Summary: How a person handles failure can mean the difference between living a life of victory or living a life filled with bitterness, hostility and anger.

The Apostle Paul

-How to Handle Failure-

2 Cor. 4:7-9

2 Cor. 11:24-30


How a person handles failure can mean the difference between living a life of victory or living a life filled with bitterness, hostility and anger.

In the first church I served as pastor in Kansas City I got acquainted with a youth husband and father whose wife attended our church, but he seldom attended. I went golfing with him a few times to get acquainted. On one occasion I encouraged him to put his faith in Jesus.

He told me that he couldn’t trust God because God had failed him. In college he was driving his car at reckless speeds and he was involved in a car accident. His best friend was riding with him and his friend was seriously injured. He said that he prayed for his friend. He told God that he wanted him to answer this one prayer, “let my friend live!” His friend died. He said he could not trust God because God had failed him when he needed God most. He said, “I’ve given up on God.”

How do you work through failure? Do you believe that failure is not final and failure has a purpose?

The Apostle Paul experienced failure after failure, but he came through every failure with victory. All of us can learn from Paul’s experiences to help us learn how to handle failure.

We might say that Paul was the fourteenth Apostle. After Judas Iscariot betrayed the Lord and Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven the leaders in the early church chose an apostle to replace Judas. The replacement had to be someone who had been with Jesus from the time John the Baptist baptized Jesus until his ascension. Matthias was chosen to take over the apostolic ministry. Matthias was the 13th Apostle. The Apostle Paul claimed to be an Apostle appointed by Jesus on the Road to Damascus (recorded in Acts 9) to be an Apostle to the Gentiles.

Paul writes in Galatians 2:8-9: “For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles. James, Peter, and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews.”

Paul grew up in Tarsus, a city of Cilicia a city made up primarily of non Jews. He was born a Roman citizen, the son of a Pharisee, educated under a Doctor of Law, Gamaliel and he was a student of Greek and Jewish literature.

When you go through failures what are your first questions? “Why are people doing this to me?” “Why is God allowing this to happen to me?” Or you may think: “I have been keeping my prayer life up to date and I have been walking with the Lord and obedient to His Word so why should this happen to me now?”

Better questions to ask might be: “What can I learn through this experience?” “What is God teaching me through this failure?”

From the life of the Apostle Paul we can learn helpful lessons on how to handle failure.

I. Failure is common to all.

At various stages of our lives we all experience different kinds of failure. Some failures are out of our control. When I try something that doesn’t work out I choose to look at the experience, not as a failure, but simply it didn’t work so I’ll try something else.

Jesus experienced failure. Mark 6:1-6 is an account where Jesus experienced failure from a human point of view. “He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their lack of faith.”

From the world’s view Jesus was a failure. He didn’t set up an earthly Kingdom and bring peace on earth. He died on a cruel cross rejected by the religious and non-religious leaders of his day.

The Apostle Paul experienced one failure after another. 2 Corinthians 11:24-30. Paul gives a litany of failures…hardships, persecutions and pain. He could said, I’ve been down for the count of 9, but I’m getting up.” “I’ve been knocked down but I’m not out.”

“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” {2 Cor 4:8-9 RSV}

William Barclay translates these verses:

We are sore pressed at every point, but not hemmed in; we are at our wit’s end, but never at our hope’s end; we are persecuted by men, but never abandoned by God; we are knocked down, but not knocked out. {2 Cor 4:8-8 Wm Barclay}

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