The Maestro was born in the northern Italian city of Modena. His mother was a cigar factory worker, his father was a baker and amateur tenor. It was the amateur tenor part that most touched young Luciano Pavarotti. He loved hearing his dad sing, and he spent hours listening to the family’s collection of recordings of great tenors. Father and son sang along with the records at full volume. Mr. Pavarotti wouldn’t sing in public due to stage fright, but he did sing in the church choir. At age nine, Luciano joined him. The boy loved to sing—and people loved hearing him.
“Your voice touches me whenever you sing,” his mother said.
But the question of a career was vexing. In those days just after World War II, a musical career was risky. His mother suggested Luciano become an athletic instructor, while his father encouraged him to continue developing his voice. “But you will have to study very hard, Luciano,” he said. “Practice harder, and then maybe.”
Luciano continued his musical studies and also enrolled in a teacher’s college. After graduation, he asked his father, “Shall I be a teacher or a singer?”
The older man wisely avoided giving a direct answer. Instead he spoke words his son never forgot: “Luciano, if you try to sit on two chairs, you will fall between them. For life, you must choose one chair.”
Luciano chose singing. It took seven years of hard study and intense practice before he made his first professional appearance, and it took another seven before he reached the Metropolitan Opera.
But Pavarotti lived with a single focus. Ultimately, he became one of the most famous operatic singers in the world—the King of High Cs, and a crossover performer who won the admiration of millions who had never set foot in an opera house. His final performance was viewed by the entire world as he sang “Nessun Dorma” at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin.
“I was blessed with a good voice by God,” Pavarotti said. “I think it pleased Him that I decided to devote myself to it. And now I think whether it’s laying bricks, driving a straight nail, writing a book, whatever we choose we should give ourselves to it. Commitment, that’s the key. Choose one chair.”1
Like Pavarotti, you have been blessed by God. You’ve been blessed with talents, resources, and a dream for the next phase of your life. Once you’ve prayed about that dream and set the right priorities to achieve it, your next step is to focus your life on that one main thing.
The Focus of My Life
I, too, had a father who knew how to pass along wise counsel at the right time. When I finished my seminary training many years ago, my father preached the sermon at my ordination ceremony. He based it on a passage in Acts 13, “David . . . served his own generation by the will of God” (v. 36). Of course, this was written about King David, but that is who I am named for. That day my father challenged me.
I have never forgotten his challenge. It’s been a touchstone for me, a vision. More than once it helped me focus and pray, “God, that’s what I want to do. I want to serve my generation by Your will.”
I can’t serve the generation that’s past. They are gone. I can’t serve the generation that’s just starting; I probably won’t be here to do that. But God has given me this little window of opportunity to serve my generation, and by His grace I want to stay focused on that.
David Jeremiah, Forward: Discovering God’s Presence and Purpose in Your Tomorrow (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2020), xii–xvi.
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Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking. Answers are provided in the form of quotes from respected authors such as John Piper, Max Lucado and Beth Moore.
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