I’ve written two blog posts about failure, Failure Is Not Fatal and Don’t Become Trapped By Discouragement. In those posts I point out that God is not concerned by what others consider failure. In fact, what we consider failure can become a chance for a new beginning of living in Christ's strength.
Paul often considered himself a failure.
1 Timothy 1:15-16 (NLT)15 This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all.16 But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life.
Yet Paul considered his failures and struggles nothing compared to his performing the assignment that Jesus had for him.
Philippians 3:7-11 (NLT)7 I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done.8 Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ 9 and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith.10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death,11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!
Like Paul you can boast in your weaknesses and failures so that Christ's power can work through you.
2 Corinthians 11:28-30 (NLT)28 Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches.29 Who is weak without my feeling that weakness? Who is led astray, and I do not burn with anger?30 If I must boast, I would rather boast about the things that show how weak I am.
Galatians 6:14 (NLT)14 As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died.
Peter thought his faith and his loyalty was the strongest of Jesus disciples.
Mark 14:29 (NLT)29 Peter said to him, “Even if everyone else deserts you, I never will”
Yet he failed miserably when he denied that he even knew Jesus.
Matthew 26:69-73 (NLT)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.”
Peter failed yet Jesus forgave him, restored him and gave him a very important assignment.
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.
Don’t let your failures be a tool used by Satan to mess with your mind and cause you to feel shame, condemnation, despair, and depression (See my series on Spiritual Warfare).
Forget your past failures and move forward.
Philippians 3:13 (NLT)13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead,
Psalm 42:11 (NLT)11 Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again— my Savior and my God!
Isaiah 41:10 (NLT)10 Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.
Joshua 1:9 (NLT)9 This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
I recently read something that confirms what I wrote in those two posts. If we keep our eyes on God and not our circumstances, we will see things from God’s perspective and not ours. Then what defines us will be God’s deliverance and not the circumstance.
Defined By Deliverance
by Levi Lusko, from Swipe Right
As you seek to rise up and live a life of strength and honor, nothing will give you greater peace and authority than embracing the power that comes from practicing the presence of God. We live in a world where people only look to the right and to the left. If you want to swipe right, you must look up. Had Moses looked up, he wouldn’t have killed the Egyptian, which cost him so much in the long run. God did want Moses to get the Israelites out of Egypt, but not by killing one random soldier; instead Moses was to stroll into Pharaoh’s throne room and calmly ask for them to be released. And instead of pathetically burying one man in the sand, he would raise his staff, buoyed by God’s strength, and all of Pharaoh’s troops would be buried under the Red Sea. Timing is everything.
Even if, like Moses, you zigged when you should have zagged, God is still with you and still wants to draw near to you. His presence is not based on your performance. He’s not only with you on your good days or more with you on your good days. He is always with you, because that’s who He is, not because of anything you have or haven’t done. I don’t care what skeletons are in your closet: whether you were once on drugs, whether you’ve spent time behind bars, or whether your marriage failed.
The things behind you are no match for the One who is with you.
How do you begin to move forward from a mess you have made?
Let your identity come from the way God has rescued you and not with what you needed rescuing from in the first place. We can romanticize the story, but the truth is Moses had a turbulent upbringing. Things were so stacked against him when he was born that the safest thing his parents could do was put him in a tiny boat and set him floating down a river full of crocodiles. He had to pretend his mom was his babysitter; then once he was weaned, he grew up in the court of the man who had tried to kill him. The deranged Hitler character became his grandpa. Sounds like an expensive therapy bill to me.
God brought good out of Moses’ challenges in the end. But when you are in the thick of it, it can be hard to see that. Moses could have ended up a very confused, very mixed-up puppy. But note that the name Moses, which means “drawn out,” was given to him because he was saved from the river, not because he was cast into it. His name came from his deliverance.
This is key for you and me. It’s so easy to get stuck, to fixate on the bad things you have been through. To focus on the hurt — that you weren’t loved, or that you are divorced, or that you are an addict, or that you are fatherless, or that you were sexually abused.
If you’re not careful, this bitterness can turn into a victim mentality and a wounded spirit. You can let it control you and give you your name. It’s easy to be defined by your dysfunction, but it’s not necessary.
Just as Moses means “drawn out,” you have been called out. The Greek word translated as church in the New Testament literally means “called out” ones. Jesus loved you so much that He called you out of the crocodile-infested darkness into His marvelous light. Royal blood was shed for you! You have been rescued.
Beauty from ashes. Light from dark places. He makes all things work together for good. Every day you have a choice: you can dwell on the fact that you were put into hardship, or you can focus on and rejoice over the fact that God drew you out. God wants to bring you to a place where you are not defined by your dysfunction but by your deliverance.
It’s easy to be so shaken and scarred by your trials that, even though they’re behind you, you still smell of them, and all you can think about is how hard life has been. I believe not only that you will not be consumed by the fires you have been through, but that you won’t even smell like smoke. At this very moment, as you read these words, God’s Spirit wants to heal your wounded spirit and free you from a victim’s mentality. His desire is for you to see that you are more than a conqueror, and He is leading you in victory.
I dare you to raise your palms to the ceiling and whisper to Him, “I am willing.” In God’s economy it doesn’t matter where you begin but whose hands you are in. He loves nothing more than doing wonderful things with broken beings.
Excerpted with permission fromSwipe Right by Levi Lusko, copyright Levi Lusko. Published by Thomas Nelson.
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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.