June 14, 2013

Failure is not the end…

Faith is easy when God answers prayer, when life is going as I hoped, when I can see His purposes being fulfilled. Yet if my life is to be like the life of Christ, I will experience failure.

Consider that Jesus’ brothers did not believe and mocked Him. Remember those times when He did no miracles because faith was absent. Don’t forget that in the end, the crowd that had cried Hosanna turned against Him and cried, “Crucify Him, crucify Him.” Then all the disciples left him and fled (Matthew 26:56). He was lied about in the judgment hall then mocked as the soldiers stripped Him of His clothes. Innocent and voluntarily helpless, He suffered the worst death known to man, and was buried in a borrowed tomb.

By human standards, the life of Christ was a misadventure and a failure. Isn’t much of our lives like that? Any success, and least measured by human standards, is a rare exception rather than the rule of life. We might hear about magnificent projects and brilliant hopes, but in the big picture, almost all fall into eventual ruin. Individuals who “succeed” eventually grow old and unable to perform. Business ventures encounter downturns and changes, mergers and crashes. Failure is inevitable.

I once read a book with the catchy title, “Failure, the Back Door to Success.” It was about learning from mistakes, but also defined success more like a spiritual discipline and failure as a test of faith. This makes me remember those times of enthusiasm in my heart that disappeared when I failed. Did my faith desert me too? When something goes wrong instead of right, do I feel like God has left me alone? Am I discouraged and ready to quit?

Today’s devotional writer suggests that when “failure” happens, I am appropriating half of Christ’s experience, that sense of failure, but not appropriating the other and more essential half, the persistence of faith. Because Christ lives in my, I have the power to defy failure, a power that can do this because this power is from God and is not my own.

Again, the life of Christ seemed a stunning failure, but it was followed by the most stunning victory that the universe has ever seen. What happened at the Cross is the example of all examples. Whatever God plans cannot fail. His proposals are firm, eternal, guaranteed. Regardless of any opposition, the things that are godly, honest, lovely, pure, and truthful have a vitality that cannot be destroyed or subdued.

What looks like failure in the life of a person of faith is only a triumph deferred. The energy and time spent in prayer and Christian service may not yield immediate fruits but whatever seed is sown is never lost. God promises to use it, and He keeps His promises. All may appear lost as it did at the Cross, but Good Friday was not the end…

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10–11)

I think about seeds sown in lives that seem hard and barren at the moment. God says that seed will sprout and grow. I may not live to see it, even die with my life seeming to have been a failure, but the work done in faith cannot perish. The work of Jesus Christ has transformed millions of lives and changed the world. His work brought the kingdom of God into this dark place and left us with this great promise,

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith. (1 John 5:4)

I’m encouraged by this Word. Success is more about trusting God than it is about results or answers to prayer. Those who determine to put their faith in Him and do whatever He asks, are successful people. Our reward is going to be incredible, far surpassing anything we could ever expect or imagine.

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