WEATHERING THE STORM OF FAILURE

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TEXT:                           2 Corinthians 4:8-9

INTRODUCTION:

Illustration:

In the first church I served as pastor, I got acquainted with a guy, the husband of one of my elders in the church, but he, the guy, seldom attended. I visited him a few times to get acquainted. On one occasion I encouraged him to put his faith in Jesus.

He told me that he couldn’t trust God because God had failed him. A lot of odd and bad things happened to him and He said that he prayed to God but God turned a deaf ear. He said he could not trust God because God had failed him when he needed God most. He said, “I’ve given up on God.”

How do you work through failure? Do you believe that failure is not final and failure has a purpose?

We might say that Paul was the fourteenth Apostle. After Judas Iscariot betrayed the Lord and Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven the leaders in the early church chose an apostle to replace Judas. The replacement had to be someone who had been with Jesus from the time John the Baptist baptized Jesus until his ascension. Matthias was chosen to take over the apostolic ministry. Matthias was the 13th Apostle. The Apostle Paul claimed to be an Apostle appointed by Jesus on the Road to Damascus (recorded in Acts 9) to be an Apostle to the Gentiles. The Apostle Paul experienced failure after failure, but he came through every failure with victory.

Now, let me ask you…When you go through failures what are your first questions? “Why are people doing this to me?” “Why is God allowing this to happen to me?” Or you may think: “I have been keeping my prayer life up to date and I have been walking with the Lord and obedient to His Word so why should this happen to me now?”

Better questions to ask might be: “What can I learn through this experience?” “What is God teaching me through this failure?” How a person handles failure can mean the difference between living a life of victory or living a life filled with bitterness, hostility and anger. From the life of the Apostle Paul we can learn helpful lessons on how to handle failure.

1. FAILURE IS COMMON TO ALL.

The Bible records many failures because it records life as it is. The Bible is about real people. Some of the biblical failures are today only remembered for their successes, but before there was success, there was failure. The Bible is not reluctant to tell us about the failures of its heroes. That’s the difference between the stories of the Bible and many Christian biographies. Many biographies of well-known Christians don’t tell us about the person’s failures. You might get the impression that they never struggled.

The more I look at Scripture, I see people whose ministry in the eyes of the world may be considered a failure.

  • John the Baptist was beheaded in prison.
  • Jeremiah escaped Jerusalem with only his life.
  • Moses was not allowed to enter the Promise Land.
  • John was placed in exile on Patmos.
  • Isaiah was told in Is 6:9-10 that his mission would not be successful in turning many back to God. Isaiah, tradition tells us, was sawed in 2.
  • Christ was homeless. Often his preaching drove people to say that he is crazy and they walked away from Him like the rich young ruler did.  “Jesus took the risk of being open with people with the love of God; many responded favorably, many did not.”

The Apostle Paul experienced one failure after another. 2 Corinthians 11:24-30. Paul gives a litany of failures…hardships, persecutions and pain. He could said, I’ve been down for the count of 9, but I’m getting up.” “I’ve been knocked down but I’m not out.” “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9 RSV) William Barclay translates these verses: We are sore pressed at every point, but not hemmed in; we are at our wit’s end, but never at our hope’s end; we are persecuted by men, but never abandoned by God; we are knocked down, but not knocked out. {2 Cor 4:8-8 Wm Barclay}

Paul even had a physical infirmity that he called his “thorn in the flesh.” He prayed for God’s healing, but the infirmity remained. He accepted the weakness as from the Lord and could say: “When I am weak then I am strong.”

Paul was considered to be the 14th disciple of Christ…and had been an icon for mission and church planting…but he had experienced so many, I mean so many failures in life.

How many of you have never done anything wrong in your life? How many of you could stand before Almighty God and say, “I have never made a mistake! I have never failed at anything. I am practically perfect in every way?!!!”

I am glad you didn’t raise your hand. The truth is that we’ve all made mistakes. We’ve all experienced failure in our lives.

  • A student might say, “I have tried my best to learn algebra. And I can’t do it! It’s way over my head! I wish I wouldn’t even have to take this class. I hate it! It makes me feel like a failure.”
  • Or a mom might say, “I’ve done everything I can think of to raise my kids in a Christian home. I’ve prayed for them. I’ve taught them right from wrong. But they keep making decisions which break my heart. And they seem farther from God than ever before. O Lord, where did I go wrong? Where did I mess up? I feel like a failure.”
  • Or a Christian might say, “I want to live for the Lord with all my heart. There’s no one in the world that I love more than Jesus. But I struggle with sin in my life. And I keep committing the same ones over and over again. I feel like I have flunked the Christian life! How could Jesus ever use a mess-up like me? Sometimes I feel like a failure.”

