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The Character of Failure

By Dr. Richard J. Krejcir
Exhibits an attitude to learn from ones setbacks.

The character of Failure exhibits an attitude to learn from ones setbacks, mistakes and sin so our failures can become the front door to the road of giving God glory and obtaining success in whatever He has us do. We have no need to fear failure or freak out when life gives us a bumpy ride. Thus, we will not give up where and what we are called to go and do. If God is in control-and He is-then nothing can happen without His permission and accordingly, we can take hold of Him and allow Him to use our circumstances to move us forward. When we are moving on in confidence and conviction in Christ, we can have real effectual achievement that is also shown to others (Psalm 1:1-3; 37; 73; 75:7;145:14; Proverbs 3:5-10; 24:16; Daniel 2:20-21; Micah 7:7-9; Matthew 6:33; Romans 7:14-20; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10; Philippians 4:12-13;1 Peter 5:1-6).

Pride, Breakdown of hope, Bankruptcy of faith, Refusing to learn from Failure, allowing Failure to be our identity, and Fear are all opposites of God's call! When we carry out these malevolent traits, we stay in our pride and stray from Christ. We end up trusting in only ourselves or feeble theories and bad council, and thus keep making the same mistakes and sins. In so doing, we may even consider that God does not care or have a plan, when in fact He does. Fear does not take into account the sovereignty of God. God is sovereign even over pagan kings and presidents, over our family, friends, and ourselves. God is absolute; the only fear we should have is our fear and awe of Christ.

Learning from failure is key to moving ahead in our Christian formation and relationship building; if not, we will keep making the same mistakes and still be doing the same things, which many have concluded (rightly so) as insanity! We must expect to have failures and setbacks in a fallen world, we may even fall to sin, so we need to anticipate this, put in accountability and hedges to protect us from sin, and plan for the unexpected. Most importantly, trust in God's sovereignty and apply faith and diligence to obey Him for a positive outcome. We are to seek God in prayer and in His Word as well as wise counsel with those who are wiser than us; and, in the meantime, trust God.

Have you realized that we learn as much from failure, perhaps so much more, than anything else that may come our way? Sometimes life, especially for those of us in pastoral ministry with its stresses and problems of our lives and that of others all converging upon ourselves and family is overwhelming. We take one step forward only to realize in so doing, we have actually taken three steps back. Yet, somehow in our failures and frustrations, we grow; this is because when we pay attention to why and how we learn and therefore we cultivate and produce a greater depth of character.

If you read negative examples, you well see people such as Saul and Nabal who failed and did not learn; and, either their failures judged them or they died by the consequences of their own pride. If they had repented, God would have restored them as He has done to so many. Whereas, in the positive examples, a person made major mistakes either intentionally or unintentionally, yet they realized their error, so they repented. These include such as David and Jehoshaphat and they were restored. We too, face decisions each day and being a fallen human being, we will make mistakes or we will do the best we can and our goal or plan still might not work out. The key is to repent when we error and to learn from our situation so we do not repeat the same mistakes or sin. When it is not a mistake, such as a job loss or tragedy or a professional or personal letdown, we too can discover the implications and options and be prepared to move on.

If we do not learn by leaning on Christ as Lord and trusting in Him, how we respond to any future situation will be fated for failure! We will repeat the same insanity, leading us to anger, resentment, bitterness and a continuing life of disappointments. This is about another character too, that of allowing failure to be our teacher. Learning from setbacks allows us to gain new and better insights to life and to new situations, and to be better, stronger, and more rapidly able to recover in our good pursuits. Thus, we have hope and confidence not to give up; when we are in Christ, we can allow inspiration from His Word and from His Spirit to muse us and when we are impassioned in Christ we do not go wrong.

The great Reformation doctrines of Election and Predestination have to do with the fact that God is in control and we are not. So, we should respond with our hardest effort because we need not fear the result. This is not about unrealistic expectations; rather, it is about the practice of faith and confidence in our Lord. When we have the idea that we are not always responsible for the results and when we try our best and obey His precepts, our only concern is the obedience to His call. This applies from witnessing to a stranger to developing a new business plan, from planting a church to talking the time to listen to someone who needs encouragement. Then, out of that trust and faith will come the perseverance to press on to serve Him, and the fear of failure will cease.

