Our Failures are a Part of God’s Plan

I am re-reading a book I haven’t visited for a while called “Ordinary Men Called by God” by James Montgomery Boice. It’s a great encouragement to read that even the greatest of Christian leaders in the past were just ordinary, flawed people like everyone else. They weren’t without their faults and struggles as they journeyed through life with God. The book goes over the life of three prominent men of God in history – Abraham, Moses and David.

In reading about Moses I was prompted to write this post when I came to the section “God’s Plan in Our Failures”. James identifies that even God’s most faithful servants can fail miserably. However he goes on to say that God is able to accomplish His sovereign will despite our failures and even uses our failures for our good. In fact God allows us to go through failures to teach us some crucial lessons. James identifies three:

1) We achieve nothing apart from God

No matter how talented we think we are, we can achieve nothing of eternal, kingdom-value without the work of God in our lives. Jesus teaches that whoever abides in Him will bear much fruit (John 15:5) – NOT whoever who bears much fruit will abide in Christ. God is our only means to a fruitful life. Apart from Him all our efforts are futile no matter how talented we, or the world, thinks we are. Without humility our christian life will become very stagnated and lack fruit. In fact, God often seems to allow people to fall when their pride and self-worth elevates to unhealthy levels. How easily the church can even perpetuate the problem by falling into the trap of thinking someone is a strong Christian based primarily on their abilities or gifts. However, it’s the person’s humility, character and attitude to God that best depicts someone’s spiritual maturity, not how talented they may be.

2) Sin has consequences

The second lesson God teaches us through our failures is that we are capable of terrible things if we persist in our way instead of proceeding in His. God also highlights to us the devastation of sin through the consequences that we experience when we go against His will and feed our own. Consequences are a natural way that God leads us to conviction and repentance. Of course consequences can be a good thing if we obey and honour God’s blueprint as taught in the Bible. We will reap what we sow (Gal 6:7-8). However it’s when we experience the devastating consequences of our sin that we realise how terrible things can get if we persist in disobeying God, for ourselves, but also for others. Sin always has consequences and breaks our intimacy with God. The lesson in this is that God helps us to see how futile it is to go against Him and how depraved we are. The result, God-willing, is we are convicted, repent and humbly turn back to God. We may still need to deal with the consequences, but we can do it with God’s helping hand. One more point here… don’t automatically think you are helping out someone by alleviating the consequences of someone’s disobedience. You may be depriving them of a lesson God has for them so that they repent and grow in character.

3) God will prevails despite our failures

The third lesson is that God is able to work in us, and for us, despite our failures. What a blessing it is to experience  God’s sovereign and merciful hand at work in our lives despite our failures. Only when we fail do we become aware that it is God and not ourselves who is working. God’s plans will never be frustrated by our plans (Prov 19:21). In fact God has a funny way of turning our failures into opportunities for our blessing and the blessings of others. Someone once said the following about Moses: “Moses was 40 years in Egypt learning something; he was 40 years in the desert learning to be nothing; he was 40 years in the wilderness proving God to be everything.” God uses our failures to change our whole mindset. It’s about God, not us.

So there are three reasons not to allow failure to keep us bogged down in life. However let me make one thing clear. Although we accept experiencing failures is a part of our lives, is it never something we should ever settle for. God desires us to obey and follow Him. He wants us to learn from our failures so we are less likely to make the same mistakes again. We must never think that sinning will ever lead to long term, kingdom impacting blessings. Sin has devastating consequences. The fact that God uses our failures to build us up, if we allow Him to, is a testimony to how merciful He is.

Finally a word of encouragement… never think that failure disqualifies you from the gift of grace that God offers through Christ. No matter what failures we have experienced, God is ready to hear our repentant hearts and wrap His arms around us.

In Him, and by Him alone we have the victory!


10 responses to “Our Failures are a Part of God’s Plan

  1. All of the heroes of the Bible–excepting Jesus Himself, for reasons obvious to the believer–failed horribly in one way or another, usually with tragic consequences. What does this tell us today? That the men we admire in our Bibles; David and Abraham and Peter, to name a few, were as human as us, as flawed as us–and most wonderfully, we are given the same opportunity for repentance and the rescuing arms of the Savior as these mighty men of old.

    • It’s great to hear from you again Denita. Hope all is well.

      I love how God uses ordinary people to do His work. We don’t have to be scholars or have a through the roof IQ. With God’s hand at work, even the most unlikely of people can do amazing things for His kingdom. It further highlights that God is doing the work and not us.

  2. Another thing… from my experience the test of someone’s character is not just whether they fail or not, but how they respond after failing. How refreshing it is to hear people take responsibility for their mistakes and say sorry. Often people are too preoccupied in saving face, blaming someone else or justifying themselves.

