I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game-winning shot . . . and missed. And I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why … I succeed.
—Michael Jordan (b. 1963), American basketball player
Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.
—Henry Ford (1863–1947), founder of the Ford Motor Company
Jesus said that the secret to happiness and success is to “seek the kingdom of God above all else,” but does that work today? Can we lead God-centered lives, do more than survive in this materialistic world, and still be ourselves? I believe we can.
To “seek the kingdom of God above all else” means to bring our priorities into line with God’s, so the first step is to honestly assess our values and goals in life.
“I’ve been so busy with life that I haven’t had time to think,” a terminally ill woman in her forties told me when I visited her at a hospice. “I realized while lying here that I barely know my husband, my children, or my mother-in-law, who also lives with us. I’ve been wrapped up in caring for them—shopping and cooking, doing their laundry, cleaning after them, helping them with their homework—and yet I can’t say that I really know what they are thinking or what they are going through. I can’t tell you when was the last time that I had a deep conversation with any of them.”
I don’t know how an elephant survives 22 months of pregnancy. I have been pregnant twice, and nine months is more than enough for me. For weeks I couldn’t wait for the baby to be born, but then when I was in the throes of labor it seemed there would be no end to my suffering.
About 30 minutes before Lisa, my second child, was born, I was ready to give up. But I held out just a little longer, and there she was—my reward!
Over the years I have seen some dear friends be marvelously blessed by God.Some of these same people had previously gone through what seemed to be a series of incredibly trying times. They had faced a lot of difficulty, had been deeply disappointed, and hadn’t seen the fulfillment of their dreams and desires. From time to time, I would comment to my wife, Maria, “It will be so great to see them truly happy!” And the wonderful thing is, today nearly all of them are.
I collect four-leaf clovers. It’s a sort of hobby, like knitting or shooting hoops.
According to the noble creed of clover collectors, each leaf represents something: the first leaf, hope; the second, faith; the third, love; and the fourth, not surprisingly, good fortune. To most of those who are fortunate enough to have found a four-leaf clover, that fourth leaf means a lucky day, health, a kiss from God, or maybe just a sour little snack. To me, that fourth leaf means another precious addition to my collection.
Eighty thousand spectators in the stands and millions of viewers worldwide watch as he takes his place alongside the other competitors. Years of preparation and countless hours of training have brought him to this place in time, the starting blocks of the Olympic 100-meter dash final. Now it all comes down to less than 10 seconds. He takes slow, deep breaths as he awaits the starting gun. Will he win gold, or will he be just another loser? Those watching may ask this question, but there’s no room in the sprinter’s mind at that moment for doubt or anxiety.
When a friend sent me a short Bible study by email, one verse in particular stood out to me: “A wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.”1 That was an interesting thought: open doors and adversaries are biblically and sometimes necessarily connected.
Once upon a time there was a little girl who spent her days sitting beside a pond, watching a frog on a lily pad. The little girl knew that the frog was probably a prince, and the frog—who was indeed a prince—knew that the little girl could kiss his nose and break the magic spell that a wicked witch had cast on him. But the little girl on the bank of the pond was too shy to begin a conversation with the frog, and the frog simply could not bring himself to tell her how badly he wanted her to kiss him. So the little girl went on sitting there, watching the frog. And that is the end of the story.
Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.
—André Gide (French writer, humanist, and moralist; 1869–1951)
Great deeds are usually wrought at great risks.
—Herodotus (Greek historian; 490–430 bc)