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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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EXCUSE ME

The essence of an excuse is the word, no. If we get invited to a party that we don’t to go to and we make a polite excuse to decline the offer, in essence we are saying “No, I will not come to your party.” This is the gist of the parable that Christ told in Luke 14 about His Father who sent His Son as His Servant to personally invite those who had already received an invitation to come to a great banquet. (It’s interesting how Jesus describes His Father’s heaven as a great banquet.) By saying “No” to the great banquet invitation those who were declining this invitation were saying that they had a better offer. What offer could be better than dining with the Source of Life, Joy, Peace, and Power, as His special guest in His luxurious mansion? What happens next in this parable also says a lot about how God feels when people make excuses to decline His offer to dine.

BELONGING

I’m not sure about you, but one of my great wrestles in becoming more Christlike is that sinful tendency to see my time, my resources, my life as belonging to me. I like to control it. I like to own it. I like to decide what happens and when.

God, in His great grace and wisdom, seems to work in our lives reminding us how little we truly control and that it all truly does belong to Him. So often these reminders come in the way of hardship and loss with the call to surrender ownership and control.

If our Heavenly Father was a despotic God, a cruel, tyrannical God who acted arbitrarily and selfishly for His own ends, knowing we belonged to Him would cause us to tremble and live in fear and apprehension.

But praise Him that this is not our God!

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies your with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
Psalm 103:2-5

ROOFS AND DRAGONS – THE VALUE OF PLANNING

ROOFS AND  DRAGONS – THE VALUE OF PLANNING
John F. Kennedy once said, “The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.”  J.R.R. Tolkien said, “It does not do to leave a live a dragon out of your calculations, if you live near one.” Having a plan is generally a strategy that will help us to get things done, or respond correctly when things go wrong. A plan may help us to find a solution and a way through an adverse situation that we are experiencing. A plan also helps us to know what resources we might need for dealing with situations that we can foresee.

When it comes to thinking about the importance of planning, a statement that is worth considering is one that I like to get my Maritime Passage Planning students to contemplate:

‘The best thing about failing to plan, is that disaster comes as a complete surprise that is not preceded by hours or days of stress and worry associated with the planning process.’

SOMETHING FOR SLUGGARDS TO CONSIDER

There are those who look busy but are not very productive. There are those who are busy but are highly productive. Often these people have learned that busy needs to be managed so that their time is focused on maintaining their important relationships, taking regular sabbaths, prioritising the important over the urgent, and cooperating with others. These busy people have learned to recognise God’s open doors and have confidence that the Apostle Paul had that it is God who gives them supernatural energy to toil, struggle and work to get things done when no-one else thought it could be.

WHAT COVID DID TO CHURCHES’ MOMENTUM

The Covid pandemic and its effect upon Churches has caused many church leaders and their teams to reevaluate what it means to be the Church. This leads into some really healthy questions that challenge what many had previously unquestionably accepted as “Church”. What ‘should’ a church do when it meets together for its weekly gathering (especially if it can’t actually ‘gather’)? How should the leaders and members of a church contribute to the issues confronting society and culture? Or should the Church be disengaged from ‘the world’ and treat its Christianity as purely ‘private’ matter between the worshiper and God? What do the ministries within a Church within a church — especially that of an evangelist — look like it the Church can not actually meet due to ongoing Covid lockdowns? Perhaps several of these questions might never have even been asked if it wasn’t for Covid. But one thing is for sure, the answer to these questions can be found within Scripture and the lessons from Church history and require that we prayerfully seek the Spirit’s guidance as we apply the best answers. Perhaps it will be then that we can build some fresh momentum and reach the current and next generation for Christ.

CONSPIRITUAL CONSPIRACIES

This is why we can have great confidence in the accounts given in the Bible. Two of the four evangelists (Matthew and John) who wrote Gospels were eye-witnesses to many of the events they describe – particularly and critically – the resurrection appearances of Christ. Rather than appealing to a “trust me when I tell you…” approach, the Biblical writers of the New Testament invite readers to examine the evidence for themselves and consider carefully what they have presented. They do not present their accounts anonymously or in an only share this after I’ve died memoir approach. When the apostle Paul could say that the physically resurrected Christ was seen by up to 500 people at one time and that most of these people are still alive (1Cor. 15:6), he was inviting verification of the facts that he presented (and we have no record of anyone ever refuting Paul’s claim). This made the claims of Christianity verifiable and it therefore makes the further claims of Christianity about a spiritual new birth testable and verifiable today.

¶ Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
John 20:30-31

THIS WILL ONLY TAKE A MINUTE!

When we reflect on the life of Christ we can’t help but notice that He was a supremely important mission but what we may not as easily notice is how often Jesus was interrupted. Out of these interruptions came miracles, moments, and monumental messages. It’s as if Christ considered these interruptions to be divine appointment that actually furthered His mission! For those of who live busy lifestyles and find interruptions to be frustrating, Christ’s example presents an inconvenient challenge. To meet this challenge involves a posture of worship and divinely ordering our priorities. And I do not at all suggest that this will only take a minute!

FAILING 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.

EVEN THOUGH IT’S UNFATHOMABLE, UNSEARCHABLE, AND UNCOMPREHENSIBLE, YOU STILL NEED IT!

Jesus Christ Himself was the ultimate personification of wisdom (1Cor. 1:24, 30), yet He Himself, when He became incarnate, had to ‘increase’ in wisdom. And chances are that if Jesus had to ‘increase in wisdom’ then so do we! In God’s unfathomable wisdom He permits us to learn how to increase in wisdom by learning from our mistake and failures. Yet, there are times when, as James the brother of Jesus wrote, that God gifts wisdom to His children. This may not be a ‘Matrix type’ of human-software update, but it could come to you in way you did not expect in response to your prayer for God’s wisdom where you have a “light-bulb moment”. And when you experience one of those rarer moments of ‘received’ wisdom (where God gives us wisdom), it might be time to implement some wisdom from the life of Daniel, who, when it happened to him, he gave God the glory for it.

SCARED, SCARRED, SACRED

The gospel offers hope and healing for those who have been violated — those who were once scared (for good reason), and who have been scarred by the hurt they have endured — have found redemption and a sanctuary in the sacred community of God’s redeemed.