Does Anyone Believe in You?

With four seconds left in the game and trailing the Saints, 24-23, Vikings quarterback Case Keenum lofted a desperation pass to Stefon Diggs near the New Orleans 35-yard line. After Diggs went high in the air to snag the pass, coaches yelled at him to get out of bounds so the Vikings could attempt a last-second field goal.

But Diggs disregarded his coaches. When no one tackled him, he decided to head for the end zone instead of going out of bounds. In one of the most amazing finishes in NFL playoff history, he went untouched to a 61-yard touchdown as time expired.

If you didn’t see the play, you may want to check it out on YouTube.

After the game, Case Keenum said it was the third happiest day of his life – behind the day he gave his life to Jesus Christ and the day he married his wife.

Pretty cool…

Yet I was even more  struck by something Stefon Diggs said after the game, as he fought back tears of joy and disbelief. “My coach believed in me…my quarterback believed in me…and God believed in me,”  he explained.

I don’t know much about Stefon’s background. But reading between the lines, I wondered if he was implying that his coach, his quarterback, and God were the ONLY three who really believed in him!

Most of us have faced some naysayers along the way, and it’s a powerful experience when you know someone truly believes in you.

That’s why one of my favorite Bible verses is 2 Corinthians 7:16, where the apostle Paul writes, I rejoice that I have confidence in you in everything.”  Although most people have never given much thought to this verse, it contains a life-changing principle, especially when you realize who Paul was writing to.

You see, the Corinthians were his “problem church.” Paul’s letters reveal that they were seriously divided, with factions supporting various human leaders. They also argued about spiritual gifts, meat offered to idols, and even Jesus’ resurrection. The squabbles were so intense that the Corinthians were taking each other to court before the city’s secular magistrates.

Even the Lord’s Supper had become a problem. While it was supposed to be a unifying practice in the church, it has become a travesty in Corinth, a total embarrassment. Meanwhile, the church was tolerating blatant immorality among its members, and no one was doing anything to confront the misdeeds.

If all this dysfunction wasn’t enough, Paul realized that many of the Corinthians no longer respected his leadership – even though he had been used by God to bring them the Gospel.

How would you  handle a church like this?

Even though you or I may have been tempted to just knock the dust off our feet and have nothing further to do with the Corinthian believers, Paul had a quite different approach…

I rejoice that I have confidence in you in everything.”

Doesn’t that sound ludicrous based on the condition of these wayward Christians? Well, yes, it sounds pretty crazy…unless you understand one of Paul’s most important leadership secrets: His confidence in the Corinthians was based upon His confidence in the Lord.

“Such confidence we have through Christ TOWARD GOD”  (2 Corinthians 3:4 NASB).

Is there someone today you’re struggling to have confidence in? Perhaps you’ve lost hope that anything will ever change with your spouse, a son or daughter, or someone in your church or workplace.

We’ve all come to that place at one time or another, losing hope that those around us will ever change. And to be honest, sometimes they don’t  change.

However, the basis of Paul’s secret was his confidence that God would answer his prayers and turn things around in the people and situations that concerned him. For example, immediately after telling the Philippians of his constant prayers for them, he made this beautiful declaration of confidence in how they would turn out:

“I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus”  (Philippians 1:6 NASB).

I can’t help wondering where Stefon Diggs would be today if someone didn’t believe in him. For that matter, where would you or I be if God hadn’t sent friends and mentors to encourage us and believe in us?

Perhaps you’re struggling today, feeling like no one expects you to succeed. Maybe your parents, your spouse, your children, your friends, or your boss have expressed their displeasure and their doubts – and perhaps you don’t even believe in yourself.

If so, remember Paul’s message to the Corinthians. While things didn’t look very good on the surface, he bet on God to turn things around and complete the work He started.

Even with only four seconds left on the clock, with God’s help you just might score the winning touchdown.

