Making the Most of Failure
by Graham Cooke
What we think about God is the single, most important, thing in the world. How we perceive Him will dictate how we live our life. How we see ourselves in relation to Him will orchestrate all that we are and do in this world.
We live in a success driven world. So, in particular, seeing any failure in relation to the heart of God is absolutely vital. God is love and the nature of that love must be the driving force behind everything that we do or attempt.
God is not human. He is the sum of everything. He is not just the Creator of the world. He is the Creator of all things, including love. He does all things well, including love. His standard for everything is excellence. The benchmark for success in the Kingdom of God is so high no one can reach it without His input. And yet He chooses mostly failures to represent Him.
‘For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of this world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, so that no flesh should glory in Hs presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God – and righteousness and sanctification and redemption – that, as it is written ‘He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.’
(1 Cor 1:26-31. NKJV)
So it’s official. God loves a failure!
He did not want the beauty of His nature and the glory of His kingdom solely to be represented by the great, the good and the clever. He did not want a Who’s Who of humanity to portray His own magnificence.
He does not need to be seen in the right places with the right people. Jesus was criticized viciously for hanging out with the very people that society detested. He chose to become despised and rejected. God does not have an image problem.
He chose people who had a history of failure. He picked people who had a history of not learning and who repeated their mistakes continuously.
God chooses people who were despised as being stupid, by people who should know better. He accepted people who would require lots of training just to be normal, let alone successful.
He chose them because He wanted to love them in such a way that they would always be safe and whole … whether they were successful or not.
He chose them so that His love for them could heal them of their foolishness. He has a wonderful capacity to enjoy us in our weaknesses. He has a plan to make us successful through failure.
We can fail successfully or we can fail badly.
To fail successfully we need to know who we are in Jesus.
We are in Christ and He is in us. The Father has a plan for our personality as much as He has a design for changing our character. To make us more like himself. A big part of that plan therefore is to love us in exactly the same way that He loves Jesus. We are not loved when we succeed in Christ. We are loved fully because we are in Him. God loved us powerfully when we were lost in sin.
We fail successfully when we realize that our mistakes are already covered. No matter how well or badly our life is going we learn to live under the smile of God. Know that in the love of God we cannot fail, we can only make mistakes and every mistake has already been covered by the cross.
Where were you when Jesus died? You had no existence. All our sins and mistakes were in the future, and they were covered by that one incredible act of sacrificial love. All our past, present and future sins and mistakes have already been covered. Our future has been secured in the love of God. Shame is not on God’s agenda for us. He allows us the wonder and joy of repentance. Literally “to think again”, to think differently, and to become what we think about.
We fail successfully when we discover that God wants us to love the learning that exists in every situation. All forms of accountability are about loving the learning that is present in every circumstance. That learning produces the fruit of self control which in turn guarantees lasting change.
God knows that when we do things for the first time we learn how not to do it. Loving the learning in every situation enables us to become wise and also beloved. Wise because we learn from our mistakes and grow. Beloved, because our sense of acceptance comes from being in Christ and not from our ability or performance. Therefore, if we fail at something we can still grow in the love of God. The joy of repentance and the beauty of God’s unchanging nature guarantees forgiveness and acceptance.
We fail successfully when we realize that God is not even remotely embarrassed by our weaknesses. He defends us to all our detractors. He is not ashamed to call us brethren. We are in Christ and cannot be condemned (Romans 8). The One who loves us the best, knows us the best. God does not get disillusioned with us, because He had no illusions in the first place!
We fail successfully when we allow ourselves to be comforted. Our mentor is the Holy Spirit who helps us to laugh at ourselves. He is the Comforter sent to lead us into all truth. When we are embarrassed at the truth of our current mindset or behavior He comforts us so that we are not paranoid about screwing up. Then He helps us with the learning. Every test is repeatable. We cannot fail the tests of God because we get to take them again … and again … and again, until we pass. Even in the consequences of our action the love of God reaches out to cover, protect and nurture us in our wounded-ness.
The biggest thing we get to learn is that God loves me for me! Not for what I can do. God’s love helps us to relax about ourselves. The grace of God is given to us to enable us to feel loved when we mess up. God’s grace enables us to feel good about God and therefore to have mercy on ourselves and others. We are a work in progress. No-one condemns the artist of an unfinished picture. Instead we look at what is there and we picture what it could become. We wonder, we imagine, and we are excited by the possibilities.
In my weakness I am lovely to God. It’s the sheer beauty of God that sets me free to be loved outrageously. He allows us to fail when He could have prevented it … maybe because He wants us to see how much we are loved when we can’t do anything right. He gives us freedom to fail and His intention is to show us that we are still His beloved. His love for us is not based on how well we do. We desire excellence because He is excellent. No wonder then that David said, “This one thing I ask … that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life. To behold the beauty of the Lord and to (think about Him and all that He is) meditate in His temple” (Psalm 27:4)
In failure we can understand how lovely we are to the Lord. That is failing successfully.
We fail badly when we imagine that failure should not be part of our inheritance. When we believe that failure is not a part of God’s plan. Does God cause us to fail? No. Does He allows us to fail? Obviously. Does He use our failure to improve our relationship with Him? Everything God does is relational. Every circumstance can be turned around so that we discover the height, depth, length and breadth of God’s love.
When we hit the heights God’s love is present. When we hit the depths of despair, sin and ugliness, His love covers everything we hate about ourselves. In the pit of depression God’s loving kindness builds a stairway to recovery. No pit is so deep He is not deeper still. His love is high enough to lift us above everything, deep enough to rescue anyone from anything, long enough to last for eternity and broad enough to cover every failure.
