Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

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In 1675, Isaac Newton penned a letter to fellow scientist Robert Hooke in which Newton confessed: “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Newton may have adapted this quotation from Bernard of Chartres who according to one of his students remarked that they were “dwarfs perched on the shoulders of giants. He pointed out that we see more and farther than our predecessors, not because we have keener vision or greater height, but because we are lifted up and borne aloft on their gigantic stature” (The Metalogicon of John Salisbury: A Twelfth-century Defense of the Verbal and Logical Arts of the Trivium pg. 167). In the cathedral at Chartres, stained glass images depict Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel standing with Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John sitting atop their shoulders, demonstrating the idea that the Gospel writers saw more by building on the work of the Old Testament writers. (Visit here for more information.) The British two-pound coin bears the inscription: STANDING ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS to pay tribute to the quote of Newton.

I can say unequivocally that I am one who daily stands on the shoulders of giants. To name the giants in my life would take me the rest of my life and you likely could do the same. Sadly, we sometimes adopt the approach of the Rich Fool Jesus depicted in Luke 12 who could only say ‘I’ and ‘my’ while looking at the abundance of blessings God provided to him. Instead, I want to take this article to describe and give appreciation to one of the giants in my life.

To look and comment on his physical stature, giant is not the adjective you would use. He is barely over 5 feet in height and probably weighed less than 150 pounds at the heaviest point in his life. He is now in his ninth decade of life and time has made him even frailer. His name O.L. Ransom, or as most who know him: Brother Junior. I must admit I am not certain if he is really a junior and his father a senior or if this moniker was simply given to him sometime in the past. What I do know is that he is a giant whose shoulders I stand on each time I stand to preach.

Bro. Junior came into my life when I was a boy of probably 9 or 10 and it was only a few short years later that he set about helping train me to become a man of God. He preached for my home congregation in the Freewill community in Jackson County and had preached in various other places before and after being our “regular preacher.” He impressed me in so many ways and for so many reasons. His love for the Lord and His Word were evident in each sermon and Bible class he conducted. The content was simple, straightforward, and, most importantly, in accordance with the truth of Scripture. He spoke continually about the need for every Christian to be involved in the work of the church, and he led by example and epitomized what it meant to be a personal worker. He organized a visitation program that my family participated in, and we had regular assignments to visit the local hospital, shut-in members, and others as per the command of James 1:27.

However, the biggest reason he is a giant to me is his unwavering belief and confidence in the truth that if God says to do it, we can do it. Thus, he began a men’s training class that helped all who participated gain experience in serving in worship by singing, reading Scripture, praying, and delivering sermons. I was the youngest in the class and not yet a teenager. My knees made more noise than my tongue as I stood before the people of God and tried my best to remember the instructions he gave. To my surprise, my fear and anxiety quickly subsided, and I gained confidence. He provided helpful books to better assist in the preparation of some lessons, and he planted a seed for the love for preaching that still blooms in my mind and heart to the present hour.

No, he is not a giant physically, but he is a giant in faith, and whatever good I do in my life I will forever be indebted to Brother Junior and the many others whose shoulders I stand on. Who are the giants in your life? Who can you be a giant to? Give some thought to why you can see further!