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Michael Jordan & the Key to Overcoming Failure

When you remember sports stars of yesteryear, you probably remember their finest moments. Babe Ruth is famous for hitting 714 home runs in his career, and few people remember that he also struck out 1330 times, almost twice as often.

I guess the moral of the story is that if you want to hit a lot of home runs in life, you can’t be afraid to strikeout from time to time. If Babe Ruth had spent time thinking about his strike outs, he would have become too discouraged to be the great ballplayer that he was.

Basketball great Michael Jordan said on a TV commercial toward the end of his NBA career: “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost more than 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot—and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life, and that is why I succeed.”

Should we consider Michael Jordan a failure at basketball because he missed a lot of shots and lost a lot of games? Of course not. Yet missing the winning shot in a big game would have sent some players into a tailspin. They might have gone into a slump for several games, unable to shake the memory of their failure. But not Michael. He learned to start each game with a clean slate.

Michael Jordan had actually learned to overcome failure several years before starting his career in the NBA. In 1978 he was cut from the basketball team at Laney High School in Wilmington, North Carolina. Instead of giving up, he worked hard to improve his game. He made the team the following year, and by 1985 he was the NBA rookie of the year.

No one ever became a great success in life without also experiencing some failure along the way. The person who’s intent on never making a mistake has probably never made much of anything.

The key is your ability to shake it off and bounce back. You have to forget about that last shot that you missed.

In my mid-20s I went on a date with a girl and ended up telling her my life story. “You sure have failed a lot!” she told me after a while.

Well, I’ve failed many more times in the years since then.

However, when I examine the lives of the Biblical heroes in the Hall of Fame of Faith in Hebrews 11, I see plenty of failure before their ultimate triumphs. And I love the apostle Paul’s conclusion in Philippians 3:13-14: “One thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

I guess we all need some “selective amnesia” as we age. We have to forget about the strikeouts and missed buzzer-beaters and focus on the great opportunities ahead. Let’s keep swinging for the fences. Let’s keep shooting, particularly after we’ve missed our last shot.

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Getting Rid of Your Scarlet Letters

Of all the novels I read in high school and college, perhaps the one that impacted me the most was Nathaniel Hawthorne’s famous novel, The Scarlet Letter. Set in 17th-century Puritan Boston, the book tells the story of Hester Prynne, who is required to forever wear the letter “A” on her dress after she is discovered to be an adulteress.

Think of what it would be like if this kind of punishment was enforced today. What if everyone who has engaged in sex outside of marriage was required to wear a scarlet “A” for Adultery or “S” for Shame?

But many of us deal with different kinds of scarlet letters. Perhaps it’s a scarlet “F” for Failure or Fat, “R” for Rejected, “I” for Inferior, “U” for Unemployed, or “D” for Depressed or Divorced.

You get the picture. Life’s scarlet letters can be customized to fit your personal situations. If we’re not careful, our negative experiences can become our identity.

Yes, many people—even many Christians—are carrying around internal guilt, inferiority, and shame that are not much different than Hester Prynne’s cruel punishment. Unable to believe God has truly forgiven them, they still are wallowing in their past mistakes.

I love the gospel of Jesus Christ, because it’s a message of redemption and happy endings. No matter how you’ve messed up your life with poor decisions in the past, God can set you free and give you a glorious future.

If you don’t believe me, just take a look at the story of Rahab, a prostitute living in Jericho. This woman had a history far worse than Hester Prynne. She undoubtedly had engaged in sexual relations with hundreds of men, if not thousands. Rahab must have been seen as one of Jericho’s most notorious home-wreckers.

Yet this Canaanite harlot end up in the Hall of Fame of Faith (Hebrews 11:31) and even in the family line of both King David and Jesus (Matthew 1:5). What an amazing turnaround!

Despite growing up in a pagan environment, Rahab had heard of the God of Israel, and faith grew in her heart that He was the true God. So when Joshua sent two spies to scout out the fortified city of Jericho, she hid them on her roof and lied to the king’s soldiers about the spies’ whereabouts.

