The Upside of Failure

Believe it or not failure can be a launching pad to great things.

Winston Churchill was a huge failure. Even though he is known as one of the leaders that saved Europe in World War II, he was actually dismissed from leadership in World War I.

One of his famous sayings was, “Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” Can you relate to that one?

Failure can teach us far more than success can.

Mark Twain said, “A person who has had a bull by the tail once has learned sixty or seventy times as much as the person who hasn’t.”

Failure also teaches us about grace and forgiveness. Proverbs 24:16 says, “For though a righteous man falls seven times he rises again.”

In this life, we will not always do things perfectly.

We will fail.
We will be tempted to quit.
Our journey towards maturity will seem longer than necessary.
We will have good days and bad days.
Life is filled with both.
Isn’t it amazing how quickly a good day can become a bad one?

I went from a good day to a bad day very quickly once.

It was January 2005 and my wife and I were in Hawaii for our anniversary.

The fourth day we were there started out like it should.

We walked the beach, swam with some sea turtles, ate some pineapples, hung out at the pool, did some people watching, and observed some of the most talented surfers in the world ride 20 foot waves.

It was 78 degrees, perfect weather, and we were carefree and in love.

IT WAS A GOOD DAY.

Then, I became stupid.

We are in Hawaii. It’s just my wife and I. It’s perfect, and then I suggest that we not go out that night because the college football championship game was on and it would be fun to watch it together.

I will admit right up front, that I’m not very bright.
We are in Hawaii. It’s our anniversary. My wife hates football. And I make that suggestion.

She says, “You can watch football all the rest of the year.”

I say, “You don’t understand, this is a very important game.”

She says, “It’s always a very important game.”

I say, “C’mon, let’s do something that I want to do.”

She says, “What? Have we not been doing stuff you want to do? Like being with me!”

I say, “Yes, it has been great, but I WANT TO WATCH FOOTBALL!”
(Aren’t you impressed by my intelligence?)

Quickly everything became ugly. I lost my mind and my competition strength kicked in and it was no longer about doing the right thing, but rather it was about winning.

Winning in this situation was about watching the football game that night.
I could go on but you probably can guess the rest of the story.

A GOOD DAY became a very BAD DAY!

I was thinking about a character in history whose life was the epitome of good days and bad days.

His name was Simon Peter.

He was one of Jesus’ first disciples.

These are the events of his life:

Peter is a fisherman and Jesus comes along one day and says, “Simon, I want you to follow me. I want you to learn about my forgiveness and Grace. I want you to love a love-starved world. I’m going to make you fisher of men. You are going to change people’s lives.”

All of a sudden Simon Peter’s life goes from the mundane to a life of following the one who raised the dead, healed the sick and forgave sins.

IT’S A GOOD DAY when you are become a follower of Jesus!

Instantly Peter puts his foot in his mouth. He gets into an argument with some of the disciples about who the greatest was and Jesus rebukes him.

IT’S A BAD DAY when you are rebuked by Jesus.

But then Peter walks on water. Ever walk on water? If you have, you probably do not need to keep reading this.

IT’S A GOOD DAY when you walk on water.

Peter sees Jesus out on the water, he’s in the boat and he gets out and he takes a couple steps and then looks down and realizes what he is actually doing and he sinks.

IT’S A BAD DAY when you sink.

Now Peter sunk, but at least he got out of the boat. His buddies were sitting in the boat with their floaties on playing it safe. Simon Peter sort of failed, but he walked.

IT’S A GOOD DAY when you take a step of faith, even when it is not perfect faith.

Then Jesus says, “I’m going to build the church on you Peter. Peter, you are the man! You’re going to be the foundation of the church, and not even the gates of hell will be able to prevail.”

IT’S A GOOD DAY when Jesus calls you to a higher purpose.

Jesus goes on to say, “And I’m going to die on the cross. I’m going to be sacrificed.” And Peter interrupts, “Well if I’m the head of the church, that’s not going to happen to you.” And Jesus calls Peter, Satan.

IT’S A BAD DAY when Jesus calls you Satan.

Peter then says, “Jesus I’m here for you. If you’re going to be crucified then I’m there to the very end. I’ve got your back, you and me. Let’s walk down this difficult path together.”

IT’S A GOOD DAY when you tell your friend that they will not be alone during tough times.

Jesus gets arrested and Peter denies ever knowing Jesus. “I don’t know the man” he ends up yelling at some girl scouts around a camp fire. He betrays Jesus three times, and at his friends worst moment on the cross he doesn’t show up.

IT’S A BAD DAY when you fail a friend.
IT’S A BAD DAY when you fail God.

Not being there for Jesus was devastating to Peter. The guilt and shame was almost too much to bear. Peter is thinking, “This is it. I’m a failure. I blew it. I know I’ve blown it before, but this is too big to recover from. This will be my identity. I’ll go back to being a fisherman. I guess I wasn’t cut out for what Jesus wanted me to be..”

IT’S A VERY BAD DAY when you lose all hope.

A few days later Peter is fishing and Jesus has resurrected and he sees Peter and he says,“Peter I’m not done with you yet. I still have plans for you. You have made some mistakes. It would have been nice for you to have been around when I was going to the cross, but I’m not done with you yet. You’re still going to be the leader of the church, I want you to love and serve and share with people the hope of salvation. Tell them about the cross and my resurrection and about eternal life.”

IT’S A VERY GOOD DAY when we get to experience forgiveness and second chances.

Then Jesus tell Peter that he will die for his faith and even though Peter doesn’t struggle with that revelation, he does struggle not knowing what’s going to happen to his friend John.
So Peter gets nosy and asks Jesus, “What about John? Is John going to suffer too?”
Jesus’ response is, “What’s that to you? Mind your own business!”
IT’S A BAD DAY when Jesus tells you to mind your own business.

But then something miraculous happens.
It’s recorded in Acts Chapter 2.
Peter stands up before the very people who killed Jesus and he preaches grace and forgiveness.

Peter confidently proclaims, “The one you crucified, you can now have a relationship with. Your failures and sins do not have to have the last word and you can enter into eternal life. Turn back to God and trust Jesus.”

Peter who denied Jesus and was afraid to even show up at the crucifixion shows up and preaches. And the Bible says that over 3,000 people, just in that one message, became followers of Jesus.

IT’S A GREAT DAY when we overcome our fears, when we take risks and we don’t let our failures have the last word.

PETER HAD A GREAT DAY!

Just like Simon Peter, we all have GREAT DAYS and we all have BAD DAYS.

But just like Peter, God does not give up on us.

So we should not give up on ourselves.

The scriptures tell us that “God’s mercies are new every morning!”

Theodore Roosevelt once said “Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”

9 thoughts on “The Upside of Failure

  1. one thing I have learned from experience, you have to go through the the bad to appreciate the good! failure is being human as long as you learn from the failure. good message!!

  2. I have been there a few times and it is a learning experience and I continue to try again. Awesome message!
    Ed T.

  3. I have been so disappointed in myself and my failures in the past that I didn’t think I would get past them. Accepting God’s grace and forgiveness was the only way for me to forgive myself. I have found blessings in the experiences (usually not a first) and know that God does make beautiful things out of the dust! Thanks for sharing this, I really enjoy your writing.

  4. This spoke to me by knowing God still wants us to love him even when we sin. I’ve heard it said that when you fail we need to run to Jesus, not run away. I have some issues I am dealing with and trusting in God to help me and this message was a blessing to hear. Thanks so much!

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