I don’t know about you, but I fail more than I’d care to admit. At least that was my way of looking at “failure” until recently. In these last few years I believe that God has been teaching me a lessen through observation, experience, and His Word.
Below is a list of some people from Scripture who failed and a possible reason or source of that failure. Of course this is only my point of view and yours may differ greatly.
Job- Culture of the day
Joseph- Through no fault of his own
John Mark- Homesickness
Esther- Death of a spouse
Abraham- Helping God accomplish a promise
David- Multitude of reasons
Jesus- His perceived failure was due to obedience to God’s plan.
We often think of Peter’s failure as being denial or betrayal. Most of the disciples had abandoned Jesus at this point, so Peter’s denial was close to the norm. I propose that his failure originated from pride. He thought he could do what the others couldn’t. He would never deny or abandon Jesus no matter what. He would fight to the end and then die defiantly. But, as reality overwhelmed Peter, fear overcame his pride and he too, fell away.
Job, after enduring hours, days, and weeks of abuse and judgement partially gave in to the blame culture of his friends, but his story like Peters ends in success and restoration. He was truly a righteous man that Satan tried to break. He endured all the failures that Satan could throw at him without breaking or blaming God. In the end God redeemed him, restored him, and vindicated him. In the process God left him with far more than he had originally.
All those listed above, and more, experienced failure even repeated failure of one sort or the other. They also experienced redemption and restoration from those failures. They learned from them and incorporated those lessons into their lives. They helped others in their failures and could exhibit both empathy and sympathy for them. They and God didn’t allow failure to be wasted.
Even Jesus failed in the eyes and by the measure of the world. Even His disciples thought he had failed. How could this happen, The Messiah, failed. Then the realization of what His purpose on earth really was became evident and His victory over death and the grave was revealed to them. God’s plan to redeem mankind, to restore relationship, to bring us back into The Family was realized due to His death, His sacrifice, His willingness to seem weak and submit to death. There is so much to learn from Jesus’ incredible obedience to the plan.
How has God redeemed your failures? I hesitate to think about the number of failures I’ve allowed to be wasted. How often I refuse to submit, to learn, to obey, because it seems like failure. All along God sees the real path to success that in reality runs directly through what we call failure. He allows us to fail to teach us. In our failures we often learn the most profound lessons, lessons we don’t readily forget.
In this light, failure seems to be just another step toward success. It allows us to check ourselves, depend on our Savior, obey without taking credit for the result, and allow God to use the success or the failure of the moment to draw us closer to Him. In our failures He presents His counter intuitive plan of us giving Him glory in our weakness as He provides the strength and brings success in whatever form He chooses.
In reality, simple obedience without thought of the outcome is truly success. Leaving the outcome, the gain, the success in God’s hands keeps us humble, dependent on Him, and in close communion with Him as we walk though this life. It is present in our ministries, family relationships, and daily walk. Finding the freedom to fail may be the biggest success that I’ve ever been a part of.
As those of us in Phase 4 and 5 fields move into facilitator roles we will undoubtedly experience failures. There may be times when we will encounter failure personally, professionally, and corporately. How we handle that failure will allow us to positively model God’s use of failure in His children or communicate the world’s negative point of view toward failure. Also, knowing that in failure we often learn the greatest lessons will encourage us to allow those we are working with to experience their own failures, to grow, and to see God turn failure into success.