Factoring For Failure

(There are fill in the blanks and room for answering questions in this post).

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” –Michael Jordan

Feelings of shame.  Feelings of sadness.  Feelings of second-hand.  There are real considerations following the failure of any kind.

“A failure is a person who has blundered but is not able to cash in on the experience.”  -Elbert Hubbard

“A failure is not someone who has tried and failed; it is someone who has given up trying and resigned himself to failure; it is not a condition, but an attitude.” –Sydney Harris

“Any man may make a mistake; none but a fool will persist in it.”  -Cicero

No one likes to fail.  No one sets out to be a failure.  Some people fail early on in life and are so discouraged that they live life through the thoughts of “I am a failure” or “I can never win.”  This is a tragic way to live, yet many people, even Christians, live this way every day.

When a Christian succumbs to one temptation, he may feel like such a failure that he gives up and commits other, more degrading sins.  For example, the sin of uncaused and misdirected anger when left unconfessed will lead to other sins.  Ephesians 4:26-27 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil.  Many unknowingly “give place” in their life to the devil.  Relationships are ruined.  Work is stalled. And God is not glorified.

Some Christians are so afraid of failure that they become reserved, overly cautious, and uninvolved in life. They follow a policy of guarded living, holding back time, talents, and treasure from God’s service. Their motto is: To keep from failing—don’t try! On the other hand, those who are willing to make mistakes and risk failure are the ones who ultimately achieve great things. Instead of being filled with fear, they go forward in faith. Problems are challenges. While they may not all be solved, these courageous people would rather live with that reality than have a clean record of no failures and no accomplishments. Benjamin Franklin said one time, “The man who does things makes many mistakes, but he never makes the biggest mistake of all—doing nothing.””   -6,000

Some have called this the “Paralysis of Analysis.”  We can study, overthink, and be so focused on potential failure that we refuse to act in the first place.  However, God can use the failures and potential trouble in our life to refine us and to develop our walk with Him.

“Trouble is one of God’s greatest servants because it reminds us how much we continually need the Lord. Otherwise, we tend to forget about entreating him. For some reason, we want to carry on by ourselves.”  -Cymbala

Fear of failure should not prevent us from the action.  The only people who never fail are the ones who never live to begin with.  Take the next step.  Reach forward in life.  Step out in faith.  Factor failure as a normal part of the human experience.

What are the factors of failure that we should take into account?  Here are 3 examples.

  • The Shame Factor.

The life of Moses can be categorized into three 40-year stages.  Exodus 2:1-10 describes the first 40 years when he was a prince in Egypt, having been adopted into the household of Pharaoh’s daughter.  1 Chronicles 4:18 tells us her name is Bithiah.  She was a compassionate and loving mother.  For those adopting, I commend you – you could give a family to a future leader for God.

Bithiah (bith-yaw’) means “daughter or worshipper of Jah.” (-Strongs)  It appears that after Moses was rejected from the kingdom, his adoptive mother was also kicked out of Egypt because she led everyone to believe that Moses was her flesh and blood.  It seems that God adopted her into His family.  She marries a man named Medred of the Tribe of Judah.

In the second part of His life, Moses was an outcast from society.  He took judicial matters into his own hands.  Getting back at people, making society pay, and attempting to right wrongs, is not something any individual should do.  Being “Wanted: Dead or Alive” in Egypt, Exodus 2:11-25 tell us Moses ran for his life.  It was near the end of this 40-year stretch that as Moses was shepherding sheep for a living, God heard the prayers of His people in Egypt.

Exodus 3 is when God revealed Himself to Moses and called him to service that lasted for the next 40 years.  This chapter is rich with theology, as God says His name is His memorial.  “I AM THAT I AM… hath sent me (14-15).  The One Who always is – was calling and commissioning Moses to get back in the game.  He was sending Moses to do the impossible in his hometown – to deliver his very own people.

