Failure is not the end

As time limited creatures we often see failure as the end. If we fail, then we assume that is it and it is time to move on to something new and forget the past. The problem is that we are time-limited creatures. We lack the broad perspective God has to see that a failure now is not a permeant end to that dream, plan, or task. Sometimes failure is just a postponing. To be sure if we fail at something, we have two choices. We can either wallow in that failure or we can move forward. There is nothing wrong in grieving a failure. Some are rather big and hurt for a while. But at some point, we have to move forward. We have to dust ourselves off, dry our tears and say now what. Again, it might take a little while to get there but we must get there. I want to look at two people in the Bible that failed.

First is Jonah. We all know Jonah’s story. God told Jonah to go Nineveh and Jonah said no. Then because that was not enough for good ole Jonah, he boarded a ship for the opposite direction. The storm came, he was thrown overboard, got swallowed by a whale or great fish, repented, eventually got to Nineveh, preached the message that was given to him, the people repented, and Jonah sulked some more because he knew God would relent. Jonah failed in the beginning though. His failure was a deliberate rejection of the call of God on his life. He willfully and intentionally rejected the task placed before him and failed. But God being rich in kindness and mercy heard Jonah when he repented and allowed him to continue on and accomplish the task set before him. Make no mistake about it though, Jonah failed. But failure was not the end, it was only a delay.

The second story and granted there are a lot we could look at, is Paul. We don’t think of Paul as failing. Sure, Saul failed greatly. He wanted to wipe out the Way (Christians) and he condoned the stoning of Stephen. Saul failed big time, but Paul the great Apostle he did not fail. I think before I continue, we should clarify the word fail.

When I talk about failing, I am not talking about being a failure. I am not saying that if a person fails, they are a failure. For example, when I started a construction/handyman company it was a failure. If someone runs for president and they do not succeed, then their candidacy was a failure. Things can be failures, but I don’t think we should so quickly associate people with the word failure. It should take a lot and a lack a moral character for us to label a person a failure. People can fail in things all the time that does not make them a failure. It also does not make failing such a bad thing. Back to Paul.

In Romans 1:13 Paul says that he has often desired to come to Rome but was prevented. This means that his attempts to come to Rome have failed up to the point of him writing the letter. He wanted to and tried to but was prevented for some unknown reason. He failed to accomplish his desire to visit Rome. When we read about Jonah, we might want to label him a failure (which we should not) because he failed but with Paul, we quickly understand that it was not his fault. The thing is that they both failed. Yes, one was their own fault and the other likely was not but failure to accomplish the task was still the end result. Well, not the end…

See what looked like failure was in fact just a delay. Jonah ended up in Nineveh. He preached and the entire city repented. Because of his bad attitude, we get Jonah 4:11 which is a verse that shows us just how great God’s heart is. Jonah failed but it was not the end. Yes, his attitude never changed (at least that is recorded) but he still eventually accomplished the goal.

For Paul, he eventually ended up in Rome. From Rome, we get the Pastoral Epistles (1&2 Timothy and Titus) as well as the Prison Epistles (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon). Without the initial failing, we would not have 7 of the books of the Bible. We would not have the Scriptures about the amour of God, the supremacy of Christ, our place with Christ and so on. We would be missing so much if Paul had succeeded at first. Not only that but when he finally got to Rome, he was able to speak to the most powerful men in the empire. What looked like failing in the begging was really delay.

We fail. It is just that simple. We cannot possibly succeed at everything every time. Sometimes it is because we mess up. That happens. We make mistakes, we are weak, we miss our shot, we get big headed, we sin, whatever. Sometimes the failing is clearly on us. When that happens. Do what you need to do to correct it. Learn, study, repent, whatever it is, do the work you need to do. Sometimes, however, we fail for reasons that are beyond us or our understanding. God stops our plans, the devil interferes, people get in the way, people don’t help, whatever. If you have prayed and you know without a doubt that you did not cause the failing then dust yourself off, dry your tears and move forward.

Failure is not the end. Yes, some doors get closed permanently when we fail to accomplish the task but that does not mean it is the end. It just means there is something else to do. Sometimes this failing is simply a delay.

Just a thought,

Mike

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We have to remember when we read the story of Jonah that Jonah knew God. He was a prophet and if we read through the Bible we see he first appears in 2 Kings 14:25 which means he had been a prophet for some time before he was sent to Nineveh. Jonah knew God and he knew God was merciful and compassionate. Jonah ran from God not because he was afraid of the Ninevites, but because he knew God would forgive them.

Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh (the capital of Assyria) because of his hatred for the Assyrians. The Assyrians were enemies of Israel who were a) not to be messed with and b) by all accounts had no interest in turning to God. They were perfectly happy in their wickedness. Jonah as far as he could tell had no business going to preach repentance to a people who would not want to hear and that he did not even like. As is often the case God, however, had other plans.

When we read the Bible we are constantly confronted with the fact that God has plans that differ from ours. In Isaiah God says my ways are not your ways, in Psalms, it says God’s plans stand forever, and in Ephesians, it says He works all things out in agreement with His own will. Even we look at Jesus coming we see that it did not transpire the way the people expected and because it did not come as they expected they could not accept it. Over and over again God shows He has His own plans.

Jonah knew this about God and did not want to go to Nineveh because even though God did not say He would forgive them Jonah knew it was in His nature to show compassion. Jonah knew God well enough to know that about Him and sure enough the people repented and God showed compassion. God still shows compassion too. He has shown it to me and to you even if you do not know Him. We live because God shows compassion. There’s a term called grace that we love and throw around in the church and it basically means unmerited favor or God giving you good when you don’t deserve it.

God’s grace is huge and I think we can overlook it sometimes. Grace means God doesn’t strike you down for the sins you commit or even will commit. Think about this; God knew before you were born you would sin against Him and He still chooses to have you come into being. He knew you would sin against Him and not choose Him and He still loves you. He knows there are people who will never turn to Him but He still calls them. That is a love that is beyond understanding. God might be calling you right now. He might be telling you to call someone else. He might be telling you to go and do something you think is beyond you. He does this all from a place of being merciful, compassionate, and full of grace.

If God is calling, no matter what that call looks like He is calling because He loves you. He is calling because He has plans and they involve you. Maybe you need to go to a far away land and preach the Gospel, maybe you need to go next door and tell the neighbor, or maybe you just need to smile at the cashier. Whatever the case, whatever the call you should answer it.

 

Just a thought,

Mike