Success In Our Failure

In 1997, Nike released Failure, a dramatized ad many consider to be one of the most inspirational of all time. It was the year Michael Jordan began his famous last season with the Chicago Bulls en route to a 6th NBA title and second 3-peat, adding merit to claims that he would be known as the greatest basketball player of all time.

In 1997, Nike released Failure, a dramatized ad many consider to be one of the most inspirational of all time.

failure over and over

It was the year Michael Jordan began his famous last season with the Chicago Bulls en route to a 6th NBA title and second 3-peat, adding merit to claims that he would be known as the greatest basketball player of all time. The ad shows MJ presumably walking into the stadium before the game. In his own voice, Michael narrates:

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

What a picture of the triumph of the human spirit and the will to win, right? How motivational! Let’s go!

THE MEASURE OF SUCCESS

Just one little minor detail you forgot to mention in this beautiful failure-to-success narrative, though, Mike: You’re Michael Jordan.

Seriously. You were biologically, psychologically, and experientially predisposed to be the greatest of all time. Yes, you nurtured your gifts and worked through challenges, but your family of origin, your highly competitive temperament, your 6’6” frame and astounding 46” vertical leap—all made your athletic greatness imminent.

Said another way, I missed more than 9000 shots and more than 300 basketball games, and no one is talking about my basketball greatness. Truth be told, I was a decent basketball player, but no matter how much I wanted to be like Mike, it was never going to happen. If Michael Jordan was the measure of success for me, I failed.

Have you ever felt that way following Jesus? Like a failure? Like no matter how hard you try to be like Jesus you’ll never measure up?

CONTINUED FAILURE

Maybe you string together a few good decisions or have a run of good days, but then it happens. You pop off at someone in anger. You say that easy “yes” to the temptation you swore a forever “no” to. You took a shortcut at work or raised your voice at your spouse. You drank too much again, said too much again, ate too much again, spent too much again. And you feel like a failure.

You want to live like Jesus, be like Jesus, and do the kinds of things Jesus did, but when it comes down to it your wants are in conflict. Seems your other wants are winning.

Or maybe you’re at the stage in life where you’re not wrestling so much with sin as you are wrestling with God?

You go to church and even serve on a team, or you read your bible and even try to take notes… but it doesn’t seem to work. Or maybe you have the audacity to try hard things! Maybe you tried praying for the sick or talking to someone about Jesus and it didn’t go the way you thought it might. Do you feel like a failure, too? I know I feel that way sometimes. Is it possible to really become like Jesus?

PETER FAILED IN THE WORST WAY

Jesus had a disciple a lot like you and me, named Peter.

The whole point of being a disciple of a guy like Jesus was to become like Him and if any of the disciples had the potential to do it, it was Peter! He was courageous, enthusiastic, and responsive to Jesus’ promptings.

Yet time and again, Peter got it wrong. Peter tried to say the right thing and missed 9000 times and lost 300 debates, so to speak. No disciple tried as hard to be like Jesus and no disciple was more publicly rebuked by Jesus than Peter. Peter failed again and again and again. And that is why he succeeded. (Or, at least, that’s partly why).

Just before Jesus went to the cross, He told Peter he would fail in the worst way—he would deny him three times. Peter rebutted, “NO, JESUS! I WILL DIE WITH YOU, BUT I WILL NEVER DENY YOU!” (Matthew 26v35).

In the garden of Gethsemane, Peter (and his friends) failed to pray. Jesus did not fail, praying “Father, not my will, but yours be done.”

While Jesus was on trial, Peter denied Jesus three times. Jesus did not deny His kingdom, so Herod mocked Him, dressing him in kingly garments.

As Jesus was being crucified, Peter did not keep his promise to die with Him. Jesus kept His promise to the Father, stretching out His hands to be crucified for our sins and in our place.

JESUS PROMOTES PETER

But then something amazing happened to Peter after Jesus was raised from the dead. Rather than condemning Peter for his failure, Jesus promotes Peter! With a threefold “feed my sheep” renewal, Jesus was giving Peter His job as a good shepherd (John 10).

Then look at the specific words Jesus used in John 21v18-19:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you want, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.”

(This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, ‘Follow me.’

Did you catch that? This language was an echoed inversion of Jesus’ own journey to the cross!

Peter: “Another will dress you”

Jesus: “clothed him in a purple cloak and a crown of thorns”

 

Peter: “Go where you don’t want to go”

Jesus: “not my will but yours”

 

Peter: “Stretch out your hands”

Jesus stretched out His hands when “they crucified him”

SUCCEss IN OUR FAILURE

Jesus was saying, “Peter, bring me your failures! You really can become like me if you will follow me!” Church history tells us Peter’s death was, in fact, an inversion of Jesus’. As an old man, Peter was crucified upside down on a cross.

