Hard Questions, Real Answers Part 3: Is Failure The End Of The World?
On Sunday 20th March at our morning service, we continued our series 'Hard Questions, Real Answers with a talk called Is Failure The End Of The World? In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.
If you would like to listen to the talk on-line, please click here.
Talk Notes and Summary
When we experience failure it can feel like a disaster. Failures can involve many things: studies, relationships, work projects, financial matters. When things don't work out as we had hoped, we may ask God, “Why did you let this happen?” We may be trying to live God’s way so we are puzzled - would God’s will include us failing? Surely not?
There are many Bible passages that promise God will be with us in all that we do. However, we can also find situations where it seemed as though God’s will for some people was for them to fail in some enterprise.
In Judges 1 v19 we read that the Lord was with the men of Judah (who were fighting their way into the Promised Land). Success in the hill country was followed by failure on the plains because they did not have the experience or technology to compete with iron chariots. You can read this by clicking here.
Elijah was a prophet who achieved amazing things for God but even he got to a point when he felt such a failure he prayed that he might die (1 Kings 19 v4). David, who the Bible describes as being a man after God’s heart, went from shepherd boy to army champion, became an outlaw then a successful King. But he was also an adulterer, murderer by proxy and a ruler whose sons who rebelled against him. Peter, one of Jesus’ closest followers, is full of confidence one day – “I will never leave you” he says – but before the night is out he has denied knowing Jesus. Stephen was appointed as a leader in the early church but soon afterwards was stoned to death.You can read this by clicking here.
Sometimes our failures result from doing something morally wrong. If we don’t work hard enough, we might expect to fail exams or not make the grade. In the face of persecution, we may not achieve what we hope for. But when we think we’ve done everything right, tried to follow God’s way and still fail, it is important to realise that God has a wider view of things than we do. There may be times when God wants us to fail because He knows that we have something to learn and that is the only way we will do so.
In facing failure, we should shift our perspective to look at how we define success. Paul, an early church leader, summarises this in one of his letters to the young church in Corinth (1 Corinthians 13 verses 1-3). He explains that it is love that makes the difference. We can be as spiritual, as gifted as we could wish for; we can do good works, even be martyred but without love it all comes to nothing. And the clincher is in verse 8 of the same passage where Paul states: “LOVE NEVER FAILS”.You can read this by clicking here
The greatest example we could think of where apparent failure turns into success is Jesus. He
went from a triumphant entry into Jerusalem to crucifixion. But on Easter day he rose again, a victorious, risen Saviour, creating a way for us to be restored in our relationship with God. And through all of that shone his love: for Peter, for the thief on the Cross, for his mother… And for us. Success is being able to love yourself and others whatever happens.
Even if you have not met with failure yet, you probably will. When it happens:
• Don’t focus on the “why?” question. It is pointless torturing yourself over wondering why God allowed whatever it is to happen.
• Rather, ask “what happened?” are there lessons I can learn?
• Accept responsibility that is yours but don’t blame yourself for others’ failings or imagine faults that aren’t really there.
• Think about what you might do differently in future. Most importantly, never give up.
Elijah kept going, training Elisha to take over from him. David created a strong empire and learned from his moral failings. Peter’s became a courageous leader of the early church. Stephen’s martyrdom led to the message of Jesus being spread– and to the conversion of Saul the persecutor into Paul the apostle. Read what Paul wrote in a second letter to the Corinthians where he describes what he went through in his life (2 Corinthians 11 verses 23-28). Paul kept going and was still encouraging churches even when in prison.
There are many examples in the Bible where we are told that the difficulties that we face build perseverance and endurance. God has much to teach us through our failures – teaching us what true success is. Failure really is not the end of the world. And LOVE NEVER FAILS.
Questions for Reflection
• What examples can you think of in your life when you failed?
• Can you say whether they were a result of something you did wrong, or were they just puzzling?
• Think about a particular time when you experienced failure in your life. What was your reaction?
• Now that time has passed, what lessons have you learnt?
• If you were in similar situation again, what might you do differently?
• What do you think success involves? What is your experience of Paul’s assertion that love never fails?
• Looking to the future, how might trusting in God’s love help you to deal with failure?