"The greatest barrier to success is the fear of failure." Sven Eriksson
"Failure is a detour, not a dead-end street." Zig Ziglar
"It is a mistake to suppose that people succeed through success; they often succeed through failures." Author unknown
Have you ever failed at anything? I’m not talking about failing a test in school, although that can be pretty traumatic. I’m not talking about a health related test either although failing one may mean life or death and even long term suffering. I'm talking about failures in the everyday things of life. Let me give you some examples of things I’ve failed at. I failed at my first marriage, I failed at jobs resulting in layoff and being fired, I’ve failed at managing my finances, and there have been other failures.
How did you feel when you failed? Here’s how I felt. I felt that I left my family down and by family I mean my entire family from my ancestors to my immediate family. I felt I let my friends down. I let my employer down. I let God down. I felt terrible. In short I felt like a failure.
Everyone wants to be a success. I have never met anyone who purposely set out to be a failure, but what’s important is what happens after failure. Do you wallow in the failure? Are you so afraid of failing again that you don’t do anything?
The fear of failure paralyzes or neutralizes many people. We consciously or subconsciously ignore our sins and failures because we believe to admit them is to admit failure. People often refuse to tackle a job or take on a responsibility for fear of failure. People believe if they fail they are no good. They think failure means you are a bad person and that YOU ARE A FAILURE!.
I’ll let you in on something that I learned even in the midst of my failures. God doesn’t care that you failed He can still use you. Think about that.
Romans 8:28, 35-37 (NLT) 28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. 35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”)37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
Failure can be the result of others’ actions, circumstances beyond our control, our own actions, or a combination of all three.Whether caused by sin or something else, all failure teaches us the important truth of just how desperately we need God, His mercy and His grace in our lives. Failure can become tools for growth and deeper levels of trust and commitment to God. Failures are reminders that we must live with eternity in mind.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NLT)16 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.
Colossians 3:1-4 (NLT)1 Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand.2 Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.3 For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.4 And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.
God used failures all the time. A study of Bible reveals that many of those who made great contributions to history were people who failed at some point, some of them pretty bad. The one common thing among them is that they repented of their failures. They learned to know God as the God of the second chance and sometimes third and fourth chance. But, as previously mentioned, many of the great leaders in Scripture at some time in their careers experienced some sort of failure.
Let’s look at a few of them
When Abraham should have stayed in the land and trusted the Lord, he fled to Egypt because of the drought. And this was by no means the last of Abraham’s failures.
Genesis 12:10 (NLT)10 At that time a severe famine struck the land of Canaan, forcing Abram to go down to Egypt, where he lived as a foreigner.
After having been told by God that he and Sarah would have a son he agreed with Sarah to have a child with her slave Hagar.
Genesis 15:4 (NLT)4 Then the LORD said to him, “No, your servant will not be your heir, for you will have a son of your own who will be your heir.”
Genesis 16:1-2 (NLT)1 Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had not been able to bear children for him. But she had an Egyptian servant named Hagar.2 So Sarai said to Abram, “The LORD has prevented me from having children. Go and sleep with my servant. Perhaps I can have children through her.” And Abram agreed with Sarai’s proposal.
Yet Abraham is championed as a hero of faith and called the “father of the faithful.”
Genesis 15:6 (NLT) And Abram believed the LORD, and the LORD counted him as righteous because of his faith.
Hebrews 11:12 (NLT)12 And so a whole nation came from this one man who was as good as dead—a nation with so many people that, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore, there is no way to count them.
Jesus Christ came from the linage of Abraham.
Matthew 1:1, 16 (NLT)1 This is a record of the ancestors of Jesus the Messiah, a descendant of David and of Abraham: 16 Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Mary gave birth to Jesus, who is called the Messiah.
Moses, in trying to help his people, ran ahead of the Lord and killed the Egyptian.
Exodus 2:11-12 (NLT)11 Many years later, when Moses had grown up, he went out to visit his own people, the Hebrews, and he saw how hard they were forced to work. During his visit, he saw an Egyptian beating one of his fellow Hebrews.12 After looking in all directions to make sure no one was watching, Moses killed the Egyptian and hid the body in the sand.
Later, against the command of God, he struck the rock in his anger.
Numbers 20:11-12 (NLT)11 Then Moses raised his hand and struck the rock twice with the staff, and water gushed out. So the entire community and their livestock drank their fill.12 But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust me enough to demonstrate my holiness to the people of Israel, you will not lead them into the land I am giving them!”
