Success and failure are ways of measuring our lives. We can talk about succeeding or coming up short in terms of finances, career, relationships, education and even how we live out our Christian faith. Of course, there are different definitions of success or failure but the one thing we all know is that we want to experience a happy and successful life and avoid the things that bring about failure and disappointment. Unfortunately, failure is part of being human and sooner or later, everyone will experience it. There are 3 obstacles that must be broken in order to rise up and overcome the shame and pain of failure.
First, we need to break the identity barrier. Our understanding of who we are and how we define success and failure is largely shaped by the invisible force of culture. Often, we get conflicting messages and values from the many cultural influences around us including family, friends, school, work, entertainment and social media (to name a few). In Singapore, there is a tension between traditional Asian values (which focus on duty to family, clan and community) and modern western values (which emphasise the importance of the individual). Knowing who we are at the core and what success really means is an issue of life that must get settled. Come to terms with who you are.
Moses was a man with an identity crisis. When he met God at the burning bush he had spent his first 40 years with several identities including: the adopted son of a Hebrew slave, an Egyptian prince, a defender fighting for his people and then a fugitive on the run. The next 40 years he was shepherd in the desert and a husband, father and son-in-law who was trying to cope with his past. After hearing God’s call to return to Egypt, Moses responded with a question: “Who am I?” (Exodus 3:11). He asked the identity question and God began the good work of helping Moses to become the person he was originally created to be! Have you settled the identity question?
Second, we must break through the barrier of personal failure. On the night when Jesus was betrayed and arrested, Matthew 26:56 records that “all the disciples forsook Him and fled.” Following this, Peter and the other disciples were feeling the emotional pain of failure in the moment of testing and the shame and pain of that memory left them stuck. They were hopeless failures until Jesus returned to them alive from the dead! Read the stories and notice that Jesus never mentioned their failure to any of them, including Peter. Instead, He came to them, ate with them, showed them that He was alive and that He was not finished with them! He moved them out of failure and into victory.
Winston Churchill once said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” The disciples found that courage through a direct encounter with Jesus and the discovery that He was not going to let their past mistakes determine their future. Everyone fails from time to time. The important thing is to bring your failures and weaknesses to Him.
Finally, breaking the failure barrier involves overcoming a theological obstacle. The Apostle Paul spent his early life excelling at his studies and practising the disciplined life of a religious scholar and Pharisee. He was a serious practitioner and performer who strove in every endeavour, including his persecution of Christians. Paul believed that gaining God’s approval and acceptance was something that he needed to achieve through his personal efforts. Every culture and religion in the world follows this approach except the Christian faith. For believers in Jesus, we break the barrier of sin, weakness and failure not by achieving but rather by simply receiving God’s gracious gift of the finished work of Christ.
Jesus broke the ultimate failure barrier when He conquered sin, death and the devil. Have you received this most wonderful gift of salvation, forgiveness and new life in Christ? Your new identity, your recovery from personal failure and your new relationship with God is waiting for you. Quit trying to achieve and simply receive.
Resting in His success,