I want to conclude our series on success in your life and new horizons in 2019 by talking about the elephant in the room for all this talk of reaching your dreams… failure! If you start to move towards the dream God has for you, at some point you will fail. But successful people fail successfully…
No one likes to fail, but this morning I’m going to suggest to you that failure is not you’re enemy, it’s your friend! John Maxwell tells us that, on average, successful people fail two out of every five times they attempt something and unsuccessful people fail three out of five times. So failure is something we all experience, and it’s not final until you decide it is, until you give up. Instead, it’s a learning tool for the wise!
Everybody fails, not once, over and over again until the day we die. So why does failure destroy some and seem to build others up? It comes down to what we talked about last week, looking at the giant instead of the solution, our God! Remember,
1 John 4:4 (ESV Strong's)
Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.
NOT WHAT YOU SEE, HOW YOU SEE IT!
With failure, it’s not what you see, it’s how you see it. Your perspective is what counts. Here’s Paul,
2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (ESV Strong's)
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;
For Paul, who was beaten, rejected, stoned, shipwrecked and betrayed, perspective was everything. Even when failure and defeat, pain and abuse were seemingly on top of him, he said,
Romans 8:18 (ESV Strong's)
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
What a perspective on what the rest of the world calls hardship and failure! It’s not what you see, it’s how you see it. Thomas Edison failed 1,000 times in his attempts to invent the light globe. When challenged he said, “I have not failed, I have just found 1,000 ways it won’t work!”
If you look at it right, a problem is not really your problem, it’s your opportunity to shine. Christians should be like teabags… our true colour should come out in hot water. But often, we fall apart when we fail, just like everyone else. Why is it that we don’t see failure correctly?
1. OUR PAST
What we have experienced in our past colours how we see our current problems. If we have failed before, especially it is was often, or very public, unless we change our mindset we are likely to fail again. If we have succeeded, it gives us confidence even if we face failure.
It’s time today to make the past past at last. Whatever you’ve done, however you’ve failed, whatever sin has previously controlled you, take your eyes off that and look to what God has for you.
Isaiah 43:18-19 (ESV Strong's)
“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
2. OUR PRESENT
Sometimes we look at our current circumstances and they convince us that we will fail. Listen, circumstances do not determine destiny… decisions do. Whatever giant you face today can and will be subdued and even destroyed if you see him in God’s perspective. Heres Paul again…
Philippians 4:11-13 (ESV Strong's)
I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
3. OUR PERSON
How you see yourself determines how you will triumph over failure. If you see yourself as a big person, you will tackle big problems. If you think you’re a small person, you’ll only tackle small problems. Failures might stop you temporarily, but only you can stop you permanently.
So how do you see yourself? Successful? Pretty? Strong? Kind? This morning, why not step outside of yourself and see yourself as God sees you…. David wrote,
Psalms 139:13-14 (ESV Strong's)
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
You are not an accident and you are not a failure. God chose you, yes you, from before you were born, and His hand is upon you. In His power you can move into His destiny for you. You are a winner, so start acting like it!
Without God we have no purpose and without purpose we are destined to fail in life. But your perspective changes when you stop and realise that the creator of the universe, the one who spoke and planets and stars sprang into being, this same creator made you, loves you, and He has a plan for you!
Perspective is how we choose to see things, and it is affected by other things. What you see is not always what’s real, because sight is affected by so many other inputs that make it surreal.
The world in which we live tries to manipulate and squeeze us into what it wants, and it wants us to fail in life, it wants us to aim low, to follow the trends, to be part of the masses! The enemy wants failure to rule your life, he wants relationships to fail, marriages to fail, he wants kids to stumble into drugs and illicit sex and mess their lives up. Look around, he’s doing a pretty good job, right? Why, because people disobey the one who loves them and they let the devil squeeze them into his mould. I mean, everyone’s doing it, so should I, right?
Romans 12:2 (ESV Strong's)
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,
Renewing you mind involves you tossing out the bad stuff and filling it with good stuff, and this changes your perspective on everything… then suddenly failure is a comma instead of a full stop!
Philippians 4:8 (ESV Strong's)
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
So what are some of the areas we need to change perspective in?
