Summary: Some of the greatest figures throughout Scripture have experienced failure. Failure is something we all experience. But how do you overcome failure?
Sooner or later, everyone will experience failure. There are some here today who have had more successes than failures yet failure is a universal experience. Some of the greatest people in history have had their life checkered with failure. Vincent van Gogh only sold one painting while he was alive and that was to his brother. Albert Einstein failed math in school. Josephine Bake failed in her singing career in America before going to Paris and becoming a world-renowned singer. Walt Disney was fired because of a lack of creativity only to become the greatest graphic artist in history. Babe Ruth set the major league record for strikeouts and had 5 consecutive strikeouts in a World Series game. Michel Jordan failed to make his high school basketball team.
Some of the greatest figures throughout Scripture have experienced failure. God promised Abraham a son with his wife Sarah but after two decades they couldn’t wait and he impregnated his wife’s servant. Moses was a murderer and wanted fugitive before he became God’s chosen instrument to free his people from slavery. God made David a King and yet he committed adultery and then had her husband killed. And yet, he became a man after God’s own heart. Peter, the man whom Jesus called “The Rock” and said, “Upon you I will build my church” denied Jesus three times. Yet he becomes the leader of the disciples and the early church. Saul was the greatest persecutor of the early church and murdered many followers of Jesus only to become its greatest missionary, evangelist, theologian and church planter.
Failure is something we all experience. It does not discriminate by wealth, status, education or influence. And failure can take many forms. There are vocational failures, relational failures, physical failure s and spiritual failures. When any of these happen in our lives, not only can we feel like we have failed but we can feel like we are failures. And there is a huge difference between the two. William Brown said it best: “Failure is an event not a person.” Failure is not determined by the mistake you made. Your response to failure determines your level of success and accomplishment in life. It determines who you become as a person but more importantly, who you become in Christ.”
There are people who have failed and risen above it to become something better and greater. And there are people who have failed and it has kept them down and they became only a shadow of what they could have been. It’s the difference between failing backward and failing forward, between one who is overwhelmed and one who rises above. Failure happens to all of us, so we need to know how to respond to failure as follower of Christ. Because not only is the world watching, but your response determines the path of your life and spiritual growth. So how can we fail forward? First, face your failures honestly. Instead of blaming others, claim responsibility. Instead of looking to someone else as the reason you failed, honestly look at yourself. People fail in direct proportion to the excuses they make for failure. Excuses are the exits off the freeway of life and every time you take one, you begin to fail to make progress. We all fail. We just hate admitting our failures. But it is the first and crucial step to failing forward. Part of what can help us do that is to recognize everyone fails. Romans 3:23 says, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. And James 3:2 says, “We all stumble in many things.” Realizing you are not alone can help us to honestly face our failures.
Second, make God a part of your failures. Do you think God is surprised by our failures? Do you think God sees Tim fail and then says, “My goodness, never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that happening!” Of course God sees and knows about our failures and yet so often God is the last person we turn to. In Joshua 7, Joshua sends his army against the city of Ai and because of they had recently routed their enemies, the Israelites underestimate Ai and are resoundingly defeated. There is great loss of life. In response, Joshua falls on his face before God and cries out to him in prayer. In doing so, Joshua invites God into the midst of his failure. So often when we fail, we turn to a spouse, a friend, a co-worker or a relative when the person we need to turn to first is God. When we let God be involved in our failures, it draws on his wisdom and insight and allows us to keep perspective. Why? When you compare a failure to eternity, it’s not a failure. In God’s economy, there is no such thing as failure, only opportunities for growth. Remember, God does not seek success, only faithfulness. And when we turn to God, we draw upon the power of the resurrection to overcome failure so that it doesn’t become a roadblock but a stepping stone.