home > Pastor’s Desk > 2021 > March > FAILING WELL

FAILING WELL

I want to discuss the story of two men who failed but where only one who failed well. The story of these two privileged men is similar but couldn’t be any different. One of them grew up, lived, and worked in a small village all his life. In his village, everyone knew him, and he knew everyone. The other man moved around a lot with his family when he was young and eventually moved to a large city where he was quite a loner and could never seem to make many (if any) friends. But the day came when providence brought them together and they nearly became lifelong friends. One of the things they had in common was that they both famously failed – yet only one of them failed well.

 

THE ONE MOST LIKELY TO SUCCEED WAS THE ONE WHO FAILED BEYOND REPAIR

If the twelve disciples of Christ had a “Year Book”, the one that would have been voted “the most likely to succeed” each year would have been the one with the highest academic credentials, the most sophisticated grasp of at least four languages, and a sound financial background. This was Judas Iscariot. The other disciple would have been voted least likely to succeed, because, quite frankly, he failed so often and so frequently and so magnificently. On several occasions in the Gospels he is recorded saying things that are “stupid” (which should give rest of us some comfort who also have a track record of occasionally saying stupid things). Take the time when Moses and Elijah appeared to Christ on Mount Hermon and Peter suggested that he run to the camping store to buy and erect some tents to shelter them (Matt. 17:4). Then there was the time when all the other disciples were there when Jesus publicly and sharply rebuked Peter for what he had just said – 

But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a hindrance to Me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
Matthew 16:23

While Simon Peter failed so often, there is actually no record of Judas Iscariot ever failing before he betrayed Christ. But I suspect that there were seven warning signs that led to Judas Iscariot on an accelerated process of failing before he ultimately failed by betraying Christ. Unlike those who have learned to fail well, Judas Iscariot’s path to failing badly included deceit, duplicity, dishonesty, and adopting a double life.

 

 

YOUR PAST DOES NOT HAVE TO DEFINE YOUR FUTURE 

Peter seemed to have a knack for putting his foot in his mouth and doing the wrong thing. Judas on the other hand gave the appearance of having it all together and never failing. But all the while he was actually setting himself up to epically (literally) fail. Here’s what his downward (invisible) spiral looked like (which were also the seven warning signs that something was wrong and getting worse) –

1.  CLOSED: While Jesus was challenging His disciples to be authentic, Judas was not open or transparent with the other disciples. 

¶ “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Matthew 5:8

2.  COCKY: Judas probably felt superior to the other disciples and this arrogance and pride (Satan’s origin sin) would have caused him to distance himself from his faith community. 

Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray Him.
John 6:70-71

3.  CONFUSED: Judas probably confused God’s grace as God’s approval due to him being used to work signs and wonders (Lk. 10:17) and that he was selected as one of Christ’s special disciples. 

¶ And He called to Him His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction.
Matthew 10:1

4.  CONCEALED: Judas increasingly withdrew from the other disciples with excuses for his absence (John 13:27-29). 

5.  CONCEITED: Judas seems to have been largely unaccustomed to failing – at least, not in public – and he had certainly never learned to fail ‘well’, he was not prepared to ask for help. 

6.  CONTEMPT: His increasing withdrawal and bitterness toward the other disciples (who were all, apart from him, from Galilee) caused him to be susceptible to Satan schemes and therefore in the latter part of his life he was actually living a double-life.

¶ Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I deliver Him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray Him.
Matthew 26:14-16

7.  CALLOUSED: Despite spending three years with God Incarnate who spoke with the greatest love and authority that any man ever spoke — before or since — Judas’ heart had become hardened and indifferent to the Word of God even to the extent when Christ directly warned him that his betrayal would have eternal and damnable consequences!  

He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with Me will betray Me. The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” Judas, who would betray Him, answered, “Is it I, Rabbi?” He said to him, “You have said so.”
Matthew 26:23-25

 

HOW DID PETER LEARN TO FAIL SO WELL?

It might be easy to think that Peter had learned to fail so well because he had so much practice at it! But that would be the same mistake as thinking that a blow-fly was really good at flying through a glass window inside your house! Just because you practice something over and over and over again, does not mean that you can do a thing well. But Peter did know how to fail well because he consistently did the four things that everyone who fails well does well.   

1.  CONNECTION: Despite failing, making mistakes, doing the wrong thing, saying something stupid, Peter remained transparent and kept within his faith community (the other disciples and Jesus).
Our Enemy knows how easy it is to inflict condemnation on God’s children and tries to leverage this by tempting them to withdraw from their church family.

