Sunday, July 19, 2009

Failure (Part 1)

 Failure: A New Perspective

Intro.: I thought that Failure would be easy to talk about.

  1. But as soon as I began to gather material, I found myself overwhelmed. You see there are plenty of examples of failure in the scriptures.
  2. Our first example of failure is found in the opening chapters of Genesis – Adam and Eve disobeying God and eating from “the tree of knowledge of good and evil”.
  3. In fact there is hardly a character in scripture – both Godly men and otherwise – who failed. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. Moses, the prophets, the apostles and early disciples.
  4. If we look at the central figure of OT history, David, we see a failure. And if we walked with the disciples in the first century, they might be tempted to remind you that Jesus' life was a failure as well.
  5. But in the end they would remind you of Proverbs 24:16


Read: “for the righteous fall seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.”


T.S. In the next few minutes, I want to look at the lives of three failures that we find in scripture.


  1. The first failure I want to look at is David
    1. Most of us would look at David and say how he was a failure.
    2. Here was a poor shepherd's son – destined to be a shepherd himself. But God sought him out, not to be a preacher, not to be a godly father, not to merely an ambassador to his broken world. God sought him out to be Israel's king.
    3. Saul had truly failed as a King – he had abused is privilege. God had appointed him the political leader of Israel – but he took a step too fare and acted as their spiritual leader as well. He had offered a sacrifice that only Priests were allowed to offer. He had over stepped his authority – and he was to be replaced. By a shepherd.
    4. David was to be God's man. He would rule Israel – and why would anyone saw he was a failure.
    5. But, though no one knew, David knew. David knew that Bathsheba was married. David knew that it was wrong to look at this woman – she was not available.
    6. But that did not stop him

(Appl.) Temptation comes in at least two forms. Sometimes it is there, right in front of our face. We givn in without thinking – driving too fast, anger that seems to comes from nowhere. But there are also temptations that seem to just hang there in front of us. “Take me, take me.” And sometimes we do. That is what David did.

    1. David saw Bathsheba. He knew that he should not – but he did. And he suffered for it. When he was confronted with his son by Nathan all he could say was “I am the man”
    2. David had failed. But he was willing to confess his failings.

(Ill.)  Every so often I pick up the readings from the Moravian Church. It is the same readings that John Wesley used when the leader of the Moravian Church in the 1700's first show him the way to Christ. Yesterday's reading (Saturday, July 11, 2009) very quickly hit home when I read it. Yesterday's  (July 11, 2009) reading began with a quote from Deuteronomy 5:21:

‘And you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. And you shall not desire your neighbor’s house, his field, or his male servant, or his female servant, his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.’

    It was followed by words from the hymn “What A Friend We Have In Jesus”

Have we trials and temptations?

Is there trouble anywhere?

We should never be discouraged;

take it to the Lord in prayer.

Can we find a friend so faithful

who will all our sorrows share?

Jesus knows our every weakness;

take it to the Lord in prayer.

     Next came Jesus' words from Matthew 5:28:

              But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

     This was followed by the third verse of “What A Friend We Have In Jesus”

Are we weak and heavy laden,

cumbered with a load of care?

Precious Savior, still our refuge;

take it to the Lord in prayer.

Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?

Take it to the Lord in prayer!

In his arms he'll take and shield thee;

thou wilt find a solace there.

      The reading ended with a prayer:

Precious Savior: forgive us when we yield to the temptations that surround us. You are our comfort, refuge, and source of strength because you have defeated death, which comes with our sin. We thank you for hearing us as we cry out to you from our weakness. We praise you Lord, our crucified, risen, an ascended redeemer. Amen.


    1. The songs may have changed, the prayers may have changed, but these were the same words that Jesus read as he used the Moravian Daily Texts.
    2. Why are they there – because temptation is common to all eras. It was not unique to David, it is not unique to us. But temptation must be addressed by each generation. The Moravians knew it, God knew it, and David knew it.
    3. And we, too, must learn to avoid temptation as we live our lives.
    4. Temptation leads to failure – but David was not a failure. Why? Because he confessed his sin and rebuilt the faith he had in God.

(Appl.) Failing does not make us a failure. It means we failed – but we, like David, will need to rebuild our lives so we can serve God.

  1. The second failure that I want to look at is Jesus.
    1. On that Friday as Jesus hung on the cross, I expect most of Jesus' followers thought he was a failure. They had just wasted three years of their lives following a has been, a no body.
    2. These friends hid, they denied Jesus, some stood around the cross but in no way claimed that they were connected with Jesus. As some have termed it, it was a Black Friday.
    3. Saturday would have been no better – they had lost their friend, their leader, the one who had showed them a whole new way to live. He was gone.
    4. But on Sunday, word began to arrive. First from the women, then from a few of the other disciples. The tomb was empty, some had spoken to an angel, others had met Jesus along side the road.
    5. Forty days later, they were there when Jesus did go home to be with the Father. Ten days later they experience the wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit.
    6. What was different? What had changed? Let me suggest one answer – On Friday and Saturday they looked at the crucifixion as men. Beginning that first Easter Sunday they began to see what happened on the cross as God saw it.

(Appl.) Failure is too often seen from our human perspective – not from God's perspective. When we use a human perspective, we get caught up in our feelings, in our doubts, in our hopes.  As we seek to see our failings from God's perspective, we find that we can set those things aside for the moment and focus on God's larger perspective.

    1. As the disciples spent time with Jesus after the resurrection, they were able to see the cross from God's perspective, rather than their own. It left an unexpected transformation in their lives. As it will in ours.

Conclusion: We began our discussion a short while ago looking at Proverbs 24:16, “for the righteous fall seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.”

Failure is not the end of our lives – rather it can be the beginning of God's grace in our lives and for those around us. We like David, we like Jesus and His disciples, will see failure as an opportunity for God to work anew in our lives.


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