Summary: How does the Christian respond when we fail? By faith!
The word that rhymes best with "Australia" is "failure"! During the Olympics, our success in the pool, on the courts, on the track and other fields of competition, saw us in an unusual situation: we were victorious! The flag flying at the top brought cheers. The national anthem brought tears to the eyes. The cry "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie" brought responses of "Oi! Oi! Oi!" The Olympics and the Paralympics brought more success per head of population to us than any other nation in the world. Even the man ridiculed as President of the International Olympic Committee for declaring "The winner is Sid-en-nee" was regarded like a fond old grandfather when he declared "The Sydney 2000 Games were the best ever!"
Yet many of us believe it is un-Australian to be successful. We have carried the sense of failure since our convict days. Our masters and betters reminded us that failure brought us here. We were in this country for their country's good. Our artists, singers, sportsmen and women were unsuccessful until they had proved themselves overseas. We desperately wanted to be appreciated. As soon as any visitor stepped off a ship or plane journalists used to ask, "How do you like Australia?"
Our national day recalls a 1915 military disaster and defeat on the shores of Turkey. Our most famous explorers died in the desert. Our national song celebrates a no-hoper who steals a sheep for food and commits suicide by drowning. Our greatest hero defied the police in armour and died by hanging! Failure and Australia rhyme together.
Our Premier Bob Carr, whose historical knowledge is linked with his poetic prose, says: "We are a mix of British stoicism and Irish melancholy. Our founding myths are tougher, more etched with failure than those of USA, because of thinner soil, more fragile vegetation, grudging river systems. There were no wagon trains coming down to lay out cities on rich, deep soils. Ours was a harder task of settlement - a sparser, less obvious heroic effort."
After the Olympics, many people lost their optimism, national pride and sense of success. The post-Olympic blues revive the feeling of failure. After all, 90% of the best athletes in the world did not win a medal. Like them, many of us try, but never win. The sense of failure is never far from the surface. Work has not become what we had hoped. Things do not turn out as we were led to believe. Marriages have ended in tears. Children are a concern despite our hopes for them. Politicians disappoint. Friendship is betrayed. Prayers are not answered. Achievements often disappoint. Those things upon which we place our hearts can lead to false hopes, bitter recriminations and despair, and certainly to lives of despair, anxiety and stress. That in turn can lead to physical heart failure and death. Failure becomes the cruel companion to many of us.
The Bible records many failures because it records life as it is. The Bible is about real people. Some of the biblical failures are today only remembered for their successes, but before there was success, there was failure. Consider some of the most famous of people who were firstly failures.
Jacob is remembered as the great prayer warrior who wrestled all night with God. Yet before his great change of heart, he had deceived his blind father, stolen his brother's inheritance, despised his wife Leah and lusted after his sister-in-law Rachael. He was a man of treachery, graft, sin, unfaithfulness - a failure of a man. But God changed his direction and character and he became known as a great and good man.
Moses was a murderer, a fugitive from justice and one who because of his failure would never lead the Israelites into the Promised Land. Yet he became a national hero, the founder of a great nation and the creator of international law. David had the husband of his mistress killed. He stood beside the casket of his dead illegitimate son as a moral failure. Yet he is remembered as a hero, the one who slew Goliath, the great composer of some of the world's greatest songs.
Peter was one of the first disciples, who had boastfully said: Matt 26:33-5 "Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will." "I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times." But Peter declared, "Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you." Peter was cocksure of his loyalty and strength. He was absolutely sure that he would never fail Jesus on a point of loyalty and courage. Later that night, he was in the High Priest's courtyard, where Peter had gone to find out what was happening to his Master. Luke 22:55 "When they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight.