Learning from Failure

One of the greatest sources of comfort is that when we read the Bible, we see stories of so many individual failures that we can easily relate to. We also see triumphs in some of these individuals, who despite the questionable actions they were associated with, found their way back to God through faith born from a humble and contrite heart. Here are three stories in Scripture (there are many, many more) that help us see how failure cannot only bring about future success, but how the awesome power of God can move in people’s lives:

Joshua 8:1-29

While failure should teach us not to make the same mistake twice, sometimes we still will do so but other times we do get the lesson. After Israel had been cleansed from Achan’s sin (see my previous post on this here), Joshua prepared to attack Ai again—this time to win. Joshua learned some lessons we can follow: 1) confess your sins when God reveals them to you (Joshua 7:19-21) and 2) when you fail, refocus on God, deal with the problem, and move on (Joshua 7:22-25; 8:1). God wants the cycle of sin, repentance, and forgiveness to strengthen us, not weaken us. The lessons we learn from our failures should make us better to handle similar situations in the future. Because God is eager to give us cleansing, forgiveness, and strength, the only way to lose is to give up. We can tell what kind of people we are by what we do on the second and third attempts. It is in these times when we pick ourselves off the mat that our character is refined.

Luke 22:54-62

Failure can help us be humble and useful. The post I did a few days ago about Peter is a perfect example. Peter wept bitterly, not only because he realized he denied his Lord, the Messiah, but also because he had turned away from a very good friend, a person who had loved taught him for the past three years. Peter had said that he would never disown Christ, despite Jesus’ prediction (Mark 14:29-31). But when frightened, he went against all he had boldly promised. Unable to stand up for his Lord for even twelve hours, he had failed as a disciple and as a friend. We need to be aware of our own breaking points and not become over-confident and self-sufficient. If we fail him, we must remember that Christ can use those who recognize their failure. From this humiliating experience, Peter learned so much that would help him later when he assumed leadership of the new church.

Matthew 1:1-17

Perhaps the most inspiring part of the Bible is looking at those who played a part in the very lineage of Jesus. In the first seventeen verses of Matthew we meet forty-six people whose lifetimes span two thousand years. All were ancestors of Jesus, but they varied considerably in personality, spirituality, and experience. Some were heroes of faith—like Abraham, Isaac, Ruth, and David (although sin invaded some of their walk). Some had shady reputations—like Rahab and Tamar. Many were very ordinary—like Hezron, Aram, Nahshon, and Achim. And others were evil—like Manasseh and Abijah. God’s work in history is not limited to human failures or sins, and he works through ordinary people. Just as God uses all kinds of people to bring His Son into the world, He uses all kinds today to accomplish His will.

And that is the takeaway from this post. God wants to use you, despite your past failures. If you feel unworthy or too far gone, turn only to the likes of Rahab, Judah, Tamar, David, Paul, James, and Peter (just to name a few) and realize the depth of their sin and how God took hold of them and turned them into a powerful force for His glory.

Open your heart to Christ as your Savior, confess your sins, repent, and let Him erase your past and give you a future of promised glory.