I don’t know about you, but I often fail at things in life and can be wrong more than I’d like to admit. My wife might want me to say that out loud and record that statement…lol. Just kidding, but in all seriousness I do make mistakes and fail quite often. I can take others comments the wrong way and get offended. I do this by not being careful to give everyone the benefit of the doubt like the Apostle Paul instructs us in 1 Corinthians 13:7. Sometimes I don’t address my wife and daughter in a loving fashion. I make mistakes in ministry, in business, in being a spouse, a father, a mentor, a friend and in my walk with Christ. Most often, I overextend myself and get tired. Then I can get selfish in my flesh and start to be deceived by the enemy. Next, I can get a distorted sense of reality and then it happens…I fail! All of us fail and if we’re honest, we fail quite a bit. Do you ever seem to have times where nothing seems to go right? I do. Do you ever start to feel like a failure or a failure to those around you and a failure to God? I sure have felt that way and for extended periods of time like months at a time when I was younger. I encounter a lot of men that I disciple that seem to wrestle with the issue of failure in their lives just like I did and still can at times. I can tell you that I’m so thankful for the men who have mentored and discipled me in overcoming failure in a spiritually mature and Godly fashion. I am indebted to them for showing me what it looks like to learn from my failures to grow closer to Christ instead of becoming depressed and angry.
In the past, I used to get a really distorted sense of myself when it came to failure. I would start to believe the lie that satan presented to me that I was a failure. If I wasn’t careful I would get disillusioned. One of my mentors had a wonderful quote about that. He would tell me that: “you can’t become disillusioned, unless you had an illusion to begin with.” He reminded me that I was the righteousness of God as in 1 Corinthians 5:21. The truth was that I was not a failure! Failures were things I went through, but not something that defined me. I was reminded that life for pretty much everyone is filled with failures of all sorts. I soon learned that I had to profit from my failures to ascend to bigger things in Christ. I became a student of learning from my failures from God’s perspective. I like to move pretty fast in things in my life and can be impatient when they don’t zip along. But I soon realized that God enlarges my capacity before He commissions me to most things. I kept being reminded of Hebrews 12:6—“For the LORD disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.” What a perfect Father God is! I was also reminded that some of the most successful people in life have also suffered what we would call chronic failures.
In a book titled “The Incomplete book of Failures”, author Stephen Pike lists some of the failures associated with people you thought always did everything successfully.“An expert said of famous football coach Vince Lombardi, “He possesses minimal football knowledge and lacks motivation.” Beethoven handled the violin awkwardly and preferred playing his own compositions instead of improving his technique. His teacher called him hopeless as a composer. Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor for a lack of ideas. He went bankrupt several times before he built Disneyland. Thomas Edison’s teacher said he was too stupid to learn anything. Albert Einstein did not speak until he was 4 years old, and couldn’t read until he was 7. His teacher described him as mentally slow, unsociable, and adrift forever in his foolish dreams. He was expelled and refused admittance to the Zurich Polytechnic School. Henry Ford failed and went broke 5 times before he finally succeeded. Winston Churchill failed the 6th grade. He did not become Prime Minister of England until he was 62 and only after a lifetime of setbacks and failures.” An ad in the Wall Street Journal by the United Technologies Corporation also reminds us of our failures, but yet encourages us with this ad. It reads like this: “You’ve failed many times, although you may not remember. You fell down the first time you tried to walk. You almost drowned the first time you tried to swim. Did you hit the ball the first time you swung a bat? Heavy Hitters, the ones who hit the most home runs, also strike out a lot. R.H. Macy failed seven times before his store in New York caught on. English novelist John Creasey got 733 rejection slips before he published 564 books. Babe Ruth struck out 1,330 times, but he also hit 714 home runs.” People who are successful have probably failed more than anybody else on their way to finding out what works.
That encourages me greatly and God isn’t surprised by our failures either. As a matter of fact, He expects them because He knows better than anyone else who we really are. Psalm 103:13-14 says it perfectly—“As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.” Mark 26:41 reminds us that “The Spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Jesus knew this all too well about the disciples who fell asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane when they were supposed to be praying with him. God knows our tendency to fail and uses them for our benefit when we see them as opportunities for growth instead of wallowing for extended times over them. Alexander Whyte was a famous Scottish preacher and he said the following about spiritual growth: “Spiritual growth is the saints falling down and getting up, falling down and getting up, falling down and getting up all the way to heaven.” Wow! I can really connect with that. All throughout our lives, if we choose to see failures as opportunities then we can get stronger spiritually as time goes on. The more I saw and continue to see this the easier it gets to face disappointments in life. God totally allows failures so that I may grow in Him! Peter Marshall said it this way: “It is better to fail in a cause that will ultimately succeed, than to succeed in a cause that will ultimately fail.” So God is indeed working in our lives when we fail. We need to always ask God to help us learn from that failure how to become the kind of people He wants us to be. 2 Corinthians 4:16 reminds us that: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” The result of failure often is a reversal of how we look at life. No longer do we look at life from the outside in, but we begin to see things from the inside out. Sometimes our failures lead us inward to the life God really wants to develop when we face disappointments and failures in our lives. We have to learn to use failure as a resource for opportunity. And often it can be the door to great success. John Keats, an English author once said: “Failure is in essence the highway to success. In as much as every discovery as what is false leads us earnestly to what is true. And every fresh experience points out some form of error which we shall afterward carefully avoid.” Again, the men who have discipled me have helped me become spiritually mature to know that failures lead to future successes when we embrace the corrective lesson of defeat instead of becoming depressed. They showed me that God cares far less about our outward successes than He does our inward success and growth. So many times we get wrapped up in what we do. But God is more focused on who we are. Our goal should always be to learn to focus on the unseen, and not always the seen things just as God does. Failures help us do that very thing.
In our earthly lives we will fail and probably often, but the treasure we carry in Christ in us will not. We may fail on and off all the way to heaven, but we will get there with Christ and all along the way grow inwardly from our mistakes. As a follower of Christ we simply cannot lose when we embrace failures as lessons to conform to His image. Philippians 1:6 sums it all up for me when it says: “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” What you may see as a tragic failure, God sees as a corrective win for the future when we humbly approach Him to allow His good and perfect will to shape what only He can do for His glory and our gain!