Moses wasn’t willing to go back to his hometown after committing some terrible sins.  He had fled in fear away from Egypt.  He was a well-known and recognizable figure in Egypt.  Going back could cause some flashbacks of some tough memories.  He left his hometown and country as a failure.  In the eyes of his himself.  In the eyes of his adoptive mother.  In the eyes of his fellow Jews.

The Shame of the Past.  Now he was coming back.  His objections to God’s call are rooted in fear and past failure.  See Exodus 4:1. “They will not believe me, nor listen to me.  Why would God visit a murderer and outcast?”  He had flashbacks to 40 years earlier when an assailant condemned Moses and said “Who made you a prince and a judge over us?” Exodus 2:14.

The Shame of the Present.  After demonstrating that God was going to be with him, Moses offers a second objection in Exodus 4:10-17.  “I can’t talk well.  I ain’t eloquent enough.  I get nervous when I stand in front of people.”  I hear ya Moses.

Lack of ability and lack of confidence are a normal part of life.  And it is those who are not confident in self, but confident in God whom the Lord can use.

God used Moses, by all accounts an unlikely hero, to rescue the people of Israel from slavery!  When God uses the unlikely, it glorifies Him even more!

Philippians 4:13 I can do ____ things ____________ Christ which strengtheneth me.

2 Corinthians 12:10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for _______ I am _______, then am I ___________.

  • The Sadness Factor.

David’s story begins in the book of 1 Samuel.  King Saul was the first king of Israel, but because of his rebellion against God, his time on the throne was cut short.  God had the prophet Samuel anoint with oil another person to be the next king.

David burst onto the scene at the Valley of Elah during the battle with the Philistines when they brought out their champion, the giant, Goliath.

Fast-forward to David after he was king. (There is much time/events in between David’s meeting Goliath and David’s becoming king, but that will be for another day.)  Everything is going well in David’s kingdom.  He is relaxed.  Too relaxed.  One evening, while lounging on the rooftop of the palace, David peers over the wall and sees a gorgeous woman taking a bath.  David knows it is wrong, but he brings this married woman to his home and commits adultery.

Sexual sins are sins against yourself, others, and God.  Fornication (any form of sexual sin) is deadly per the book of Proverbs.  On top of this, David’s lust drives a conspiracy, cover-up, and murder of a faithful man, Bathsheba’s husband, Urijah.  God was not pleased.  The “man after God’s own heart” had gone astray.  2 Samuel 12:13-25. 

David was sad.  His heart was grieved.  The prophet Nathan who confronted him was right.  David was wrong.  Could he be forgiven?  Could God ever bless him again?

David was not only sad he got caught, but he was also sad for his sin.  You can gain insight into David’s heart of true repentance in Psalm 32 and 51.

How did David face another day?  After the death of his first son, what did he do?  How did he overcome the intense sorrow and pain that his actions had caused?

David Repented of His Sin.  He does not hold back. He prays fervently.  He opens his heart to God and with tears sincerely cries out to God for forgiveness.   Psalm 51:4 Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.

David Refreshed His Fellowship with God.  Sin separated David from close fellowship with God.  He was still God’s man and the king God-ordained, but he was not close.  For about 1 year, David covered up his sin.  Those were months of heartache and pain.  What if someone found out?  David confessed and chose to refresh his fellowship with God.

1 John 1:3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have ____________ with us: and truly our ____________ is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.

David Renewed His Usefulness to God.  Psalm  51:1-17 For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.  The sacrifices of God are a __________spirit: a __________ and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.  God uses humble people.  David’s prayer oozes humility.  He has nothing to be proud of.  It is the humble whom God respects and uses!

David got back in the game.  Could you even look at Bathsheba again if you were David?  Imagine how many would experience guilt and shame on an ongoing basis.  Not David.  He knew that when God forgave – He forgave.  It is amazing to me that in 2 Samuel 12:24-25, David returns to his new wife Bathsheba.

