Decide to Try and When Necessary Try, Try Again

Basketball great Michael Jordan once said, “I’ve never been afraid to fail _ I think I’m strong enough as a person to accept failing, but I cannot accept not trying.”

There are things you want to see happen in your life: habits you want to break, habits you want to develop _ things you want to accomplish, goals you want to achieve. For some of you, these remain distant dreams _ simply because you’re not willing to take a chance.

Hockey legend Wayne Gretzky said that you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. That is so true. With every decision you make, you risk failure, but you also open the door to the possibility of success and blessing.

Wise King Solomon had this to say about trying, “Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth.” (Proverbs 10:4) Maybe the problem is attitude. Solomon is talking about more than money _ he’s reminding us that we must take action if we want results. I challenge you to think about what you really, really want in life then get after it. But what if things don’t work out the way we thought they would…

Proverbs 24:16 is a great verse that answers that question: “For though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again.” A godly person doesn’t let defeat keep him down. He gets back up. How many times _ as many times as it takes.

The sixth game of the 1975 World Series was a 12-inning classic at Boston’s Fenway Park is a great example of that. While there are many memorable moments from that game _ among them Red Sox pinch hitter Bernie Carbo hitting a game-tying home run in the eighth (which by the way was on the next pitch after he made a weak swing at a pitch that had him totally fooled) _ Reds reliever Will McEnaney pitching out of a bases loaded, no out jam in the bottom of the ninth _ Boston’s Dwight Evans making a spectacular 11th-inning catch to rob Joe Morgan of a go-ahead home run _ in spite of all that what is remembered most is the walk off home run hit in the bottom of the 12th by Carlton Fisk. Fisk’s home run gave the Sox a 7-6 win to send the series to a deciding seventh game, which the “Big Red Machine” won to clinch the first of back-to-back World Series championships.

Why that story? The Red Sox could have given up in that 6th game but they didn’t, and they won the game. The Reds could have been demoralized and given up after losing but they didn’t and won the 7th game and became world champions.

Here is my point: If you want to experience all that God has for you _ if you want to accomplish something great with your life then decide now to try and then try again _ as many times as it takes.

 

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Decide What You Really Want

Ben Stein once said, “The first step to getting the things you want out of life is simple: Decide what you want.” The great philosopher, Lily Tomlin (lol) added this, “I always wanted to be somebody, but I should have been more specific.” The same is true about deciding what we really want.

Bob Burg offers this when it comes to deciding what we really want: “It’s good to have goals but know this: no matter how big a goal you have…God…has a bigger and better goal for you.” And a very wise man named Solomon said this, “What the righteous desire will be granted.” (Proverbs 10:24) There it is, plain and simple. The key to getting God’s help when it comes to making decisions about our heart’s desire is righteous living _ in other words doing things God’s way.

For instance, I’m not sure what all is next in your life or in the life of your church but here is something that Jesus said that is definitely worth considering before getting started. He said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8) There are many ways to apply this teaching, but today I want to apply it to prayer and deciding what we really want:

First: It’s speaking to God, that’s the “ask” part. I wonder, are you bold enough to ask God?

Second: It’s listening to God, that’s the “seek” part. Are you wise enough to spend some time listening to God?

And third: It’s responding to God, that’s the “knock” part.  Are you courageous enough to respond to God’s call?

I hope the answer to all three questions is a resounding, “YES!” Because, putting God first empowers us to prioritize our wants _ to eliminate the ones that don’t belong on the list in the first place _ to focus on things that truly matter and then pursue our God-driven heart’s desire. I think that is exactly what David had in mind when he wrote, “Take delight in the Lord and he will give you your heart’s desires.” (Psalm 37:4) So decide what you really want but decide carefully and prayerfully.

Decide to Decide

In Revelation 3, Jesus had this to say to the church in Laodicea: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm _ neither hot nor cold _ I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:15-16)

When it comes to decision making, we must not let the fear of making a wrong decision prevent us from making any decision at all. Making a wrong decision is going to happen from time to time. I know I have made more than my share. But the upside of making a wrong decision is that it helps develop wisdom.

