“Success is a poor teacher.” My dad must have repeated this maxim a hundred times as I grew up. There are some lessons that only failure can teach. If you want to mature, you need to fail. Jesus failed. So should we.
After bringing Jesus out of the desert, God calls Him to preach in Nazareth where he is unable to do many miracles because of their lack of faith (Matt 13:58). But it gets worse. He then preached in the synagogue and offended the people (Mark 6:3). They were so incensed by His sermon they tried to push him off a cliff (Luke 4:14-30).
So, Jesus was unable to do many miracles, offended the congregation, and angered the people into a murderous riot. If that is not a failure, what is? You could try to twist this passage to find some sort victory. But to do so you would strip the word failure of its meaning. If any of those things happened to you I doubt you would consider it a success.
Why did God have Jesus preach such a provocative message to such an unreceptive audience? Why did an all knowing God orchestrate this?
I think one of the reasons was to test or to prove him. God wanted to prove Jesus through failure. Jesus, the man, needed to know He could take it. Jesus, the Son, needed to know His Father loved him whether people were healed or not (and they weren’t). Jesus, the Most High God, needed to feel what it was like to be human so he could sympathize with us (Hebrews 4:15).
The Cup of Failure
In order to walk in confidence, we need to know that we are loved even when we fail. The only way we can know we are loved in our failure is to fail and be loved. Words are not enough. We must taste the cup. Failure is like hot, bitter coffee. It’s too hot to touch but not too hot to drink.
Children who never fail begin to fear it because they don’t know if they would be loved despite their failure. Parents who love conditionally often have cowardly children who take few risks and try to please everyone. Praise God we have a Heavenly father who loves us unconditionally!
In order to build self esteem, we have raised a generation that rarely tastes failure. We don’t keep score in sports and everyone gets a trophy. The result is a generation that fears failure, avoids risk and lacks ambition. We are raising a generation of cowards. When we yank the cup of failure from the hands of our children we splash them with the hot liquid in the process. By trying to help them we train them to hate failure.
The result? Our Churches are filled with cowards instead of men of God. Our statehouses are filled with cowards instead of statesmen. We have abandoned personal Evangelism because we lack the guts to risk rejection.
Failure is not sin. Disobedience is.
If God allowed Jesus to fail, should we not allow our children to fail? If failure has so much to teach us should we not embrace it? The path to success is paved with the stones of failure. We must be willing to walk that path if we want to reach the destination.
We need to stop giving trophies to the losers and start keeping score. Parents should love their children in their failure instead of protecting their children from it. When you don’t keep score you prevent winning and loosing and your children will flock to activities like video gaming where success and failure are both clear.
“If something is worth doing, it is worth doing poorly! ” – G.K. Chesterton
You could call America the land of perfectionists. Many of us strive for perfection in everything we do. We apply this desire to our spiritual lives as well. The result is if we can’t do something well we don’t do it at all. This is just the opposite of walking in faith. Jesus modeled for us what walking in faith looks like. It means going to Nazareth, knowing failure is eminent. Success or failure didn’t matter to Jesus. They shouldn’t matter to us. Only doing the will of our Father. “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me” (John 6:38).
If you want to walk in faith, if you want to walk like Jesus, you must be willing to walk in failure.
Success not Guaranteed
Just because God calls you to do something it does not mean you will succeed. Otherwise the prophets would have succeeded and swayed the children of Israel to repent. Joseph would have succeeded is staying out of jail. And Paul would have succeeded in convincing the people of Athens that Jesus was alive.
God sometimes calls us to do something because He wants us to learn the lesson that failure will teach us. We must learn some things the hard way, from the cruel tutor of our own mistakes. Paul learned a lot in Athens about preaching the Gospel. Joseph learned humility in that prison. And the Prophets are our example of faithfulness.
God has a way of taking our failures and using them for good. Yet we still avoid failure. We need faith. We need to trust that God uses us despite our best efforts.
Are you willing to live your life in such a way that it may take hundreds of years for people to realize your life was not an absolute waste? Jeremiah was. So were Isaiah, Ezekiel and Joel. These are our heroes of the faith. They resolved in their hearts that success or failure they would do the will of God. We should do the same.
We need to stop thinking in terms of success or failure and switch to a one of obedience and disobedience. It is only in doing this that will be like Christ
What do you think?
Do you embrace failure and try to learn from it or do you try to avoid it? What is the biggest lesson you have learned from failure? Leave me a comment and let me know!