1. LOOK FOR LEARNING INSTEAD OF LEISURE
Our modern world is on a quest to eliminate or numb pain, we don’t like it, and will do anything to avoid it. We take pills to numb it, we watch movies to escape it, we get drunk to avoid it, we get high to ignore it. We want a life of leisure, with zero pain and zero strain. But the Bible says,
James 1:2-4 (ESV Strong's)
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Growth without pain is an oxymoron… not an idiot with a blow torch, it means you cannot have one without the other. Benjamin Franklin said, “Those things that hurt, instruct.”
The Bible does not call us to kick back, relax and have a comfortable life until we die. The symbol for Christianity is a cross, not a cushion. James calls us to embrace and be joyful in pain rather than avoiding it, because pain, hurt and even failure can grow fruit that lasts for eternity!
2. LOOK FOR HOLINESS INSTEAD OF HAPPINESS
Our society is completely obsessed with happiness. We strive for it, we pay for it, we seemingly will give up anything to just be happy! But success, fame, money or power does not make you happy.
In a secular society happiness is the aim of living. In a spiritual society, holiness is. Australia needs people who seek holiness, not just our own happiness. People who stand for what is right is this corrupt, sin soaked, depraved world. Our society says it values the rights of kids to be happy. But today, kids don’t know what sex they want to be, they are encouraged to try everything and anything out and experiment with sex and drugs, and we murder 70,000 children a year under Medicare. This nation desperately needs holiness in us!
Philippians 2:15 (ESV Strong's)
be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,
Today God is calling for you to shine in this crooked and perverse world!
3. LOOK FOR SOLUTIONS INSTEAD OF SYMPATHY
So many in our society accept failure because they would rather have sympathy than solutions. When they fail, instead of getting up and trying again, they offer up excuses and beg for sympathy. Australia is a society of victims, and our bad behaviour and poor decisions are excused away by a victim mentality. Crimes, abuses, anger, and selfishness are all put down to a tough upbringing, the wrong influences and substance abuse.
I remember one of my daughters at the age of 3 being caught red handed, sitting in a sea of Easter egg pieces and foil, claiming that her naughty doll did it. Right from the start, we blame others!
Listen, I understand these things can affect you, but if you see yourself constantly as a victim, you will never be a victor! Victims blame others, but victors accept responsibility and learn, The Bible says,
Romans 8:37-39 (ESV Strong's)
in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Victims looking for sympathy are always also looking for someone to blame. How often do you see it. People make bad decisions, people pursue their own selfish desires, people ignore God until their life falls apart, and then they blame Him!
Proverbs 19:3 (ESV Strong's)
When a man's folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the Lord.
Don’t look for people to blame and don’t look for sympathy, look for solutions, and they will be found in the power of the Holy Spirit in your life.
MY FRIEND FAILURE
What you focus on determines success and failure, as we saw last week when Kurt Wollander was so focussed on not falling that he fell to his death. If you treat failure as your foe, you take every mistake too seriously and will collapse under anxiety! Remember, successful people fail 2 times out of 2, and unsuccessful people fail 3 out of 5.
If you see failure as a friend, you can react positively to it, you can be honest and open about your mistakes, and you can learn from your failures. Seems a shame to waste them, right?
Psalms 37:23-24 (ESV Strong's)
The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way;
though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord upholds his hand.
I have failed in so many ways so often in my life. But I’m a tenacious sod, so I don’t easily give up! Fiona and I worked hard to make a lot of money, were advised to place it with a group called Storm Financial, and we lost the lot in a month.. everything, including our home. While others collapsed, gave up, got divorced or even took their own life, we decided to trust God. It was the most expensive education I have ever known, but now God is restoring our finances almost daily.
If you’ve failed, stop feeling like a victim and start feeling like a victor! Start changing how you see yourself, your failures and God, and realise that failure isn’t final, and a set back is just a set up for a come back! So how should you see failure you’ve suffered, either recently or in the past in the right way?
1. SEE FAILURE AS A MOMENT IN TIME
Failure needs to be but a moment in time, not a monument you bow before for the rest of your life!
