Failure & Success

Failure & Success

Failure and success.  We spend a lot of our lives trying to get away from failure and get to success.  We have sayings about failure and success.  We say failure is not an option.  We associate success with winners and failure with losers.  We make little posters on the walls that talk about success and achievement and teamwork and we hang them up in our workplaces so everybody will work harder and cynical people like me make other versions of them to send around on the Internet with other sayings on them.  You get those in your email from time to time.  And they say stuff like “Failure is when your best is just not good enough.”  You’ve seen that one.  We spend a significant amount of effort dealing with failure and success and we fear failure and we want to be on the road to success.  And somewhere along the line failure became a bad word.  I mean we all want to be successful right.  We want to be successful parents.  So parents I have a question.  Are you successful if your child is 28 years old and still living at home and working for minimum wage at McDonald’s?  Are you a successful parent if your child doesn’t grow up and accept Jesus as their savior?  We want to be successful husbands and wives but some of our marriages end in divorce.  Are we successful then?  Guys, are you a successful husband if your wife won’t let you buy that new ATV you want?  Ladies, are you a successful wife if your husband doesn’t come to church with you?  And we could go on and on and on and we wonder about what it means to be successful and what it means to be a failure and sometimes it is even different for different situations.

Let’s take a real extreme example.  Take the case of a person who may be handicapped in some way and the fact that they can get a little apartment and live on their own and have a minimum wage job would be a smashing success.  They would have overcome many many hurdles to make that true and they would be successful in everybody’s eyes.  On the other hand take the guy who comes from a well to do family, goes to all the good schools, graduates from the Ivy League college and has a little tiny apartment and is working for minimum wage.  Would we call that person a success?  Exact same situation we might call one a success and the other not.  And so what we end up with is this big mess of wanting to be successful not wanting to be a failure but not even really knowing what that means and no adequate way to measure it because the way we measure it is we kind of compare ourselves to somebody else.  We say ‘compared to that guy I’m better than him’ but maybe not as good as that one and better than that guy and what we end up with is a big mess of something we’re trying to do and we don’t even know how to do it.

I’m reminded of the writings of one of the Supreme Court Justice in the 60’s when he gave out a ruling on pornography and he said, “I don’t know how to define pornography but I know it when I see it.”  And we feel the same way about success.  I don’t really know how to define it but I know it when I see it.  I recognize it when I see it.

This week I came across a list of things we’re suppose to do regularly.  So let’s go through this list together and see how we do.  Don’t raise your hands.  We’ll do this together.  Experts say you should drink 8 glass of water a day.  I think the experts don’t have a job because your boss gets upset because you spend all day in the bathroom getting rid of the 8 glasses of water.  They say you’re supposed to make your bed every morning, dust once a week and vacuum a couple times a week.  I don’t always get that done.  Dentist say you’re supposed to brush your teeth and floss every time you eat.  I don’t always do that.  The experts say the average human should get 8 hours of sleep a night.  I’m thinking five is good.  You’re supposed to go the speed limit.  I’d prefer not to think of them as limits.  That is such a hard word.  More like friendly suggestions.  The point is that we all fail.  We all don’t do stuff that we’re suppose to do.  We all fail.  Every single one of us.  They did a study.  The failure of human beings is rated at 100%.  We all mess up and it’s not new.  It’s been around for ages.

Open your Bibles with me to Matthew 25.  We know this story.  We’re going to look at the end of it together but let me remind you what is happening.  The land owner is going away on a trip and he gives some of his money to three servants.  And he says I want you to invest my money while I’m gone.  And when the land owner comes back he talks to the first servant and he says how did you do with my money?  And the first servant says man I’ve doubled your money.  And the master says good job.  Well done.  And he goes to the second servant and he says, what did you do with my money?  And the servant says here’s your money.  I doubled it.  And the master says well done.  Excellent job.  Now let’s pick up the story in Matthew 25 verse 25 to 27.  This is the servant talking.  And he says So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground.  See, here is what belongs to you.  "His master replied, 'You wicked, lazy servant!  So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed?  Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.  And we talk about this story to talk about how we should use the talents that God give us and that’s great because that’s in there.  But what we don’t talk about is the fear that that third servant felt.  He was so afraid of failure that he doesn’t think clearly.  He buries the money in the ground.  I mean any logical person would put it in the bank and earn 3% interest on it or something.  I don’t know what the interest rate was at that time.  That would have been safer than being in the ground but he is so worried about failure he can’t even think right.  And a lot of us find ourselves in that spot this very morning.  And we’re worried about failing at work.  And we’re worried about failing at school.  And we’re worried about the failing economy.  And we’re worried about failing marriages and relationships.  And that fear of failure just ceases us up and freezes us and we can’t even think right.

