I really like my car, but I greatly dislike mechanical issues with vehicles. Mostly, because I do not understand how to fix them. If a car does not start when I turn the key or press the ignition switch, I am at a loss as to what to do—except to call my husband, who is wise in many mechanical ways. I cannot get the vehicle restarted on my own. The vehicle failed.
Is failure the first thing to come to mind when thinking of Bible heroes? When you think of Noah, Joseph, Gideon, David, Solomon, Peter, Paul–do we think of their failures first? Perhaps some do, but the majority of us remember them for their courage, bravery, leadership and skill. But, they–just like us–each had their personal failures. If you know the stories, you know the betrayals, the lies, the cowardice, the sin in each of them. The Scriptures give a unique perspective on failure. In each case, The Word does not minimize the failure or the sin, it factually reports it and the consequences for each one. But, it does not define the person by his/her failure. My car is not defined by its mechanical issue—it’s my “zebra mobile” (my favorite go-to auto décor) that gets me from one place to another. Each Bible character is not remembered as Noah, the drunkard; Joseph, the spoiled, or Peter, the denier. Scripture lists them as ” an heir of righteousness (Heb. 11: 7), “the lord of Pharoah’s house (Psalm 105: 21) and “the rock on which I will build My church” (Matthew 16:18). Scripture teaches us that failure is a part of the fallen human experience, but that does not stop us from admitting, repenting and starting over. So, what does failure do for us? a) It teaches us where our sufficiency lies. “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God,” 2 Corinthians 3:5. b) It humbles us. “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you,” James 4:7-8a. James goes on to say, “Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up,” James 4:8b-10. Here, James lays out God plan to deal with failure. He doesn’t say, “Beat yourself up until you are a mental mess” or “Forget ever serving in My kingdom again.” Instead, He says (my interpretation), “Face it, repent and humble yourself—come to Me and I will take care of it.” Failure strips away any false sense of being in control, of being confident in selfish motives or fleshly nature. It slays our pride and leaves us standing in need of grace. And that is where we find restoration and we are defined by our God, not our failure. Failure is temporary, definition as a child of God, loved and restored, is eternal.
God gives a clear perspective on failure in the Scriptures. So, when we fail, and we will, our best recovery and restart comes from getting into His Word and finding His mercy and forgiveness, His grace and restoration. Dealing with a failure today? What will define you–your failure or your sufficiency that comes from God? It’s a choice we each must make. So, let’s get restarted.
Loving Father, our Abba, mold our failures into the restarts each of us need in our lives today, and make sure we are defined by Your love and nothing else. In Jesus’ name, Amen.