Quite the opposite of wearing a scarlet letter for her sordid past, Rahab ended up being saved by scarlet of a different kind. The spies agree to spare her life if she hung a scarlet cord from her window so the Israelites could find and protect her (Joshua 2:17-21).

Do you see what a beautiful picture this is? The scarlet cord represents the blood of Jesus that later would be shed on the cross for the sins of the world (John 1:29). Like Rahab, none of us can stand before God on the basis of our own good deeds or righteousness. As the old hymn by Robert Lowry says:

What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

So there’s no need for any of us to keep wearing a scarlet letter of guilt and shame for things we’ve done in the past. This is a new day. When the devil comes to condemn you, you can hang the scarlet cord from your window and tell him the blood of Jesus has cleansed you, just as if you had never sinned.

By taking a step of faith, Rahab changed the whole trajectory of her life. Not only was her own life transformed, but her legacy has now impacted countless generations.

I’m believing God for the same kind of transformation to happen in your life. But first you must ask Him to show you whether you’ve been carrying around some kind of scarlet letter because of past mistakes or traumas. If so, the good news is that you can claim the promise of Isaiah 1:18, cleansed of your sins and made “white as snow.”

And be clear on this: Your Heavenly Father doesn’t just tolerate you or begrudgingly accept you. He wholeheartedly LOVES you and offers you an incredible new identity:

The Lord will hold you in his hand for all to see—
a splendid crown in the hand of God.
Never again will you be called “The Forsaken City”
or “The Desolate Land.”
Your new name will be “The City of God’s Delight”
and “The Bride of God,”
for the Lord delights in you
and will claim you as his bride
(Isaiah 62:3-4).

Amazing love, isn’t it? You are “God’s Delight,” and He beckons you to live your life as His beloved bride. You can throw away your scarlet letters, once and for all.

 

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Michael Jordan & the Secret to Overcoming Failure

When you remember sports stars of yesteryear, you probably remember their finest moments. Babe Ruth is famous for hitting 714 home runs  in his career, and few people remember that he also struck out 1330 times, almost twice as often.

I guess the moral of the story is that if you want to hit a lot of home runs in life, you can’t be afraid to strikeout from time to time. If Babe Ruth had spent time thinking about his strike outs, he would have become too discouraged to be the great ballplayer that he was.

Basketball great Michael Jordan said on a TV commercial toward the end of his NBA career: “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost more than 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot—and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life, and that is why I succeed.”

Should we consider Michael Jordan a failure at basketball because he missed a lot of shots and lost a lot of games? Of course not. Yet missing the winning shot in a big game would have sent some players into a tailspin. They might have gone into a slump for several games, unable to shake the memory of their failure. But not Michael. He learned to start each game with a clean slate.

Michael Jordan had actually learned to overcome failure several years before starting his career in the NBA. In 1978 he was cut from the basketball team at LaneyHigh School in Wilmington, North Carolina. Instead of giving up, he worked hard to improve his game. He made the team the following year, and by 1985 he was the NBA rookie of the year.

No one ever became a great success in life without also experiencing some failure along the way. The person who’s intent on never making a mistake has probably never made much of anything.

The key is your ability to shake it off and bounce back. You have to forget about that last shot that you missed.

In my mid-20s I went on a date with a girl and ended up telling her my life story. “You sure have failed a lot!” she told me after a while. Well, I’ve failed many more  times in the years since then.

However, when I examine the lives of the Biblical heroes in the Hall of Fame of Faith in Hebrews 11, I see plenty of failure before their ultimate triumphs. And I love the apostle Paul’s conclusion in Philippians 3:13-14: “One thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

I guess we all need some “selective amnesia” as we age. We have to forget about the strikeouts and missed buzzer-beaters and focus on the great opportunities ahead. Let’s keep swinging for the fences. Let’s keep shooting, particularly after we’ve missed our last shot.

 

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