FAILURE IS NOT THE END OF OUR STORY

As followers of Jesus, we will fail again and again. But failure is not the end of our story. If we will take our failures to Him and follow Him, He can and will redeem them. You and I really can become like Jesus. And that is the very definition of success.

Hurry Up and Slow Down

The surprising story of “hurry up” in scripture is to hurry up and slow down. When you feel pressure to deliver, “get there on time”, get results, and win at life, remember the real message behind that pressure is an invitation to be with Jesus.

My name is Lyndsey and I have the privilege of bringing the Bible to life through creative pieces at Church on the Move. A while back I was working on piece about “hurry,” and I wanted to say in BIG BOLD LETTERS:

JESUS
NEVER
SAID
HURRY UP

Image of the word Rest

The only problem with that piece was that … Jesus actually did say hurry up. ONE TIME:

JESUS
NEVER
SAID

HURRY UP
ONE TIME 😂

Needless to say, I didn’t make the piece but I did start sharing the story of Jesus and “HURRY UP”. Check it out below.

THE SURPRISING STORY OF “HURRY UP”

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through.
And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus.
He was a chief tax collector and was rich.

Zacchaeus was seeking to see who Jesus was, but couldn’t see Jesus past the crowds because Zacchaeus was “small in stature”. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see Jesus because Jesus was about to pass by.

When Jesus came to the tree, He looked up and said,
“Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.”
So Zacchaeus hurried and came down and received Jesus joyfully into his home.

Later in the story, Zacchaeus says to Jesus,
“I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord,
and if I have cheated people on their taxes,
I will give them back four times as much!”

And Jesus responds,
“Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”

Of course, these words were not spoken in English. Jesus never said our ENGLISH phrase, “HURRY UP” so my original idea is still kind of right … right?! (Just joking). I think the context around it proves that Jesus does put pressure on us to hurry up but not in the way that we think. Hear me out…

WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT ZACCHAEUS

1. He has a job as a tax collector
2. He’s probably good at that job because they made him a “chief tax collector”
3. He’s probably really good at that job because he’s become wealthy from it
4. He’s not a great a dude—he used his job to rob people
5. He’s short 😂

Although the ins and outs of his daily life were definitely very different from mine, I can’t help but see myself in Zacchaeus’ story.

Image of Lyndsey on Graduation Day

Here’s a picture of one of my college graduations … Note: the excessive amount of honor cords (and pride hahaha). It’s been several years (I won’t say how many) since that photo was taken, but I still have that same prideful tendency. I’m a high-achiever, I get stuff done.

Like Zacchaeus, if a story was written about me, I’d probably let my defining characteristics be:

1. My achievements
2. Also pretty short

“HURRY UP AND FINISH THAT PROJECT WITH EXCELLENCE FOR ME, LYNDSEY!”

My assumption is often that Jesus is asking me to hurry up and get stuff done for Him. If I’m being honest, I act like Jesus is saying, “HURRY UP AND FINISH THAT PROJECT WITH EXCELLENCE FOR ME, LYNDSEY!” And don’t get me wrong, I do believe there is an urgency with the Gospel. That we have a responsibility to share the qualities, characteristics, and stories of who Jesus is with people. But if I’m being real, real honest, most of the time I’m more concerned with sharing the qualities, characteristics, and stories of Lyndsey rather than Jesus. The main concern of my hurry is that I don’t lose my identity of “chief accomplisher.”

JESUS IS SPEAKING THE SAME WORDS TO YOU

If we look at the story again, Jesus is asking Zacchaeus to hurry up and do something. He’s asking him to hurry up and be with Him.

Jesus’ words to Zacchaeus are timeless and spoken over us daily… “Hurry up and slow down —be with me.”

When you feel that pressure to deliver, to “get there on time”, to get results, to win at life, remember the real message behind that pressure is an invitation to be with Jesus.

RECEIVING JESUS + GETTING TO KNOW HIM = SEEING HIM CHANGE YOU

Zacchaeus gladly receives Jesus into his home. It doesn’t say what happens during their time together but I like to imagine they had some food together, hung out a bit, and got to know each other. I imagine Zacchaeus talked to Jesus about the pressures of his life, shared about his family, and opened up about the areas that suck about life. I also imagine that Zacchaeus asked Jesus about His life, His job, His hobbies, and had conversations that all new friends have and found common ground.

Whatever the conversation, we know that what happened caused Zacchaeus to radically change his life. He says, “I used to rob people for a living, I cheated them on what they owed … now, I’ll give to people. I’ll give half my possessions to the poor and the people I robbed I’ll pay back 4x as much.”

I often look at stories in scripture and wonder how these followers of Jesus had such radical actions. I can’t imagine giving away half of my possessions. But in this story I see the formula for unlocking my heart to give generously, to live radically. The formula is this … receive Jesus gladly into your home + get to know Him = seeing Him change you.

WHATEVER HAS YOUR TIME HAS YOU

What would it look like to hurry up and slow down this week? To receive Jesus gladly? To let every moment (“spiritual” or not) be centered on Him? What I’ve seen in my own life is that whatever has my time has my heart—it has me. I’m not putting pressure on you to spend 45 minutes in prayer (if that’s what you feel like you need to do, then DO IT). I’m simply asking, if you’re already on your way home, why can’t Jesus come with you? If you’re already having dinner with the family, couldn’t He come too?

Every moment of your time can be centered on Jesus if you let it.

 

For more on slowing down check out the blog post ‘Rest Over Hurry’ by Amanda Torres.

The Victory of Jesus

When I think about victory, I have a vivid flashback to something I did A LOT when I was a kid.

Growing up, I would challenge my brother to races all the time, but I was so terrified of losing that right when the race began, I would stick out my arm and start pushing my brother back. I ran like this the entire race. I was a little bit older, taller, and stronger than him, so I could hold him back just enough to make sure I came out victorious every time. It’s silly to think about now, but for me, this was the true picture of victory as a kid.

What do you picture when you hear the word victory? Slow down for a minute and really think about it. Do you see when your team won the championship game? A military general who successfully led his troops in battle? The climax of your favorite action movie?

There are countless scenarios that might come to mind for you, but I would bet that the scene in your mind doesn’t include someone dying.

Especially when looking at the story of Jesus, it’s easy (and very common) to see his death on the cross as a form of defeat. The cross is often portrayed as nothing more than a horrible, albeit necessary, loss, an event that simply paved the way for the victory of the resurrection.

>> But what if the gospels are showing us something different is happening with the cross?

>> What if, rather than losing by dying, Jesus is actually winning?

AN UPSIDE-DOWN KINGDOM

The Jews at the time of Jesus were hoping for a victory. They knew that God had promised them freedom from oppression, yet there they were, oppressed and occupied by the Romans. This shaped the view they had of their promised Messiah (a royal title that means “anointed one”). They took the prophecies of a coming king to be very literal; they wanted an actual king to sit on the throne and rule in Israel, saving them from the control of Rome. But throughout Jesus’s time on earth, he was annoyingly silent about Rome. In fact, he refrained time and again from starting any sort of political revolt against Caesar. Instead, he talked constantly about an alternative political reality: the Kingdom of God. And the way he talked about the Kingdom surprised everyone, disciples included.

In one specific interaction found in Mark 10, Jesus’ disciples began fighting over who would be second and third in command next to Jesus (see how they’re thinking of a powerful, political leader?). He responded to them saying, “But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:43-45)

THE SON OF MAN CAME NOT TO BE SERVED BUT TO SERVE

Jesus is making some bold claims here! This is a radically different picture from what was expected. Jesus said that people who follow him shouldn’t be focused on amassing power or control. (You can read more about The Unexpected Power of Jesus here.) He took their ideas of a top-heavy, pyramid-shaped authority structure and literally turned it upside-down, showing them that it’s not about climbing the ladder to be the person at the top, it’s about going down to the lowest person and becoming their servant.

CORONATION OF A KING

It’s been a while since we’ve seen a big coronation of a nation’s king or queen. But if you look up pictures or videos from coronations past, you’ll see some key elements shared throughout different cultures and times. In almost every instance, the king or queen will be wearing an ornate robe, they’ll have a crown placed on their head, and the crowd will shout an acclamation to the new ruler, bowing before them. Then, to mark the moment, there is usually an announcement presented to the people of the land, a banner or plaque, even a headline in the newspaper in modern times.

Think of the similarities of Jesus’ crucifixion compared to coronations of kings and queens throughout history; the soldiers “put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. And they began to call out to him ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’…Falling on their knees they paid homage to him…The written notice of the charge against him read: the King of the Jews.” (Mark 15:17-19, 32). What’s going on here? Why would Mark include these details? His descriptive portrayal is leading us to see that Jesus’ experience on the cross was his coronation as king of this upside-down Kingdom.