The ability to take the risk will become more vigorous, and the fears we have will go away. We will face all kinds of trials, as we live in a world of sin-of greed, pride, sickness, sorrow, and hurt that gives us disappointments and frustrations as well as failures. But, the good news is that we have the Lord and Savior of the Universe on our side! So, we can always count everything as joy when we are serving Him the best we can (Phil. 4:4; 1 Thess. 5:16-18; James 1:2). God is in control over us; however, the specifics of that free will and control may be debated by theologians. All we need to know is that we are responsible as moral agents of our Lord who entrusted us with a call and the ability to make it work. Since God is sovereign, we should not fear going to our neighbor and witnessing, nor should we fear to do what it takes in our leadership responsibility even when we totally fail at it.

What can we do when we fail? Look to God and His Word!

  • Ask, is there sin that caused it? If so, repent (Rom. 7; 1 John 1:8-10; 2:1-2)!

  • Find out what your flaws are and be willing to work to overcome them (Psalm 119:1-5; James 1:5-8, 22-25)!

  • Realize that God cares and has a purpose for you even in failure and He will work it out (Psalm 37:23-24; Romans 8:28)!

  • Do not make excuses; rather, be responsible and make a plan (1 Cor. 10:13; James 1:13; Phil. 4:13)!

  • Realize that your sin and others' sin against you will have consequences, but perseverance and repentance are key (2 Samuel 11-12; Luke 22:31-32; 61)!

  • We also have to be careful not to allow negative or self defeating mindsets to come into us. Such thinking will produce a self-fulfilling prophecy and cement us into a continual life cycle of failure followed by bitterness (Jer. 4:18-20; Rom. 3:14; James 3:13-16)!

Our Lord knows us and our situation better then we could ever know. From this knowledge comes the promise of a future that is in our best interest as well as His, so we should trust and obey with a joyful attitude. Keeping our focus where it must be and keeping it off where it does not belong will allow ministry to flourish, our personal lives to succeed, and the disease of sin and repeating of the same mistakes to be eradicated!

Is the Character of Failure working in you?

Here is how you can find out. Take a careful look at this character and Fruit of Failure from God's most precious Word by examining the passages below. Now ask yourself:

1. How do I overcome Failure in my daily life?

2. How can I do to better develop a willingness to learn and grow from understanding Failure?

3. What blocks my learning from Failure from working and being exhibited in me?

4. How can I make overcoming Failure a learning tool for His glory so it can function better, stronger, and faster, even in times of uncertainty and stress?

· Here are positive examples from Scripture: 2 Chronicles 20; Luke 22:24-33; 54-62; John 13:36-38; 18:25-27; 1 Cor. 15:4-5

· Here are negative examples from Scripture: 1 Samuel 13:1-22; 15:1-35; 25; 2 Chronicles 18; 20:35-37; Prov. 1:30; Ezek. 24:13; Zech. 7:11-12; Rev. 18:10

Further Questions

1. How would you define or explain Failure to someone who does not understand it? Why would someone allow Failure to become their identity?

2. What part does Failure play in your relationships with fellow church members, friends, coworkers, and family, such as overcoming Failure and growing from it versus letting it become your identity? What would or could block you from overcoming your disappointments and setbacks?

3. How does the fear of lack of faith counteract Failure? What is the cost to the Kingdom of God when we Christians do not strive to overcome our faults or problems?

4. What happens to your relationship with God, with others, and with the opportunities God gives you when you refuse to overcome Failure?

5. When have you exercised Failure the most? How do you practice Failure? In what situation did you fail to overcome Failure when you should have?

7. What issue is in your life that would improve with a more willingness to learn and grow from your Failures? Why would a Christian refuse to learn or grow from life's mistakes?

8. Think through the steps you need to take to put the overcoming of Failure into action in a specific instance. For example, what can you do to be more consistent and proactive by learning from your Failure? What can you do to be a person who is focused on the task Christ has given and not the Failures you have experienced? What can your church do to inspire and teach that Failure is not the end of the road but the beginning of the journey as long as Christ is Lord in the pursuit and His precepts followed?

No Fear of Failure is this: "I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength." Philippians 4:12b-13


© 2007, Richard J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership,
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