Wednesday, August 9, 2017

“Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” ― Denis Waitley

                      There are many, many things that I used to be able to do that I will never be able to do again.  Because of that, I could spend all of my time regretting and complaining about what seem like multiple failures in my life, or I can just acknowledge that failure is a part of life and growth.   We must never be afraid of failure.  Missionaries above all others should know that failure is just part of our operational plan.  The psychologist, William Glasser, said that we need to view failure as just not having success yet—which is a good way of looking at it.  Thomas Edison failed thousands of times before he found the filament that made light bulbs a reality—but he kept going and found it.  Authentic Christians fail all the time, but they never allow their lives to be defined by failure.  No.  Their lives are defined by the way they respond to and rise above every failure—and there will be many.  You cannot attempt to live a life in imitation of Christ without failing, often.  He was perfect, we are not.  Society today is overly obsessed with success and sees failure as a horrible thing, but that is a very narrow and distorted view.  We won’t know how many things the first person to make fire tried before he or she succeeded, but we can be very, very thankful that he or she didn’t quit.  
                            I’ve been fired from jobs more than once, sometimes quietly and even once that made the local news, but every time has made me a better person and steered me to even greater successes.  When we lived in Los Angeles in the 1970’s, I was once partners with some attorneys and other men who had mob contacts and connections to a big Las Vegas casino.  Our company (Mobile Medical Industries) was doing really well, and I was making more money than I ever had in my life (or ever since) almost a half a million dollars a year.  One day, a week before Christmas, they fired me, kicked me off the board of directors and stole all the money that I had invested in the company and told me in no uncertain terms that there was nothing I could do if I wanted my family to stay alive.  I felt horrible that day, and I thought my life was over, and I felt I had failed my wife and family and everyone who had ever believed in me.  So, six months later, as soon as Karen finished her teaching contract, we moved from Los Angeles to Arkansas to begin a new life.  Just two months after beginning our life in Fayetteville, all of my former partners were convicted by the federal government of serious fraud and served twelve year terms in Leavenworth and the attorneys were disbarred forever.  Because they had fired me and stolen all my money, the government attorneys knew that I wasn’t one of them.  I didn’t even have to testify against them and other than asking me some questions, the U.S. Attorney let me go back to work on my PhD in Literature at the University of Arkansas.  Failure saved me.  
                        I failed again, twenty years later, in a huge and public way when I went bankrupt and lost my job as one of the pastors of a very, very large church.  However, that failure led to me becoming an unpaid evangelist (my choice) and then an unpaid missionary (again, my choice) which was part of God’s plan and not mine (His choice).  Now, almost twenty years later, I can proudly affirm that I have never been happier with who I am and what I am and what I am doing to serve Christ through serving others.  I have almost nothing in the way of worldly goods, but that has hardly been defined by anyone as a failure of mine.  God had faith in me and carried me through what many others saw as a huge and abject failure—but not God.  I have known prisoners serving life sentences tell me that their incarceration was the best thing that could have ever happened to them because they met Jesus and are now living their lives for Him and ministering to the other inmates.  A quadriplegic once told me that the accident that left her so helpless was a gift from God because she had rejected Him and now embraced Him and ministered through her pain and disability to others like her.  When we do not give children the opportunity to fail, we take away one of God’s gifts—learning the euphoria of rising again, trying again, and making our ultimate success a meaningful one.  It would not surprise me to learn that each of you reading this can remember a time when a failure led you to a new and brighter future.  When Jesus called His disciples, He knew what lay ahead for them.  After Pentecost, they knew as well, but worked as hard as they could for as long as they could knowing they would be killed for their efforts but understanding that it was worth it.  If you are not willing to fail, you will never be able to grow, succeed, and become a better person than you ever could have been otherwise.   Christ calls you to availability and obedience— not to success.  The Joel Osteen's and Reverend Ike's of this world will just never understand—they don’t get it.  It is not success that shows God has blessed you.  It is you, on your knees, giving Christ all you have to give—that blesses you.  Give Him your best knowing that failure is just a part of the process.  Try, fail.  Try, fail.  Never stop trying—God will give you what you need and bless you in the process.

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