Summary: Failure isn’t final and it isn’t fatal. God can bring you back from failure.
This is the fourth message is the series from 1 Thessalonians which I’ve entitled, “Finding Hope in a Hopeless World.” In this message we’re going to talk about “How God Turns Failure into Favor.”
I don’t even know if kids in school take home report cards anymore, but when I was growing up, the teachers gave us report cards to take home, and one of our parents had to sign it. Billy brought his report card home. Unfortunately, it had a couple of “F’s” on it. He brought it to his dad and said, “Dad, here’s my report card along with a couple of your old report cards I found in the attic.”
I never really understood those letter grades. We all know “F” stands for fail. But F was the only letter grade that stood for something. “A” stood for excellent, not awesome. “B” was good, not beautiful. “C” meant average, not complacent. And “D” meant poor instead of despicable. And then they skipped from D to F. Can’t you just imagine Jerry Seinfeld doing a routine about this? He’d ask, “Would somebody tell me what ever happened to E? Why did they just skip E and go to from D to F?”
You might not have ever had an “F” on a report card, but chances are you’ve failed at something in your life. If you have never failed at anything you’ve ever attempted, then you can get up and leave early for lunch because this message is only for those of us who have failed in the past and will fail again in the future.
Imagine for a moment I came to preach here at Green Acres. Someone found out I had been in jail in the last city where I preached. They form a mob committed to running me out of town. They stir up opposition to me. I preach here only three weeks, and the pressure gets so hot, that in the middle of the night, I load my family in my car, and we leave town. Most people would consider that a failure.
That’s exactly what happened to Paul. He came to Thessalonica from Philippi where he had been beaten and thrown in jail. With the wounds on his back still tender, he preached in Thessalonica for only three weeks. A mob formed to oppose him. They looked for him and Silas to drag them out into the streets to stone them. But Paul and Silas hid. But in the middle of the night, they snuck out of Thessalonica and headed to Berea. After he preached in Berea a few weeks, the mob in Thessalonica followed him there and stirred up a mob against Paul. He had to leave again and this time he headed to Athens.
1 Thessalonians 2:1-5. “You know, brothers, that our visit to you was not a failure. We had previously suffered and been insulted in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in spite of strong opposition. For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts. You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness.”
By many standards, Paul’s visit to Thessalonica could be called a failure. He only preached there for three weeks; then he was run out of town. But Paul is a great example of how God can turn our failures into His failure.
Where have there been failures in your life? Maybe you’ve gone through the heartache of a failed marriage or a failed job; you got fired, or were asked to resign. You might have applied for a scholarship or a job, and gotten turned down. You might be suffering from failing health, or you might have experienced a financial failure. Maybe you feel you failed as a parent or you failed in a business venture. For all of us who have ever failed, or will fail in the future, there are four lessons we can learn about overcoming failure.
1. FAILURE DOESN’T HAVE TO BE FATAL
After his introductory remarks, Paul was quick to say, “Our visit to you was not a failure.” Now why do you think he wrote that? I think it was because there were some of his enemies who were claiming his visit to Thessalonica was an abject failure.
At the time it happened, I'm sure Paul was disappointed. Nobody enjoys getting run out of town. But with the perspective of time, Paul insisted what most people would call a failure had been turning into something good by God’s power. A lesser man would have probably given up on preaching after being arrested, beaten, and then run out of two cities. But Paul kept on preaching.