THE VICTORY OF THE CROSS

It’s interesting that what we would normally view as a negative event or a loss, God claims as a defining victory for his kingdom. The Bible says Jesus “disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Colossians 2:15). Jesus took his rightful place as king, flipping the pyramid he “humbled himself in obedience to God even dying a criminal’s death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8). Jesus’ death was the ultimate victory with a larger lasting impact than what the disciples were able to see.

JESUS’ DEATH WAS THE ULTIMATE VICTORY

They wanted Jesus to bring victory over Rome through military or political power, climaxing in him being crowned King of Israel. Jesus wanted to bring victory over evil, Satan, and death through sacrificial love, climaxing in him being crowned King of everything.

As evidenced by the cross, these instructions from Jesus of service and upside-down living lead us to a place where God achieves victory in remarkably surprising ways. When you are in the middle of a painful season, hoping and praying for a victory, I promise you the best thing you can do is surrender to God and serve those around you. If Jesus, the Son of God and King of everything, humbled himself and became a servant, how much more should we do the same?

And you’ll see your victory come. It might look different from how you pictured it, but I guarantee it will be so much better because “(God) can do infinitely more than all we can ask or imagine according to the power that is working among us” (Ephesians 3:20). Trust God, our loving and gracious Father, and victory will come to pass.

The Forgiveness of Jesus

Have you decided what you’re wearing this Easter?

Church on the Move has traditionally been a church that de-emphasizes Sunday morning fashion (seriously, come as you are), but when I think about Easter, I personally can’t help but think about clothes.

Easter Sunday Traditional Clothes

True confession: I loved dressing up for Easter as a kid. I mean look at 8-year old me with my siblings on Easter Sunday morning in 1983! I’m the sartorially inclined young man with a gold buttoned navy suit accented with a fat 70’s necktie — Dallas Cowboys colors, naturally. I was taught from a young age, “We always bring our best to worship Jesus on Sundays, but especially Resurrection Sunday!” Unlike most kids, I sincerely loved it. Don’t judge me.

Clothed with Innocence

The Bible seems to talk a lot about clothes. On page 2 of the Bible, we find out God placed humankind in a lush garden and made them His partners in blessing the world. Genesis 2v25 tells us Adam and Eve started out “naked and unashamed”. You might say they were clothed with innocence.

Of course, we know they didn’t stay this way. On page 3 of the Bible, we find out the enemy of God convinced Adam and Eve to trust their own idea of good and bad over God’s. And what was their first move after sinning against God and one another? A weak attempt to cover their own sin. They clothed themselves with shame (Genesis 3v7).

Would God curse them and leave them in their shame? Of course not! Genesis 3 tells us God chased them down, called them out of hiding, asked questions, elicited confession, cursed the ground and the serpent (not Adam and Eve), talked them through the coming consequences, and committed Himself to the solution (Genesis 3v15).

Then in a staggering act of goodness, God Himself clothed them.

Clothed with Forgiveness

Genesis 3v21 says, “And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.” The inference here is that the body and blood of an innocent animal were given to cover their sin. These biblical representatives of humanity were invited to take off their shame and put on forgiveness. Adam and Eve left the garden clothed with forgiveness. What kind of God would do this?

For millennia, humanity repeated the pattern of trusting the voice of God’s enemy instead of God’s voice, taking good and bad into their own hands, sinning against God and one another, clothing themselves in shame. Still, God was “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. Keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.” (Exodus 34v6-7)

Again and again, He offered to clothe His people in forgiveness and promised to do something about the problem of sin.

One day, He did just that. God showed up Himself as one of us. He laid aside His power and glory as God and put on humanity. Philippians 2 tells us how this worked. Jesus “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2v7-8) John, Jesus’ closest disciple, said it this way, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1v14)

Follow Jesus’ Example

On the night before He went to the cross, Jesus shared an intimate last meal with His disciples. They broke bread, ate lamb, and drank wine. They quoted Scripture and sang together. But at one point the conversation took a turn. The disciples started arguing over which of them would be the greatest in Jesus’ kingdom. Can you imagine the scene? Jesus didn’t say a word. He simply got up from the floor-level table, walked to the other side of the room, and started taking off his clothes. I imagine the room got quiet as everyone wondered what Jesus was doing.

Jesus girded up His loins like a lowly servant, grabbed a basin of water, and started washing His disciples’ feet. Sopping wet, seamless robe on the floor, Jesus covered their sin with an act of goodness and said, “You want to be great? Treat one another like I have treated you.”

Naked and Unashamed

Less than 24 hours later Jesus was covered in His own blood, having taken the beating of a wretched criminal. He allowed Pilate the Roman prefect to clothe Him in shame — mocked with a crown of thorns and the robe of an earthly king.