You know it is Thanksgiving weekend and we’re supposed to be thankful.  I’m thankful for failure - and most of you are saying “he has lost it.”  But I really am.  I’m thankful for failure.  And hopefully by the time we’re done this morning you will be too.  Take out your sermon notes with me and let’s talk about it.  We’ve got five points today.  Four are on failure.  One is on success and that may seem backwards but I think we struggle a lot more with failure than we do with success and two I think God’s definition of success is so brilliant that one point is enough so we’ll see.  All right.  Take out your notes.

Number one:  We need to discover that everyone fails.  Discover that everyone fails.  Now some of you are going yeah I know that.  Yeah we know that.  We don’t always know that here (in our hearts) because our actions don’t always behave that way.  And if our actions don’t match what we know there is a disconnect.  And we have a disconnect in this area because often times we hear people say man if I could be just like them, I would have it made.  They have no problems.  My life is horrible.  If I could be like them, chances are if you could be like that person, they would be saying the same thing about somebody else.  We all fail.  The Bible says we do.  James 3:2.  Let’s read this together.  It says We all stumble in many ways… James 3:2 (NIV)  Who stumbles?  All of us.  How many ways?  Many ways.  Way to build us up there.  Nobody is perfect.  We all blow it.  The Bible is full of stories that people blow it.  Abraham blows it when he lies about his wife and says she’s his sister.  Abraham blows it again when he doesn’t trust God to give him a son and tries to take matters into his own hands and we’re still dealing with that mess.  Jacob was a thief.  He stole his birthright but God blesses the entire world through his children.  Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.  He saves the humans and animals from the flood but ends up naked and drunk.  David commits adultery then commits murder to cover up the adultery.  We all blow it.  Get use to it.  The sooner you figure that out the better off you’re going to be.  The Bible also says, “for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:23 (NIV)  In modern day English that is “we all screw up.  We all blow it.  We all mess up.”  We need to understand that.

Did you know if you played professional baseball . . . who here likes baseball?  About 20% of us.  So we played baseball and with 1,000 times at bat, 1,000 times at bat, if we made an out 700 times out of 1,000, we fly out, ground out, strike out, 700 times out of a 1,000 you’ll be the best baseball player in modern history because nobody is batting 300%.  Any baseball fans out there?  Anybody bat 300% this year?  Low two hundreds I think is where most of them are at.  If you’re a professional basketball player . . . who likes basketball?  50% of us.  That does my heart good.  If you’re a professional basketball player, if you miss 50% of your shots, you’re the best scorer in the league.  You missed 50% of your shots.  We all fail.  We all mess up and we’ve got to discover that everybody fails.

Secondly, we have to determine that failure is not final.  So we discover that everybody fails and then you need to determine that failure is not final.  Let’s read this together.  This comes from Proverbs 24:16.  For though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again, but the wicked are brought down by calamity.  Proverbs 24:16 (NIV)  What should happen after we fail?  Get up again.  Rise again.  Failure is not final.  History is full of biographies of people who failed.  I was trying to find the best examples and there is like 9 billion of them out there so here’s a couple.

