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

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AMAZING ACCESS

Anyone who has attended a large event such as the recent Will Graham Outreach event that was held at the Launceston Silverdome would be familiar with the varying levels of access that are provided to staff and volunteers associated with this type of event. The security system used included identification in the form of different coloured shirts, prayer volunteer cards, and all access cards that permitted access to the entire venue with no questions asked by security personnel. This is like the access level that God has to our lives. Being omnipresent, He has unhindered access to every aspect of our lives. He knows our innermost thoughts, sees all that we do, hears all that we say. God has the ultimate ‘all access’ card.

WHY FINDING TRUTH MATTERS

How can we determine whether a claim is true or false? Some people think there are different kinds of truth — my truth, their truth, and your truth. But how do they know that their assessment of truth is true? After all, their assessment – that there is my/their/your truth might just be based on their truth rather than the truth. Truth has certain qualities that distinguishes it from what is false-
 Truth corresponds to reality.
 Truth is verifiable (that is, if it is true, it can be evidentially shown to be so).
 Truth is falsifiable (that is, if it is false, it can be evidentially shown to be so).
 Truth is sometimes testable (that is, claims that are experiential can be tested by experience – including scientific claims, historic claims, and existential claims).
We have good reasons for the believing that the Bible is true because it is the divinely inspired, reliable and authoritative Word of God which has been superintendedly preserved by the Holy Spirit (read more about this).

THE 5 MOST IMPORTANT YEARS OF ANYONE’S LIFE

Parents, Kids Church leaders, and Christian school teachers should be intentional about shaping children to be fully devoted followers of Christ who have reasons for believing Christianity is true – which shapes them into virtuous contributors to society and to find their role in God’s Kingdom. This will be one of the necessary and indispensable means for the Church to fulfil the Great Commission of Christ.

TIME- YOU CAN’T CONTROL IT – BUT YOU CAN LEARN FROM IT

We live in a fast paced world. We expect things to happen quickly. None of us like to be kept waiting. Even when we order something online we expect it delivered straight away. Some of us having to work two or even three jobs just to be able to pay the bills. We describe ourselves as time-poor. Yet, we all get twenty-four-hours in a day. Sixty-minutes in an hour. And sixty-seconds in a minute. Most of us need to adjust how we see, understand, and treat our time. This will involve, what will be for some, adopting a foreign and largely unaccustomed view of time that involves worship, sabbath, and deepening relationships. From this biblical perspective we will come to see time as a gift from God, not a curse, or source of frustration. Within this gift of time God teaches us how to worship in those times when it is difficult to do so. Rather than thinking this divine gift of time is ours to do with what ever we want, God uses this gift to teach us that we should gift it back to Him beginning with (but not limited to) treating Sunday as a sabbath to come together to recommit our hearts, voices, minds, and presence with God’s people, back to God. God gives us passing time to learn to deepen relationships – especially with our kin, and our friends. Time is meant for relationship building. 

I AM WHO I AM BUT I AM NOT WHO I USED TO BE BUT I AM NOT YET WHO I WILL BE

One of the greatest lies that the would-be enemy of all our souls attempts to perpetuate is that we are what we are and we can never change. This lie is whispered into the ears of many people’s invisible ears so imperceptibly that they actually think it originated with them. “You were born this way – and you can never change”, “This is who you really are – and you can never change”, “There’s no hope of anything ever changing for better – so you might as well just kill yourself” and so on. But these sly alien voices inside the heads of the vulnerable are lies. People can change. People do change. Some circumstances were always going to be temporary and were always going to change. I know this is true because I am living proof. I am who I am but I am not who I used to be and I am not yet who I will be.

WHO DOES THIS EPHESIANS FELLA THINK HE IS?!

It may well still be the best-selling book of all time – and continues year-by-year to be so – but certainly is not the best-read of our current times! If there was ever any doubt about this, the events this week in Hobart, at St. Mary’s (Catholic) College Girl’s School, should remove all doubt! A furore erupted over the news that the prescribed Scripture reading for the year-end graduation celebration, which incorporated a Mass, was “Wives submit to your husbands” taken from Ephesians. Callers into ABC radio’s breakfast program decried this assault against women – especially young, vulnerable girls. One caller, responding to the news that the text being used was a citation from Ephesians, denounced Ephesians and apparently demanded, “Just who does this Ephesians bloke think he is?!” Another caller stated, “Why are they quoting ancient Roman philosophers in the twenty-first century?!” And yet another caller somehow linked all religious wars to passages like this one in the Bible! He remarked, “I’m an atheist. All wars are started by those who are religious! No war was ever started by atheists!” (Perhaps he had never heard of Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, Vladimir Putin, who were collectively responsible for the deaths of over 20,000,000?) This furore led to the Archbishop conceding that the Ephesians passage did not have to be used at the graduation ceremony. But this furore has highlighted just how unaware many Tasmanians are about what the Bible is, what is actually says, and why it says it. And I am now about to correct this deficiency.  

THE LORD IS MY ROCK

Of the many tributes paid to her majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, was the often noted reflection that during her reign the world underwent a series of rapid changes that were dramatic and unprecedented in human history. There were technological inventions that revolutionised the way people could access international travel options enabling them to be virtually anywhere in the world within a matter of hours. New forms of communication emerged with the development of a global satellite communications network enabling people to watch Neil Armstrong take his one giant leap Live on their black-and-white TV screens (as I did in the corridors of Corio Primary School in 1969). Space exploration, the stuff previously just in the realm of science fiction writers, became a reality with manned and unmanned voyages to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. But the past one hundred years have also been a time of great upheaval with empires crumbling, governments toppled, wars waged, genocides committed, pandemics raging, nations birthed, rulers assassinated, and massive refugee movements from oppressive Islamic and Communist regimes. Added to this has been the demise of professional journalism and the rise of internet-citizen-journalism where it is now common for TV News reports to feature footage taken from someone’s cell-phone which was posted on social media rather than the more expensive option of sending their own film crew there. And while we’re mentioning the internet, let’s not forget to mention – the internet. This alone has possibly been the most monumental change in the way people communicate, work, learn, and shop. But while it was noted that the Queen had witnessed all of these many changes, it was also noted that the Queen herself was an unchanging constant during all these upheavals who brought about a sense of stability, peace and reassurance. To millions of people around the world, she was their rock in a world of turmoil and change. Yet this was only possible because she herself had an immovable, dependable rock upon which she had built her life.

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