can I take all your money, and leave you broke and penniless?”
Greg Lukens welcomed me to his warehouse with his standard
greeting. I liked him the moment I met him, and was impressed
with his style. He knew I would be spending more than pocket
change there, and he had defused my anxiety about doing so.
I was equally impressed as I watched him navigate the
cavernous facility that is Washington Professional Systems. The
company occupies a vast subterranean world--the confines of a
former bowling alley nestled beneath the street shops of
Grandview Avenue, in Wheaton, Maryland. Greg knows every cubic
centimeter of this vastly-stocked outlet--the location and
minute specifications of hundreds of specialty products, stacked
to the ceiling on narrow rows of metal shelves. He knows his
forty employees by name and can recognize them by voice.
Washington Professional Systems sells high-end audio products
to the highest-end customers. It’s where a major studio will go
to purchase a 24-track analog tape recorder, or one of those
endless mixing consoles you see pictured on the cover of audio
magazines, with five hundred knobs. It’s the place a radio
station will contact to order a special broadcast microphone
more expensive than a diamond necklace.
I was there to purchase some recording equipment for our
ministry, costing around $2,000, which made me, I’m sure, Greg’s
low-end customer of the week. Yet he treated me with respect,
and gave me careful instructions about how to operate the items
I had selected.
If you had accompanied me that day on my visit to Washington
Professional Systems, you might not have noticed anything
unusual about Greg Lukens’ world until you entered his office.
It was only then that the stark reality of his situation struck
me fully. I watched in astonishment as Greg sat down at his desk
to type out an invoice on his computer--a computer consisting of
a keyboard, tower and speakers . . . but no monitor. At first I
was stunned by this bizarre omission. It quickly soaked through
my leaden skull that a monitor wouldn’t benefit Greg a bit, for
he couldn’t see one pixel on it. Greg, you see, is blind. Not
just “legally blind,” but totally blind--the result of a
tragic spill off a dirt bike when he was thirteen.
In spite of this significant restriction, he not only founded this
multi-million-dollar business, but manages its day-to-day
And types comfortably on his personal computer. He has
jury-rigged it to “speak” to him--to announce each letter he
types, and to beep rudely at him after each typo.
It was a wake-up call like few I’ve experienced in a long
time. As I drove home, I thought of the many limitations I
bemoan in my own life that are very minor next to Greg’s. I felt
like God was shaking me by the shoulders, saying, “Stop dwelling
on your disadvantages. Stop worrying about what you don’t have.
Focus on what you do have--the resources, gifts and
opportunities that I’ve given you--and give your energy to
making the best of them.”
Not Dwelling on Our Limitations
We hardly face a greater challenge than knowing how to weigh
our personal limitations. Each of us, as we look at our life, is
aware--often profoundly--of certain limitations we have. They
may include, as in Greg’s case, an actual physical disability.
More typically, they involve limits on our talent or potential,
shortcomings in our physical appearance, deficiencies in our
health, less overall energy than we wish we had, and
circumstances we believe are stacked against us. And, of course,
there’s our finances. Who among us ever feels we have all the
money we need to achieve our goals?
Against these limitations we have dreams--those things we
would like to accomplish with our life. It’s often hard to know
how to weigh our limitations in considering whether to pursue a
dream. Should we regard them as an absolute barrier to our
achieving the dream--even a sign from God that we shouldn’t move
ahead? Or should we believe that God will give us success in
spite of them?
Greg Lukens’ example is one of those remarkable ones we
encounter from time to time, which suggest that we shouldn’t let
our limitations easily deter us. We desperately need examples
like his to inspire us, for even when a dream fits us well, we
may be too inclined to cave in to our limitations--thinking they
are a roadblock to our success. Yet Greg’s example reminds us
that even the most serious limitation may not be an obstacle to
our succeeding, so much as a problem we can learn to overcome.
Focusing on Our Advantages
When I consider the factors that have contributed to Greg’s
success, at the top of the list is that he’s a problem solver by
nature. This is evident as soon as you meet him. The whole bent
of his personality is toward finding ways to make things work.
Each of us should look carefully at how we use our mental
energy. No matter how smart we are, we may not focus our
thinking constructively, in a manner that opens us to God’s best
options for our life. Many highly intelligent people use their
brilliance to justify why their dreams cannot be realized,
rather than to look for ways to accomplish them. When such
negative speculating is the thrust of our thinking, we doom
ourselves to failure.
Yet we have considerable control over how we direct our
thinking. Having a realistic understanding of our personal
limitations is critical. But dwelling on them is always
counter-productive. And it’s not honoring to God to do so. We
should strive, as a matter of lifestyle, to give much more
attention to looking for solutions to problems, than to trying
to explain why they can’t be remedied. When we’re able to make
this mental shift, we’re often surprised by the difference it
makes. We begin to see answers to “impossible” predicaments, and
ways to pursue our dreams that have eluded us.
