Failures Don’t Define Us

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:13-14 NIV

Dr. Bob Miller

Dr. Bob Miller

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve failed. Failing is part of a normal, healthy and growing life. How many times does a child fail at walking before they’re running through a home? How many drivers are on the road who failed their first driving test? How many great recipes originate as culinary disasters? When we get up, it’s because we’ve been knocked down. . . . but we get back up. Teddy Roosevelt said, “The only man who never makes a mistake is the man who never does anything.”

The words of the apostle Paul are encouraging. This life of falling, falling and faltering must include forgetting what is behind and straining, stretching and striving for what lies ahead.

When we begin to move courageously, we encounter combative resistance. Opportunity always brings opposition . . . and, often opposition creates obstacles. The Deceiver uses these obstacles or failings as a passive paralyzer that strikes at the core of our spiritual nervous system. He tries to stop us . . . dead in our tracks.

Keathley writes, “A study of Bible characters reveals that most of those who made history were men who failed at some point, and some of them drastically, but who refused to continue lying in the dust.”

Abraham, Moses, Elijah, David, and Peter are just a few who can list failing in their resume. Their failures were significant and staggering. But, each rejected the notion that failing made them a failure . . . FAILING DID NOT MAKE THEM A FAILURE. They repented, recovered and rebounded . . . yes . . . they bounced back. These faulty and flawed men grew from their experience and embraced a renewed mission for God.

Grieving In Our Failure. Confession is good for the soul. There is a time to grieve for failings. David reminds us, “The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.” (Ps 51:17 NLT) Moving forward begins with forgiveness. It becomes a comforting reality that God knows our faults and failings . . . and without reservation or hesitation, He forgives. Often a listening ear and an encouraging word can help. James encourages us to “confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” (Jam 5:16 NLT)

Growing In Our Failure. Erwin Lutzer reminds us that “failure is the back door to success.” Growth from our failings gives a more solid foundation . . . we know what NOT to do again. Keathley writes, “Sometimes God must engineer failure in us before He can bring about success with us. Our failures are often rungs on the ladder of growth—if we will learn from our mistakes rather than grovel in the dirt.” As Paul reminds us, we must “press on”. Jesus encouraged Simon Peter, “Simon, stay on your toes. Satan has tried his best to separate all of you from me, like chaff from wheat. Simon, I’ve prayed for you in particular that you not give in or give out. When you have come through the time of testing, turn to your companions and give them a fresh start.” (Luke 22:31-32 MSG). The historian Froude wrote, “The worth of a man must be measured by his life, not by his failure under a singular and peculiar trial.” We grieve and we grow.

Grace In Our Failure. The apostle tells us, “where sin increased, grace increased all the more.” (Rom 5:20 NIV). Failure and repentance secured a more ample inderstanding of the grace of God in each of us. Paul found a solution in his struggles. He writes, “Each time God said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor 12:9-10 NLT) We grieve, we grow and we receive God’s grace.

At the age of 67 Thomas Edison lost most of his life’s work in a tragic fire. The morning following the fire Edison looked at the ruins and said, “There is great value in disaster. All our mistakes are burned up. Thank God we can start anew.” Three weeks later, he invented the phonograph.

If you’ve been knocked down, get back up. If fear and failing have paralyzed you, just move a little bit . . . a successful journey begins with the first step. Be defined by your faith, not your failures.

Our God gives grace for this race. Press on.

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