Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Strength in Failure

Nothing shakes us quite as much as failure. If we fail to be approved by our boss, if we fail to meet our financial obligations, if we fail to be faithful to our family, or if we fail to live up to what we know is good and right, it shakes us to the core of our being.
Failure can result from poor judgment or poor planning. If we fail a test in school, we may simply not have chosen to allocate enough time for study. Failure can reveal sin in our lives too. For example, we may not be able to meet our financial obligations because material things have become our god. The idolatry of materialism can lead us to make purchases of things that we cannot afford.
No matter why we fail, however, it can leave us feeling inadequate, weak, ashamed and worthless. Failure exposes us. So how can we recover? The better question is, “How does God want us to recover?”
The world has its own techniques for dealing with failure. Denial of failure and blaming others for it are the ways we tend to want to handle it.
We can deny that we are sinning. We can deny our failure by redefining sin. We can think it is o.k. to lie if no one is getting significantly hurt. We can say it is o.k. to sleep with another woman as long as your wife does not find out. Homosexuality is justified today by the rational that you are “born with it.”
We can shift the blame for our sin and failure. I can blame my boss for being unfair and unreasonable when he fired me for being chronically late to work. Bankruptcy can be blamed on the unreasonable interest rates charged by credit card companies.
God has a different way of dealing with failure. In His grace and mercy, God takes action in behalf of the failure so that the one who fails may at once be honest about his failure, take personal ownership of his failure, and yet not be left hopeless and in despair over his failure.
This is the very essence of the good news of Christ. Really the gospel is good news to failures. Christ died to pay the consequences for our failure of sin and rebellion against God. Spiritual death and separation from God in hell for all eternity are the consequences of our failure of sin. When we believe in Christ our failure of sin is completely forgiven; we are made righteous in God’s sight; and we are given eternal life with Him. Could there be anything greater to lift the failure from despair?
When we believe, He transforms our hearts too so that not only are the spiritual consequences of our failure removed from us, but we are given a heart that has the desire and ability to succeed in obeying God (Phil. 2:13). Though we have this new heart, we can still fail to obey God, and we do fail at times. However, even the failures of sin that we will make as believers in Christ are already forgiven through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.
The apostle Paul had a very clear way for believers to deal with failure in Philippians 3:12-16. He admitted that he failed: “I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet (perfect love for and obedience to Christ).”
He did not dwell on his failures, however. In fact, he committed himself to forgetting them: “but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind.”
Finally, he simply re-fixed his eyes on the goal of Christlikeness and moved on toward it: “Reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
Because of Christ, no believer is ever a failure, rather, he simply fails. The failures that are sins in our lives are forgiven in Christ (Phil. 3:9), every believer is being matured by the work of the Holy Spirit throughout his life (Phil. 1:6; 2:13; 3:15) and every believer has a destiny of perfection (Phil. 1:6; 3:20, 21).
For these reasons, we can be unshaken by failure. For these reasons, we can get right back up and start pursuing Christ and His will immediately after failure. Praise God for his provision for our failure!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Deception or Reality: What's in Your Mind?

My wife and I were told shortly after the birth of our first child that you could not get pregnant if you were breast-feeding. We have two boys that are 13 months apart that proves that theory wrong! We are very excited that God blessed us with 2 boys that are 13 months apart. They are the best of friends and bring us great joy. However, we learned from that experience not to believe everything we hear.

As human beings, we tend to adopt beliefs based on the messages we hear, especially if we hear the same message a good deal and even more so if we don’t hear anything that contradicts a message. This is as true for Christians as it is for those who do not believe in Jesus Christ.

While we need to be exposed to our culture’s thinking to some degree (John 17:15), listening primarily to secular music, news, movies, and TV shows can cause believers to begin to think like our culture-that what we see, what we feel, and what we desire are the only realities of life. We will believe that decisions and goals and priorities must be based on our sensory perceptions and our inward urgings.

Eternal and unseen realities will fade from our thinking when we take in large doses of secular media and secular thinking and take in little of God's word (Proverbs 14:7; I Cor. 15:33). Christ will begin to seem archaic and irrelevant and unexciting, even though He is the very opposite of those adjectives (John 7:38; 10:10).

While our culture may acknowledge a spiritual realm, it does NOT acknowledge an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-wise God that is perfect in justice and perfect in love. It does not acknowledge that He is sovereign over all and that He is the rightful king of our lives.

Our culture does not acknowledge that Truth lies outside ourselves (John 17:17), that it is eternal (Matthew 24:35), that it is found in Jesus Christ (John 14:6) and that we are inescapably accountable to it (II Corinthians 5:10). Truth must be our constant pursuit and focus if our hearts are not to be swallowed by a sea of deception.

It is important that we recognize that not all that our culture espouses is false. There are some good values in our culture. For example, loving your children is an espoused value in our culture, and it is a good value. Education is valued in our culture and developing the mind is a good thing. Caring for the poor is often touted in our culture and such a concern is right.

We must be careful not to throw out what is good in our culture just because it is part of our culture. Part of the reason we want to saturate our minds with God's truth is so that we can discern what is good and what is not good in our culture. Ultimately, we must saturate our minds with God’s word if we are to see reality and live lives that are aligned with reality. Our minds must be saturated with truth so that we can reveal the glory of Christ and so that we can experience the joy and freedom that are only found when our thinking aligns with God's word(John 8:31, 32).