Yet God chose Moses to lead the Hebrews from slavery to the Promised Land.
Deuteronomy 34:10-12 (NLT)10 There has never been another prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face.11 The LORD sent him to perform all the miraculous signs and wonders in the land of Egypt against Pharaoh, and all his servants, and his entire land.12 With mighty power, Moses performed terrifying acts in the sight of all Israel.
When David should have been out in the field of battle, he stayed home and committed adultery with Bathsheba and then plotted the murder of her husband.
2 Samuel 11:2-5, 14-17 (NLT)2 Late one afternoon, after his midday rest, David got out of bed and was walking on the roof of the palace. As he looked out over the city, he noticed a woman of unusual beauty taking a bath.3 He sent someone to find out who she was, and he was told, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.”4 Then David sent messengers to get her; and when she came to the palace, he slept with her. She had just completed the purification rites after having her menstrual period. Then she returned home.5 Later, when Bathsheba discovered that she was pregnant, she sent David a message, saying, “I’m pregnant.” 14 So the next morning David wrote a letter to Joab and gave it to Uriah to deliver.15 The letter instructed Joab, “Station Uriah on the front lines where the battle is fiercest. Then pull back so that he will be killed.”16 So Joab assigned Uriah to a spot close to the city wall where he knew the enemy’s strongest men were fighting.17 And when the enemy soldiers came out of the city to fight, Uriah the Hittite was killed along with several other Israelite soldiers.
He ordered a census that resulted in the death of thousands.
2 Samuel 24:1-2 (NLT)1 Once again the anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and he caused David to harm them by taking a census. “Go and count the people of Israel and Judah,” the LORD told him.2 So the king said to Joab and the commanders of the army, “Take a census of all the tribes of Israel—from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south—so I may know how many people there are.”
2 Samuel 24:15 (NLT)15 So the LORD sent a plague upon Israel that morning, and it lasted for three days. A total of 70,000 people died throughout the nation, from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south.
Yet God calls David a man after his own heart.
Acts 13:22 (NLT) But God removed Saul and replaced him with David, a man about whom God said, ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart. He will do everything I want him to do.’
Peter, in spite of his self-confidence and his great boast, denied the Jesus.
Matthew 26:33, 69-75 (NLT) Peter declared, “Even if everyone else deserts you, I will never desert you.” 69 Meanwhile, Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant girl came over and said to him, “You were one of those with Jesus the Galilean.”70 But Peter denied it in front of everyone. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.71 Later, out by the gate, another servant girl noticed him and said to those standing around, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.”72 Again Peter denied it, this time with an oath. “I don’t even know the man,” he said.73 A little later some of the other bystanders came over to Peter and said, “You must be one of them; we can tell by your Galilean accent.”74 Peter swore, “A curse on me if I’m lying—I don’t know the man!” And immediately the rooster crowed.75 Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.” And he went away, weeping bitterly.
Yet Jesus told Peter that the church would be based on his confession and then He forgave Peter and give Him a very important assignment.
Matthew 16:16-18 (NLT)16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”17 Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being.18 Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.
John 21:15-17 (NLT)15 After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.” “Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.16 Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.” “Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said.17 A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.
Failure teaches us to depend on God and His strength
Much like Paul when he asked God to remove something from his life.
2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (NLT)8 Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away.9 Each time he 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.10 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.
Faith in Christ enables us to do through God’s power what we could not otherwise.
Philippians 4:13 (NLT)13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.
It’s important to learn from our mistakes, but we can’t let them become obstacles. We have to move forward, trust God for both forgiveness and guidance, and prepare for what's next.
Now back to my failures
They are all behind me. My second marriage, while not perfect, was a blessing and not a failure. The jobs that I failed at prepared me for the successes I had later as a consultant and adviser to business and my church. Those experiences enable me to really understand how others feel under the same circumstances and I’m better able to counsel and advise them. My failure at financial management better enables me to advise individuals, small businesses, non-profit organizations, and my church. God has used all of these failures to equip me for the ministry that He prepared for me beforehand.
Ephesians 2:10 (NLT) For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
He will do the same for you so rejoice even in your failures.
God’s grace is greater than your failures!
This blog is for you! If you have any questions or topics you would like me to address please use the comments section or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Donald Jacobs is an ordained minister with the spiritual gift of teaching. He is the Associate Pastor of a non-denominational church in Los Angeles, CA.