Have you ever experienced failure? Of course you have. What I’m more interested in addressing is what you did with that failure.
All too often people surrender themselves to their failures, even to the point of paralysis. In fact, fear of failure is one of the biggest phobias people face. It’s called Atychiphobia, and literally means an abnormal, unwarranted, or persistent fear of failure, according to Wikipedia, which we all know is the world’s leading standard for Encyclopedias, right?
Imagine if Michael Jordan had given up on the basketball after being cut from his freshmen basketball team. What would the game of basketball look like today? Imagine if Abraham Lincoln had given up on his Presidential-run after numerous business failures fell apart, multiple failed Office elections, his wife dying, a nervous breakdown and more. Who would have been the 16th-President and where would our country be? Imagine if Thomas Edison believed his teachers when they told him that he was too stupid to learn anything. Where would our world of sound and light be today without his incredible inventions and amazing business prowess?
Each one of these individuals was faced with a choice – a choice to either be defined by their failures or to allow their failures to refine who they were. In each instance that I have mentioned here, these men chose to allow their failures to influence their lives in a way that refined them, giving them the confidence and drive to do something so profound that it would change the world…and it did.
Living in a day and age where performance matters more than any other time in history; having the best grades in order to get in to the best college so that you can get the best credentials in an effort to obtain the best job with the highest pay, all of which is drilled into us at an early age. So what happens when you set out to achieve all that you can achieve and fail? Do you let that circumstance define who you are or do you let it refine you?
Recently I’ve been thinking about the men and women that God used to influence their culture and to change the world; men and women who accomplished much and were/are highly recognized for the things that they did. Though when you stop for a minute and really examine these individuals you may be surprised at the failures that they, too, had to overcome – Moses with his speech impediment and the fact that he was a murder, or King David who was known as “a man after God’s own heart”, but also had to persevere through major mistakes including an adulterous affair, a wicked cover up, and eventually murder. Let’s not forget about Peter, one of Jesus’ closest friends and one of the original twelve-disciples. Peter was instrumental as the founding father of the church, yet was the same individual who denied Christ three different times; denied having any knowledge of this man who he once called his best friend and his Savior. Talk about failure. Wow!
I think what amazes me most is how God used these individuals in spite of their junk, their faults, their failures, and that God used them when He did – not waiting for them to have it “all figured out” or to have been perfect before God would use them, but that God took their brokenness, their messy, ugly, sticky situations and used them to change the world. Again, wow!
What I’ve come to realize is that each one of us faces junk in our lives. The Apostle, Paul, addresses this in his letter to the church in Rome when he says, 3Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. (Rom. 5:3-5) We all will deal with some type of folly or failure in our lifetime; that’s inevitable. What matters most is what we do with our failures.
What would your life look like if you allowed God to work in and through you in spite of your situations and circumstances? How much could God accomplish in your life and the life of others if you were willing to let God make use of you regardless of your past, your mistakes, your sin, and your struggles? Could God really turn your biggest failures into your greatest gains? I believe He can and that God can take your ashes and make beauty out of them even to the point of changing the world.
This idea has impacted in such a big way that I am actually going to be spending the next four weeks working through this at our church. I’ve committed myself to looking at how God can use each one of us to change the world. And I’m excited to be a part of what God is going to do both in and through this new series as the people right here in Prior Lake, Savage, and from across Scott County, adopt the will and work of God in their life despite their faults and failures.
In the words of Winston Churchill, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
~ A. Anderson