We fail badly when we choose not to look into the face of Jesus. In failure, God always moves closer to us. People distance themselves from failure and failures. Not so God. His heart beats for us. He has given us a comforter so that we can feel his heartbeat. In recent times I have gone through some of the most painful things in my life, but I have discovered the Comforter afresh.
My current failures do not haunt me because the Holy Spirit has exorcised the ghost of shame and dishonor. I am comforted. I am learning. I am the beloved of God. My name is Graham and I am a man greatly beloved of God.
He does hide from us occasionally, but that is to draw us into His realm. He manifests Himself to us when He invades our time-space world. When He hides it is to teach us wisdom by revelation. God’s hiddenness is always about us discovering deep truth. (For further information see ‘Hiddenness and Manifestation’ from the Being with God series.)
Failure is not so much falling down as refusing to get up once we have fallen. We fail badly when we imagine that God is annoyed by our failings and will punish us or make us pay for messing up.
In the process of discipling us God has budgeted for our failure. Our failure cannot diminish the Kingdom therefore it cannot diminish us. In failure the Father budgets to be to us exactly what we need at that precise moment. I Am is with us. Intentional love is present and it is more lavish than we can imagine. His love can be so extravagant that it picks us up and makes us want to try again.
God’s glory is not enhanced by our success nor can it be tarnished by our failure. God is simply above all of that. What if most of God’s glory is derived from people who are astonished and amazed to be loved so fully in the face of their own inabilities and weaknesses? What if it is part of our own glory in the Lord for us to be loved so wonderfully when we are at our most brainless and ignorant?
My own failures are many. My capacity for weakness on days seems undiminished. I am an embarrassment to myself and yet I am loved so wonderfully. There is perhaps one difference that my experiences with God have given me. I no longer weep tears of shame. I cry tears of joy and wonder. I am amazed by God and His power to love me. He makes all things work together for good. I’m not much of a challenge to His genius and creativity.
We can discover God just as much in failure as we can in success, because God never changes. He is the same whether we succeed or fail. We will all fail at times, we must learn to do so more successfully!
God’s love makes us free to fail …. Fail in a way that makes you whole and makes the Lord smile!
(Used by permission of Future Training Institute; Vacaville, CA 95687)
Graham Cooke is a popular conference speaker and is well known for his training programs on the prophetic, spiritual warfare, intimacy with God, leadership, and spirituality. He divides his time between Southampton, England and Vacaville, CA.
The Land of the Unexpected
by Pastor Henoma Ttopoqogo
In October 2004, the Lutheran Renewal leaders in Papua New Guinea had the privilege of having a visitor from the United States. He is Rev. Mark Marxhausen, the pastor of New Vision In the Word International in Rosemount, Minnesota. Some commentaries refer to Prophet Jeremiah as “the Weeping Prophet.” Prophet Jeremiah, we know, is dead, but the Spirit that moved him to weep over the people and the city of Jerusalem is not dead. Those of you who know Rev. Mark Marxhausen would agree with me that he has a very soft heart like that of Jeremiah-he weeps very easily.
We had nine, three-hour sessions spread over four days, three sessions a day. Rev. Mark Marxhausen took the morning and evening sessions, and I took the afternoon session.
Renewal Within a Renewal
It is true that the workability of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in any one society very much depends on whether the culture and the social systems of that particular group of people are compatible with the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, or not.
I personally believe that if you use a computer you can get a lot of things done in a short period of time, and with greater ease, if the different programs installed in your machine are compatible with each other. Otherwise it can become a time-consuming headache trying to get in and out of the different programs to do one small thing.
Now what has that got to do with the Lutheran Renewal here in Papua New Guinea? Well, everything! We are a nation with over 800 completely different languages and with the different languages come completely different customs, cultures, and social systems. And yet, by the grace of God alone, we have existed as a nation for the last 29 years. We are known as “Papua New Guinea-The Land of the Unexpected.”
The renewal movement within the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Papua New Guinea has suffered great blows because of some of these things that I have highlighted above. We do not want to totally submit to one another because we all belong to different tribal and ethnic groups.
A very exciting and dramatic thing happened during the time that Rev. Mark Marxhausen was teaching. Upon the prompting of the Holy Spirit, he began to wash the feet of the two leading men in the group. They were Pastor Henoma Ttopoqogo and Evangelist Wilson Mark who is also the National Lutheran Renewal President. He then had those two men go and pick two other leaders in the group to wash their feet. Then those two went and picked two other leaders and washed their feet. The process went on like that until all of the leaders had washed another’s feet. The atmosphere was different. The Spirit of God began to move amongst the leaders in a very real and tangible way. What happened during Rev. Mark Marxhausen’s visit here was that, He (God) is causing renewal to happen again within our renewal!
This is not to say that the people who have come and gone before Rev. Mark Marxhausen have not done anything. Not at all. What I am saying here is that Rev. Mark Marxhausen is seeing the fruit of what others have sown and watered. We are seeing renewal to start to break through the dry group again.
Thank you. With this, on behalf of all the Lutheran Renewal leaders and congregations across the country in Papua New Guinea, I would like to thank every person-the leaders, the congregations, and the individuals-who have given Rev. Mark Marxhausen the green light to come here. You also went the extra mile in supporting him financially and also upholding him in prayer while he was here. A special “Thank you” to his wife, Julie, and his four children, and the members of New Vision In The Word, Int’l. Shalom!
Pastor Henoma Ttopoqogo is answering the call of God for Lutheran Renewal in Papua New Guinea.