Summary: One person has said: “Most of us never see God in failure but only in success, a strange attitude for people who have the cross as the center of their faith.”
Opening Statement: Today, there is an overabundance of resources available to people that want to become a success. From bookstores to emails, we are enticed with success. In fact, I get emails quite frequently that tell me for the right price I can get a college and graduate degrees up to the Ph.D level and never have to open a book or take an exam. Or, just flip through the channels and you will find an “infomercial” about how to become a success in business or the accumulating of wealth. This is indicative of what I am suggesting to you and that is: that success and the trappings of success have become a kind of god. We bow down and worship at the altar of success or of the successful without really thinking about what is involved. One person has said: “Most of us never see God in failure but only in success, a strange attitude for people who have the cross as the center of their faith.”
All of the success-focus has made us afraid of failure.
Disclaimer: Now, before I proceed, I have one caveat (kāʹvē-ăt´). Being successful at what you do is wonderful and commendable. In fact, achieving goals and making accomplishments for God’s glory can be a wonderful testimony of God at work in you. But there is something that you must remember, and this is my caveat. God is just as much in your failure as He is in your success. And I am even suggesting to you that many times we learn more from our failures than we do our successes. In fact, if we don’t know how to handle failure, more than likely, we won’t accomplish our goals or be a success.
Proposition: Therefore I am suggesting to you (in the words of one pastor that I read this week) that when you fail - fail forward. Failure is something we must learn to deal with. Let’s face it. We totally mess things up sometimes. As a result, I don’t want to talk to you about success today. I want to talk to you about failure.
Title: Handling Your Failure, Part 1
Illustration: It reminds me of senior league baseball. I loved playing baseball and definitely had some good games. But what stands out in my mind are the failures. I can remember leaning too far off of first base, and getting picked off. Failure. I can remember my pitcher was in a jam with the bases loaded in a tournament game. I was in left field and misjudged a fly ball. Man, I made the other team happy. But I felt like a failure. I can remember pitching in an All-Star game. I threw a fastball as hard as I could throw it. The hitter just blistered it. I think it went out of sight. Failure. I have failed in many other ways too.
One time I decided that I wanted to share the gospel with my entire block while I was living in Binghamton, New York. I made these really neat, seeker-sensitive invitations and passed them out door-to-door. The evening finally came. I had chairs set up in my apartment. Snacks were ready. But nobody came. Failure.
I can remember hunting one time with my dad. I was probably 15. We were driving up the road in a four-wheel drive and two grouse were just standing beside the road up ahead. You don’t know how bad I wanted to bag a grouse. Daddy told me exactly what to do and for some reason when I got out of the truck, my mind locked up. Instead of putting the bead on them and pulling the trigger, I start walking toward them – kind of like “Hey fellows, I’m going to shoot you so you might want to think about flying in the next second or so.” I never even pulled the trigger! Failure. Another incident that ties into this story happened with two of my board members when I was pastoring a church in upstate New York. Now I don’t hunt anymore because of other priorities, but I hunted in those days. We were on our way home from hunting camp in New York and I see another grouse beside of the road. Well, I convinced my church board members to let me out (I’m thinking, finally a chance to redeem myself with this grouse on the road thing). I put four #4 buckshot into my 12 gauge, pump action. It held five, I choose four. That’s significant. I start walking toward the location where I saw the grouse when we passed it on the road. Even though I knew where he was, I still couldn’t see him. I had the safety off and as soon as I heard this “helicopter sound” take off in front of me, I start pulling the trigger (this ones not going to get away). Limbs and tree-branches are falling down, and I looked later and there was like a tunnel through the branches of where I was shooting. Evidently I was shooting underneath the bird because on my fourth shot, the suction of the pellets going underneath him literally sucked him back down to the ground and he just landed and sat there. I bet he was thinking, “Man, I never knew that pastors were such crazy people!” I thought, now I’ve finally got him. I put the bead on him, pulled the trigger, and click…I never put that fifth shell in the gun.” By the way, I’ve never seen two church board members laughing so hard at their pastor. (I sure hope that bird has lived a good life and had many offspring and that psychologically he was ok.) Failure.