Over the last year I have personally reflected on how God can use failure in your life. I have been a Christian for over forty years. I estimate that in my Christian lifetime I have attended upward of a couple of thousand church services, scores of Christian meetings, conferences, and so on. Yet during this entire time I have never once—not a single time in the hundreds of meetings over some forty-odd years—heard a speaker address the subject of failure. In fact, I probably would not myself have reflected seriously on the topic if it had not been for a crushing failure that drove me to face reality.
Everyone wants to be a success. I have never met anyone who purposely set out to be a failure. It’s easy to understand why so much has been written on the topic “How to be a Success” and why these books are so popular. I think it was Theodore Roosevelt who said, “The only man who never makes a mistake is the man who never does anything.” The simple reality is that failure is one of those ugly realities of life—a common experience to all of us to some degree.
The ability to handle failure in its various forms and degrees is a vital part of the spiritual life and another sign of maturity. A careful study of the Bible reveals that most of the great figures of Scripture experienced failure at one time or another, yet those failures did not keep them from effective service for God. As a partial list, this was true of Abraham, Moses, Elijah, David, and Peter. Though they failed at some point, and often in significant ways, they not only recovered from their failure, but they used it as a tool of growth—they learned from their failure, confessed it to God, and were often able to be used in even mightier ways
A favorite hymn for many Christians is “Victory in Jesus” because there IS victory in the Savior. In fact, Christians are super-conquerors in Christ. There are those who have, as translated by the NET Bible, “complete victory” (Roman 8:27). Expressively, this statement by Paul is made in a context that considers the reality of the varied onslaughts of life which must include failure.
Failure questions: “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will trouble, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we encounter death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we have complete victory through him who loved us! For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor heavenly rulers, nor things that are present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35-39 NET).
In view of this, we often speak of the victorious Christian life. But the truth is there is a lot of defeat in the Christian’s life because none of us will always and perfectly appropriate the victory over sin that Christ has accomplished for us by the cross. Additional, the amount of deliverance we each experience is a matter of growth; so, on the road to maturity and even after reaching a certain degree of spiritual maturity, Christians will sin and fail—sometimes seriously so. We don’t like to talk about it or admit it, but there is a lot of failure. Failure is a fact of life for the Christian community, but God’s grace is more than adequate to overcome any situation. The Christian is one who has learned to apply God’s grace remedy for failure.
Presently the bookstores are full of popular “How to Succeed Manuals” on every conceivable subject. And why is that? Because we are so concerned with the glory of God? I would hope so, but there are also other reasons. Too often, it is because we look at failure with eyes of scorn. We view failure as a Waterloo (check the history book on this one). We see it as the plague of plagues and as the worst thing that could happen to us.
As a result, the fear of failure has many people in neutral or paralyzed or playing the game of cover up. We consciously or subconsciously ignore our sins and failures because to admit them is to admit failure and that’s a plague worse than death. People often refuse to tackle a job or take on a responsibility for fear of failure. People believe if they fail they are no good. They think failure means you are a bad person and you are a failure. But, as previously mentioned, most of the great leaders in Scripture at some time in their careers experienced some sort of failure.
•When Abraham should have stayed in the land and trusted the Lord, he fled to Egypt because of the drought. And this was by no means the last of Abraham’s failures.
• Moses, in trying to help his people, ran ahead of the Lord and killed the Egyptian. Later, against the command of God, he struck the rock in his anger.
• When David should have been out in the field of battle, he stayed home and committed adultery with Bathsheba and then plotted the murder of her husband.
• Peter, despite his self-confidence and his great boast, denied the Lord, as did the rest of the disciples who fled before the evening our Lord’s arrest was over. There is a fundamental principle here. Sometimes God must engineer failure in us before He can bring about success with us. Our failures are often rungs on the ladder of growth—we can learn from our mistakes rather than grovel in the dirt.
This is not to make excuses for sin or to place a premium on mistakes or failure. This does not mean that a person must fail before they can be a success, but our failures, whether in the form of rebellion or just foolish blunders, can become tools of learning and stepping stones to success. The point is, we should never allow our fear of failure to paralyze us from tackling a job or trying something that challenges our comfort zone.
Make Every Count!
Come Sunday and hang out with others who have failed!