Our failure is God’s way of testing us
to see if we will trust in Him or ourselves.
“Now Paul and his companions put out to sea from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia; and John left them and returned to Jerusalem.” (Act 13:13 NAS)
We know from Acts 15:36-41 that Paul saw John (Mark) as a failure since he had “deserted” (deserted, abandoned) them in doing the work of the Lord. We get the word “apostate” (apostasy = turning away from Christ and not believing in him). This is a very strong statement or judgment of John Mark.
We have lots of examples of failure. Some are situations that are unrecoverable like Judas Iscariot when he betrayed Jesus. Then there were others… like the disciples deserting Jesus when he was taken into custody or Peter’s denial of Jesus (3 times if you can believe it). Although personally devastating, they find forgiveness and restoration.
We struggle with failure, especially in our culture. Everything in our culture is about being bigger and better and stronger than the next person. We have extreme sports to American Gladiator – all about trying to champion the next person. Our culture has instilled in us that winning is important… almost at any cost. We have seen it in professional sports for years – everyone is looking for an edge to be better than everyone else; so we have HGH (human growth hormone) and performance enhancing drugs to help us be the best of the best.
Whatever the case, no matter how good you are, there are always people who can do it better, faster, quicker and more efficiently. Failure is very much a part of life. Failure has been with us since Adam and Eve. Their failure is the source of all other failure in our world – that is quite a distinction. Failure, like weakness, pain and suffering are all reminders that something is profoundly dysfunctional in our world, and it is broken. Failure in churches is often about hiding our weakness and failure, and portraying a false image of faith and success, rather than allowing the glory of Christ radiate through our brokenness. If we are honest, we often want to impress people with our adequacy more than letting them see the sufficiency of God’s grace through our failures and weakness.
There are different kinds of failure – we struggle with our personal identity. Our world is getting more confused about identity with every passing day: there are failures in relationships and broken families are the collateral damage of failure in marriages, and crime is the failure of broken communities. We could go on and on, but let me suggest a couple of ways to rethink failure – because it is in all of us.
“… we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves in order that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead;”
(2Co 1:8-9 NAS)
“And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2Co 12:9-10 NAS)
“And such confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God,” (2Co 3:4-5 NAS)
Our willingness to trust God in the face of our own failure, weakness and inadequacy, will go a long way to indicate if our Christianity is caught up in our ego, to prove ability and impress God with what I can do, or if they are those things in God’s hand by which He can test us – to see if we will really, learn to trust, serve, and experience the power of God in our lives. I encourage you to REALLY spend some time with those verses and ask how they truly impact the way you live life.
In much weakness, inadequacy and failure…. hum?