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"Four Secrets of Success: Failure "
by Tom Goodman
July 19, 2007

When she was with the pop band, the 10,000 Maniacs, Natalie Merchant recorded a song called "Few and Far Between", from an album "Our Time in Eden" (Amazon).  She sang:

"Until you make your peace with yesterday,
You'll never build a future--I swear by what I say."

Our failures don't have to be roadblocks on the road to success.  In God's hands, failures can be pavestones on the road to success.  That's the third of four secrets to success that I've been covering in LeaderLines:


We began this LeaderLines series with the need for laziness.  Not just any laziness, but sacred laziness.  The Bible has a lot to say about diligence and hard work, but the Bible also has a lot to say about rest and trust.  Last week we also looked at another secret of success: Ignorance.  If you believe you are so intelligent that you can already decide something won't work before you try it, then you'll never take the risks necessary for success.

This week, let's look at our failures.  Nothing succeeds like failure.

In Proverbs 24:16, the wise man said, "Though a righteous man falls seven times, he gets back up."  It's not a question of whether we will fail -- it's a question of how we respond to failure.  Those who fail and give up are a dime a dozen.  Those who fail and get up are one in a million.

It's a shame that most of our favorite stories of comebacks come from the world of business and sports, but not from the world of faith.  More than anyone else, those who are in Christ ought to know that failure doesn't have to be final.

In Luke 22, before he went to the cross, Jesus told Simon Peter that he would fail.  Simon would betray his Lord.  He said: "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat.  But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail.  And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers."

In other words, "Simon, you are going to fail, but because I have prayed for you, you will have the strength to get back up again.  And you won't be the only one to fail at life's tests.  So take what you have learned and strengthen your brothers."  And Simon Peter did just that:  The first half of the book of Acts describes the way Peter competently led the early church.  And remember:  Two of the 27 books of the New Testament are letters from Peter, the apostle who failed and who got back up again.

We have got to get to the point where we accept failure as only a verb, never a noun.  In other words, failure is something you do and not something you are.

I love what Maria Snell Nicholson said in her book Heart Held High:
"We are now God's broken things.  But remember how he used broken things.  The broken pitcher of Gideon's army, the broken roof through which the paralyzed man was lowered to be healed, the broken alabaster box which shed its fragrance over the broken body of our Savior."

Are you one of God's broken things?  Have you failed?  In God's hands, broken things can be useful again.

Nothing succeeds like failure.  A young man learned this one day.  He had just been hired by a very successful company, and on the very first week, one day he found himself alone in the elevator with the company's founder and president.  Eager to learn, the young man began to talk with the president and presently asked him, "Sir, could you tell me:  How did you become so successful?"

And the seasoned businessman replied, "By making right decisions, son."

The young man continued to press, "But I guess what I'm really asking is, how did you learn to make the right decisions."

The older man looked at the younger man, smiled knowingly, and said, "By making wrong decisions, son."

Of course, the only reason this man was able to succeed from his failures was because he was willing to see them as pavestones on the road to success and not roadblocks.  What can you learn from your mistakes to make you more successful in life, work, and ministry?


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