Overcoming Failure – ACJC morning devotion

I’m sure many of you are familiar with memes… such as this one.
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This morning, I would like to address the issue of failure. All of us have experienced this in some form before: whether in our term exams, perhaps during our CCA competitions, it could even be in the form of friendships or dating relationships. Sometimes, the apparent failure could take the form of prior high expectations. I remember it was during my university days, after the release of one of our term exam results, when I spotted a good friend of mine. It looked like she was looking at her results slip and it seemed to me that she was rather glum. I wanted to encourage her, so I went up to her and asked, “Didn’t do too well huh?” “Yeah”, she replied. I took a glance at her results and all I saw were As and a couple of Bs. I was like, “seriously?” I guess her definition of failure and mine were vastly different. 

Whether it’s real failure or perceived failure, you feel awful. What can we learn from failure and how can we overcome the disappointment of failure? Inventor Charles Kettering lists 3 things to learn from failure:

  1. Honestly face defeat; never fake success

As a young child, my parents sent me to art classes one time. And you know my graded art pieces would sometimes magically go up a grade or two between the moment it left my teacher’s hands till it reached my parents’ hands… yah, I would add a stroke and transform a B- to a B+ for example. I repent of that; Jesus forgives me. Don’t do that; never do that. 

  1. Exploit the failure; don’t waste it. Learn all you can from it; every bitter experience can teach us something. (even what not to do)

When your teachers or tutors suggest changes to your study methods or techniques, do listen to their counsel. When your parents give you advice, don’t shrug them off as being out of touch.

  1. Never use failure as an excuse for not trying again.

I’ll add a fourth point. Never let failure define you. You may fail, fail multiple times, even fail spectacularly. But you are not a failure. So here’s the encouragement. The Bible is full of people who failed; the very same ones God would use in mighty and marvelous ways. Failures were often God’s means to humble His people and teach them trust in God.

One such person went by the name of Simon Peter. Peter was a fisherman, an ordinary blue collar worker. Yet he was the first of Jesus’ twelve disciples. On every New Testament list of Jesus’ twelve apostles, his name comes up first. He was the de facto leader of the bunch. He was vocal, sometimes brash, speaking before his mind could process his thoughts. But he was the first to recognize Jesus as the Messiah and he even walked on water, as recorded in the gospel of Matthew. However, at the greatest test of Peter’s commitment to Jesus, he failed. 

The scene was the trial of Jesus before He was sentenced to be crucified. And at that trial, Peter was numbered amongst the crowd. When Peter was recognized as a follower of Jesus, he denied having anything to do with Him – ostensibly fearing for his own life. Three times he denied his Master. Epic fail! And Peter felt such a sense of failure at his denial of his Master that even after the resurrection of Jesus, Peter did not consider himself worthy of continuing Jesus’ mission – that of telling the world about Jesus. Instead, Peter went back to his old profession, he went back fishing. Peter gave up. But Jesus did not give up on Peter. Jesus would forgive Peter and restore him to ministry. The Apostle Peter would be one of the key leaders of the early church that brought about a worldwide revolution. Not bad for someone who failed so spectacularly.  

The life of Peter is very personal to me. I believe I have shared in a previous devotion how my first job was a dream job (what I anticipated doing for the rest of my life) and how I was asked to leave the ministry just two years into it. I was devastated. And for the next year and a half, I wrestled with self-doubt. I wondered if because of my failure, would God could ever use me again. I remember attending my church’s men’s retreat one time and in the first session, there were several testimonies from the men in my church sharing their own failures and how God restored them. And I so much wished that was God’s message for me. During the time of ministry, I prayed, “God, if this is for me, please send a pastor to pray for me.” And pastors went around the room praying for various ones but no pastor came to pray for me. When the session was over, I went back to my room, but I would not let God go.

“Speak Lord, speak to me.” And then, after a while, in the silence of the room, the voice of the Lord spoke very clearly to me. Two words. Remember Peter. And that was it. I knew what God was saying: just like Peter failed and was restored, so I had failed and God was restoring me. From the Father heart of God, I felt a wave of forgiveness and restoration washing over me. Setting me free. From guilt. From condemnation. From my past failure and sin. He was not done with me. He had plans for me. God forgave me, restored me and used me; from that forth till now.

Dear friends, how are you this morning? For the J2s, perhaps some of you are feeling down because of your PW results. If any of you are facing discouragement due to whatever failures you have, I want to encourage you; that in God, failure is not permanent, it is not lasting, it does not define you. Look to Him. Seek Him. Trust in Him. You have a great destiny in God!
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[PRAY]: God of the 2nd chance, 3rd chance, the countless chances, You are good and You have good plans for us. I pray for any of my friends here this morning who may feel like they have blown it; that You would comfort and encourage them. Help us to view setbacks as temporary. Strengthen us all for the journey ahead. Grant us Your grace to press on. In Jesus name, we pray, amen. 

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