I hate failure. As a professional driving instructor though, I have to help people deal with it because it is part of life – even the best and gifted fail! Therefore, failure is not always a bad thing as long as its not catastrophic and we learn from it.
As believers are we going to fail? Yes more than likely? Are we going to sin? Probably. Do born-again and spirit filled Christians get deceived, duped and even bewitched into believing all sorts of rubbish and even heresy? Yes, unfortunately!
It’s a fact, that even the early New Testament church was not perfect and immune to heresy and failure.
“Remember the height from which you’ve fallen! Repent, and do what you did at first. (Rev 2:5)” – The letter to the church at Ephesus.
However, before this gets too depressing let me ask this question. Is the grace of God big enough to cover all these eventualities? Can all things (including failures) work for good for those who love God and are called according to purpose? Yes and Amen. As Paul said somewhere, your grace is much more than enough. The wonderful truth is, that even though the church fails, and we fail spectacularly, Jesus still loves his church and He still loves us. That is amazing grace!
In fact, the Bible is full of examples of failure. It doesn’t cover up the mistakes, sins and stupidity of the saints. Look at Jonah for example. What an idiot! Did God use him powerfully though? Yes, in fact he was one of the greatest evangelists ever – I mean the whole of Nineveh repented! What a revival!
Then there is: Gideon the fearful; Sampson the lustful; Jacob the schemer; Abraham the liar; Moses the murderer; David the adulterer; Solomon the polygamist and shall we go on!
Is grace an excuse for failure?
It’s important though, not to make excuses for our failures. Oh well, it doesn’t matter because Jesus loves me and forgives me. Indeed, yes He does but He is also going to teach you and discipline you like any good parent would a child! God’s desire is that we are perfect as He is. He doesn’t want us to sin. He wants us to know the truth. He wants us to be more than a conqueror. He wants us to overcome, flee temptation and resist the devil.
Learning to succeed
The Father wants us to grow and mature. He doesn’t want us to stay baby and carnal christians drinking only milk. He wants us to succeed.
For example: as a driving-instructor I am not expecting perfection the moment my pupil gets in the car for his or her first lesson. I’m not expecting them to drive straight to the test centre! No, that would be crazy and extremely dangerous! In fact, in the first few lessons I expect the pupil to make mistakes! If they don’t, then they are probably not learning! However, if they have had 40 hours of lessons and they still don’t look in their mirrors – then there is going to be some strong words spoken by me!
The Holy Spirit – your personal trainer
The fact is, it’s the Holy Spirit’s job to ensure that we get to the end of the journey and enter heaven safely. My objective as a driver trainer is to get my pupil from “learner-land” to the “heavenly gates” of the test-centre and a life-time of safe driving. That is my mission. Similarly, the Holy Spirit’s mission is to deliver you in one piece to heaven!
2 Timothy 4:18 “And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
What you need to know is that you can’t do it on your own. No, God has graciously given us the Holy Spirit as a coach to help us navigate through the minefield of our brand new spiritual life. I’m convinced, without His help to guide us, none of us would make it!
“the Lord knows how to rescue the ungodly from temptation” 2 Peter 2:9
This is because, there are many dangers and hazards on the way, as we navigate this uncharted territory. Similarly, as a learner driver we have to learn to read the warning signs, cope with other unpleasant drivers and navigate our first roundabout!
The Christian life though, is even more difficult than this – its like learning to drive in Iraq with IED all over the place! The reality is that, we are opposed by a wily and dangerous terrorist and enemy in the devil, who is out to trip us up and kill us if he can! So yes, we may stumble and fail but the promise of scripture stands:
“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 1:24).
Psalm 37:24 “Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.”
You’ll make it!
Therefore, the blessed Holy Spirit is the guarantee or earnest of our inheritance. He is a down payment guaranteeing final payment. In addition, the package is sealed by him personally so it’s not going to get tampered with or damaged on the way!
2 Cor 1:22 “Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts. “
Ephesians 1:14 “Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.”
The good news is, that Jesus not only starts us off on this adventure of faith, He’s there at every step of the way and he ’s there at the finishing line cheering us on!
Hebrews 12:12 “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; “
Phil 1:6 “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:”
In addition, as we run this race of faith, a huge crowd of saints who finished their journey are cheering us on!
Hebrews 12:1 “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us”
As an instructor though, I love the end of the journey when the pupil passes the test. I rejoice with them! What an amazing day its going to be when we see Jesus face to face!
Expecting to fail
Its a fact though, that some people expect to fail – they have faith for it! They expect not to make it. Some even torpedoe their own success because they believe they are a failure.
When I’m teaching driving, a common issue is that of the pupil being frightened of stalling the car. Most of the time they are fine, but as soon as they are at a traffic lights with cars impatiently waiting behind, then they start to think thoughts of fear. They start to believe that they are going to stall when that traffic light changes. Guess what happens? They are so fixed on the fear of failure that they don’t concentrate, the light changes, in panic the clutch comes off too fast with not enough gas and guess what – they stall!
Fixated on sin
Some believers are like that. They are so fixated with sin and failure that they end up sinning all the time because that’s all they ever think about. How do you overcome sin? You look to Jesus and his perfection. In God’s eyes we are already perfect so performance comes out of who we already are. When teaching driving, if you remove the fear of failure and allow mistakes, then suddenly the pressure is off and the pupil moves off perfectly.
Likewise, thats what grace does for us: it allows failure but does that produce sin? No it produces holiness!
Similarly, if the pupil is conscious of the close scrutiny of the instructor, then they become self-conscious and guess what happens? Lots of mistakes! Fear is actually a carnal emotion. It is focusing on ourselves and how we feel. Pupils are nervous because they are self-conscious rather than road-conscious!
So we failed – again!
So, what happens when we fail, blow it? Does God shake his head and say to himself: “well I never expected that. I am totally at a loss to know what to do.” No of course not, his grace already has the supply ready. He’s going to make sure you get what you need to learn the lesson. Its up to you to listen and learn. If you don’t , then the Holy Spirit is the most patient instructor you’ll meet! He won’t shout at you but neither will he let you give up. He may use the dual-controls occasionally or reach over to steer and stop you clipping the kerb but generally you just get to try again until you get it!
If you want to know how the Father reacts when you sin and fail, then read the parable of the prodigal son. When the son returned what was the Father’s reaction? Was it anger? No it was open arms, gifts and a party! That is grace.
Jesus is our defence
Likewise, when we fail and sin, the Bible says we have an advocate (defence lawyer) with the Father.
1 john 2:1 “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:”
Jesus is on your side. Many of us think that when we sin, the lights of heaven dim and alarms are flashing and ringing everywhere, angels are scurrying around in a panic. Well, Jesus is on your case but guess what’s coming your way – more grace! It’s only the devil that is the accuser of the brethren. He’s going to point out all your failures and his best weapon is a perfect weapon – the law! However, the Law won’t help you change at all.
I think that many of us are too hard on ourselves, we think we should be able to live holy and get very upset with ourselves when we fail again and again. I’ve got pupils like that who are perfectionists and it hurts their pride when they can’t do something! Likewise, how are we going to learn to be holy and righteous unless we learn from the master – Jesus Christ the righteous!
The Bible has a simple antidote to failure: repentance or a change of mind. As Graham Cooke says: if you don’t like that thought – have another thought! So if we fail, we get to have another go!
Therefore, persistence, patience and endurance are great qualities. The pupils I have that succeed, are not necessarily the most gifted. No, its the ones that are determined, have counted the cost and don’t give up whatever happens. Likewise, in the spiritual life the Bible says:
Proverbs 24:16 “A just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again:”
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