Failure is common to all of us because we are human. Therefore, if we want to serve God and be in the ministry we need to know how to navigate through the failures of life. One of the devil’s tactics against us is to discourage us and condemn us when we have failed and tried to do something that did not work out. There are many pastors who once had strong churches, but have failed in some area, who have become discouraged and want to leave the ministry. There are many others that are no longer serve God and follow Jesus because they have failed in some area of their lives.
We even have examples in the Bible, some overcame their failures, and others not. For example, Moses failed when he killed an Egyptian, but God restored him and he became a mighty leader. Even though he was a murderer, God restored him. David failed when he fell in adultery with Bathsheba, but God restored him. Peter failed when he denied Jesus, but became the most anointed apostle. There are many other examples.
There are some important things we need to know about failure:
Firstly, God wants us to succeed: We read in Micah 7:8, “Rejoice not against me, O my enemy! When I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light to me.” Proverbs 24:16 says, “For a righteous man falls seven times and rises again.” Therefore, God does want us to succeed, even if we have failed in the past. In Revelations 2:7 we read, “To him that overcomes (succeeds) I will give to eat of the tree of life.” Therefore, God has called us to be overcomers and not to be failures.
The greatest key to turn our failures into successes is to bring Jesus into the equation. In John chapter 5 we read about Jesus and the man who had been trying for thirty-eight years to get into the pool of Bethesda to be healed. One day he met Jesus, his failure turned into a success and he was healed. Therefore, no matter how often we have failed, God can give us success, because God is a God of restoration! God says in Joel 2:25, “I will restore.” In 2 Corinthians 2:14 it says that, “God always, leads us in victory in Christ…” God does not lead us in failure, but in victory. Therefore, if we follow Jesus and we allow the Holy Spirit lead us, our failures can again be turned into successes.
Secondly, God is able to restore us quickly: God is able to turn any negative situation around over a short period of time. We may be one day, or prayer or one step of obedience away from our breakthrough. In the book of Judges chapter 6, we read about Gideon, who was such a failure that he had to hide from the enemy. One day an angel appeared to him, gave him a word and he suddenly became a very successful leader. We have the example of Peter, who failed so terribly when he denied Jesus at the cross. Jesus restored him suddenly and he became a great apostle.
Thirdly, It is not so important what happens to us, but how we react to it: We can learn from our failures and mistakes and make good decisions in the future. When David sinned with Bathsheba, she gave birth to a sick baby. He prayed, the baby died and he failed. Instead of crying and being discouraged, he went into the temple and worshiped the Lord. The Lord then gave him another baby, and that baby’s name was Solomon. (2 Samuel 12) When we have a positive reaction when we fail and make mistakes, God can turn our failures into stepping stones to greater successes in the future. We can learn from our failures and make wiser decisions in the future.
Fourthly failure is not final: When we fail it does not mean that we are a failure, but that we have not yet succeeded. God said to the children of Israel, “I know the thoughts I have towards you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11). God is a God of hope! The word hope means, “Joyful expectation of good things to come.” No matter how many times we have failed, God always has a good future for us and there will always hope, because God is a God of hope. Failure does not mean that God has abandoned us, but that He has a better plan for us and that He “is able to do exceedingly above all we ask or think.” (Ephesians 3:20)
Fifthly, if we have failed, it is important that we try again: We read in 2 Samuel chapter 6, how David tried to bring the ark back to Jerusalem, but failed the first time. He then learnt from his failure, found out how to do it the right way and succeeded the second time. There are other examples in the Bible of those that failed and tried again: For example, God gave Jonah another opportunity to preach after he failed the first time. Joshua conquered the city of Ai when he tried again.
In Hebrews 12:12 we read, “Therefore, strengthen the hands that hang down and the feeble knees…” In other words, get up and try again!
Sixthly, it is important how we react to the failures of others: We have a warning in the Proverbs 24:17-18, “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles; lest the Lord see it, and it displeases Him, and He turn away His wrath from him.” It displeases God when we are glad when others fail. It is easy to feel good when someone who we do not like or who is in competition to us fails. We should be careful lest we reap what we sow, and we too fail as they did! David is a good example to us. When King Saul, his enemy, failed and died in battle, he honored him and did not have one negative word to say about him.
