Faith’s Ragged Edge: Faith Over Failure

Do you mark your life more by failure than by faith?

Many of us do.

But if you look at the Bible, every person who ever did anything significant for God had no prior success. In fact, every one of them had a terrible resume.

  • Moses was murderer and had a studder.
  • David was an adultress murderer.
  • Peter (best friend of Jesus) denied Jesus three times on the day he was killed. (Then Jesus used him to preach the first ever message – and over 3,000 people were saved!)

God is at his best when He can take people who don’t have it all together and use them for His glory

God is a God of second chances! He is faithful and just to forgive. He doesn’t hold our wrongs against us.

Let’s look at Paul as an example. He wrote over ⅔ of the New Testament, but he was the least likely of people to be called to do so…

Before he was known as Paul, he was called Saul, and he was one of the biggest “haters” of Christianity. In fact, he was murdering and persecuting the church. But then God did something amazing…

Saul’s Conversion

9 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” (Acts 9:1-6)

After his encounter with God, Paul way changed, and instead of persecuting the church, he became an instrument for delivering God’s message of love and hope.

Talk about a miracle!

Paul wrote about this transformation to Timothy:

13 Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. (1 Timothy 13-16 emphasis added)

No matter how many times you have failed, God can use you. You are a work in progress. We are ALL works in progress. There isn’t a single one of us who has arrived. We are all flesh.

Let’s apply this thinking not only to our own lives, but to the lives of those around us. As we see that relative who keeps failing (in our eyes), or that spouse who isn’t living up to what we expected, or that co-worker whose every action drives us crazy — let us remember that we are all flesh, and that God is working behind the scenes to use our failures mistakes, and shortcomings to prepare us in some way.

That’s living with faith.

Faith goes beyond what you see people doing, and moves you to say “I can’t wait to see what God is going to do in their lives.”  or asking “How is God going to use this situation for the good of others?”

Remember, God doesn’t have as long of a memory as we do. He is quick to forgive (quicker than we are as humans!).

4 Ways to Quit Living in the Past

1. Say goodbye to yesterdays (and don’t try to fix others’ yesterdays either).

Looking in the rear view mirror will never help us move forward – it’s impossible when the past is outweighing our plans for the future. Think about it like this: you can’t unscramble eggs. But you can move forward and know that God has forgiven your mistakes.

13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Phillipians 3:13-14)

2. Redefine future failures.

You’re going to fail again, but you can’t let it stop you from continuing your faith walk. If we have the attitude of “well, I failed again, now nobody wants me” or “I failed again, I might as well quit” then we’ll constantly hold ourselves back. God would much rather see us stumble and fall, than to quit all together.

3. Find the benefit in every negative experience.

You can take something from everything. Whether it’s a lesson learned, an experience that prepares you for something bigger, or strength gained from hard times. (In fact, during hard times we learn more than any other time.)

8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. (2 Corinthians 8-9, 17)

This verse was written by Paul – who during his lifetime was imprisoned, beaten, persecuted in every way, and yet he said his troubles were “light and momentary.” Talk about having a positive attitude and keeping an eye on the prize!

We have to remember something: God never expected perfection. He’s looking for us to have faith to find the good in the struggles and mistakes. He’s looking for us to keep a positive attitude with the world crashes in around us. He’s still working on us, and rebuilding from the ashes is more powerful to him because it shines his light and love in a broken world.

Getting a Do-Over

In the game of golf, every stroke is counted towards your score. When you go out of bounds, you get extra “penalty” strokes. When you’re done golfing, you tally us each stroke, each penalty stroke, and any time you tried to hit the ball but missed. But that’s only when you’re playing within a sanctioned game where the tough USGA rules apply (US Golf Association).

It’s rough out there, and when you those strokes begin adding up, it can be a downward spiral towards a really tough day on the course.

Wouldn’t it be nice if some of those bad hits didn’t count? If that botched tee shot vanished from your score card? If you’d never went out of bounds?

That’s what life is like when God keeps tabs. He looks the other way when we hit a bad shot, when we go out of bounds, when we 4 putt.

In non-sanctioned golf games, this is called a “mulligan.” It’s essentially a “do-over” that those you’re playing with a nice enough to grant you. It doesn’t happen during professional tournaments, but it does happen when you’re amongst friends.

And that’s what God is: our friend.

He’s not counting every stroke. He just wants you to learn from those bad hits and he’s glad you’re out there playing, practicing, trying to improve. Not quitting.

God has a pocket full of mulligans that he’s just waiting to give out.

God uses broken people to illustrate this in the Bible.

Moses. David. Peter. Paul.

15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16)

It’s not the perfect that God uses. It’s the willing.