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Femi Agbedejobi: The other side of failure

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Femi Agbedejobi

As I reflect on the journey of my life, I remember occasions when I experienced the pain of poor choices and actions. In those moments, I entertained the notion that I have blown it, that God can’t use me anymore and there’s no hope for restoration. Most people face these feelings when they fail. Unfortunately, many never get out of this trap of the devil and their glorious destinies get truncated for ever.

However, during such times, I am always blessed to get inspired and encouraged early to draw strength from God’s word, from the stories of heroes of faith who blew it before my experience leads to anxiety. In some cases, their failures were so extreme, it would be rational to conclude that God would have a right to turn His back on them.

Graciously, that is not God’s nature. He is all about redemption. So when we fail, we can be thankful that God loves a good comeback story. And we can boldly return to him and cry Abba father.

The historian Froude wrote, “The true worth of a man must be measured by his entire life and his contributions to the overall good of humanity and not by his failures or trials.” Peter the apostle, though forewarned, thrice denied his Master on the first alarm of danger; yet that Master, who knew his nature in its strength and in its infirmity, chose him.

Everyone wants to be a success. I have never met anyone who deliberately set out to be a failure. I think it was Theodore Roosevelt who said, “The only man who never makes a mistake is the man who never does anything.” The simple reality is that failure is one of those ugly realities of life—a common experience to all of us to some degree.

The ability to handle failure in its various forms and degrees is a vital element of life. A careful study of the Bible reveals that most of the great figures of Scripture experienced failure at one time or another, yet those failures did not keep them from effective service for God. Abraham, Moses, Elijah, David, and Peter.

Though they failed at some point, and often in significant ways, they not only recovered from their failure, but they used it as a tool of growth—they learned from their failure, confessed it to God, and were often able to be used in even mightier ways.

The manner in which a person reacts to failure will have a significant effect on his future. One would have been justified in concluding that Peter’s failure in the judgment hall had forever slammed the door on leadership in Christ’s kingdom. Instead, the depth of his repentance and the reality of his love for Christ reopened the door of opportunity to a yet wider sphere of service. “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.”

A study of Bible characters reveals that most of those who were outstanding were men who failed at some point, and some of them drastically, but who refused to continue lying in the dust. Their very failure and repentance secured for them a more ample conception of the grace of God. They learned to know Him as the God of the second chance to His children who had failed Him—and third chance, too.

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will trouble, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or death? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we encounter death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we have complete victory through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things that are present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:35-39).

It appears that the patriarchs of old had a deeper understanding of the nature of God, most of them in their lifetime experienced some sort of failure, but they never gave up on God. For instance:

When Abraham should have stayed in the land and trust the Lord, he fled to Egypt because of the drought. And this was by no means the last of Abraham’s failures.

Moses, in trying to help his people, ran ahead of the Lord and killed the Egyptian. Later, against the command of God, he struck the rock in his anger.

When David should have been out in the field of battle, he stayed home and committed adultery with Bathsheba and then plotted the murder of her husband.

Peter, in spite of his self-confidence and his great boast, denied the Lord, as did the rest of the disciples who fled before the evening our Lord’s arrest was over.

There is a fundamental lesson to be drawn from these examples, our failures are often rungs on the ladder of growth—if we will learn from our mistakes rather than grovel in the dirt.

God forbid that I should make excuses for sin or to place a premium on mistakes or failure. This does not mean that a person must fail before they can be a success, but our failures, whether in the form of rebellion or just plain blunders, can become tools of learning and stepping stones to success. The point is, we should never allow our experience of failure to paralyze us from trying to get back on track or to do something that challenges our faith and comfort zone.

We must never allow past failures to keep us down or keep us from recovering and moving on in the service of our Lord and Savior. This means we should never allow failure to make us think we have perpetually failed or that we can never change or that we can never again count for the Lord or that God can’t do anything with us because we have failed Him. The Bible says we are all sinners and prone to failure, but in Christ we can become overcomers.

Understanding the amazing grace of God and His incredible forgiveness and acceptance through Christ, a Christian must grasp the truth that his or her failure is not the end of an effective life with and for the Lord. While there may be consequences to live with (as with David) and serious issues to work through, the believer must rest in the grace of God and use failure as a platform to success through growth and understanding.

Paul reminds us that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.” (Rom. 8:28) This should give us hope that no matter what we may have done, our adventure isn’t over. God’s at work reclaiming our story.

As I look back in retrospect, the big takeaway from all the lessons from these Bible characters is that it does not matter how grave our intransigence may have been before God, recovery and restoration are possible (Matthew 15:26). I derive strength, comfort, inspiration and guidance in the Lord after life’s setbacks, failures, victories and great experiences.

I thank God for the gift of life and for the opportunity to witness another year and to see the other side of failure.

At the other side of failure lies great opportunities to do exploits for the benefit of humanity and for the expansion of the Kingdom through the help and grace of God.

GLORY BE TO GOD

This is an extract from my soon to be published Book: THE OTHER SIDE OF FAILURE

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