Kevin Larter – Gilbert Junior High Pastor

A recent sick day laid up in bed gave me a chance to reread one of my favorite books—The Book of Basketball by Bill Simmons. Simmons is a basketball writer, fan, and all-around guru of the sport. In his book he suggests blowing up the current basketball Hall of Fame and creating a new one shaped like a pyramid—with the greatness of the players enshrined there increasing as you ascend to higher levels of the pyramid. He then proceeds to rank the 96 players he would enshrine in this new Hall of Fame from 96 to 1. And if you know anything about basketball you can probably guess who made it in at #1:

Michael Jordan.

Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls pumps his fistAs a child of the 80’s and 90’s I grew up watching Jordan play. Though not a fan of Jordan—especially after the Bulls beat the Suns in the 1993 NBA Finals—I’m smart enough to recognize greatness when I see it. Here’s a snippet from his resume: 5-time MVP, 10 scoring titles, 6 NBA titles, 6 Finals MVPs, and countless Nike, McDonald’s, Gatorade, and Hanes commercials.

There is no denying Michael Jordan was successful, that he was a winner, that he was great, and reading about Jordan’s greatness in Simmons’ book reminded me of that fact. Then I remembered something else—one of those countless Nike ads featuring Jordan. But this commercial was different. It features video of Jordan missing a layup, falling down, and missing a jump shot all while Jordan’s voice in the background says, “I missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I failed over and over and over again in my life…”

History, wisely, remembers Michael Jordan as the greatest of all time, a winner, and a success. But Jordan wasn’t always a success. He failed. And if he failed, well I think it’s pretty safe to say that we all fail. And I hate to admit that. I hate to fail. I would even say that I have a fear of failure and have for most of my life. As a kid it drove me to get the best grades, try to win everything I competed in, never admit to making mistakes, and never admit when I was wrong. And this fear of failure has followed me into my adult life.

But then I’m confronted by truth from God’s word…

The Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. – 2 Timothy 1:7

Failure isn’t something to be feared. Having God’s Spirit at work in our lives gives us the power and courage we need to overcome failure, to bounce back from it, and to succeed. My personal challenge is to believe that fact and embrace it—to be vulnerable and honest. I need to stop focusing on failure and start focusing on responding to failure in a healthy way.

Jordan finishes his commercial saying, “I failed over and over and over again in my life…and that is why I succeed.” That’s the kind of attitude I need in order to bounce back from failure. And if I rely on the Holy Spirit more in my life, I know that I’ll succeed.

Even the Greats Fail

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