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Resolving Personal Failures
And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
2 Corinthians 12:7-10
An engineer had a very responsible position. He was involved with space-connected industries. However, one day he made some serious blunders in his calculations concerning the launching of one of the large rockets. One mistake led to another and soon there was a reaction against his work in the whole department. He was fired from his job because of his mistake in calculation. He went home that evening, a broken man. Everything he had ever dreamed of had been taken away from him. And all because he had made a mistake. If only they would have given him another chance. But that was now too late. Early the next morning the telephone rang. It was the manager of a large corporation that had been in competition with his former company. The caller got right to the point, “I understand that you were fired yesterday. Why?” The engineer tried to be truthful about it and explained that he had made some serious blunder in his calculations and judgment and that the company had lost hundreds of man-hours and thousands of dollars. “Good,” the man replied. “I want you to come to work for us tomorrow morning.” But the engineer objected, “I just told you I made a horrible mess out of my last job.” “I know that,” the manager replied, “that’s the reason I want you. I don’t want to fool around with someone who hasn’t had a chance to benefit from his previous mistakes.”
Making mistakes is a vital part of life. This is especially true in Church work where almost all the work is with people. The manager of a large industrial corporation has said that ninety-five percent of the mistakes that are made are made in, and with, personnel. To master the art of working with people takes time and much graciousness.
There is a difference between being a failure and experiencing failure. You can fail without being a failure. We can learn much more from our failures than from our successes. Failure is successfully finding out what you don’t want to repeat. We often think failure is our greatest enemy. To fail is something too awful to face according to some people. If, however, we learn to catch ourselves in the act of failing, that is half the battle. Recognizing our failures is recognizing we are not fully mature in some areas. And that is necessary in order to grow in that area. If you and I had not, by the grace of God, recognized our failure to meet God’s standards we would have not sensed the need of accepting Christ as our Saviour. Failure is a very definite part of life, even for a Christian. But what are we doing about our failures?
I would like to suggest some specific steps in learning how to resolve personal failures.
Personal failures are not the end of the road. When we fail, it does not mean we are finished for the rest of our lives. We must learn to accept our failures and the responsibility to do something about them.
There are many examples in King David’s life where he failed very seriously but he did not give up in despair. When David brought the Ark of God to Jerusalem (see 2 Samuel 6 ) the oxen stumbled and Uzzah reached to steady the Ark. But God struck him dead. What did David, who was in charge, do? We read; “And David was displeased, because the Lord had made a breach upon Uzzah: and he called the name of the place Perez-uzzah to this day.” (vs. 8). Here, we have a very common response to when we are suddenly faced with failure and punishment. Later, David realized his wrong approach in bringing the Ark of God. He then bought the Ark the way God had outlined and was successful. David did not give up because of the serious mistake he made.
You may have tried to do something for the Lord, or in your church, and it turned out to be a mistake. People get hurt through it even though it was not intended that way. Are you willing to try again by the grace of God?
David got involved in immorality and, in covering it up, resorted to murder. A very serious mistake and sin against God. He was king of Israel. He was a spiritual leader, also. What did David do about this mistake and terrible sin? He accepted Nathan’s rebuke from God and repented. But David did not give up in despair and throw in the towel and quit serving the Lord and his people.
Immorality is sin. But it is forgivable. When God forgives such a sin, who are we to hold it against each other or not forgive ourselves?
David counted his potential soldiers when God had told him not to depend upon his own ability to fight for him. Consequently, God judged David severely and many people died as a result. What did David do? He admitted his sin and said that he would depend on God’s mercy to help him go on from there. Maybe we have not committed such far-reaching sins as David, but where we have failed and sinned and others have been affected, what do we do about it? It is not the end of the road. Let’s face our failures, receive forgiveness, make restitutions and move on with Christ’s enabling.
Personal failures are not the end of the road. Personal failures are forgivable. When it comes to obtaining forgiveness for personal failures, there are three areas where we need to obtain forgiveness:
a). Forgiveness from Jesus Christ.
