There’s no need to be afraid

Published 11:57 pm Friday, October 30, 2015

My first exposure to sports was in the 1970s. As a Yankees fan, I sat there in childhood wonder as Reggie Jackson rose to the moment and hit three home runs in the final game of the 1977 World Series. Of course, Reggie had many great postseason games. It’s why he was called “Mr. October.”

Why do some players struggle in the biggest moments, while others, like Reggie, rise to meet the moment? Why do some people run from pressure situations, while others are at their best in pressure situations?

It goes back to something called fear. Some people are afraid to fail. The legendary basketball coach, John Wooden, would often tell his players, “Never be afraid of making a mistake. If you are afraid you will play tentatively.”

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Derek Jeter, another baseball player who was known to be clutch, was once asked by a “60 Minutes” interviewer what runs through his mind as he stands in the field in the bottom of the ninth, with everything on the line.

“Hit it to me,” Jeter said. Why did Jeter think that way? Many players would be thinking, “Please don’t hit it to me.” Jeter answered, “It’s because I am not afraid to fail.”

You see, when the ball was hit to Jeter in clutch situations, he was not thinking, “What if I fail?” Neither was he thinking, “What if I succeed?” He was able to block all that out and simply concentrate on executing the play.

It was the same with Michael Jordan. Who could forget Jordan, then just a freshman, sinking the winning basket against Georgetown in the 1982 National Championship Game?

What was he thinking in that moment? Jordan was not focused on the outcome of the shot; he was simply focused on the shot itself. And he wasn’t afraid to fail.

But plenty of people do fear failure more than anything. And why is that? What are we really afraid of? At the deepest level, we fear failure, because we long for human acceptance and approval. We want people to accept us and love us.

What if I told you that there is a way to be free from this craving for human acclaim, and fear of human rejection? I’m telling you, there is a way. The Bible says in 1 John 4:18, “Perfect love casts out fear.”

You see, when we come to really understand that we are loved and accepted by the King of the universe, the approval and acceptance of mere humans is put in its proper perspective. When we are secure in God’s love, we are freed from fear.

“But does God really love me?” Yes, he really does. He has proven it. “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Knowing and experiencing Christ’s love and acceptance changes your whole perspective. It frees you to serve God. In fact, you cannot be his servant if your focus is on human approval.

The Apostle Paul says in Galatians 1:10, “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I still trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

Let God’s love cast out fear.

Dr. Thurman R. Hayes is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Suffolk. Follow him on Twitter at @ThurmanHayesJr.