How many have ever failed at something in your life? I know I have – over and over. We all do.
Abraham Lincoln is an example of failure.
- His first business venture was a failure
- He lost the election the first time he became a candidate for the State Legislature
- In his battle with Douglas for a seat in the Senate, he gained the majority of the popular vote, but lost the election due to the way the vote was apportioned at that time
- Yet he took it all in good humor with a determination to do right and with charity toward those who opposed him
- He finally won the presidency
Another famous example is that of Demosthenes, who is known as one of the greatest of the ancient Greek orators.
- His first speech was greeted with derisive laughter
- His weak lungs, shrill voice and inability to pronounce the letter “r” made him difficult to understand
- Some of his friends reproved him for his timidity and cowardice and suggested ways that he might overcome his defects
- He spoke with pebbles in his mouth
- He practiced on high mountains and by the oceans
- He practiced incessantly
- Eventually he became one of the greatest orators in Greek culture
- “Never was the Greek language carried to a higher degree of perfection. Never has been exceeded before or since in power of persuasion, in penetrating reasoning…”
Yet, without his initial failure and the guidance of friends, he might not have been spurred into taking the path of achievement.
Mark, in the Bible, failed over and over.
Many scholars believe that it is possible that it was Mark who fled from the soldiers who arrested Jesus. (Mark 14:51-52).
Mark was trained by Paul, Peter and others. (Acts 12:25-31)
Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem and decided to take John Mark with them.
It was a season of great harvest on the church and Mark was in the middle of it. (Acts 13:2-5).
When the pressure started to build – Mark quit. (Acts 13:13).
I John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (NKJ)
It is interesting, even though Paul didn’t want him around – He eventually was willing to forgive and forget his past.
Look at what Paul says at the end of his ministry…
2 Tim 4:11 Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry. (NKJ)
When opportunities are lost – are they lost forever?
The same opportunity may never be available again. But that does not mean other opportunities, even greater ones – may not come later on in life.
Mark followed Barnabas and became the kind of faithful assistant and minister he had failed to be on the first missionary trip.
Ten years later – Paul commends Mark to the Colossian church and included him among the people who had been a comfort to him.
Colossians 4:10-11 Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, with Mark the cousin of Barnabas (about whom you received instructions: if he comes to you, welcome him),
and Jesus who is called Justus. These are my only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are of the circumcision; they have proved to be a comfort to me. (NKJ)
Paul was willing to forget his first impressions about John Mark. He was willing to forgive the past as well as forget it.
Paul was nearing the end of his life. In his final instructions – he asked Timothy to bring Mark with him.
Think what that must have meant to Mark. Picture how he must of felt at that time.
Paul took special pains to point out that Mark had proved himself and was now useful.
This becomes even more significant when we read the words in 2 Timothy 4:10…
2 Timothy 4:10 for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica-- Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia. (NKJ)
Joshua Becker gives us an encouraging Guide To Overcoming Failure…
Despite the universality of failure, our world goes to great lengths to hide it. People always have and people always will. Our default position too often is to downplay our weaknesses, but those who find growth in failure begin by simply admitting its existence in their lives.
And because we know all experience it, we find comfort knowing we are not alone in it.
Our initial tendency is often to or uncontrollable, external factors. After all, to admit defeat is to admit defeat. But rarely are the failures in our lives entirely the responsibility of someone else. And until we take personal responsibility in some capacity, we can never move on to the next step.
Socrates once said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” This holds true in both success and failure. When failure occurs, which it always will, the wisest of us journey inward to determine the cause and intentional steps we can take to learn from the experience. And in time, we learn to champion humility.
One of the most hope-filled moments in life is when we find the courage to let go of what we cannot change.
We live in a society passionately committed to avoiding pain. But there is to be found in discomfort. While I would never encourage anybody to intentionally seek pain through failure, it will arise. And when it does, it will be okay. In fact, it will teach us things we could never learn elsewhere: patience and perseverance for example.
Nobody successfully navigates life alone. When the hope inside us begins to fade, we look for it in others. We turn to family. If family is not available, we turn to friends. And if friends are not available, we look for intentional communities around us to find support.
It may not happen right away—some failures take longer to process than others. But eventually, we find opportunity to share our story. When we do, we share it with honesty and humility. Through it, we discover opportunity to , strength, and encouragement to others. We find influence for good. And we begin to make sense of our failings.
Failure is never the end. It is instead, a necessary part of the journey. May we keep hope alive. And find redemption through it.