Summary: Count the cost and make the commitment to come home to the Lord to find victory in the place of defeat.
Gary Smalley tells the story of two moose hunters in northern Canada, who shot an unusually large moose. The two hunters had a problem, however. They couldn't pack this trophy animal out of the woods; it was just too big for their packhorses. But they had a solution. Using a cell phone, they called in a tiny seaplane. When the pilot heard about the huge bull moose, he wasn’t too sure about taking it out. He told the hunters, “I don't know if I can take off with that much weight.”
“We've done this before,” they reassured him. “Don't worry.”
So they strapped the moose in, draping it across both pontoons. But again the pilot begged off. “Look how far we are sinking below the waterline,” he objected. “I'm the pilot. I know how much it takes to lift off.”
“Relax,” the hunters persisted. “We've done this before. Trust us.”
Finally the pilot agreed. He gunned the engine, took off down his runway of water… and crashed into the treetops at the end of the lake. Debris flew everywhere, and the moose carcass lodged in the branches of a tall pine tree.
Down on the shoreline, one dazed hunter called out to the other, “Hey, George! How did we do?”
“Well,” George replied, “we're about 50 feet farther than last year.” (E. Glenn Wagner, The Church You've Always Wanted, Zondervan, 2002)
My friends, when we fail, we don’t have to keep on failing. Failure is never a permanent condition for the believer. The fact is we can learn from our failures and use them as steppingstones to great blessing.
The question is: How? How do we recover from failure and turn it into a steppingstone towards victory? Well, there is a story in the Old Testament that shows us how. It is a love story that begins with failure, but the end is far greater than anyone could have ever imagined. It is the story of Ruth, and if you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to that little book in the Old Testament, the book of Ruth, Ruth 1,
Ruth 1:1 In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. (ESV)
These were terrible times for the nation of Israel. They were difficult days. They were the days of the judges when Israel was caught in a vicious cycle of disobedience, defeat and deliverance, disobedience, defeat and deliverance, disobedience, defeat and deliverance. Everybody did what was right in their own eyes, and the nation was in a moral mess.
So God sent a famine, as he often did, to get their attention. He also allowed terrorists to attack their land, but none of it seemed to do much good. The nation kept getting worse and worse.
That’s when a man decided to take his family and leave. They departed from their home, choosing to leave God’s land and God’s people. They were running away from trouble. But more than that, they were running away from the Lord.
They left Bethlehem – the house of bread. They left Judah – the place of praise, and they went to live in Moab – a place that God once described as his washbowl (Psalm 108:9). They left the house of bread and praise for a garbage can, and that’s what usually happens when people try to run away from their problems.
Some people actually move to a new location, thinking it will help, but they end up only taking their problems with them. Others try to escape through alcohol, drugs, or pornography, and some just bury themselves in their work, but the problems are still there. In fact, such attempts at escape only make the problems worse. That’s what happened to the man in our story when he, his wife, and two sons tried to escape to Moab.
Ruth 1:2 The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there. (ESV)
They had intended to stay there only a short while, but they ended up living there. The late Adrian Rogers once said, “Sin will always take you further than you want to go. It will keep you longer than you want to stay, and it will cost you more than you want to pay.” Here, their faithless act kept them longer than they wanted to stay.
Ruth 1:3-4a But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth.