The Meaning of Failure

This is an article from my files. It is undated and likely more than twenty years old. But the encouragement that it contains is timeless. I wanted to share it with you. Thanks for reading, JD.


THE MEANING OF FAILURE by Rubel Shelly

Unfortunately, most of us equate our performance and our personhood. It is a terrible mistake that sets people up for unhappiness, depression, and even suicide. 

Some women aren’t stunning, and some men aren’t good-looking. Only a tiny percentage of students graduate with 4.0 averages. Not everybody who applies gets into graduate school or professional school, and some who get in either can’t take the pace or decide it’s not worth it. Some people can never break into the career they want. You may never be the top salesperson in your company. You may not make top level management. You may have no musical talent.

Some people get married and are unable to make their marriages work. Some people break the law, get caught, and spend time in prison. some unmarried women get pregnant. The list can go on and on indefinitely. All of us fail at some things, and some failures (e.g., relationship failures and moral failures) are worse than others (e.g., being a success in your own business or mastering the piano or golf). 

But no failure means that you are worthless as a person, that your life is without meaning, or that you are unimportant in the eyes of God. Some people I know would never have risen from the ashes of a failure like King David’s adultery or Simon Peter’s three denials. They would have told themselves that they were worthless failures as people, that their lives could never again be valuable, and that God would never give them another chance.

To fail at something means simply that, well, you have failed at something. It most assuredly does not mean you are useless, insignificant, and meaningless as a person. “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart form the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matthew 10:29-30).

Your failures don’t mean that God has given up on you either. God is determined and persistent in his quest for your salvation. He is the shepherd who searches the open country until he finds one stray sheep from his fold (Luke 15:3-7). He is the woman who sweeps her house until she finds a lost coin (Luke 15:8-10). He is the father who keeps his eye on the horizon, looking for the outline of his prodigal son starting toward home (Luke 15:11-32).

Our God is in the forgiving and renewing business. Don’t ever doubt that. And don’t ever let Satan convince you that your Father would give up on you – no matter what you have done or how far from him you have strayed.

 

A Triple Dose of Grace

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~ Guest Post by Cecil May III ~

But by the grace of God, I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. ~ 1 Corinthians 15:10

1 Corinthians 15:10 mentions the word “grace” three times–a triple dose of grace.

Grace Makes Me
Paul had been a persecutor of the church. He was a violent man. He was the chief of sinners. He was lost. That is what he was. But as he writes his letter to the church at Corinth that is not what he is. He is saved. He is cleansed of all sin. He is a sufferer of violence on behalf of the gospel. He is the great missionary of the church. Yet Paul did not pull himself up by his own bootstraps to salvation and service. He is saved by grace and gifted by God with a place of ministry.

Likewise, any of us who know cleansing, salvation, and a place of service in God’s kingdom know that, “by the grace of God, I am what I am.” Grace makes me.

Grace Motivates Me
The grace Paul received moved him to action. Paul had his critics, but none of his critics would dare put their work history up against his. He had worked harder than any of them. None had traveled as extensively or dangerously. None had been beaten with more clubs, stoned by greater crowds, or could show more stripe marks on their back from the whip. None had preached more fervently or prayed harder for the churches. Yet, Paul’s motivation was not what he might get, but what he had already received in reality and in assurance.

Have you ever received a gift that you neither appreciated nor put to use? God gave his only Son. Rather than be received in vain, God’s action should move us to action. Grace motivates me.

Grace Empowers Me
Paul would not take credit for his salvation, nor for his hard work that the gift of salvation motivated him to do. If Paul accomplished anything, it was only through Christ who strengthened him. Any good thing that came from Paul was credited to the grace of God that was within him.

When there is good to be done, if we think we can’t, by Christ we can. If we think it impossible, with God it is possible. If we think we are too weak, pray that you be strengthened by the Spirit in the inner person. As a people crucified with Christ and raised with Christ, whatever good we do is not us, but Christ living in us.

It is all of grace.

 

A Double Dose of Grace

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~ Guest Post By Cecil May, III ~

Because of this, I wanted to come to you first, so that you might have a second experience of grace. ~ 2 Corinthians 1:15

How would you like it if every visit you made with someone was considered to be an “experience of grace” on their part? We can learn from Paul how to accomplish that.

Paul’s plan for his trip was to stop in Corinth on his way out on his journey, and then to stop in Corinth again as he retraced his steps back to his home-base. This way, he could give Christians in Corinth two helpings of grace.

We behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you. ~2 Corinthians 1:12

Our visits with others will be experiences of grace if we do not try to hide or artificially enhance our true selves. Paul was always the same person, no matter who he was with. This is being “simple.” Also, he had no agenda in his relationships other than to be a true friend. His feelings for others grew out of what he knew God felt for him. This is “godly sincerity.” In the world, people often let society dictate to them their friends and their behavior in front of those friends. In contrast, it is an experience of grace when someone is simple and sincere.

For we are not writing to you anything other than what you read and understand and I hope you will fully understand-just as you did partially understand us-that on the day of our Lord Jesus you will boast of us as we will boast of you. ~2 Corinthians 1:13-14

Our conversations with others will be experiences of grace if we are willing to go deep. Another conversation about the weather or sports will not accomplish an experience of grace. We must be willing to talk about spiritual matters. Jesus and him crucified must be a part of the conversation. It is eternal things that are important, so we must talk about those things. Go deep, and your conversation will be an experience of grace.