2.  CORRECTION: Peter was lovingly and firmly corrected, and learned how to humbly accept this correction. 

3.  CONTRITE: Each time Peter failed he humbled himself and repented.

4.  COMMUNITY: Peter stayed close to Christ and close to Christ’s community of believers who each restored him after he had failed. 

If you want to learn how to fail well it will always involve the same four principles for you as well.

 

FAILING ALWAYS BRINGS BROKENNESS 

There is a simple and charming picture, presented by Christ at the Last Supper, of what becoming a blessing involves. 

¶ Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.”
Matthew 26:26

Jesus took. Jesus blessed. Jesus broke. Jesus takes a person who yields to Him. He blesses that person—and that blessing often intensifies when that person is somewhat broken when they fail well. Every one who has a heart for Christ, just like the apostle Peter, will fail — and not just once. In fact, as I reflect on each of the great leaders in the Scriptures, it occurs to me that each one of them failed well.

> Abraham denied that he was married to Sarah.

> Jacob tricked and deceived his dad to steal the first-born blessing from Esau.

> Moses got angry and murdered a man.

> David committed adultery and ordered the murder of an innocent man.

> Jeremiah was overwhelmed with discouragement and told God that he would no longer serve Him. 

How you respond to your failures reveals what you think about God! Our God redeems our failures. He is able to take all of our mistakes and use their result for good (Romans 8:28). But we must learn to fail well. Perhaps this begins by understanding that God is a merciful, loving, gracious, forgiving, redeeming God toward us – not because of anything we have done – but because of who He is! This is why First John 1:9 is not just a new Christian’s memory verse. It’s an integral means by which we can fail well.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
First John 1:8-9

 

WELL, FAIL WELL

If there was a ’Year Book‘ for Christ’s Twelve Disciples, which one would have been voted “Most likely to succeed”? Probably Judas Iscariot would have. I doubt that Simon Peter would have received any votes. After all, he had failed and goofed up so many times! But in the end, both men failed in similar ways yet only Peter ‘failed well‘. How he did it should give those of us who regularly fail — and all too often feel like failures — hope that God is able to redeem both us and our failures.

Your pastor,

Andrew

Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

SUPER SUCCESSFUL CHRISTIANS

Spare a thought for those people who are often overlooked by churches—and if they are Christians—they frequently struggle to even find a suitable church where they can deepen their relationship with Christ. Often we think of those who struggle with life as those who are “down and out” and blighted by impoverishment, or destitution, or ill-health, or family breakdown, or poor mental health. But surprisingly, even those who are seen as super-successful because of their wealth, social stature, public acclaim or amazing achievements, are actually struggling with loneliness, emptiness, and poor mental health — even if they are a Christian. These super-successful Christians are CEOs of large companies, or world-class or national sporting champions, or internationally renowned performing artists, or A-lister actors, or media personalities, or highly sought after professionals such as surgeons or barristers. They often pay a high price for their success, including, long work hours, constant stress, public criticism, extended time away from their families, fierce competition, and strained marriages. These pressures are exacerbated by their constant travel associated with their work which also makes them vulnerable to exhaustion and extraordinary temptations. This is why these super-successful Christians need to join the kind of church that can provide them with the kind of support, counsel, and accountability that every Christian needs. Here’s how a church can become this kind of church.

MAKING CHURCH A WELCOMING HOME

For many people, making a decision to attend a church is a significant and potentially daunting decision. As they come through the front door they are entering an unfamiliar environment. It is also an environment that may be associated with preconceived ideas of what the expectations and rules of the church community may be. These people probably will not know anybody and they might have concerns that relate to their previous or current lifestyle. For those of us who are regular church attendees, it is possible that we may not fully appreciate the challenges a new attendee may be facing. When we can relate to these concerns, I believe we are better equipped to provide a warm and patient “welcome” to what we hope will become their new church home.

LOVE IN ACTION

Physical illnesses and stressful events are endemic in our society. They can be likened to the thorns that cause both pain and damage. It doesn’t take much for them to impact a person’s life in ways that they did not expect. I believe that we can become more resilient as followers of Jesus by applying an appropriate solution to a known problem. I believe that an appropriate and important part of the solution is for us to show love the way that Jesus demonstrated love during His ministry on earth.

THE TOOLS OF REMEMBERING

I like to think I have a pretty good memory.  I like to think I’m organised.  Generally, I am – I don’t double book appointments, I keep track of what I’m doing and when, I mostly turn up on time. But, on reflection, I’m not so sure this means I have a good memory.

