March Madness is here!
For the non-sports fan, I’m not talking about the weather! The NCAA basketball tournament begins this week. If you’re a basketball fan, it’s a great three-week ride.
There will be upsets. Highs and lows. Ups and downs. Incredible plays. Smiles and tears. Success and failure. Predictably, there will be a game where a team has a lead, then becomes tentative. Quits making the plays that put them ahead. At that point, the color commentator will say, “They’re playing not to lose, instead of playing to win.”
I’m sure there will be games that comes down to the last shot. It’s often observed that some players don’t want the ball in the situation, but others live for that moment. They’re not afraid to take the big shot. Win or lose, they’re comfortable with the pressure riding on their ability to make it when it counts the most.
It reminds of a commercial several years starring Michael Jordan, who hit the winning shot on the 1982 North Carolina Championship team. Of course, Jordan was the leader of the six-time champion Chicago Bulls. In the commercial the camera follows Jordan as he strides onto the court for another game. Voices of the sold-out crowd chant his name. He pauses, and for a moment we can hear his thoughts. Listen to what he says:
“I’ve missed over nine thousand shots in my career. I’ve lost over three hundred games. Twenty six times I took the game winning shot and missed. . . and because of these failures, I’m a success.”
This is a metaphor for life. Successful people are not afraid of failure. Of taking risks. Of stepping up to meet a challenge. This is also true of Christians. Too often we shrink back and shirk some opportunity because we are afraid to make a mistake. To say the wrong thing. Or because we’re not as good as someone else.
It reminds us of Jesus’ parable of the talents in Matthew 25. A wealthy master entrusted three of his servants with various amounts of money (called “talents”) to invest based on their ability. The master then took a trip and returned a later time to see how they fared.
The five talent man had doubled the money. So had the two talent man. Both were commended.
“Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’” (Matt 25:24-25)
The master was upset with that servant. He called him wicked and lazy. And condemned his failure to try.
While there are many lessons in the parable, one stands out and shouts to us, “Don’t fear failure!”
God specializes in using failures to accomplish his purpose. All of God’s great men and women made mistakes. Fell short of the mark. And at some point failed.
Abraham lied. Jacob deceived. Moses murdered. Samson had a weakness for women. Eli was a poor parent. David committed adultery. Peter denied Jesus. Thomas doubted. And Saul was a persecutor of Christians before he was converted and became the apostle Paul.
All of these failed. At some point in their lives. But they had one thing in common. They never quit. They corrected their mistakes. Maintained their faith in God. And kept their spiritual focus.
What about you? Have you “missed a shot”? Made a mistake? Fell short of God’s grace? Don’t quit. Get up. Make it right. And keep on keeping on! And with God’s power, He can make you whole, and give you greater strength to accomplish His purpose.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman