Shamgar was just an average personno different from Pat Williams or Jay Strack or you. He was an ordinary flesh-and-blood human being who lived in extraordinary times, just as we do today. He set out to defend his neighbors and his nation from a horde of bloodthirsty invaders, and he succeededagainst six-hundred-to-one odds.
Fact is, if you aren't willing to take on six-hundred-to-one odds, you'll never achieve anything great. Nothing worth doing is ever easy. Significant achievements always involve a high degree of courage, focus, perseverance, and yes, risk.
Every significant accomplishment in human history has been a big risk, a long shot: The Pilgrims' founding of the Plymouth colony in 1620. American independence in 1776. The landing at Normandy on D-Day. The writing of great novels, such as Gone with the Wind or The Lord of the Rings. The first moon landing. The space shuttle. The founding of Jay Strack's Student Leadership Universityor the founding of the Orlando Magic.
In fact, let me tell you how the Magic got started. In 1989, I left a rewarding job as general manager of the Philadelphia 76ers and moved my family to Orlando, Florida, to help build a brand-new NBA basketball team from scratch. It was not a good time for me to leave a secure job in Philly and plunge into such a risky venture. At the time, I had a family of six to feed and for all I knew, I was walking off a financial cliffand taking my wife and kids with me. I had to take a leap of faith, with no guarantee that there was a safety net at the bottom.
The odds were overwhelmingly against all of us who were working on this dream. The NBA had not promised to award a franchise to Orlando, and we were competing against some much more populous markets, such as Miami, Toronto and Minnesota. Orlando had no arena and no history of pro sports. We were definitely the underdogs.
I had to go out to the community and sell season tickets for a team that didn't existand in all probability, never would. I was so driven to turn that dream into a reality that I was selling season tickets anywhere and everywhere I couldeven in the checkout line at the health food store!
I had to sell the idea of an Orlando sports franchise to civic leaders and business leadersand there again, the odds were against us. One challenge that faced us was the construction of the arena. The NBA would not even consider a city without an arenayet the Orlando city fathers didn't want to invest millions in the construction of an arena without a commitment from the NBA. It was a catch-22 situation.
The key to getting our arena turned out to be an amazing coincidence. I was in Houston to speak at a dinner. In the course of the evening, I bumped into the manager of a Houston television station, Vince Barresi, an old friend from Philadelphia. He casually mentioned that his mother-in-law, Pat Schwartz, was a member of the Orlando city council. He had said the magic word!
I asked Vince to put in a good word with his mother-in-law for our arena, so he called Pat Schwartz, told her how important pro basketball was to the city of Houstonand she ended up being the swing vote in a narrow 3–2 decision in favor of the arena. She had been undecided before talking to Vince. If I hadn't gone to Houston to give that speech, the Orlando Magic probably wouldn't exist today.
Some people would chalk it up to chance and coincidence. But I have found that when you trust God and ask for his help in doing something that is seemingly impossible, 'coincidences' tend to multiply and swing the odds in your favor. Why? Because there are no coincidences. There's no such thing as luck. There is only the grace of God and answered prayer.
While we were building this dream called the Orlando Magic, we faced a long chain of seemingly insurmountable hurdles. (For example, there was the day we learned that the franchise fee had jumped from $20 million paid in installments to $32.5 million paid up front!) If just onejust one!of the links in that chain had broken, the whole venture would have collapsed like a house of cards.
Looking back, I realize that leaving Philadelphia and moving to Orlando was a foolish decision. The odds were six hundred to one against us. Yet we persevered and the Orlando Magic played its first regular season game in 1989, and I served as the team's first president and general manager.
There is no question in my mind that the Magic exists in large part because my colleagues and I were operating by the three success secrets of Shamgar. Perhaps building an NBA franchise is not as big an accomplishment as, say, wiping out six hundred Philistines with an ox-goad and saving an entire nation, but I think we did all right. And our accomplishment illustrates what ordinary people can do when they follow the pattern that was laid down by this man from ancient Israel.
How to Beat the Odds
So what are you trying to accomplish? What is your dream, your grand goal in life? Whatever that dream may be, you can achieve it, even if the odds are six hundred to one against it. Like Shamgar, you can beat the odds, you can overcome the obstacles, and you can win.
Look, I know what you're up against, because I've been there. You're facing a challenge that seems too big for you. People are telling you to give up on your goals, to let go of your dreams, to 'face reality.' You're beginning to think that maybe they're right, maybe you should give up and find something safer to dosomething less risky.
Don't even think of quitting, my friend! Don't you dare give upat least not until you've finished this book!
What do you want to accomplish? What is your impossible dream?
Do you aspire to write the Great American Novel? Start your own business? Rescue homeless children from the streets of Calcutta or Buenos Aires or inner-city Los Angeles? Run for public office? Find a cure for cancer, AIDS or Alzheimer's disease? Be the first man or woman on Mars?
You realize, of course, that the odds are against youa six-hundred-to-one shot, at least. But so what? Other people, just like you, have beaten those odds and have achieved great things. They have hammered dreams into reality. Shamgar did it. Why shouldn't you?
So what if the whole world bets against you? What does it matter that your family and friends say you don't stand a chance? By the time you finish this book, you'll know something they don't. You'll know the three success secrets of Shamgar. You'll know how to beat those six-hundred-to-one oddsand win.
I first heard about the three success secrets of Shamgar from my friend Jay Strackspeaker, author and founder of Student Leadership University. Those three life principles completely transformed the way I look at my personal life, my professional life, my relationship with God and the dreams and goals I pursue every day.
By the time you finish this book, you will have Shamgar's three success principles planted in your heart and soul. They will enlarge your vision, rev up your imagination and propel you toward your dreams.
Now, let me turn the next few pages over to Jay. He'll explain the three success secrets of Shamgar and show you how these three simple life principles can transform your life!
©2008. Pat Williams, Jay Strack, Jim Denney. All rights reserved. Reprinted from The Three Success Secrets of Shamgar. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442