Work has not become what we had hoped. Things do not turn out as we were led to believe. Marriages begun in hope have ended in tears. Our children are a constant concern despite our hopes for them. Politicians disappoint us. Friendships are betrayed. Prayers do not seem to be answered. Even those things that we do manage to achieve often disappoint us.

Do you realize that although there are winners at the Olympic games every four years, 90% of the best athletes in the world did not win a medal. Like them, many of us try, but never win. The sense of failure is never far from the surface. At various stages of our lives we all experience different kinds of failure. Some failures are out of our control.  Remember and accept the fact that everyone fails. A recent study showed that the failure rate of human beings is 100%. Nobody’s perfect. Consider the many times you have failed.  You fell down the first time you tried to walk.  You probably almost drowned the first time you tried to swim.  In all likelihood, you didn’t made a perfect shot the first time you threw that ball on the hoop. All the great achievers in history have failed. Failure in our lives is certain.  All of us, in one way or another, would taste the bitter drink of failure.

2. GOD IS INTERESTED ON HOW YOU RESPOND TO FAILURE.

What you call failure God may call a window of opportunity for learning. In times of failure and change:

  • You may be given a new opportunity
  • A new open door
  • Chance to move out of your comfort Zone
  • Respond in love and good will and not
    • Anger _”I’ll get you”
    • Revenge – “God cause that person grief”
    • Gossip – “poor me, pity me, look what happened to me”

Jesus was spit upon, beaten, suffered pain, crucified on a cruel cross, but he did not retaliate. He said: “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” Why did He not cursed them or make lightning flash down from heaven to hit those people?  Why? Because that supposedly failure in the eyes of man would be an open gate so that you and I can have forgiveness of sin and eternal life.  That’s the only way man can have an abundant living with God!

Here is the important question: “Are you prepared to fail?”

For 33 years Jesus was preparing for the cross – in the world’s view, the biggest failure of his life. Jesus was prepared from the beginning of his life on earth. Luke 2:32 says that Jesus grew in wisdom statute and in favor with God and man. Jesus developed a balanced life: grew in wisdom – mentally, in stature – physically, favor with God – spiritually, and favor with men, socially.

  • He walked with God
  • He made prayer his habit
  • He knew the Word of God – time and time again He quoted the Old Testament
  • He was looking toward an eternity of victory over sin and Satan – Jesus knew all his suffering and turmoil would be worth it all.

The Apostle Paul was prepared. His preparation started on a dusty, lonely, road on the way to Damascus. Jesus spoke to him and called him to a new mission in life. Saul was transformed into Paul. He also spent three years in the Arabian dessert – Galatians 1:17-18 – three years of preparing his mind, body and soul for the ministry God was calling him to.

When you are prepared, change and failure will not ruin your life. You will ask the right questions and take the right actions.

Illustration:

In the movie The Natural, Robert Redford is a baseball player named Roy Hobbs, perhaps the most gifted baseball player ever. He’s a high school wonder boy, a natural who gets a shot at the big leagues. But his dreams of a professional career are cut short when he is shot in the stomach. Fifteen yeas later, an aging Hobbs gets a second chance. He’s signed by the New York Knights – the worst team in the league. But through his incredible gift, untarnished by the years, Hobbs has a second change when the star player dies and he leads his team into the World Series.

The climax of the film is the game for the championship. Hobbs takes a bribe to throw the series. It’s the bottom of the ninth; the score is Pittsburgh 2, Knights 0. The Knights have 2 outs; there’s a man on first and third when Hobbs steps up to the plate. He’s their only chance, this is his moment. Now, there’s an important part to this story. Ever since high school days, Hobbs has played with a bat he made himself from the heart of a tree felled by lightning in his front yard. Hobbs burned into the bat the picture of a lightening bold and the words “wonder boy.” This was the only bat he ever stepped up to the plate with. Now he’s up to bat. His first swing is a miss; his second is a foul ball high and out of play. His third is a solid hit along the first base line. It looks like a home run but goes foul. As Hobbs returns to the plate, he sees his bat lying there…in pieces. It shattered on his attempted home run swing.

Many a man and woman have come to this kind of critical moment in their lives. All their dreams and hopes seem to break into pieces…investments fail, company terminates employment, illness requires changes to be made, an unmarried daughter turns up pregnant, a spouse walks out. What is the person to do? Will he/she stay in the game or shrink back and withdraw from life? Will you try to put all the pieces back together by yourself? But like humpty dumpty who had a great fall and all the king’s men could not put humpty dumpty back together again. Hobbs stands looking over his shattered bat. The bat is beyond repair. Then he says to the bat boy, “Go pick me out a winner, Bobby.” He stays in the game and hits a home run to win the series.

To prepare to keep swinging we need to turn to the Lord for His strength to face change and failures. All the king’s men could not put Humpty Dumpty back together, but God can. The Apostle Paul like all of us faced failure, but he was prepared and responded with renewed faith in the Lord.