The Benefit of Vision
There is a second characteristic that I believe accounts for
Greg Lukens’ triumph over his disability, and it’s what I would
simply call vision. Greg is someone with substantial
vision. I say this not to be cute; I would use this same term
for him even if he didn’t suffer a visual impairment. What I mean
is that Greg has focus. He had a clear picture in mind of
something he wanted to accomplish with his life--a passionate
dream that fueled his energy and defined how he spent his time.
Most important, he focused more upon the results he wanted to
achieve than upon the problems that could block his path.
We shouldn’t underestimate what a sense of vision can do for
any of us, especially if we feel stuck in a rut and uncertain
how to move forward with our life. Having a dream we want to
pursue, and establishing goals we want to reach--even if they
are very long-term ones--can do wonders to focus our thinking,
and to help us find the courage to take otherwise scary steps.
The point isn’t that God will necessarily expect any of us to
build a major business, as Greg has, or to achieve outrageous
financial success. Our vision should fit the unique gifts and
interests God has given us personally. Yet having vision makes
all the difference in that potential being realized.
We tend to think that those whose accomplishments we admire
have succeeded because they are more talented than we are, or
less cursed with obstacles in their path. Yet when we look
closely at these people, we often find that their ability isn’t
any greater than ours--sometimes clearly less. And many of them
have had their fair share of setbacks, and hurdles to jump along
the way. They are where they are not due to unusual talent, but
because of focus, persistence, and the simple confidence they
A Simpler Answer Than Anyone Imagined
It was attitude, and attitude alone, that gave David the edge
in defeating Goliath (1 Sam 17). We might imagine David
succeeded because he was more skilled as a warrior than others
in Israel at that time. In fact, the opposite was likely true.
He was younger and far less experienced in combat than most of
Israel’s soldiers. Many of them, too, were surely more
experienced with a sling than David, and some could likely have
beaten him in a marksmanship contest.
Yet Goliath had so successfully taunted the Israelite army
that every last soldier--from the newest recruit to the king
himself--was convinced that the giant couldn’t be defeated in
one-on-one combat. This conclusion had settled in so solidly
that a gloomy group-think prevailed. Most were obviously
spending their energy explaining why the problem couldn’t be
solved, rather than looking for a creative solution.
David undoubtedly benefited from not being a soldier, and
from being “outside the box” of this defeatist environment. He
was by nature an optimist and a problem solver. His attitude
wasn’t, “here’s an impossible predicament,” but, “why can’t
this problem be solved?” In that spirit, he reasoned from his
past experience to the present: since he had killed bears and
lions with a sling as a shepherd, he should be able to defeat
even an oversized human opponent this same way. David may well
have concluded, too, that by dumbing-down his approach--by going
into battle without sword or armor, but merely a sling--he could
catch Goliath off guard and have an advantage, which is exactly
What’s most encouraging is that the solution David came up
with to a supposedly unsolvable problem was simple.
Amazingly simple. It was so straightforward and obvious, in
fact, that it’s astonishing no one else had thought of it. But
David alone made the connection between his past experience and
a strategy for defeating Goliath. David succeeded not because of
superior talent but because of superior attitude. His
faith-inspired thinking allowed him to see connections and a
solution that others had missed.
Our View of Christ Makes a Radical Difference
David’s example inspires us to realize that problems in our
own life that we consider insurmountable may in fact have
solutions--even simpler ones than we’ve imagined possible. It
encourages us also not to be too quick to give up on our
personal dreams. It reminds us that attitude more than talent so
often makes the difference in what we are able to accomplish,
and that our limitations may even work to our benefit when we
have a clear goal we want to reach.
As David’s life unfolds in Scripture, it becomes clear that
one factor more than any other accounted for his exceptional
ability to think so constructively. He had a vigorous
relationship with God, which affected how he viewed every aspect
of life. He sought the Lord constantly, and walked with him
His view of God was also extraordinarily positive. “This I
know, that God is for me,” David declares in Psalm 56:9. He was
certain that God wanted the very best for his life, and was
working continually to bring it about. And David focused far
more on God’s grace and strength, than upon his own limitations
and inadequacies. This way of thinking led him to assume by
default that many daunting problems in his life could be solved.
We will each benefit greatly from taking time daily to be
alone with Christ, to nurture our relationship with him, and to
renew our confidence that he desires the best for us. We should
remind ourselves constantly that he is for us, and
infinitely capable of bringing about his plan for our life. As
that conviction sinks in more and more, we will find it more
natural to keep our limitations in proper perspective, and not
to let them be the overriding factor as we think toward the
Even more important, through walking closely with Christ, we
open ourselves to his inspiration, and to what Paul terms “the
mind of Christ” toward our life (1 Cor 2:16). Nothing helps us
more to see beyond our limitations to our true potential, and to
find the courage to move forward.