That said, decision making doesn’t mean that we should live with reckless abandon making decisions without praying _ without searching God’s word for answers _ without seeking advice from people who know more about something than we do _ without using common sense.

The Bible is full of examples of people with problems because of a wrong decision. For instance, after Solomon died his son Rehoboam became king and he had some decisions to make. Let’s see how he did.

Things seemed to start off ok __ he went to the elders for advice, “If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants.” (1 Kings 12:7) That sounds like good advice.

Next verse: “But Rehoboam rejected the advice the elders gave him and consulted the young men who had grown up with him.” (1 Kings 12:8) Their advice? “Tell these people who have said to you, ‘Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but make our yoke lighter’ _ tell them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist. My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.’” (1 Kings 12:10-11)

Rehoboam decided his buddies knew more than the old “fuddie duddies”. He rejected the wisdom of people that had been with an extremely wise king. Where did it get him? The people rebelled and things were never the same again in Israel.

Here is a piece of advice about deciding to decide _ DON’T PROCRASTINATE! God doesn’t want you to put off your most important decisions saving them for the next day because it might turn into next week then next month then next year. And so yes, we need to move forward but we need to do it with wisdom. You don’t want to make impulsive, ill-informed decisions _ and you won’t if you’ve involved God in the process. God wants you to decide to take action today but carefully and prayerfully so do the necessary homework _ ask the necessary questions _ get sound advice from sound people _ spend the necessary time in prayer so that you can make the best decision possible.

Our Hope

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)

Anger

There is an emotion that touches all our lives _ anger. If we aren’t careful anger can overflow into bitterness and hatred and we say and do things we will later regret. The Bible tells us in Ephesians 4:26–27, “In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry. Do not give the Devil a foothold.” The reality is that all of us face situations and challenges that will make us angry. No one is immune.

When the famous painter Leonardo da Vinci was painting The Last Supper, he became angry with someone slowing down his work and lashed out at him. After that incident, he went back to his painting. It was going fine _ that is until he reached the point of painting the face of Jesus. It paralyzed him. He couldn’t bring himself to paint Jesus’ face without first making things right with the person who had caused his anger.

I think we have all faced some situation like that. We have lashed out in anger and later felt ashamed. Regardless of our emotional makeup, anger affects all of us, and when we allow anger to control us, we feel poorly, knowing that we need to make things right.

The Christian lifestyle must be different, and one of the ways we can show our difference is by not allowing anger to control us. Here’s the reality: There will be times when we are in situations over which we have no control. When this happens, we must be willing to say, I don’t control this situation, and getting angry is not going to do any good. In fact, it will probably make things worse.

In a society where rage is everywhere, conflict resolution is one way we can show ourselves distinct. It doesn’t mean we are perfect, or that we have stopped being angry. Remember, even Jesus got angry. It is when anger gets ugly and goes unresolved that problems develop.

Frederick Buechner said this in speaking about anger: “To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to savor to the last toothsome morsel of both the pain you have been given and the pain you are giving back in many ways is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that while you are wolfing down, you are wolfing down yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.”

So, what makes you angry? Is it when someone is rude? Is it when someone spreads a vicious lie about you? Is it when someone gets the promotion you deserve? Is it when someone brags about some great accomplishment? Is it stubborn pride? Is it when someone holds on to a grudge and won’t let go?

In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul gives us the perfect antidote to those and many more situations. He put it like this: “And now I will show you the most excellent way.” (1 Corinthians 12:31) “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.“ He concludes God’s definition of love with this observation:  “Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

In the end uncontrolled, unloving anger hurts us more than it does anybody else. We destroy only ourselves. God does not want that for us, because he has something much better planned for our lives. It’s called love and forgiveness _ mercy and grace.

Why Worry When You Can Pray

All too often we deal with the urgent and ignore what is important. We live with little “t” truths in our lives while God wants us to hear the big “T’ truths that can help us break through some of these issues.

