Sooner or later, everyone will experience failure, it is a universal experience. Some of the greatest people in history have had their life checkered with failure. Vincent van Gogh only sold one painting while he was alive and that was to his brother. Albert Einstein failed math in school. Josephine Baker failed in her singing career in America before going to Paris and becoming a world-renowned singer. Walt Disney was fired because of a lack of creativity only to become the greatest graphic artist in history. Babe Ruth set the major league record for strikeouts and had 5 consecutive strikeouts in a World Series game. Michel Jordan failed to make his high school basketball team.
Some of the greatest figures throughout Scripture have experienced failure. God promised Abraham a son with his wife Sarah but after two decades they couldn’t wait and he impregnated his wife’s servant. Moses was a murderer and wanted fugitive before he became God’s chosen instrument to free his people from slavery. God made David a King and yet he committed adultery and then had her husband killed. And yet, he became a man after God’s own heart. Peter, the man whom Jesus called “The Rock” and said, “Upon you I will build my church” denied Jesus three times. Yet he becomes the leader of the disciples and the early church. Saul was the greatest persecutor of the early church and murdered many followers of Jesus only to become its greatest missionary, evangelist, theologian and church planter.
Failure is something we all experience. It does not discriminate by wealth, status, education or influence. Failure can take many forms. There are vocational failures, relational failures, physical failure s and spiritual failures. When any of these happen in our lives, not only can we feel like we have failed but we can feel like we are failures. However, there is a difference between the two. William Brown said it best: “Failure is an event not a person.” Failure is not determined by the mistake you made. Your response to failure determines your level of success and accomplishment in life. It determines who you become as a person but more importantly, who you become in Christ.”
There are people who have failed and risen above it to become something better and greater, and there are people who have failed and it has kept them down and they became only a shadow of what they could have been. It’s the difference between failing backward and failing forward, between one who is overwhelmed and one who rises above. Failure happens to all of us, so we need to know how to respond to failure.
Face your failures honestly.
Instead of blaming others, claim responsibility. Instead of looking to someone else as the reason you failed, honestly look at yourself. People fail in direct proportion to the excuses they make for failure. Excuses are the exits off the freeway of life and every time you take one, you begin to fail to make progress.
"We all stumble in many things. Realizing you are not alone can help you to honestly face failures."
Make God a part of your failures.
Do you think God is surprised by our failures? Do you think God sees your failure and then says, “My goodness, never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that happening!” Of course God sees and knows about our failures and yet so often God is the last person we turn to. So often when we fail, we turn to a spouse, a friend, a co-worker or a relative when the person we need to turn to first is God. When we let God be involved in our failures, it draws on His wisdom and insight and allows us to keep perspective. When you compare a failure to eternity, it’s not a failure. In God’s economy, there is no such thing as failure, only opportunities for growth.
God does not seek success, only faithfulness. When you turn to God, you draw upon the power of the resurrection to overcome failure so that it doesn’t become a roadblock but a stepping stone.
Learn and grow from your failure.
IBM founder Tom Watson guided the company for over 40 years. One of his most impressive moments in leadership occurred when a junior executive lost $10 million on a risky venture for the company. Watson called the man into the office who nervously blurted out, “I guess you want my resignation.” And Watson replied, “You can’t be serious. We’ve just spent $10 million dollars educating you.” Mistakes are great teachers that provide us with invaluable lessons if we allow them to be. Don't waste your failures, learn all you can from them.
Put your failures behind you and move forward.
Proverbs 24:6 reminds us, “For a righteous man may fall seven times, he rises again.” S. I. Hayakawa writes, “Notice the difference between what happens when a man says to himself, ‘I have failed three times’ and what happens when he says, ‘I am a failure.” Too often, we allow our failures of the past to spoil our future. Everyone fails. What we need to remember is that we do not have to stay down. Oliver Goldsmith says, “Our greatest glory is not in never failing but in rising each time we fall.” You may not be able to reclaim the loss, undo the damage or reverse the consequences, but you can make a new start – being wiser, more sensitive, and more determined to succeed. People who fail forward look to the future rather than the past. Kyle Rote, Jr. said, “there is no doubt in my mind that there are many ways to be a winner, but there is only one way to be a loser and that is to fail is not to look beyond the failure.” Paul put this this way: “This one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize.” Phil 3:13 When we do, failure is not an ending but a new beginning. So resolve to move forward.
God’s love is not dependent on our success.
No matter how you have failed, who you have let down or hurt, the Savior who died for you still loves you. “Love never fails. ” 1 Cor. 13:8 God’s grace and forgiveness is always available to you. God has not abandoned you. His love is always faithful as He is always faithful. “Be of strong courage, fear not for the Lord thy God…will not fail, nor forsake you.” Deut. 31:16 No matter how you may have failed or how big of a blunder you might have made, God will never stop loving you.
God can use our failures.
What we do for God and His kingdom, even when it may not work out like we had hoped, does not fail. Years ago, I heard the story of a preacher who went to a small town to preach a series of sermons in a revival. His attempt was to evangelize the little town. He preached every night for two weeks and during that whole time, only one little girl responded gave her life to Christ. The preacher left dejected thinking the revival was a failure and for years, he bemoaned the great effort he had expended with such little result. That little girl grew up to be a strong, faithful Christian woman, she married a Christian man, and together they produced several sons, all of whom became preachers of the gospel. Those sons converted thousands of unbelievers to Christ. What we do for the kingdom will not fade away. We are responsible for planting seeds. Only God is responsible for the harvest.
Your response to times of trouble and failure literally becomes your witness to your faith. Steve Brown writes, “For every non-Christian who has cancer, a Christian will have cancer so the world will see the difference. For every non-Christian who has a business failure, a Christian will have a business failure so the world will see the difference.”