Do Not Worry About the Critic

"It's not the critic who counts, nor the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena."

Teddy Roosevelt

 

We have all experienced stage fright. Whether it was in that 7th grade speech class, or the time we had to shoot free-throws in front of hundreds of screaming fans at the end of a tight game, or that crucial business presentation we could not afford to mess up, we have all experienced that same feeling of dread: It's that fear of failing in front of others and being criticized or, even worse, being laughed at.

 

We admire those who do not seem to worry about what others are thinking. We see the ones who have achieved a measure of success in areas that are important to us and think that they must have some sort of magic that allows them to succeed where we think we would fail. The thing we often miss is that those who we admire for their successes are no different than us. They had the same fears of being criticized and laughed at that we have, but they found a way to overcome it. So what is their secret? I believe that it is in their ability to focus on the task at hand and do everything they can, then to simply trust everything else to God.

 

After coaching for a number of years, I have noticed that only a small percentage of people have the courage to take the crucial shot at the end of the game. Even though everyone dreams of making the shot that wins the game, few dare to even try because most are afraid of missing. The ones who achieve success are not the ones who make the shot every time, rather, they are the ones who are willing to take it. They have learned to block out the possibility of failure and ridicule from the critics and simply focus on the task at hand. They know that if they give their best and trust God with the rest, then they have done all they can. That's a pretty big statement, when you think about it.

 

It's that way with all the important tasks that God gives us in this life. He has placed within each one of us an incredible potential for success because He wants us to succeed. It is when we come to this realization that we can focus on the task at hand, rather than on the critics in the stands, give our very best, and  truly achieve those important things that our Maker has created us for.

 

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:13, NKJV

 

Don't Rust

People rust out before they wear out. The Colonel

He was 65 years old and had received his first social security check. The only problem was that the Colonel wasn't ready to retire. But what can you do when your 65 years old? Nobody wants to hire you. The Colonel pondered this dilemma and hit upon the perfect solution: He thought back to his younger years and remembered his mother's fried chicken. It was the best he had ever tasted, and he believed that others would think the same. Surely, some enterprising young fellow would see the potential and buy the secret of the recipe. Then he would have some money to do something with.

But, the Colonel was wrong.

While many agreed that this chicken made from his mother's special recipe was, in the Colonel's own words, "finger licking good", nobody wanted to buy a recipe for fried chicken. So the Colonel bought his own roadside restaurant and started selling his special Kentucky fried chicken made from his mother's secret recipe of 11 herbs and spices. The rest, as they say, is history.

Within a few years, the Colonel's Kentucky Fried Chicken stores were located all over the globe. The Colonel was for many years at or near the top of the list of the most recognized people in the world. And at the age of 92, stricken with Leukemia, the Colonel's old body finally wore out - without a speck of rust.

There's a lesson there, for those who care to learn it. God has placed us in this world with  bodies and minds that are capable of productive service far beyond the limits that most people care to take them. In fact there are many people who just cannot wait to retire - people who are sure that they are simply too old to work any more. And then there are people like Harlan Sanders - people who bristle at the thought of being put out to pasture just to eek out a few miserable years before being ravaged by old age. These are the people who know how to live the life that God called us to live!

It is true that most people rust out before they wear out, but for those who are willing to serve God for as many years as He is willing to give, there are great things to be accomplished. Old age does eventually catch up to us all, but there are incredible things awaiting those who refuse to rust.

For me to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in this body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Philippians 1:21-22, NIV 

 

Don't Forget to Open Your Gifts

Steve (Age 7): "Ricky?" 

Ricky (Age 5): "Huh?"

Steve (Still 7): "You asleep?"

Ricky (Still 5): "No... are you?"

Okay, so my brother and I were no rocket scientists at ages 5 & 7, but we were typical boys trying to go to sleep on the night before Christmas. Santa Claus, we were assured, would not come if we were still awake. Do you remember the magic and excitement... when you were a child at Christmas?

I still remember my best Christmas ever. I was about 8 years old and when Steve and I ran to the family room to "see what Santa had brung". I could not believe my eyes: There it was by the tree... a brand new Stingray bike with banana seat, chopper-style handle bars, and a cheater bar for popping wheelies. It was green!

I could die a happy man!