God blesses David and Bathsheba and gave them a son.  David was again on good terms with Nathan, the prophet of God, and Nathan names the boy Jedidiah which means “beloved of the Lord.”  Despite David’s failure, God blessed him again.  Be encouraged that when you fail, once you make things right with God, He can use you again too!  Be sorry for your sin!  Turn the sadness and sorrow of each moment of life into joy and gladness.

  • Condemned no more! Esther 8:16 The Jews had ________, and gladness, and ______, and honour.
  • We can go home! Isaiah 51:11 Therefore the redeemed of the LORD shall return, and come with __________ unto Zion; and everlasting _________ shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and ________; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away.
  • God’s plan is real! Luke 1:14 And thou shalt have _______ and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth.

We know the baby son’s name as Solomon, the wisest man to have ever lived.  Amazing!

  • The Second-Hand Factor.

Talk about potential – Sampson had potential.  From his birth he was separated to the service of the Lord.  His parents dedicated him back to God. Many times, we describe the youth in church as having potential.  Potential itself is not enough to be successful in the Christian life.  All of us have some level of potential – but that does not amount to much without the qualities of willingness and usefulness.

Sampson allowed his eyes and mind to wander, and his potential was snuffed out in a matter of moments.  After several years of mediocre leadership, Sampson was set on a shelf.  Sidelined.  “Second-hand” is how he felt.

At the start, Sampson was the “Most Likely to Succeed.”  He showed off his muscles.  His feats were renowned.  But what he did was more about him than God.  A streak of selfishness is clear as you study his life account.

You can achieve some things in your flesh, but you cannot achieve all the things God wants you to achieve apart from His power, His Spirit, and His Word.  Redemption means so much more when we are broken over our sin and unworthiness.

In reality, Sampson achieved very little of what God intended for him to achieve.  Until Sampson realized his failures, the Lord was not going to use him again.  But it happened.  Judges 16:23-30.

Sampson was a castaway.  After not fulfilling his potential as a judge of Israel, the Lord allowed him to do one more great feat.

Here are 3 powerful truths to always remember when you fail:

  • God’s glory is better seen in the least likely to succeed.
  • God’s power is more visible when demonstrated through the weak.
  • God’s redemption means so much more to those who recognize their failure.

“Use me one more time Lord!  I am not worthy, but Lord, I give my life to you!”

Jesus illustrates this principle well when eating dinner with some Pharisees.  A woman known to be evil and immoral presents herself to Jesus and washes His feet.  She cries many tears, essentially washing His feet with them, as she breaks open a box of Alabaster ointment and with humility uses her hair to clean the dust off His feet.  The Pharisees condemned this situation and Jesus responds in Luke 7:40-48.

Get back up.  After failure, you are at as good a place as any to serve God again. 

Have some resilience to bounce back after failure.  You can say with J. Hudson Taylor, the most well-known missionary to China:

“I have failed,

I am failing,

I will fail,

But Jesus never fails.”

 

Write out your personal action plan for “Getting Back in the Game” following failure.

 

 

 

 

 

Published by Pastor Steve

Steve Harness and his beautiful wife, Natalie, are blessed with three children. They have served in ministry together for nearly 20 years and have been in Wilton, NY since 2009. Pastor Steve enjoys drinking Dunkin coffee and watching the New York Yankees baseball and Memphis Grizzlies basketball. Steve has a varied ministerial education, including a Bachelor of Bible from Pensacola Christian College, a Master of Ministry from Bethany Divinity Seminary, and a Ph.D. in Christian Counseling from Bethany. Currently, he is enrolled in the Master of Divinity (Christian Education) program at Mid America Baptist Theological Seminary. In addition to pastoring the Wilton Baptist Church, he is also the principal of the Wilton Baptist Academy in Wilton, NY. He serves on the board of the New York Association of Christian Schools. Both Steve and Natalie are thankful for each opportunity the Lord has given to them, and they desire to “serve the Lord with gladness” while seeing people saved and advancing in their walk with Jesus.

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