If we failed Jesus Christ we need to ask Him for forgiveness. Any failure that is sin needs to be confessed to Jesus Christ. (Not all failure is sin). Judas failed Jesus Christ by becoming His traitor. Judas was remorseful, but failed to confess his sin to Jesus Christ. Peter failed Jesus Christ by denying Him three times in one day. He was sorry for his wrong and obtained forgiveness from Jesus. Paul failed Jesus Christ. He repented and obtained forgiveness. We not only need to obtain forgiveness from Jesus Christ where our failures are sin but also:
b). From ourselves.
Forgiving ourselves is one very difficult thing to do. What does it mean? To forgive yourself for your personal failures is not excusing yourself, but squarely facing up to your failures and taking responsibility for them. But it also involves resolving them personally. What does that mean? It means to stop blaming yourself or feeling sorry for yourself. This gets you nowhere but despondency. When you receive Jesus Christ’s forgiveness for your failures you can forgive yourself and learn from your failures.
We need to obtain forgiveness from others for our failures.
This is sometimes not possible. We can ask individuals we have hurt for forgiveness, but they don’t always give it.
When Albert Einstein went to school he faced some hard decisions. He was dismissed from school in Munich because he lacked interest in his studies. Later, he failed an entrance exam for another program in school. When he applied for assistantship in teaching, he was rejected. He tried tutoring boys and was fired. But failures did not keep him defeated. Even though others did not give him a chance, he moved on and became one of the greatest scientists. Beethoven faced repeated rejection. One of his teachers said that Beethoven would never learn anything and, what is more, he never would write anything worthwhile. But, you know as well as I do that, Beethoven wrote many pieces of music that we play, even today.
Obtaining forgiveness for our failures is very essential to resolving them. We need to obtain Jesus Christ’s forgiveness for failures that are sin. We need to forgive ourselves and not excuse ourselves or feel sorry for ourselves. We also need to get forgiveness from others whenever possible. Thus, to learn to resolve our personal failures:
– the first step is to remember that personal failures are not the end of the road.
– the second step is to remember that personal failures can be forgiven.
– the third step is learning to resolve them.
Personal failures can become stepping stones. That is, squarely facing up to our personal
failures and receiving forgiveness helps us, then, to begin reinforcing our areas of weakness. How do I know where I need help, unless I fail to succeed in a given area? So, when you fail in, regardless of what area — personal, physical, emotional, or spiritual– you know that you need help in that area. In other words, you can become stronger in the area you failed in, if you choose to, by the help of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.
A boy was leading his sister up a rough mountain trail. His sister found it very difficult and complained, “It’s not a path at all. It’s all rocky and bumpy.” “Sure,” answered her brother, “the bumps are what you climb on.” We, too, can climb on our failures if we honestly face them and resolve them. Edison, working on the incandescent bulb, said of his hundreds of experiments that failed that they taught him many ways that would not work. Often, a failure is a blessing in disguise. Very often, God can use our failures to guide us along new paths.
The Apostle Paul faced failure in getting from God what he felt he desperately needed. (See 2 Corinthians 12:7-10). Paul faced failure. That is, he had a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan who repeatedly tormented Paul. We don’t know what it was, but it seemed to be a repeated problem to Paul, so much so, that he earnestly prayed that God would remove it from him. What did God tell him? (See12:9). God’s grace, moment by moment, would help Paul to resolve this problem that was like an ugly failure. In fact, God said that Paul would experience more of God’s power if he accepted this weakness, or thorn, in his flesh. Now wait a minute. What does that mean? We don’t know if Paul’s thorn in the flesh was a consequence of his failure, or past life of sin, or not. But whatever it was, God seemed to say, “Don’t ask Me to remove it, but ask Me for strength to live within and, thereby, experience more of My power in your life moment by moment.” What was Paul’s response? Paul says; “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10). Yes, he even went on to say that he would take pleasure in more than infirmities; but also in reproaches, necessities, persecutions and distresses for Christ’s sake, for then he would experience God’s power in his life.
Who has not failed seriously in some area of his life? Who is not even now facing consequences because of their failures? Let’s recall how we can learn to resolve our failures:
Step 1: face up to your failures and accept the responsibility for them.
Step 2: work toward obtaining forgiveness from Jesus Christ, yourself, and others for your failures, where need be.
Step 3: change your failure from defeat to stepping-stones, that is, begin to experience God’s power in the areas you have failed in.
Scripture references taken from the King James Version.