And I nearly did, at least a thousand times through the years, as I rode that Stingray up and down tall mountains, across raging rivers, and over ramps that would have caused the most fearless daredevil to tremble.

I can scarcely imagine how different life would have been if I had not taken and used that bike that my parents had sacrificed so much to get for me to enjoy. I cannot imagine just shoving that gift aside, or not opening and using the countless other gifts that they gave through the years. I was a just a child, but even kids instinctively know that gifts are to be opened with anticipation, to be received with thanksgiving, and to be used with gratitude.

I hope that your Christmas is a special one this year. If you are surrounded by loved ones, it will be. It is a gift of God, I am convinced, to be able to enjoy our families and friends in an atmosphere of peace and love and good will. But, if you have been lacking these blessings, could it be that you have forgotten to open your gifts?

If we lack peace and love and good will in our lives, then maybe it's time to take a second peek under that tree, for these are gifts that God has given all of His children. The Father and the Son have sacrificed much to provide these gifts for us. Why not then approach these gifts with anticipation, receive them with thanksgiving, and use them each day with gratitude in our hearts. 

I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas this year. You will, if you can just remember to open your gifts!

 

But the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord...

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father...

For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son...

Romans 6:23, James 1:17, John 3:16, NIV

 

Don't Forget the Joy

What has happened to all your joy? Galatians 4:15, NIV

When we were kids, we would get up in the morning and think, "Just 3 more days until Christmas!" It was an exciting thought! A joyful thought! We simply could not wait. But now that we are adults, we get up in the morning and think, "Just 3 more days until Christmas!" And, it is all too often a gloomy thought... a depressing thought... an anything but joyful thought. And we wonder what has happened to all of our joy.

What has happened is that somewhere along the line we exchanged the excitement of Christmas for the cares of the world. We wear ourselves out with the shopping and the cooking and the planning and the worrying over how we will pay for it all. We get sick and tired of Christmas because we really are sick and we really are tired. When we get that way, maybe it is time to take back our joy.

Now, we clearly cannot just turn our backs on all of the responsibilities that we have as adults - I am not suggesting that at all. What I am suggesting, though, is this: That we pause from time to time with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate or a tasty and refreshing ice cold Dr. Pepper... and regain our perspective... and slow down. If this means that the kids will have one less package or the wife one less frill or the husband one less side dish at the table, then so be it! Just do not miss out on a Christmas filled with joy.

It is possible to have that joy because 2,000 years ago a Savior was born in the town of Bethlehem. That event caused the angels to rejoice! And, whether we celebrate that holy birth on one special day of the year or on every day of our lives, that event should cause us to rejoice as well. We are going to Heaven someday if we will live faithfully today. Don't get so busy that you forget that promise and miss out on the joy it brings. If we have lost sight of that joy, it is possible to reclaim it. We can begin with this:

The angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today, in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord." Luke 2:10-11, NIV

 

Don't Blow Your Legacy

"What this means to me is that the legacy is going to go generation after generation after generation. My kids, my grand kids, my great grandkids - and their children also - will never have to worry because we are not going to blow this... We're just not going to blow this." 

Jim McCullar upon winning the $190 million lottery.

Jim McCullar's response as to what he and his wife were going to do with all of their money showed, at least for now, that they were thinking about the good it might do their family for many generations: Their legacy! How about you - what kind of legacy will you leave for your family? Will it be money? Perhaps a family business or even a good family name. All have their merits and all have their corresponding hazards, but the fact is that most people simply do not give much thought to the legacy they will leave for their families.

Christians should!

I heard a preacher state that he and his wife's goal was that not one of their family throughout the generations would ever be lost. The things that impressed me about their goal was it was not some "pie in the sky" unrealistic statement, nor was it made out of presumption out of some mistaken sense of entitlement. Rather, it was a goal that they had made in humility, with a great deal of thought and prayer. Then they set out to accomplish that goal by teaching their children about God and His grace, and they encouraged their children to become students of God's word in order that they might accomplish that lofty goal.

This is legacy! Not the attempt to leave our children comfortable and free of worry from physical problems - as normal as that desire might be - for life will have its challenges. Lasting legacy is that which deals with the reality of eternity for we and our families will spend one somewhere. If you and I will teach our children to meet their Maker as prepared servants, then we will have left them with the most important legacy imaginable... so don't blow it!

Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. 

Deuteronomy 4:9, NIV