Have you ever failed or made a mistake?  Good, then this nugget is for you.  The fact that you’ve failed is proof that you’re not finished. Failures and mistakes can be a bridge, not a barricade, to success.

Psalm 37:23-24 says, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way.  Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down:  for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand.” Failure may look like a fact, but it’s only an opinion.  Successful people believe that mistakes are just feedback. It’s not how far you fall but how high you bounce that makes all the difference. Success consists of getting up just one time more than you fall down.  SO GET UP AND GO ON!

Author Ed Cole said, You don’t drown by failing in the water, you drown by staying there,” Proverbs 28:13 (TLB) reminds, “A man who refuses to admit his mistakes can never be successful.  But if he confesses and forsakes them, he gets another chance.” The best way to go on after a failure is to learn the lesson and forget the details. If you don’t, you’ll become like the scalded dog that fears hot water and, afterward, fears cold as well.

Failure can become a weight, or it can give you wings. The only way to make a comeback is to go on. If the truth were known, 99 percent of success is built on former failure. A mistake usually proves somebody stopped talking long enough to do something. You’re like a tea bag:  not worth much until you’ve been through some hot water.

Remember the old poem:

Success is failure turned inside out,

The silver tint of the clouds of doubt.

And you never can tell how close you are;

It may be near when it seems so far.

So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit;

It’s when things seem worse

That you must not quit

–          Unknown

Illustration:

How many of you here remember the first time you tried to ride a bike? Did any of you hop right on and just take off without falling down, skinning up your knees, or worse? Probably not. You probably fell off your bike many, many times before you got the hang of it.

And your father, more likely than not, was running along right behind you, holding on to the seat, supporting you till you got that balance thing right. Maybe it was your mother, older sibling, aunt, uncle, whatever. Someone was supporting you. And when that person would let go and you would go for a little bit then veer into the bushes, did that person get mad at you, yell at you, tell you how clumsy you were, and claim you’d never get it?

No, of course not. They would pick you up, patch you up (if that was necessary), and away you’d go with them holding onto the bike. You may have fallen (failed) in that attempt at riding solo, but they were right there to give you another chance. Your failure was only temporary.

And how you handle failure is critical to your life today and in the future. A common truth is that everyone experiences some kind of failure. To God the important truth is how you respond to failure. Failure is a blessing if it pushes you to humble yourself before the Lord and begin to live in the light of eternity.

You may be experiencing some kind of failures in your life-

  • failure in the way you budget your finances
  • failure in your school
  • failure in your business
  • failure in your relationship with your family
  • failure in your dealing with your children
  • failure in trying to overcome those old habits
  • failure in trying to maintain those figures, etc.

Whatever your kind of failure may be, no matter how deep you may be in, regardless of how many times you have experienced it, Christ is able to turn those failures into fame, those defeat into victory. Like Paul, Peter and other people who failed before, victory could be ours today.

God has never given up on many people who failed before, and He will never give up on you. When we fail at something, we feel like failures. And God could never look beyond our past, our failings. (NA PARANG SI LORD HINDI MAKA-MOVE ON NA LAGI NYANG INAALALA YUNG MGA KAMALIAN MO…KAPATID HINDI GANUN SI LORD) In the Bible we have people running from God, attempting suicide, murder, making false idols, disobeying God, lying, stealing. I mean pretty bad stuff. And yet God still used them to accomplish great things. God never gave up on His plans for those people, and He will not give up on His plans for you.

But we still have that problem of believing that God won’t give up on us in spite of our past. There are untold numbers of people who think that God has given up on them. They think that they have failed so miserably, fallen so far and so many times that God could NEVER forgive them. And there’s absolutely NO WAY that God would ever use such a failure as themselves. WRONG!!! WRONG!!! WRONG!!!

Our God is an awesome God! He has plans for each of us and we can’t fail enough to ever change those plans. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not harm, to give you a future with hope.”

Look at it this way.

Illustration:

The manager of an IBM project that lost $10 million before it was scrapped was called into a meeting at the corporate office. “I suppose you want my resignation?” he asked. “Resignation nothing!” replied his boss. “We’ve just spent $10 million educating you!”

It is said that Thomas Edison performed 50,000 experiments before he succeeded in producing a storage battery. When asked if he ever became discouraged working so long without results, Edison replied, “Results? Why, I know 50,000 things that won’t work.”

Each one of will fail at something in our lifetime. Our response is what determines what becomes of our failings. To God our failing is a lesson learned, an education. God says, “Good! You’ve learned what won’t work. I’m NOT giving up on you. Hop up on your bike and keep trying! I’m here to support you.”

If you only remember one thing from what I’ve said today, remember this: Failure is temporary; giving up is what makes it permanent. God never gives up on us, so why should we give up on ourselves?

