Learning From Our Failures

As we look back at our lives, we see all the wonderful things the Lord has done. Probably, many of us expected even more. Sometimes God just didn't act when we were sure he would. Other times, we made mistakes and did things in faith which seem to have been wrong. The truth is there have been many failures and disappointments for most of us. How are we to come to terms with them? How can we be sure we are not held prisoner by the guilt of past failures, lacking the courage and confidence to tackle new things in case we fail again? Can renewal and new life come out of our failures?
Risolvi Perdita Capelli

Unfulfilled Expectations

There are great things for which we should be thankful, but many Christians are having a rough time facing up to the things they thought God was going to do, but which hadn't happened. Anyone of us can recognize the unfulfilled expectations, the disappointments, the failures, the discouragements in their own life. There were times of trial and testing - often resulting in weakness and failure. Is it wrong to fail? When we think of the people we'd trusted, but who had turned out to be only human after all. We recall the hopes which had grown, and then withered and died. Many of us can probably identify with the two disciples speaking of Jesus on the road to Emmaus - "Our hope had been that he would be the one to..." [Luke 24:21]. But the reality is often that our hopes are not realized. Why? Let's remind ourselves of 1 Peter 1:3-4; "We have a sure hope and that promise of an inheritance that can never be spoiled or soiled and never fade away, because it is being kept for us in the heavens." How will we inherit it? Through our faith [verse 5]. So if we are to inherit it through faith, we need to come through our failures with our Faith in God intact.

Man of Little Faith

Why Did You Doubt?

Peter was a man of faith, but he knew failure too. The story of Jesus and Peter walking on the water [Matt 14:22-33] is quite amazing. We know there was a heavy sea and a strong headwind as Jesus came towards the boat, walking on the water. "Lord, if it is you, tell me to come to you across the water." Under these circumstances Peter's request is impulsive but courageous. The answer is simple, "Come." True to his word, Peter steps out of the relative safety of the boat onto the surging sea. He finds himself actually doing what Jesus had invited him to do. But as he feels the force of the wind and realizes the impossibility of it all, he begins to sink. "Lord, save me!" And his Lord reaches out to him at once, helping him back to the boat. The only comment Jesus makes is one of mild rebuke, almost a joke: "Man of little faith, why did you doubt?" We know what Jesus meant, but hadn't Peter already demonstrated his faith by stepping onto the turbulent sea? How are we to understand this incident?

It is Safe to Fail

We need to learn the lesson Peter learned. It IS possible to obey the Lord when he asks us to do things that are humanly impossible. And it IS safe to fail - as long as we turn to the Lord and trustingly ask him to rescue us. "Lord, save me!" is the cry of a drowning man. As Jesus reached out and took hold of him, Peter learned that his weakness didn't affect the Lord's love and care for him. It's safe to fail because it's safe to rely totally on a God who loves us with a deep and personal love. We must not try to excuse all our failings and weaknesses. We need to repent and to change. But above all, we must be full of faith, trusting God at all times. That is what Jesus is showing Peter. The important thing is not to spend hours analyzing the reasons for our failures. What we must do is fix our eyes firmly on the Lord again, and respond to his next command with trust and confidence. The reason we fail is usually the weakness of our trust in God - not lack in effort or commitment or courage. We must never be afraid of failure. It won't hurl us if we let God take over. It is a lesson Nehemiah had already learned when he faced the seemingly impossible task of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. He put his trust in God - not in himself and his own wisdom and ability.

Failure Leads to Fulfillment

If we want to serve God we have to learn that all our resources are contained in him. On our own we can do nothing. This is the beginning of new life. Jesus puts it like this: "Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies it yields a rich harvest" [John 12:24]. Paul expresses it another way: "l have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave his life for me" [Gal. 2:20]. God's grace and power can begin to work more effectively in us when we stop trusting in our own adequacy and efficiency and realize that we have to turn to him alone. Peter learned this the hard way-through complete failure when he denied even knowing his Lord. But the risen Jesus sought out his broken disciple. We don't know the words that were spoken, only that Peter discovered he was still loved and was forgiven. A few days later Jesus would publicly affirm his confidence in him, "Feed my sheep." From Jesus there was no reference to Peter's failure - just a gentle insistence on a public declaration of his commitment. When God is there we need nothing more, for He is enough. Like Peter, most of us learn this truth the hard way. We must also learn how to make it safe for others to fail. We must respond to their failures as Jesus responds to ours. Failure doesn't disqualify us from God's service. On the contrary, it's often an important step in fulfilling the vision He's given us.

Holy Spirit Power

For Peter one more thing was necessary - Holy Spirit power. His new trusting faith in his Lord was the rock on which Jesus could build his church. A faith fashioned out of failure and weakness - two things most of us know well. Pentecost would now complete the creation of the new Peter. It's the same for us. When we are in a close relationship with the Lord, aware of our weakness but filled with his Holy Spirit and depending on his strength alone, our lives too will be marked by the presence and power of the living God. Out of failure can come a new life of faith, to be lived in the power of the Holy Spirit. But first we must surrender those past failures. Only then can we move on to new things.