Summary: God wants us to understand: 1. Failure is not final. 2. Bad results can be redeemed. 3. The future is open. True change comes when: 1. You have a new occupant 2. You seek truth 3. You change your actions
A little boy went out to the ball field by himself, wearing his baseball cap and carrying a bat and ball. In his eye was the look of steely determination. He was so full of confidence that he put his bat on his shoulder, tossed the ball into the air, and said, “I’m the greatest batter in the world!” But he swung and missed. “Strike one,” he said. He picked up the ball, looked it over, and then threw it into the air again. As he watched the ball descend, he repeated, “I’m the greatest batter in the world.” But once more he missed. “Strike two,” he said with a puzzled look on his face, and he stopped to examine his bat to make sure there wasn’t a hole in it. A third time he picked up the ball, adjusted his cap, and tossed the ball into the air. As the ball went up a third time he repeated the refrain: “I’m the greatest batter in the world.” He swung with all his might, but he missed for the third straight time. “Strike three. Y’er out!” he said with the emphasis of an umpire. But instead of being discouraged, the boy began to jump and shout across the ballfield: “Wow! What a pitcher. I’m the greatest pitcher in the world!”
This past year may have gone very well for you. On the other hand, you may feel like you have struck out. We have all struck out in some areas. But the good news is that you don’t have to justify it somehow, or call failure by another name, because even though you may have messed up, there is always another chance to begin anew, especially with God. Anybody here need a another chance; a new beginning; a clean slate? We serve the God of second chances, and I, for one, am enormously grateful. Our sins can never be greater than the grace of God. Our failure can never be greater than the love of God. Our failure in the past does not determine what we will become in the future.
I want to point out three attitudes this morning that lead to three actions we need to take. The first attitude adjustment that God wants to plant in our minds is: Failure is not final. If failure was final none of us would make it. None of the people of the Bible would make it. In fact, the Bible is one story after another of people who messed up repeatedly, and how they were coached along by God until they got it right. Names like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Jonah, David, Paul and Peter come to mind — along with many others — including my own. If failures were not included in the Bible there would be no one there. If failures were not included in the church no one would be here either. But the Bible also shows us that failure is not final. The Lord says, “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (Jeremiah 31:34). That’s why the Bible says, “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
In the movie City Slickers, Billy Crystal plays Mitch, a 40-year-old radio ad salesman who lives in Manhattan with his wife and two children. He feels trapped in the predictability and monotony of his life. His wife encourages him to, “Go and find your smile.” So he joins his best friends, Ed and Phil, for a two-week vacation on a working dude ranch that turns into a full fledged cattle drive. Not only is Mitch going through a mid-life crisis, but his friends are in various stages of crisis as well. One evening it all comes to a head, as Phil collapses in depression over his failed life and marriage. Mitch explains the concept of a “do-over” to Phil. He says, “Hey Phil, now you’ve got a chance to start over. You know. Do you remember when we were kids and we would be playing ball, and the ball would get stuck up in a tree or something? And we would all yell, ‘Do-over!’ Your life is a ‘do-over.’ You’ve got a clean slate.”
It is wonderful that God gives us a chance to do it over. The Bible says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). We serve a God of new beginnings.
The second attitude that God wants us to adopt is: Bad results can be redeemed. Bad choices lead to bad consequences. Many of us are living with the results of a wrong decision. It is true that God forgives our past sins, and that he heals the wounds with which sin has injured us. However, there are scars that remain even from a healed wound. But even scars can serve a purpose. They remind us of what happens when we rebel against God and try to go our own way. They also serve to help us relate to other people who have wounds. We can help them to know that wounds can heal and that the consequences of our actions can be redeemed. God uses everything in our lives — even our failures.