3. FAILURE PUSHES YOU TOWARD HIGHER GOALS.

Failures are a blessing when they push you toward higher goals. Paul stated in Philippians 3:13-14, “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have arrived. 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.”

The Apostle Paul could say: “I’ve forgetting past hurts, past rejections, humiliations, suffering for righteousness, and I’m forgetting that for years my life was on the wrong road.”

The Apostle Paul lived in the light of eternity. When you and can begin to see the big picture and life in the light of eternity we then know how to handle failures and change.

I’m reminded of the way God answers prayer by what someone wrote concerning what they prayed for and how God answered:

I asked for health that I might do greater things;
I was given infirmity that I might do better things.
I asked God for strength that I might achieve;
I was made weak that I might learn to obey.
I asked for riches that I might be happy;
I was given poverty that I might be wise.
I asked for power and the praise of men;
I was given weakness to sense my need of God.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life;
I was given life that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing I asked for but everything I hoped for;
In spite of myself, my prayers were answered—
I am among all men most richly blessed.

Charles Colson in his book “Loving God” tells about his experience in prison. While in prison he remembered his life before prison, honors he earned, court cases he won, and prestige in government positions. His life had been the perfect success story, the great American dream fulfilled. But while in prison he had time to think and pray. He realized all his achievements meant nothing in God’s economy.

His greatest victory was his biggest failure, begin sent to prison was his great humiliation – but prison was the beginning of God’s greatest work in his life. God chose the one experience in which he could not glory for His glory.

The Apostle Paul could say, “In my weaknesses God is glorified. When I am weak then I am strong.”

Toward the end of Paul’s life he was in Rome under house arrest. Some people as they come to the end of their life’s journey become bitter and angry at life, not Paul. Paul understood his future was not long on earth. Nero was emperor of Rome. Paul knew he was about to face death for his commitment to Christ.

He said to Timothy: 2 Timothy 4:6-8, “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (HIGIT NA TINIGNAN NI PAUL YUNG KALOOBAN NG DIYOS, ANG MGA BAGAY PATUNGKOL SA PANGINOON.)

Illustration:

Joni Eareckson became a paraplegic after a diving accident. She testified that her physical disability pushed her to start a life-long ministry to help people like herself. She says that her ministry of comfort and encouragement to others provides for others: “a way out of the miry pit of depression, despair and self-pity. You realize that there is always somebody worse off than you, and form that understanding you find strength to be victorious and carry on in even the toughest situations.” Joni says: We shouldn’t view life’s struggles as daunting obstacles to our happiness. They can be the very keys to our lasting happiness, true contentment and godly joy.”

We all need to see failures from God’s perspective. If failure and change causes us to look up and make new commitments and surrender to the Lord – then we can praise His Holy name. OUR FAILURE WILL MAKE US DESIRE TO COME CLOSER TO GOD, TO BE MORE INTIMATE WITH HIM, TO RELY UPON HIS POWER AND WAYS, RATHER THAN OUR OWN WAYS AND MEANSIT MAKES US UNDERSTAND EVEN MORE THAT WE ARE NOTHING WITHOUT GOD! AND THAT HIGHER GOAL IS TO KNOW GOD MORE AND MORE AND MORE IN YOUR LIFE…The only time you can say that He is the Healing God, is when you experienced sickness in your life, the only time you can say that He’s a mighty God, is when you had faced tough challenges in life, the only time you can say that He lifts you up, is when you had experienced failure in your life…YOUR FAILURE BECOMES A BLESSING AS YOU SEE GOD MOVING IN YOUR LIFE…AS YOU SEE MORE OF HIM AND LESS OF WHO YOU ARE AND WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT YOUR SITUATION!

CONCLUSION:

A common denominator for people that learn how to deal with failure and hardships in life is that they don’t give up. They refuse to focus on the failures and weaknesses and focus upon their strengths.

Closing Illustration:

Michael Jordan did a basketball commercial where he walks in the arena and the people are chanting, “Michael! Michael!” He says, “I’ve missed 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and I have missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life.” Then he says, “That’s why I succeed.” Michael Jordan didn’t focus on his failures.

The Apostle Paul could testify: We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” {2 Cor 4:8-9 RSV}

When experiencing failure or change what can you do? From the experiences of the Apostle Paul what can you resolve to do? Remember these principles and in silent prayer ask God to enable you to see Him in your time of failure…

2 thoughts on “WEATHERING THE STORM OF FAILURE

  1. The past may have been difficult😦 , but the future is a new page😀
    dwelling in the past failures doesn’t help us to formulate a plan for advancement.
    like Mr. Steve Miller said LET IT GO AND MOVE ON!!!!!!😀
    gud mornighters ………….ZZZzzzzzzzzz ( yawn )

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