People build monuments to failure in their lives time and time again, and they inscribe words on the monument, words like, “I tried it, and it didn’t work. They said it couldn’t be done, and they were right.”
People are like that with Christianity. “Yeah, tried Christianity, didn’t work.” Could have been the wrong church, the wrong decision, but they tried once then gave up. It’s like a grown man refusing to walk because, “I tried that once and fell, so I’m not doing that again!” Anything worthwhile in life take a decision to keep trying until it works, not giving up at the first hurdle. Failure is giving up, building that monument and staying there for the rest of your life paying homage to it!
Other inscriptions on monuments to failure include things like, “I wish I’d never done that.” People spend their whole lives wishing they could redo a decision. Wish I never married him. Wish I never invested in that. You did it, it failed, it’s a moment… move on!
People often wrote on their monuments, “it’s the way I am, I cant change.” People who build great monuments to failure in their life refuse to take the blame for their construction. The insane blame game is alive and well in our society, but God says,
Proverbs 24:16 (ESV Strong's)
for the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.
The righteous fall but rise again because they know failure is a moment, not a monument. It’s a moment in your life, don’t make it a monument. Shake the dust off and move into your destiny!
As Abraham Lincoln wisely stated, “My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.”
2. SEE FAILURE AS INTERNAL, AND NOT FINAL
Many people see failure as something outward, something others will judge them by, but you wouldn’t judge a cake until it comes out of the oven, and neither should you judge anything as a failure until it is ready for public consumption.
Remember Thomas Edison and the 1,000 failed attempts for the light globe. He did not tell the world every time he failed, he told them of his failures once he succeeded. Sure, you fail and you might share it with a friend, but don’t shout it from the rooftops! Most failures should be internal.
Gideon had failures, he was from the lowest clan of the lowest tribe of Israel, threshing grain in secret because he was so fearful of the Amalekites. Yet an angel visited him and said,
Judges 6:12 (ESV Strong's)
“The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.”
God did not see the failures as final, and when Gideon went public he was an awesome success for God!
Consider the record producer who told the Beatles that 4 piece bands were out of vogue. Or the Hollywood producer who scrawled Reject on the movie screenplay for Gone with the Wind; Or how about Mr. Roebuck, who sold his part of the Sears-Roebuck department store firm for $25,000 because he thought the company would never fly. Sears now sells $25,000 worth of goods every sixteen seconds.
Fail, fail quietly, but keep going, because you can tell others about the failure when you succeed!
3. SEE FAILURE AS A TEACHER
Failure is not a stone wall you cannot climb, it’s a stepping stone to greatness. Most Biblical heroes failed at some point, but they didn’t stay there! Psalm 23 talks about walking through the valley of the shadow of death, and failure can feel like that. But hey, keep walking, don’t camp there!
Galatians 6:9 (ESV Strong's)
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
You will reap rewards, including wisdom, and including your God given destiny, if you keep going, using your failures as stepping stones rather than barriers, using your failures as the rungs of a ladder reaching for the stars!
YOU MUST BECOME A SUCCESSFUL FAILURE
A farmer had a mule fall into a pit one day, and because he could not dig him out, he decided to just bury him. So he heaped a shovel full into the hole, and the mule shook it off his back. More and more shovelling and shaking happened, until ultimately the mule could step out of the hole. What was intended to bury him proved to be his salvation.
Failure is only failure when you give up. Keep going, see failure as a friend not an enemy, and you will reap a reward in due time. But above all, be like Rocky was, “I ain’t goin’ down no more!”
Tom Watson, Sr., who founded IBM, had a top junior executive who spent $12 million of the company’s money on an experiment that failed. The executive put his resignation on Watson’s desk, saying, “I’m sure that you want my resignation.” Watson said, “No, I don’t want your resignation. I’ve just spent $12 million educating you; it’s about time you tot back to work.”
Today, some of you here are haunted by failure. Maybe it’s a failed marriage, a failed business, a failed life. I promise you, God can restore. He promises…
Joel 2:25 (ESV Strong's)
I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten,
Today is the day that we change how we see failure, and we pick ourselves up and we start again!
If your life has been significantly affected by failure, it’s time to start failing successfully, and to realise that a set back is just a set up for a come back!