Today I am going to look at the issue of worry and anxiety. A lot of things grab our attention; a lot of things that if we’re not careful we end up worrying about. The truth is, there are a lot of things that create anxiety in our lives. We worry about everything from the price of gas to what’s going on in the Middle East. But when do we worry most? Usually when there’s trouble or disappointment, or a broken dream _ some issue that is beyond our control. How can we ever fix Humpty Dumpty? How will we ever resolve the puzzle called life?

In 2 Corinthians 11 Paul is being challenged about his sincerity, his sacrifice, his commitment _ even his authority. According to verse 16 Paul was being taken for a fool. So, on this rare occasion Paul lists several things that show that he really is committed to what he is doing. Let’s pick up with verse 23. “Are they servants of Christ? (I speak as if insane.) I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked—a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.” And then he says this, “Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches.” (2 Corinthians 11:23-28 NASB)

Wow Paul had been through a boatload of trials. There are a so many issues going on, a lot of things that would create stress in his life, a lot of things that could cause him to worry or be anxious. In Philippians 4 things aren’t any easier as a matter of fact Paul is writing from prison _ more reason to worry but just listen to what he says: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7 NIV) At the very beginning of that verse consider what he says: Do not be anxious about what? “Anything.”

If we’re not careful, worry takes us down a rat hole and that leads to pessimism. And that pessimism can suck us down to a place where we have absolutely no ability to move forward with whatever is going on in our life. Paul says, “Don’t get stuck on the negative, look at the positive.”  In other words, look at the things in your life that are going well, look at how God is working in your life, look at the way blessings have occurred over your lifetime. Recognize how God is at work in your life.  Don’t get stuck looking at all a potential disaster, rather look at what God is doing.

I close by offering an alternative to worry _ pray. I love the chorus that is a great reminder for us when worry starts creeping in…

Why worry when you can pray.

Don’t worry _ He’ll be your stay.

Don’t be a doubting Thomas trust fully in His promise

Why worry, worry, worry, worry _ when you can pray.

Breaking a Chain Called Guilt

There are so many chains that bind us. Oh, not literal chains but there are issues like depression and loneliness and self-esteem. Those chains can prevent us from enjoying peace. There is a sense of unsettledness in our life as we wrestle with these issues. They keep us from becoming the kind of person that God would have us be.

Now I realize that sometimes a chain can be helpful. It can keep us from drifting into further ruin. But usually chains keep our life at a standstill. We don’t enjoy health or peace or blessing from God.

I doubt if there is one of us who hasn’t had something from our past, maybe as recent as yesterday or perhaps even today that is holding us down. It may be that we wish we wouldn’t have said something. It may be something we did or didn’t do. If we could turn the clock back, we would. We wish that things could somehow be different. But rather than looking for a solution what do we do? We ignore it _ we suppress it _ we deny it.

If that describes something going on in your life, then hear this: until you deal with what caused the guilt; it will always be a chain that will prevent you from enjoying the peace and comfort that God intends for you. Eventually our consciences will start getting to us and then it affects how we sleep _ how we eat _ how we get along with people _ even our prayer lives. Guilt gets to us.

The truth is, it’s not just those simple things. Sometimes the guilt drives deep into our lives and keeps us from healthy relationships, keeps us from going to church gatherings, keeps us from doing things we know we should be doing, keeps us from giving up habits that should be given up. If it goes unresolved it can drive us into deep depression.

There are places in the Psalms where David spoke about the issue of guilt. One is found in Psalm 40:12: “For troubles without number surround me. My sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs on my head and my heart fails within me.” (Psalm 40:12)

So, what breaks the chain of guilt? Forgiveness is the only way to move past guilt because God has a future for us _ He has a plan for us. What God offers is peace and wholeness and healing, freedom from all that old stuff. The writer of Hebrews puts it like this, “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith,” (Hebrews 12:1-2) So, if you are going to be chained, rather than being chained to guilt then be chained to Jesus.