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!