Comeback: 1. a return to a previous higher state, place, position, status, etc. 2. recovery after failure or rejection. 3. restoration to God’s original purpose for one’s life. 4. return to pursuit of destiny.
It was March 31, 2001. I was watching the annual NCAA College Basketball National Championship Tournament. The people packed the arena to see the Final Four play for the right to compete in the national championship game. Duke was playing Maryland. The winner would play Arizona who, just an hour or so before, had secured their place in the Monday night championship game. Both Duke and Maryland had been favorites to be in the finals. Duke had been rated the number one favorite. They had a tremendous season, although they had lost to Maryland previously.
Nobody expected what was about to happen.
I was rooting for Duke. I remembered how they had been upset by University of Connecticut just 2 years prior in the final game.
I paused from watching the game with my son and wife (avid hoop fans) and went into the next room to read a couple more chapter of Bob Sorge’s book Dealing with Rejection and Praise of Man. I admit my pause from the action was due to a bit of frustration at a powerhouse team like Duke being down an incredible 22 points. The TV announcers, the Duke fans, everyone was stunned. The tournament is a single elimination, so if Duke loses this game, they’re out. Let me tell you, when you are playing a sharp, qualified, well-coached team like Maryland, coming from behind just 10 points might take a bit of flubber. 22 points? Angels!…Especially since Maryland was playing an excellent game.
I pondered as I sat there with my book: How have the mighty fallen? Was it pride? Overconfidence? Of all the games to lose composure! The semifinal to the national championship…mauled beyond recovery!
I read a bit, then thought a bit. The book was hitting me between the eyes. Bob was saying things like Rejection is a fact of life, “an unavoidable dynamic of our human existence.” Suffering rejection makes you like Jesus. Rejection stings, but it doesn’t have to wound your heart. When you know God’s acceptance, you are not dependent on anyone else’s affirmation. Great people don’t let rejection stand in their way of doing what is right. The more influential you are, the more rejection you’ll suffer.
My wife, mind you, bought me this book at a conference at which Bob spoke. A few years prior, I had some tough times dealing with rejection, and she could see that in some ways I was still deterred by the pangs of those years. I was in my 40s and thought I was headed somewhere, when over the course of time, I lost my drive and motivation to do what I always thought I was destined to do. Gradually, in what I perceived to be obedience to God, I changed directions, but one of the outcomes of doing what I believed was right was rejection. My worst struggle, though, was recovering from my mistakes and failures along the way that caused unnecessary rejection.
The past year was good, full of God’s blessing, but Ruthie and I both knew that the roots of rejection were still somewhat alive and holding me back. I was busy and moving ahead, but I was in a safety zone, a comfort chamber, subconsciously determined to find the pathway of least resistance and least rejection while I moved ahead. But I knew that the clock was beginning to run out for my retreat for healing.
Then while sitting in that rocking chair, reading Bob Sorge’s book, I heard the encouraging voice of the Lord whisper to my heart, “Make a comeback!”
I could still hear the game in the background. As I sat there, I reflected on all the comebacks in sports. And if you know NCAA history –– what a legacy! The books are full of stories about phenomenal comebacks. They don’t happen everyday, but every sport has its stories. Don’t you love watching those Olympic profiles of athletes who beat incredible odds to make a comeback from injury, hardship or disease! Champions again!
I’m often inspired by the life of Lincoln, whose political career was filled with defeat and rejection. Most people would have quit with a record like his, but he pressed on to his destiny and finally prevailed to become the President.
Sitting there on that rocking chair, I said yes to God. Duke may not make a comeback under present circumstances, but I knew I could. God going before me is all I needed.
IT’S NOT TOO LATE
While thinking about making my comeback I remembered how God had spoken to my heart on the way home from my Aunt Sara’s funeral last year. She was 95 when she died. People celebrated her with high praises. What a faithful, loving woman. On the way home from her funeral, I began reflecting back on all the things I had done in my then only 47 years of life. The countless hours spent playing, the years in school classrooms, all of the casual time spent tossing a ball against a wall or playing countless games of Monopoly. I reflected on the time it took to learn to play guitar and piano. I thought about how long my life really was –– I’ve done so much, had several jobs since graduating from college, met thousands of people. Then it hit me: If I live as long as Sara, my life is not even half over yet! I’ve got plenty of time left to fulfill my destiny! Moses was 80 years old before he began to do what God had designed for him, and I was only 47!
I know what kind of grit it takes to make a comeback after failure or severe rejection. I’ve helped lots of people make comebacks, and I still do. I am aware of the courage it takes, the discipline, the trust in God, and the need to renounce former behavior patterns. Like Tommy. Tommy grew up without restraint. Able to do whatever he wanted, his reckless life led him to drugs, alcohol, abortion, a broken marriage, and finally prison. In prison he found Christ, and when he was released several years ago, he came to me for help. It was a tough journey. Honestly, I was on the verge of giving up on Tommy more times than anyone knows. The crazy life patterns were not easily broken. I had to rebuke him, challenge him, and bear with him, as did others. But Tommy time and again made the right choices in the hard season of comeback. Tommy is far from completed yet, but finally, there’s no more alcohol or drugs. Now he enjoys taking his wife and children to church, and he owns a multimillion dollar business.
Now I had to make a comeback. It was a different kind of comeback than Tommy’s –– there were no drugs, broken marriages, or alcohol, but nevertheless, it would take the same principles of courage and determination to go where I needed to go. I had life-patterns that I needed to break, and I needed a new and greater trust in God.
I thought about Duke –– if they give up, they’ll never come back. Never has anyone made a comeback when they’ve given up.
MILK & COMEBACKS
I think it came from a milk commercial, but it’s my favorite saying: “Today is the first day of the rest of you life!” What a great saying! Today you have the opportunity to start over, put the past behind you, and do something with life. You may say, but I have lots of failures to plow through. Did you know that failure is one of the ingredients of success? Talk to any successful man. They’re successful largely because of their failures. Failures are opportunities to learn, gain wisdom, and prepare us for the next phase of our journey. As author John Maxwell says, life is learning to fail forward. Failure still hurts, but as another wise man said, Don’t waste your sorrows! Turn each mistake into an opportunity to sharpen your forward momentum. If you quit, you’re done! If you decide to pick yourself up, there’s more grace and hope for you than you could ever exhaust!
INGREDIENTS OF A COMEBACK
If you want to return to God’s destiny for your life, here are just a few choices you must make at the outset:
– A decision: to forgive others who may have caused hardship in your life. Forgiveness doesn’t necessarily mean that you act as if the hurt didn’t happen. If someone stole $1000 from you, they may still be responsible to pay it back. If someone molested you sexually, it may not be good to release that person from their sin, for their own good or for the good of others that they may offend. Forgiveness is releasing your judgment and hurt into the hands of God. This releases you to love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who did wrong to you. Forgiveness is an absolute must! Harboring animosity will deter your comeback every time.
– A decision: to ask forgiveness of those you have hurt. This, too, is an absolute must. You must take responsibility for what you did wrong even if others were wrong, too. Their actions may have been bad, but your reactions to their actions may have been just as bad. Clear your heart by accessing forgiveness for your sins toward people. A comeback won’t be possible if you continue to blame others for you woes. You are in control. You have the choice. No man can ever deter you from God’s will for your life.
– A decision: to renounce any sin, selfishness, or independence which may have contributed to your problem, rejection, or failure. This is called repentance. It begins with asking God to forgive you, and then clearly and specifically turning from all the patterns that are not acceptable to God and are not in character with true unconditional love. Then, accept His forgiveness, and don’t continue to beat yourself up after He forgives you.
– A decision: to walk in faith and trust God to open the way for your comeback. You won’t ever have the courage you need without faith. Faith says, “With God’s help, I can do it!” Faith also says something of much higher motive: “FOR GOD I will do it!” And trust in God is essential because the way to a comeback is beyond your ability to figure out. God will open the way for you to come back. That is why a total trust in God in every area of your life is a must to make a comeback. Remember, you’re not only coming back for your own health, somebody needs you! It may be someone you haven’t met yet, but whether or not you know it – you, like, anyone else, are valuable to other people!
YOU’RE WRITING A BOOK
I was praying for Dave and Kim at the end of a church service. They were attempting to make a comeback, and it wasn’t easy. They had been separated, headed toward divorce, when a friend encouraged them to get back with each other and begin living for God. They took the advice, but there was a lot of junk they had to plow through. Their deepest hurt was the negative effect their lives had on their children. Both Dave and Kim felt like failures. They were at the end of their hope.
As I prayed for them, I felt the Lord was giving me words to pray. Suddenly I looked at them and proclaimed authoritatively, “You’re writing a book!” They looked at me, confused. I said it again, “You’re writing a book!” Still confused, I paused for a selah, then explained, “Dave and Kim, you’re writing a book, and the last chapter hasn’t been written yet! And the decisions that you’re making at this season in your life are going to determine what’s in that last chapter. God has a great ending for your book if you will extend trust to Him and watch Him work. Your book is far from being completed!” It’s been a few years since that happened Dave and Kim began watching God work His power and influence in the writing of their book. At this time they are living victoriously, God has changed much in the heart of their children, and they have hope for the future. They still have quite a long way to go, but it’s a big book.
GOD WILL RESTORE YOUR WASTED YEARS
It’s one of the most refreshing and important verses in the Bible for those who are 22 points behind in the semifinal game: Joel 2:25, says “And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten…” How often do you think about what could have been if? Was it your marriage, a lost friendship, a broken engagement, a bad business deal, a foolish investment, the selfish goals, an accidental death of a loved one, a crippling disease, a church split, a false accusation. It doesn’t matter what it is –– God is in the restoration business. He will restore the years the locust ate! David Wilkerson writes, commenting on this verse, “ You might feel the pangs of remorse for your wasted years as long as you live. And yes, the memories will keep you humble. But in God’s eyes, your past is a dead issue. As far as condemnation and guilt are concerned, God says, Forget the past. Press on to what I promised you!”
WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO DUKE
In a classic comeback in that semifinal championship NCAA game, Duke focused on the prize and beat Maryland 95-84. It was absolutely incredible. Not only that, but they went on the following Monday to defeat Arizona in the national championship game. I’m sure the Duke players are all glad they didn’t quit when they were down 22 points.
HOW ABOUT YOU?
What about your last chapter? You’ve read lots of books. A good writer leaves you hanging till the last page. You’re crying, “Oh what sorrow awaits!” Then in a turn of circusmtance, momentum builds in the last chapter, and presto, the book ends with a smile. Book writers control the fate of the fictional characters, but God controls your destiny.
Today, decide to say yes to the One who right now is whispering to your heart, “Go ahead, make a comeback!”