I had the world


Ask Muhammed Ali.

You know Ali, the unprecedented three-time world heavyweight boxing champion. His face has appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated more times than any other athlete. When he was "floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee," he was king of his profession. An entourage of reporters, trainers, and support staff tailed this comet as he raced around the world.

But that was yesterday. Where is Muhammed Ali today? Sportswriter Gary Smith went to find out.

Ali escorted Smith to a barn next to his farmhouse. On the floor, leaning against the walls, were mementos of Ali in his prime. Photos and portraits of the champ punching and dancing. Sculpted body. Fist punching the air.

Championship belt held high in triumph. "The thrilla in Manila."

But on the pictures were white streaks-bird droppings. Ali looked into the rafters at the pigeons who had made his gym their home. And then he did something significant. Perhaps it was a gesture of closure. Maybe it was a statement of despair. Whatever the reason, he walked over to the row of pictures and turned them, one by one, toward the wall. He then walked to the door, stared at the countryside, and mumbled something so low that Smith had to ask him to repeat it. Ali did.

"I had the world," he said, "and it wasn't nothin'. Look now."

The pole of power is greasy.

The Roman emperor Charlemagne knew that. An interesting story surrounds the burial of this famous king. Legend has it that he asked to be entombed sitting upright in his throne. He asked that his crown be placed on his head and his scepter in his hand. He requested that the royal cape be draped around his shoulders and an open book be placed in his lap.

That was A.D. 814. Nearly two hundred years later, Emperor Othello determined to see if the burial request had been carried out. He allegedly sent a team of men to open the tomb and make a report. They found the body just as Charlemagne had requested. Only now, nearly two centuries later, the scene was gruesome. The crown was tilted, the mantle moth-eaten, the body disfigured. But open on the skeletal thighs was the book Charlemagne had requested-the Bible. One bony finger pointed to Matthew 16:26 "What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?"'

You can answer that one.

The Applause of Heaven

copyright [Word Publishing, 1996] Max Lucado, p. 139-140.

Used by permission

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