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Failing doesn’t mean you’ve lost

By Dr. Thurman R. Hayes Jr.

Don’t you love this time of year? The wonderful fall high-pressure systems like the one we’ve enjoyed this week, that bring in delightfully crisp temperatures with low humidity? The beautiful, changing colors that we see all around us, which display God’s brilliance and creativity in his creation? The unmistakable scent of leaves?

It’s a great season!

It also marks the climax of another season for me — the Major League Baseball season. This is a huge bonus for the awesome month of October, as far as this baseball fan is concerned. For this is when the playoffs and the World Series take place.

Since the dreary days of mid-February, when the teams reported for spring training in sunny Florida or Arizona, I have followed their progress.

Or, at least, I have followed one team’s progress, my beloved New York Yankees. Since I was a small child, I have pulled for this historic team, through many ups and downs. That’s the great thing about baseball — it teaches all kinds of life lessons, especially about dealing with adversity and failure.

Think about it: If a Major League baseball player fails 7 times out of every 10 at-bats, he is among the greatest hitters in the game, an All-Star. If he fails two-thirds of the time, he may well be in the Hall of Fame!

In other words, baseball is a sport that contains way more failure than success. It requires a player to deal with personal failure and disappointment in pretty much every game. It’s hard.

Life is hard. It is filled with adversity. How we respond to adversity is one of the most absolutely critical issues of our lives. Will we sink into the mire, or will we learn from adversity, thank God for its lessons, and move forward with Him?

The Apostle Paul wrote, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way….” (Philippians 3:12-15a)

In other words, none of us as “arrived” at perfection as we try to follow Jesus. We are all imperfect followers. But we press on. When we fail, we repent of our sin, get up off the ground, and press forward for God’s glory.

We “forget what lies behind,” refusing to live in self-condemnation or wallowing in our failures. We move forward in faith.

And we can do that, because we have a Savior who took the condemnation we deserve. He has given us new life, the forgiveness of sins and his Spirit to empower us.

Furthermore, we know how this game ends — in victory. Why? Because Jesus has already risen from the dead, and defeated sin and death for all who will turn to him and trust him. Have you done so? His arms are open to you. Run to him today.

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