Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Revealing A Big Secret

Want to know a secret? It's the secret to achievement and success. Those who know it are very reluctant to share it with others (for reasons that will become obvious shortly). Once you understand the enormous power of this secret your potential to fulfil your life's dreams and goals and help the most number of people can be realised. But this secret is not for the faint-hearted. In fact, some people become aware of this powerful secret and put their fingers in their ears and start "La, la, la" -ing, because it is a secret that comes at a great cost. But it's not one of these New-Age fluffy notions. This is a secret that has been known by the great for millennia. Once you hear this secret you'll probably dismiss it with a wave of your hand and a "Oh that's not a secret - everyone knows that!"

Here's the big secret to success and fulfilment in life: bouncing back. The difference between people who achieve their goals, grow, and succeed and those who do not often comes down to resilience (the ability to bounce-back).

The Christian Gospel is perhaps the greatest bounce-back story ever told. Consider Jesus. He came to be King and Messiah. But, He was rejected, despised and scorned by those He came to help. Eventually He was put to death by those who should have accepted Him. But He resurrected! The Ultimate bounce-back! Then He consider His lead-apostle, Peter. He denied Christ three times before the cock crowed then met the searing eyes of His Master staring deep into his. His failure was rebuked without a word! He felt the pain of his mistake and privately wept "bitterly". But within a few weeks he stood before an entire city of pilgrims and boldly preached so that 3,000 were converted. He bounced back! But within a few years he publicly failed again. He cowered undered pressure from radical Jewish Christians who insisted on a two-staged conversion for Gentiles. This led to a publicly embarrassing rebuke from the novice apostle Paul. But Peter learned from his mistakes and bounced back. He would see out the rest of his days as one of the greatest preachers and church planters that the world has ever seen.

I remember hearing about the recruitment of a captain for the Titanic. The captain of the California was considered. He had a lot of experience crossing the Atlantic. He had sailed various types of ships. He was renowned for his leadership of crews. He was known to be a level-headed man. But...he was rejected because he had captained a ship that had hit an iceberg and sunk. Instead, the owners of the Titanic went with a captain who had never lost a ship. Of course we all now know that the Titanic did indeed sink on its first crossing. Ironically, surviving passengers were rescued by the California which raced to its rescue (it was slightly delayed because the captained had sailed so far around the icebergs that were known to be perilously interferng with the general shipping route). The captain of the California was a man who had learned to bounce-back.

Proverbs 24:16 for the righteous falls seven times and rises again,
The first step to bouncing back is making mistakes.

The second step is to get some rest. Pondering things when they still hurt and we are run down emotionally and physically will not help us to process them well. (In fact, when we are tired and idle and we then mull over things we are likely to become very emotionally unwell.)

The third step is to go through the pain and learn from what went wrong. This involves the language of hope- "Next time I do this, I'm not going to do it this way, instead I'll..." or "If I'd been more prepared this would never have happened. I'm going to make sure that I'm more prepared next time..." We need to regard our mistakes as practice. If you told a 10 year old child, "Try and jump over that two metre wide hole", you are saying something different than- "Practice doing a two metre long jump". "Try" and "Practice" carry different ideas. "Try" carries little room for error and an immediate expectation of success. "Practice" on the other hand carries abundant room for not getting it right and no immediate expectation of success.
Hebrews 5:14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. 
The fourth step is to turn your critics into your consultants. This requires a different type of hearing. Most of us become defensive when we are criticised. This prevents us from learning how to do things better. But we have to hear criticism as "I want you to do better next time" rather than- "You're utterly hopeless!" By the way, the more people you want to help, the bigger the leader you'll need to become and the more criticism you'll receive! I'm not yet as big a leader as I want to be yet, but I already receive my fair share of criticism. When I grew up I had a pastor who repeatedly said that The person who never makes mistakes never makes anything! I also grew up hearing the TV pastor, Robert Schuller, say Turn your scars into stars. All great people have had to learn this fourth step in order to bounce back. As a kid I played a lot of tennis. Sometimes up to six hours a day. When I couldn't get someone to hit with I would take a bucket of balls down to the tennis courts and hit them by myself often just setting up targets to hit. I played in lots of tournaments and there was one other kid that also played in some of these tournaments- Kel. But Kel was not very good. He lacked basic skills. He didn't even seem to enjoy playing that much either. And did I mention that he was over-weight? Whenever my brother and I were drawn to play Kel we sighed a huge sigh of relief because we knew it would be an easy win for us. Kel was ridiculed by the regular circuit players. But then a strange thing happened...Kel disappeared. We didn't see him for about two years or so. Then he suddenly reappeared. He was leaner, using top equipment, and could now hit a ball. The transformation was remarkable. I later found out that Kel went to a Tennis Academy in the USA and underwent radical fitness training. He had bounced back! Everytime his coach helped him it must have sounded like criticism, but Kel was able to turn this criticism into help.

The fifth step to bouncing back is to face your giants. Your giant might be the person you offended or let down and need to apologise to. Your giant might be an audience you flopped in front of. Your giant might be a project you that you previously failed to complete for some reason. Your giant might also be some unrepented of sin (in which case your giant is actually God). Facing this giant may involve apologising, publically asking for forgiveness, completing a task or project even though you no longer have to, or even repenting.

Perhaps two of the greatest examples of bouncing back are Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill. Both men publicly failed and were humiliated. Both men suffered great loss. But they went through the process of bouncing back and became two of the greatest leaders the world has ever seen. Every preacher knows what I'm talking about! We all preach messages that flop. I recently had one of our young people within the church share a dream with me where I was preaching and sending people to sleep. The problem was that in the congregation were some of my greatest preaching and teaching heroes who were all sound asleep from a message that dragged on for several hours and bored everyone to sleep. What I didn't tell the young person was that I have similar nightmares like this which serve to keep me on my toes. But I actually don't need nightmares to remind me that I can preach duds! I have memories!!!! It's these memories and the resultant humiliations that now cause me to preach "with a limp" (Gen. 32:31). I'm sure we each have some painful memories that have the potential power to keep us from bouncing back. But if we confront these giants we can bounce-back and achieve the success we are truly looking for.

As a church as we might look back over the past year and think that for every two steps forward we took one back. But if we can commit to bouncing back we can learn from our mistakes and grow as a result.
Proverbs 12:1To learn, you must love discipline; it is stupid to hate correction. (NLT)

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