written by: Alan Stewart
In the summer of 1976, an event that would have been perceived as trivial to onlookers had significant impact upon my life. It was the bottom of the seventh inning, and my team was losing by one run. The bases were loaded with two outs, and guess who was up to bat? It was the opportunity of a lifetime. Just what a young boy always dreams of. The chance to be hailed a hero, and to be carried off the field. There would be scores of autographs to sign. Oh, the young girls I would have to turn down! All of that and more ran through my mind as I strolled to the plate. My parents, and what seemed like thousands in the audience, stood to their feet, anxious for me to face this moment. Still fresh in my mind was Carlton Fisk hitting a game winning home run in game 6 of the World Series just a few months prior to this moment. Could I do it too? With each pitch that was thrown, my level of nervousness peaked to where it was nearly unbearable to even hold the bat. The count was now full; three balls and two strikes. As the payoff pitch came, it appeared as though it were in slow motion. The umpire enthusiastically yelled, “STRIKE THREE!” There I stood with the bat still on my shoulder.
Have you ever noticed in life that for every “can’t miss” candidate, there are 1,000 “won’t make it?” If there is any picture the Gospels paint to me of Jesus it is the fact He was always drawn to the underdogs. The outcast. The tossed aside. The socially unacceptable. Crowds never throng the losers. Invitations never come from Oprah to “tell us how you lost.” Losing is one of the loneliest feelings in the world. I find it deeply interesting, however, that many of the great spiritual lives who finished well were those who had failed beginnings. Success is not always winning. Sometimes, success comes from failure that was learned from. I have heard it said, “it is not the man who falls that fails, but rather the man who falls and never rises again.” How do we get back in the batter’s box when everything within us says, “you can’t?”
We must be constantly accountable. When the story of Joseph reaches the pinnacle, how was he able to maintain the secrecy of his identity from his brothers? He had learned from his earlier failure in life when he shared a dream with them that God meant just for him. When it says in Genesis 39:2, “and the Lord was with Joseph…,” the word “with” implies he was being taught. The lives God uses are those He can teach. It is those He can teach that He also can trust. After a failure, the Lord will not put us back in the batter’s box until we are ready. If we remain brass and haughty like a young Joseph the secret things of God will remain just that to us…secret.
We must be courageously afraid. What was it that kept Joseph from falling into gross immorality? Was it he feared for his position? Was it he feared his supervisor Potiphar? He said, “how then can I…sin against God?” Have you noticed the many times scripture reminds us to “fear God?” Godly fear pauses our steps, ponders our goings, empowers our feats. To fear Him is to find courage to stand against impossible odds. However, to be void of this fear means a man will also fear everything in his life. Often times, our failures came because we stood on our own. It is through such experiences we learn we must depend on Him.
We must be calmly available. Joseph’s life seemed to be one of extreme highs and extreme lows. For two full years he was forgotten and abandoned in a prison dungeon. There are no recorded words from the Lord to Joseph. But what had Joseph been doing in obscurity? Growing!! Two years earlier, he interpreted a dream in hopes it would benefit himself, but afterward he interprets a dream to benefit the Lord. Could it be, the years he spent in a dark dungeon took away his ability to see himself? The more a man can see of himself, the less likely he is to be used of God. In a world of heroes and superstars, God is drawn to the helpless and incompetent.
Babe Ruth is remembered today for hitting 714 homeruns. Few even mention the thousands of times he struck out. Life is such a wonderful tool we have. I want to play and enjoy it as long as I can. When the day comes I no longer can, just where will I find regrets? They won’t come from the things I did, but rather from the things I didn’t do. So, get that bat off your shoulder. Get back into the batter’s box. So what if you lose. At least go down swinging!
© Alan Stewart, 2005.
Alan Stewart: Dr. Alan Stewart has served as Senior Pastor of Rechoboth Baptist since December 1999. He attended The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Moody Bible Institute, Covington Theological Seminary, and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary.
Prior to pastoring the Tennessee church, Alan was an evangelist for 15 years. He has preached revivals/pastor’s conferences in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland. He also preached crusades/conferences in India, Hungary, and conducted a crusade in South Africa in August of 2009. Pastor Alan is married to Jeanne, and they are blessed with two children – Sierra and Seth.