TRUTH vs SOMETHING BIG AND HAIRY

“You were lying in your bed, you were feeling kind of sleepy.
But you couldn’t close your eyes because the room was getting creepy.
Were those eyeballs in the closet? Was that Godzilla in the hall?
There was something big and hairy casting shadows on the wall.
Now your heart is beating like a drum, your skin is getting clammy.
There’s a hundred tiny monsters jumping right into your jammies”!

These are lyrics from a song on the very first Veggie Tales video every made. The title of the song?  “God is bigger than the Boogie Man”. Junior Asparagus was lying in bed frightened, and Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber appeared to tell him that he doesn’t have to be scared of the imaginary monsters because, “God is the bigger.” My childhood night-time fears weren’t so much about big and hairy monsters, aka boogie men, or Godzilla in the hall. My fears were house fires – our home burning down, and “burglars” or “robbers”. But I certainly identify with lying in bed, my heart beating like a drum, my skin getting clammy, my imagination in overdrive.

CLOSING THE DEAL

In 1871, the American evangelist, Dwight (“DL”) Moody was preaching to huge crowds each night in Chicago. At the end of each message he would give an appeal for people to either respond immediately to the gospel message he had just presented, or at least go home and consider it. But on Sunday October 8th, 1871, a huge fire broke out in Chicago. It burned through the city for days and became known as The Great Chicago Fire. Around 10,000 people were homeless as a result, and hundreds of people lost their lives. Moody was heart-broken when he realised that many of the people who had died were the people who had attended that Sunday night meeting where he had urged them to consider accepting Christ. His deep grief over this tragedy led him to make a vow that he would never again merely urge people to simply consider accepting Christ. From now on, he vowed, he would plead with all those he preached to – to immediately turn away from their sins and turn to the Saviour. DL Moody committed his life and ministry as an evangelist to be someone who would always strive to close the deal because he was now aware—more than ever—that people’s eternal destinies were in jeopardy! 

BUILDING A MOODY CHURCH

The three things that make the Christian life exciting and enthralling are the same three things that enable a believer to develop a closer relationship with God. The combination of these supernatural gifts gives the child of God an awareness that there is more, much more, to this world than we can see, touch, taste or feel. When the Christian’s faith is grounded and buttressed in God’s Word, godly prayer, and God’s house he or she flourishes. But there are forces at play that are determined to stop the believer from reaching their spiritual destiny. While we might think these enemy forces only use the fiery darts of doubt to hinder the believer’s journey to glory, there is something that they successfully use far more often: our mood. This is why, for any church to be successful, it must discover how to build moody church.

PRAYING PRAYERS

The amazing thing about prayer, is that nearly everyone does it – but hardly anyone thinks they do it well. If you visit any Christian bookstore you will notice that the largest display of books is about prayer. And it’s not just Christian bookstores where you’ll find books on prayer. Regular bookstores also sell a wide range of books on prayer (even if they do classify them as books on ‘meditation’!). One of the most frequently searched questions on Google is, “How to pray” (which then points enquirers to over 2.3 billion web pages answering their question). But in all of human history – and two thousand years before anyone but one had ever heard of Google – there was just One person who was supremely qualified to answer this question. And fortunately for those of us who really want to know the answer to this question (without having to peruse more than 2.3 billion web pages!) He gave us the answer.

WHY SOME BELIEVE

Why is it that two people can look at exactly the same evidence and can come to completely different conclusions about it? Even more puzzling is how two equally qualified scientific experts can look at the same data and utterly disagree about what it means. This happens many times in court cases where the prosecution will call their “expert witness” to give his or her professional opinion to verify that the defendant is guilty only to have the defence to present their “expert witness” who gives his or her professional opinion as to why the prosecution’s expert witness was wrong and to prove that defendant is innocent! This at least illustrates why it is not always the quality of the evidence that leads a person to accept or reject a claim. This especially apply to the claims that Jesus Christ made. Of the four accounts in the New Testament written about His life, three of them were written by eye-witnesses and the other one (Luke’s) was written by someone who interviewed many eye-witnesses. It is with interest that we turn to the last one to be John’s Gospel, where he describes dramatic proofs that Jesus was who He claimed to be. Yet despite these otherwise inexplicable proofs that at times thousands of people witnessed, many still wouldn’t believe. But it seems among those who did believe they all had one thing in common.

UNPACKING CHRISTIANITY

home > Pastor's Desk > 2022 > JUNE 3rd > UNPACKING CHRISTIANITY UNPACKING CHRISTIANITY I have a thing for bags. Not shopping bags or lady’s handbags, but manly bags - functional bags. A few years back I became fed-up with the number of bags I was...