One thing I know how to do well is fail. I don’t say that in self-pity … it’s true. Certain things I excel at, and other things (more than some) I simply just stink at. Examples would be: math, spelling, science, exercising, eating healthy, going to bed on time, controlling my anger and OCD, singing on pitch and keeping a beat.
Some things are OK to not excel at – like keeping a beat and math, but other things are not OK to just let slip by unchecked time after time – like controlling my bad habits. In fact, it’s a daily job to put into submission those things that want nothing more than to “get away” from me and take over my day.
One question I am asked most by friends and people I talk with from this blog is “How do I keep from failing at this?” It’s a great question. One that requires you and I to take an honest look at what we’re doing and not doing in terms of failing that which we should be winning.
How to Fail
Second Samuel 11 is a familiar story: man sees woman, man sleeps with woman, man kills husband of now-pregnant woman, man takes woman as wife. (David and Bathsheba … in case you’re wondering.)
A man after God’s own heart, yet David messed up big time! Most likely leaning on his own merits of awesomeness (winning multiple battles, being King, etc), David decided to take the day off from his kingly duties and just relax. While I’m sure he deserved such a break, it seems that David put aside everything including his faith, good judgement, and guard.
In seeing someone pleasing to his eye, David inquired about Bathsheba, pursued her, and finally engaged in sin with her. So where did David mess up? When did he cross the point of no return?
This one example of embracing failure rather than success should cause us all to stop and evaluate the things we see, inquire, pursue, and engage in that are sinful.
Failure comes when we:
- Become complacent.
- Ignore red flags.
- Refuse to be held accountable.
- Reason and justify everything we do – good and bad.
- Listen to every other voice but God’s.
- Take our eyes off of Jesus and focus on ourselves.
- Insist on living out of our own strengths rather than God’s Grace.
The choice to fail is on us – no one else. We either chose to do what is right or we chose not to. It’s not like Satan is putting a gun to our head and telling us we have no other choice but to do his bidding. We do have a choice. More, we have a Force (Spirit) that is able to do more than we dare to imagine, if / when called upon.
How to Succeed
Turning to another famous story in Genesis 39 (Joseph and Potiphar’s wife), we’re able to see a similar situation, but with a different outcome.
Joseph is a hunk, scripture puts it, and Potiphar’s wife is really attracted to him. Joseph worked in Potiphar’s house and was trusted as a good and honest man. Knowing this, Potiphar’s wife tried to lure the good-boy into doing bad things – namely sleep with her. One day, she cornered Joseph, and instead of sticking around to talk about the situation, he turn and ran out of the room – buck naked.
This story, like David’s story, has much to teach us about succeeded when temptation comes running our way. The question isn’t so much, “What do I do?”, rather, “Will I do what I’m supposed to when the time comes?”
We succeed through trials and temptations when we:
- Stay attentive to what is going on around us.
- Set boundaries, and keep them.
- Refuse to self-justify situations that are potently dangerous.
- Seek power from above.
- Run the opposite direction.
- Are willing to “bare all” and let others hold us accountable.
- Insist on living out of God’s Grace rather than our own strength.
Again, the choice is ours. We have the ability to succeed in life – despite the temptations and trials that bombard our day. No matter how much we think we’re failures, we’re not. The lies of the enemy, and ourselves, must die to the Truth of our Father, “for God gave us a Spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7).
Meditate on these passages below. Hear what God is saying to you. Determine to put into practice these points and His great power, on a daily basis.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. 4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.
13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and He Himself tempts no one.14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
1 Corinthians 10:13
13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10
9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
This is my life verse, by the way.
A Word of Hope
Sometimes, in talking about failures, it’s easy to forget two facts about failures: they do not define us, nor do they guarantee that success is impossible.
Our faith journey is more about the small steps than the larger ones. It’s about winning the small battles in life so that you have the confidence and stamina to fight the bigger ones. Both are possible through Him who enables us to fight and win (Jude 24-25).
God is always faithful … even when we are not. “Failure” is never our identity. “God’s beloved” is – even when we fail.