Hours later Jesus’ seamless robe lay on the ground again. This time Roman soldiers gambled for its prize as Jesus hung naked and unashamed on the cross. 2 Corinthians 5v21 says, God did this for our sake, making Jesus “to be sin who knew no sin.”

Jesus hung naked on that cross, yet our sin, the shame of our sin was fully exposed as we, humankind, crucified our messiah. And what did Jesus say? He clothed us in forgiveness when He said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23v34) What a God!

What are you wearing this Easter?

Don’t you know you can take off your shame? Don’t you know you can put on Jesus’ righteousness? Romans 13 says, “Put aside the deeds of darkness… and put on the Lord Jesus Christ!” That’s what I’ll be wearing. Thanks be to God!

The forgiveness of Jesus means someday we will stand before Him, nothing hidden, fully exposed — naked and unashamed.

On that day, Jesus will wipe away every tear from your eyes, “and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21v4). And I have a hunch, when you’re dressed like that, your smile will be as big as mine was on Easter Sunday morning in 1983.

The Unexpected Power Of Jesus

If I was looking for someone I thought could save the world, I don’t know if I would be looking for someone like Jesus. I don’t know if any of us would have been looking for Jesus.

woman surrendered

His own people, closest friends, and family didn’t recognize Him as the one they desperately needed. He wasn’t the Savior they were expecting. Even John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin who baptized Him, struggled with frustrated expectations about how Jesus was doing with His divine assignment.

John was imprisoned for calling a king to repentance. After hearing about the ministry of Jesus he sent his disciples to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” If anyone knew who Jesus was, it was John the Baptist. Even John, who was called to prepare the way for the Messiah’s arrival, wrestled with the way this story was unfolding.

Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.” Matthew 11:2-6

Looking for more in Jesus

Most of those who were looking for the Messiah, the long-awaited and prophesied King of Israel, were looking for someone who would conquer and deliver them from their Roman oppressors. Maybe they were looking for someone stronger, more aggressive, more persuasive, just “more”.

The depth of their problem went far beyond the oppression of Rome. Their hearts were enslaved to sin.

And the breadth of the problem went far beyond the people of Israel. All of creation had been subjected to sin’s unrelenting influence.

And the sin that enslaved humanity would require a different kind of power to be defeated. Not overt. Not flashy or showy.

Radical Surrender = Power

Jesus’ victory over sin was not won based on the expectations of His followers but through radical surrender to the will of the Father.

Since sin entered the world through rebellion against God, so sin will ultimately be defeated through surrender to God.

• Not power through persuasion, oppression, or coercion.
• But p
ower through radical trust and surrender.

Power through surrender is what made Jesus so compelling. Jesus wasn’t subject to the expectations of His followers. He was free to meet people wherever they were; at dinner tables, on the side of the road, in the wilderness. He stooped down to lift the head of the lowly. Spoke to and looked people in the eye. Didn’t rule from afar. Brought the kingdom of God close. And that’s not what we expect from human authority.

Authority of Jesus

The authority that Jesus used to minister to people was born out of the reality that everything He ever did was only what He saw the Father doing (John 5:19).

And for that reason, He could confidently say to His disciples on the night before He went to the cross, “I don’t have much more time to talk to you, because the ruler of this world approaches. He has no power over me, but I will do what the Father requires of me, so that the world will know that I love the Father.” John 14:30-31

So, if we truly want to know what God is like we need to take a good hard look at Jesus. And that’s really good news! His obedience, empowered by the Holy Spirit and born out of His love for the Father, ultimately led Him to the cross. Jesus displayed power over sin that had been the brutal taskmaster of humanity through surrender to His Father in complete trust. And this act of radical trust led to the reconciliation of humanity to God.

What does this mean for us?

Jesus is inviting us to a life of surrender. To the world, that will look a lot like being powerless.

In 1 Corinthians 1:18, Paul writes, “the message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.”

Should we be surprised that people don’t see the power in the cross? Surprised in a life of surrender to Jesus? Not at all! We have the unique opportunity to show the world what God is like through our surrender.

Jesus leads us to a continual life of surrender.

A life that testifies to the world that God is a God who comes close. He moves toward us in love. Just like Jesus revealed the Father, He calls us to do the same by laying our lives down, by serving people, meeting them where they’re at, and calling them to fullness of life in surrender to Him. So, what does that look like for you?

Take a few moments to ask yourself:

• Where am I relying on the world’s expectations of power or success?
• How can I shift my focus to trusting in the power of Jesus through my surrender?