Keys to conquer failure:
We must not hate ourselves when we fail: When we fail it does not mean that we are failures, but we have not yet succeeded! God does not see us as failures, for Bible says that God loves us; His thoughts towards us are always good. We are valuable and precious in His sight. Therefore we should not hate ourselves when God so loves us!
We must keep a positive confession: 1 Peter 3:10 says, “He that would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from speaking evil.” It is so important that our words are not controlled by our negative feelings or situations, but by what the Bible says. In Joshua 1:8 we read, “This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; but you shall meditate therein day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”
For example, we can say the following:
“If God is for me, who can be against me.” (Romans 8:31)
“God always leads me in victory, and spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ through me in every place. (2 Corinthians 2:14)
“I am more than a conqueror through Him who loved us…” (Romans 8:37) We can turn our failures into successes by changing the way we speak.
Repentance is important: Repentance is more than asking God to forgive us, it is also a decision to do the right thing. For example, when David failed to bring the ark into Jerusalem, he studied the word of God, and found out the correct way to do it. When he so, his failure was turned into success. We often fail because of pride for the Bible says, “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16.18) Therefore, we should ask the Holy Spirit if there is any sin that has caused our failure. As we repent, we remove any foothold that the enemy may have to block our success.
We must not always blame ourselves when we fail: Often it is not always our fault when things go wrong, but the mistakes of others or circumstances that were not under our control. For example, the reason why we lost money was not because we failed, but because of the world-wide financial crisis. Or, we may have failed because someone else let us down. Therefore, we must not allow the enemy to make us feel guilty, when in fact we are not guilty. The devil is “the accuser of the brethren” and would like to accuse us even if we are not guilty.
We must not focus on our failures: We must not yield to the temptation to think about our failures all the time! For example, when David’s baby died, he turned his attention away from the dead baby, went into the temple, and worshiped the Lord. (2 Samuel 12:20) When the prodigal son failed, he decided to leave the pig pen and go back to his father.
In Deuteronomy 1:6 God said to the children of Israel, “You have dwelt long enough at this mountain!” We too need to stop dwelling around our mountains of failures and get up and go forward. Paul said in Philippians 3:13 that we need to, “Forget the things that are behind and press forward to the things which are ahead.”
It is important to do the things that we are good at doing: We need to ask ourselves the question, “What are my gifts and talents?” Usually we will succeed when we do things that we are good at doing. For example, we should not teach about prayer when we do not know how to pray! The Bible says, “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given us, let us use them.” (Romans 12:6) We should not use the gifts that God has not given us! For example, if God has not given us a gift to preach, then we should not preach!
We must do that which God has called us to do: Some people fail because they do things that God did not tell them to do. For example, there are those who have failed in the ministry because God did not call them into the ministry. This can apply to any area in our lives. If God has called us to be a teacher, then we must not become a doctor! God said to Isaac, “Dwell in this land and I will be with you and bless you.” (Genesis 26:3) When we do what God has told us to do, the blessing will be automatic.
We must also pay attention to our physical and emotional well being. Paul said to the leaders of the Ephesian Church in Acts 16:24, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock…” Notice, he said, “take heed to yourselves….” Just as it is important to take care of God’s church, a church leader must also take care of himself, physically and spiritually. We often fail because we are tired, stressed out or we live an un-healthy lifestyle. It is important that we take heed to our sleeping habits, our diet and exercise. It is easier to be led by the Spirit when we are physically and emotionally healthy!
Finally: If we have failed in any area of our lives, in ministry, our marriages, our jobs or in our family, it is not the end of the road. God wants to give us a second chance for He is a God of hope and restoration! There so many examples in the Bible where God gave them new opportunities and they succeeded. If God could do it for them, He will do it for us. Therefore, “May the Lord make your way prosperous and may you have good success.” (Joshua 1:8) Amen