    At the end of the day the more we are humbled and rely, trust and depend on God, the more potential we have to serve Him.

    • Soli deo gloria

      Stu, one of the marks of authenticity for the Scriptures being God’s Word is that faults in the hero’s are not denied or masked. One of the marks of authentic Christian faith is the response to sin. Like David, we cry to God: “against You and You alone have I sinned”.
      Having said that, I always feel a little uneasy reading of the failings of these great men of God. There is a temptation to ‘let yourself off the hook’ too easily. Look at Joseph and Daniel. They stand as beacons in some of the darkest times in the history of God’s people, but their integrity and Godliness shine. It is never inevitable that Christians will fail, and this must be our aim: to ‘be perfect as our heavenly father is perfect’. But if we do stumble, then we should not lose heart, as you righltly remind us. Rom 15 v 4.

      • So true Soli deo gloria. Our aim is to lead holy and upright lives. Those who by the grace of God do this more effectively are a great testimony to the power and work of God in our lives. I agree there is the danger of us accepting or tolerating failure in our lives, thus potentially abusing the grace that God has
        freely given us. God hates sin and we are to have the same attitude and not take rebellion against God lightly.

        From my experience though we all inevitably fail to some degree, even though we may not go out of our way to do so.
        Joseph and Daniel were no doubt godly men, yet they too would’ve had their struggles. I wonder what Joseph would’ve been thinking when he was left for dead in the pit by his brothers. It’s at these vulnerable times that we realise how much we need God and how much we are so inadequate to live up to His standards in our own strength.

        It’s also often not till afterwards that we recognise our failure. It’s at this point that we remember what God has for us to learn in those times and that we are not without hope.

        When I became a Christian I was about 20, so there were a lot of ingrained sinful habits present which some have proven to be a thorn in my side. However it’s help keep me humble and reliant on the deliverance of God’s grace. It also helps us to empathize with others going through similar struggles. We are able to relate to them, not condoning the sin but pointing them to the hope we have in Christ.

        • Soli deo gloria

          Stu, I understand your emphasis, and this is particularly useful in those times when sin brings us low. This is our safety net, and our great comfort. My point is that the emphasis in Gods word is on our upward progress. For example John writes these things that we might not sin, BUT IF WE DO SIN we have an advocate. We are more than conquerors though Christ. Sin is not inevitable for us, and we must believe that sin shall not have dominion over us. We are new creatures, with new life, and a new Master. When we are tempted and fall into sin, then even this can work to our ultimate progress in grace as you have described. Its a battle, and we have been equipped with armour and a supreme weopan for the fight. In addition to the comfort you describe, we need to hear that the Victory is the Lords, and that should strengthen us all the more to resolve and fight and live to His glory.
          A good subject for us to consider. Thanks Stu.

  3. I feel for myself I need to pray that God would grant me the faith to realise more His transforming power in my life. The struggle against sin can be so exhausting at times and one can feel they are not making any inroads. However in standing up to the fight using the spiritual weapons God has given us, we can win those daily battles. Knowing Christ has won the war for us and allows us to learn to be more like Him without the fear of being condemned from stuffing up from time to time. It’s extremely liberating to leave our sinful struggles at the foot of the cross and walk off. What a blessing God’s redemptive work in Christ is!

    A verse that I want to try and put in to practice more is this: Galatians 5:16 “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”

    One can look to all these strategies that may help in walking in righteousness, but at the end of the day the simple response is to focus on the Spirit. Set our minds on Christ and we will naturally turn from sin as they are both mutually exclusive. I have found the more I invest into growing my relationship with God, the less likely I am to be lured away by my sinful desires. It’s during these times that I also see positive changes in my life. In Him we CAN walk victoriously and enjoy a vibrant relationship forever.

    Thanks for your feedback and encouragement Soli deoi gloria. It’s really valued.

  4. Soli deo gloria

    Stu, one of the most valuable perspectives on failure AND our progress in grace is Psalm 119. It is the Christians ‘pharmacy’, and if you find joy in your heart as you read it, its a pretty good indicator of the Holy Spirit at work in you. Don’t just dip into it, read it from beginning to end.

    • SDG, you will be interested to learn that, for the past year, our church leadership team opens every leadership meeting by spending 30 minutes or more reading a segment in Psalm 119 followed by a time of reflection and prayer.

      We have found this very encouraging, setting a good framework for the business that follows.

      • Soli deo gloria

        There’s no better or more appropriate way for church leaders to start any Christian meeting than with the reading of the Word. There was a time when it was natural, and everyone expected this as a matter of course (and sadly even good habits can be taken for granted and ultimately lost). Generally speaking, I think it is true and fair to say that the general tendency in (even evangelical) churches is to treat the Scripture as an accessory, rather than a necessity. Its good to see leaders leading!

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