April 17, 2018
I’ve had my fair share of failures in life. I think we all do, because failures are a normal part of our humanity.
My most glaring failure happened two years ago when I was enrolled in the Every Nation School of Campus Ministry. One of our major requirements was a strategic planning paper for the campus that we planned to reach. It was like a thesis for us, so to speak, where we applied everything that we’d learned in school.
I really gave it my best shot: I consulted different people, put in the required time and effort to complete the paper, lost some sleep, gave up rest and vacation, and spent a serious deal of money on coffee and milk tea.
On the day of the presentation, I failed. Not only did my paper fall short; I also failed to answer the questions of the panel. It was probably the most public and the most shameful of all my failures.
I thought I got it all right. I thought my paper would pass. I thought that my efforts and sacrifices would all pay off. But I failed.
If there had been any hint of pride in my heart that day, all of it was crushed right before my eyes, in front of everyone in that room. (It could have been the perfect moment for Jesus to come again so I could be spared from further disgrace, but He did not.)
The consequence of that failure, however, was that I had to start again from scratch, and finish a major paper in less than a week. The pressure was too strong and heavy, adding insult to the emotional injury of the shame and disappointment that I sustained.
In hindsight, I was thankful that it happened. For one, I know that it was necessary to root out my pride and to break my hard heart. Also, the things that God taught me through that experience are valuable lessons that I never might have learned if I did not go through it.
Skipping to the end of the story, I passed the second round of presentations through the help of friends and mentors.
Let me say that again. You are not a failure.
Your failures do not define or diminish your identity or self-worth. The Bible is filled with stories of men and women who failed big time in their lives, yet these failures never defined their existence.
David failed when he cheated with Bathsheba, yet he was known to be the greatest king of Israel, a man after God’s own heart, from whose lineage the Savior of the world came.
Peter failed when he denied Jesus three times, yet it was him whom Jesus commissioned to take care of His sheep.
Paul failed in his former life as a persecutor of the church, yet it was him who brought the gospel to the Gentile world and wrote most of the New Testament letters and epistles.
The thief beside the cross of Jesus lived a life of failures, but his failures were undone by one crucial decision he made just before he died — he surrendered his life to Christ.
Your failure will never define you, because a force stronger than failure is at work in your life — it is called grace. Sometimes, God empowers us to do mighty exploits for Him. At other times, He allows us to go through seasons of weakness in order to make us see that His grace is enough, and His strength is made perfect in our weaknesses.
So, in the middle of this experience, you may choose to respond in this way:
In the middle of the pain and disappointment, fix your eyes on Jesus and allow Him to speak words of comfort and strength. After the dust has settled down, and the pain of the failure subsides, get up and start over. You may have made a mess of things, but God isn’t done with you yet. Don’t let one failure stop you from experiencing the best of what God has in store for you.
Failures expose the hole in our character, reveal our weaknesses, and point us to the things that we still need to grow in. Let this experience teach you new things and develop new muscles in you.
When we are humble enough to admit our weaknesses and limitations, it will be easier for us to see failure in a positive light, and to keep a joyful spirit in the midst of pain and disappointment. God gives grace to the humble and exalts the lowly in spirit.
As I end, can I invite you to say this prayer?
Lord, never again will I look at myself as a failure, for I can do all things through You. No longer will I be defeated by failures, for you have given me a spirit of power to be more than a conqueror in life. I embrace failures as a means of Your grace, so that Your strength will be made perfect in my weakness. Because of this, I boast in my failures and weaknesses, for when I am weak, then I am strong in You. Amen.