Finding Success in Failure
By Bill Anderson
We all fail. Like the sun setting or the tides rising, failure in our lives is not a question of if, but when.
Moses struck the rock, Peter denied Christ three times, Paul had his thorn in the flesh, and David had Bathsheba, Why did God still use them to change history and eventually be recorded as giants of our faith? It wasn’t their eloquence (Moses couldn’t talk his way out of a paper bag), their education (Peter was noted to be uneducated even for biblical times), or even the support of their families (David’s family had a bad habit of trying to overthrow his kingdom), The key to their recovery and ultimately the truest test of their character and faith wasn’t found in the failure itself but in how they responded to the failure.
Choosing to Grow
Failing isn’t fun. It’s always humbling, often painful, and sometimes very embarrassing. These uncomfortable side effects can cause us to put an end to our dreams. But the first step to learning from failure is a decision. If you know your idea is sound or that God has surely called you to do something, then a failure or setback is something God can use to perfect you or prepare you for success in the future.
When Moses and the Israelites left Egypt, it took them about two weeks to reach the edge of the Promised Land. They sent out the 12 spies, and you know the rest of the story. Ten spies brought back a bad report, the people got scared, and God told them to go bad; to the desert because of their lack of faith. Some Israelites thought they’d go fight their way into the Promised Land anyway. Big failure! Did it mean that God had changed his mind and he didn’t want the Israelites to have the Promised Land anymore? Of course not! There were just some things that had to happen before they were ready.
As the leader, Moses could’ve quit right then He’d done his job, gotten the people out of Egypt, and led them to the edge of their inheritance when things went wrong. But Moses knew that God still had a plan-and to abandon it at that point, while it may’ve been easier in the short term, would mean that he would’ve missed out on all the miracles God had in store over the next 40 years. And without Moses’ leadership, the Israelites may never have gotten back to the Promised Land. He chose to keep going, to try again, and to grow from the situation instead of giving up, and we all know his name because of it.
Once you decide to try again, the next step is to objectively evaluate what happened so you don’t repeat the same mistakes. You may determine one thing in particular that doomed your project, or you may see a plethora of smaller things that undermined it. Being objective, however, is often easier than it sounds.
Sometimes in the course of our evaluation, we come to a place where we realize the main culprit in our failure was ourselves. King David and his failure with Bathsheba was a prime example of this. Once he committed adultery, there was no one to blame but himself He’d hatched the plan and committed the sin, and he was responsible. In your failure analysis, you’ll often find that your decisions were the ones that led to your downfall Reviewing how David dealt with his failure, we can see some lessons in both what to do and what not to do.
At first David tried to hide what had happened. He didn’t go out and confess and try to make amends; it took a reprimand from a prophet for him to come clean. Failing to acknowledge or avoiding the failure will only prolong the negative consequences. Once David had admitted his failure, he became a model of how to react to a setback. He asked forgiveness and repented, committed to not repeat the mistake, and then humbly accepted the consequences of his actions.
Try, Try Again
Failure is final only if you choose not to try again. Kakorrhaphiophobia (yes, that’s a real word) is the technical term for the fear or failure or defeat. After experiencing failure, we’re all likely to have a little kakorrhaphiophobia in our lives. No one likes the feelings that failure can bring on, and those feelings can be a powerful deterrent to taking another shot at our dreams-but only if we let them. The vision for what we want to accomplish must propel us to try, try again. If we fail again, so be it; we will learn and move on again. The only way we truly ever fail is by giving up.
Consider the Apostle Peter. He suffered possibly one of the greatest failures ever. At the most pivotal point in history, and even after being warned by Jesus about what would happen, Peter denied Christ not once, not twice, but three times! After spending three years seeing first-hand all the miracles and hearing all the teachings, when it came time for Peter to stand, he wilted in the face of pressure. He could’ve then faded into history as one of the biggest disappointments in Christian history, but he ~hose to try again. He stayed with the apostles, saw the resurrected Lord, at the day of Pentecost preached and saw 3,000 souls come to Christ, and ultimately became the leader of the church in Jerusalem. None of that would’ve happened if he had seen his failure, no matter how large, as final.
Failure can be a devastating blow to a person’s ego and confidence. As you consider how to learn and grow from failure in your life, remember this: God will bless failure compared to inaction every time. If you’re endeavoring to accomplish great things for God, you may not always succeed but you will always please God by trying and doing your best. That’s all he ever asks.
This article “Finding Success in Failure” by Bill Anderson is excerpted from www.childrensministry.com/leaders.