For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. ~ 2 Cor. 1:20

The time we spend with others will be counted as an experience of grace if we focus on the positive. Christians are people who hold hope in our hearts. That hope is so noticeable in our language and body language that others are attracted to it and ask about it (1 Peter 3:15). When we are full of “Yes” and “Amen” our time with others will be experiences of grace.

Not that we Lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith. ~ 2 Corinthians 1:24

Our relationships with others will be counted as an experience of grace for them when they perceive that we want to be “with” them, not “over” them. Paul was an apostle with all the authority of heaven behind him. Yet, he liked to speak of others as his “partners in the gospel.” He preferred to appeal to Philemon in love and friendship, rather than to play the authoritative apostle card when Paul hoped for action from Philemon (Philemon 8-9). People feel bossed and manipulated enough. They will appreciate the experience of grace when they are treated as valuable partners.

There’s So Much To Say…

file0002105100289There’s so much to say when there’s nothing to say.

In that quiet moment when someone bares their soul with a confession of shame …

When someone has lost a person they love and there is a big empty space …

When you’ve been given the diagnosis you never thought would be yours …

When terror finds its way to your tranquil life …

When the failure of another has impacted your own life in a devastating moment …

When “I do” turns into “I won’t” …

When the silence of God roars so loudly it drowns out His presence…

There’s so much to say when there’s nothing to say. And it’s so much better to just not say it.

When Job’s three friends…heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud … Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was. ~Job 2:11-13

That’s hard to do, but what a beautiful ministry silence is when one is present with a hurting friend.

Thanks for reading,

John

 

 

A Healing Song

I had forgotten this song, and I’m not sure what reminded me of it tonight. But I do pray it is a comfort, help, blessing… for those of you are hurting and needing God’s healing rain to flow down over your heart. I believe it will if we will only release ourselves into His hands. No easy answers, no quick fixes, just a washing away of the hurts that keep us away from His peace.

Come near to God and he will come near to you. ~ James 4:8a

Thanks for reading,

John

Hanoi Jane and Tarsus Saul

Jane-Fonda-Nancy-Reagan

Jane Fonda has a new movie coming out in which she portrays Nancy Reagan. I expect it to be excellent but I’ll probably wait until it comes out on Netflix to watch it. She is, by all measures, a great actress.

But her life story will always be tainted by what many believe are treasonous acts during the Vietnam War. To be honest I’ve read so many different things I do not know which ones are true and which aren’t.  We all know that everything written on the Internet is not true. *gasp!* And I also realize that what I write here won’t necessarily change anyone’s mind about her – and that is to be expected.

But for the Christians reading, I would ask you to take a moment to think about the continued slander of Jane Fonda. (Tweet That)

I’ve already seen several Christians in social media feeling justified in leading her to the slaughter.

I recall a certain terrorist who had quite a bad name for things he did in his past. He not only threatened Christians, he was known to drag them out of their homes to go to prison. He willingly stood by and assisted those who killed Christians. He was a frightening person to all first century disciples. But then he saw the light and placed his faith in the One whom he had hated. He was baptized and began a new mission to share the light of the gospel in the dark world.

The Christians of the day had their own questions about him … his past … what he believed now … how they were to relate to a killer. Can you imagine the Facebook posts of some of the early Christians as they chatted back and forth about this terrorist coming to church? Can you imagine the truthful reports of his prior activities (and even pictures!!!) … and the mythological unchecked ‘facts’ of the internet (by those who consistently ignore websites like Snopes which attempt to stamp out reposted untruths)?

So what about your past, Christian? Are there some moments you are glad that there were no reporters around to snap pictures and post them to the world’s newspapers? Do you have any regrets? Did you have a bad name when you came to Christ, before He gave you a new name?

When I see Christians going on about Hanoi Jane, I’m reminded that grace seems so sweet when applied to us but is often withheld from others.

You might not like Jane Fonda’s statement of faith (HERE). I certainly disagree with some of it, but she didn’t write it to please me. She expresses that her faith is in Jesus Christ. I will let God judge the outcome of that story. But I do know that she was baptized, learned about Jesus, and attempts to live a life modeled after Jesus. That doesn’t make her an Apostle Paul, but it does make her a former Hanoi Jane.

Unless I’ve decided that I must be the arbiter of grace and who is worthy … who is not? Not only has she made a statement of faith in Christ, she has apologized (numerous times) for her behavior in the past (HERE). You may not think she went far enough, was specific enough, or penitent enough. Again, if you are the dispenser of grace, then she should seek your personal approval I suppose.

So, Christians … shall we continue to bring up the forgiven past of a person (sister in Christ?) who sinned so greatly? Or shall we simply absorb the grace of God for ourselves and dismantle the character of one who has given her sins to God to handle?

I know this is a volatile subject with many. I don’t care if you go see her movie or not. But I do care when Christians display to an unsaved world that they don’t have a chance to escape their scandalous past. I know that I can’t live up to those standards. I don’t believe you can either. You can feel free to disagree with me in the comments, but I won’t allow any spiteful or hateful speech to be posted there.

I do believe that no matter how far you go, out here hope remains.

Thanks for reading,

John