Do Not Fear Failure

One of Teddy Roosevelt's most memorable speeches talked about how it's not the critic who counts, but the one who is actually fighting in the arena. About this person, he observed, "Who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place will never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."

Far too many people are paralyzed into inaction because of their fear of failure. They fear the jeers of the crowd or the stinging remarks of the critics or the possibility of simply looking foolish and being laughed at - so they don't try at all. And they waste life's greatest opportunities because they fear the possibility of failing more than they look forward to the chance of great success. Further, they cheat themselves out of the character building benefits that only failing while daring greatly can bring.

Chances are that you cannot name the baseball player who in the 1930's held the all-time record for striking out, but it's a safe bet that you can name the man who had the home run record for the same time period. Interestingly, both records were held by the same player. Yet no one remembers Babe Ruth for being prone to striking out. What they do remember is that he was one of the greatest baseball players of all time. Can you imagine if Babe feared failure? We likely would have never heard of him because he probably would have never played in the first place.

So what is it that you have been putting off because you fear that you might fail? The fact is that God has created us for greatness - not mediocrity. The proof is in the price that He was willing to pay for just the possibility of our success - His one and only Son! If the Creator has placed that much confidence in our chances for success, can we not at least be willing to risk a failure or two in the quest of a life well lived and in the ultimate prize of heaven?

But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14, NIV


Did You Think it Would be Easy?

"And lo, I am with you always." Jesus

My great grandmother's great grandfather sat in the Governor's mansion and had a college named after him. The name was later changed to the University of Tennessee. But before that, he had to do his part in the Revolutionary War. My great grandmother and great grandfather bore their final two children in a brand new state. But before that, they had to help settle the Oklahoma and Indian Territories.

My grandparents were witnesses to the moon landing but, before that, they had their start in a world where the wagons were pulled by horses and the houses were heated by coal and wood. Their restroom facilities were outdoors. My parents have lived through one of the greatest booms in the history of the world and are surrounded by conveniences that generations before them only dreamed of. But before that, they grew up during the great depression and the ravages of WWII.

We face uncertain times now - both from evil men and financial difficulties. How will we do, I wonder? At times I am very concerned about this world, but then I remember what the generations before me have gone through and realize that my difficulties are relatively minor by comparison. I also remember that God has not promised us ease and comfort. He never has, when you think about it.

Before David became king he had to go to battle with Goliath.

Before Daniel was made second in charge in Babylon he had to face the lions.

Before the Israelites received the promised land they had to wander 40 years in the wilderness.

We have been promised Heaven. We know that Christ is with us and that God is for us, so we will succeed - if we will only be faithful. The test will be hard at times but, then again, did you think that it would be easy?

If God is for us, who can be against us?

Romans 8:31, NIV


Cultivating the Soul, Part II

To live with happiness we must cultivate the happy side of life.

Norman Vincent Peale

The cultivation process has two parts: One is to do the weeding; the second is to get the soil ready for the seed. The good gardener will aerate and water and fertilize in order to make sure the soil is properly prepared for the good things that he or she wants to grow. It's the same in life. If we want the happy existence that God has planned for His children, we will have to weed our lives of the bad influences and then put in the good things conducive to contentment. I know that this is not an earth-shaking revelation, but it is amazing to see how many miss out on a lifetime of joy because they miss the second step.

So, where do we find these proper ingredients for the happy life? Is it from self-help books, perky e-mails, the advice of well intentioned friends, a really good prescription drug - or maybe that elusive guru atop some distant mountain? I don't believe that any of these things are even close. What we really need is instruction from the Master-Gardener, and the only reliable source for His instruction is the Bible.

I know that many people will be disappointed at this assessment, primarily because the Bible is a really big book and it looks really hard. Did you expect something as wonderful as a life filled with productivity and contentment to be easy? The fact is that it will take great effort - quality results always do. But, a bountiful harvest awaits those who are willing to take the time necessary to properly cultivate the garden of their soul. And, a really wonderful part of this process is that the harvest will include many of our loved ones who have been motivated to do the same. The harvest is guaranteed, for the Lord Himself will provide the increase. It is there for the taking for those who are willing to roll up their sleeves and get to the work.

Do you have a cultivated heart?

"Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times." Then Jesus said, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." 

Mark 4:8-9, NIV


Cultivating Your Soul

To live with happiness we must cultivate the happy side of life.

Norman Vincent Peale

This quote from Dr. Peale contains an idea that is well worth exploring. Every gardener knows that a good garden requires the hard work of weeding. One can "cheat" to a certain degree by using chemicals or organic sprays, but when it comes to a proper garden you will eventually have to roll up your sleeves and start weeding.

I have been thinking about the irony of how we live at times. Instead of removing these weeds from our lives, we often go to great lengths to actually accumulate them. We watch the news and pay particular attention to the gloomy side. We listen to our children's problems at school and our spouses' problems at work. We start to focus on our own minor difficulties - both existing and potential. And we add one weed after another to our lives. We sow the seeds of discontent and then wonder why we don't reap a more joyful harvest.

If this is you, may I suggest that you begin to cultivate the garden of your soul? I am not implying that we should ignore the serious issues that require our attention. I'm merely suggesting that we pay a bit more attention to the roses that God has placed in our lives. To do so will require a good deal of weeding of the unnecessary worries that creep into our world.

Too many times we feel that happiness just happens, instead of realizing that true contentment will require the effort of getting rid of those weeds that choke out the beauty of the Master's garden. Dr. Peale was right when he pointed out that those who want to live with happiness will have to cultivate the happy side of life. The world will provide a fresh supply of weeds each day, but that doesn't mean we have to let them take root in our soul.

But may the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful.

Psalms 68:3, NIV


Count Your Blessings

Count your many blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord hath done. Johnson Oatman

Occasionally we forget. We forget all that God has blessed us with and we let our momentary problems get us down. We permit ourselves to get the "poor me's"  and begin to question the quality of our lives, from our families to our jobs to our nation.

We do this because we forget what we are here for. We focus on the physical and then we begin to actually think that we are here for our jobs or school or making payments or whatever else might be on our radar screen on a given day.

It's not that these things are unimportant (just let one of my kids decide not to show up for school one day), it's just that they are not to be our focus. This life is a test, and sometimes tests are hard. God wants to know if we will serve Him in good times and bad, so there are uncertainties in life and things will not always go as planned.

This is when many allow defeat to creep in. We have financial hardships, or relationship problems or health concerns and we think that life is over. This is when we count our blessings: Our family, our friends, a free nation, plenty of food, clothing shelter. Not enough? How about a Father who loved us so much that He gave his only Son to die for our sins so that we could spend an eternity with Them? What in this life is so bad that the first 10,000 years of Heaven won't make up for? Will we allow ourselves the luxury of self-pity or the joy of counting our many blessings?

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. II Corinthians 4:17