George Washington.  You guys familiar with him.  When he was leading his armed forces in the American Revolutionary War against the British, he lost two-thirds of the battles that he led.  Two-thirds! Yet he goes on to be America’s first president.  Napoleon graduated 42nd in his class out of 43.  He goes on to conquer Europe.  Brilliant.  How does he do that?  Billy Graham.  The first time he preached he said he had four sermons ready.  He didn’t know which one to preach.  He had four sermons ready.  He preached all four of them in 10 minutes he was so nervous.  Some of you are hoping I will be done in 10 minutes today.  Imagine if Billy Graham had said you know what I’m so embarrassed I’m never doing that again.  This preaching stuff is not for me.  I’m going to go and be an auto mechanic.  There is nothing wrong with auto mechanics.  The world needs good auto mechanics but man we would have missed out if Billy Graham would have done that instead of being a preacher.

So we’ve got to determine that failure is not final.  Look at Galatians 6:9.  Let’s read this together.  Let us not become weary in doing good, for at a proper time we will reap a harvest if we are successful.  Why it doesn’t say that?  It doesn’t say if I’ve got my checklist and I go down each step and make sure every “i” is crossed and every “t” is dotted that everything will be just right.  It doesn’t say if we do everything just like that big mega church down the road that is so popular and famous, then we’ll be successful.  When is everything okay?  What’s the last line say?  When we don’t give up.  Everything is okay when we don’t give up.  When we don’t quit.  That’s very interesting.  Failure hurts no doubt about it and we don’t like to fail but it’s not the end.  Do not give up when we fail.

Thomas Edison said many of life’s failures come from people who do not realize how close to success they were when they gave up.  And failure is not the worst thing that can happen to us.  The worst thing that can happen to us is we quit because when you quit you quit caring.  When you quit caring, apathy sets in.  And when you just don’t care anymore and it doesn’t matter, that’s a whole bunch worse than any failure.  Failure is not the end.  We have to determine that failure is not final.

Number three we need to discern the benefits of failure.  We need to discern the benefits of failure.  We need to understand the benefits of failure.  Now who says there are any benefits to failure?  Look at what the Bible says.  Romans 8:28.  It says And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  Romans 8:28 (NIV)  That means that God works together for good in our failures?  I’ve got to tell you this is one of the more challenging texts in the Bible.  It really is because we can all think of like a gazillion bad things that happen.  And was God working together for good when so and so died or was God working together for good when so and so got sick?  We have a million bad things that happen to us and we wonder is God really working together for good.  He says he is.  I’ve got to tell you I don’t always know.  My perspective is not the same as God’s perspective.  It’s probably a good thing for God.  And in my point of view I don’t always understand where the good comes from but God says he is working together for good and so I have to believe it.

Let’s look at an example from the New Testament.  There was man named Simon who fails at just about everything he does.  He fails to walk on water.  He fails to let Jesus wash his feet and not only after Jesus rebukes him does he change his mind.  He fails to admit that he knows Jesus and he denies him.  He fails to be loving and kind and he takes out his sword and he lops off the ear of the high priest servant.  He fails to stand with Jesus at the foot of the cross.  And yet Jesus said I change your name to Peter which means rock and on this rock I build my church.  And Peter preaches what must be the greatest sermon in the history of the world because 3,000 people are baptized afterwards.  I can’t even imagine getting 3,000 people to come listen to the sermon let alone to be baptized afterwards.  See there was some benefits in his failure and he’s learning about things and those failures help him grow and become something else.  Let’s look at a couple of benefits we can get from that.

A.        Failure educates us.  Thomas Edison said he had 10,000 failures trying to make the light bulb before he found the combination that worked.  And he didn’t look at those as failures.  He said I know 10,000 ways that it doesn’t work.  I can’t even imagine his notebook of I tried this.  This didn’t work.  I tried this.  He had teams of people going around the world getting stuff like monkey hair and vines and sending stuff back from all far reaches of the country trying to figure out what would burn and what would not burn up.  10,000 failures before something worked.  And it educates us.  See failure isn’t all that special.  We all fail.  It’s when you can learn from it.  When you can grow from it now that’s special and that is what will set you apart.

B.         Failure develops our skills.  How did you learn to walk?  You fell down a lot.  How did you learn to ride a bike?  You fell down a lot.  How did you learn to play a musical instrument?  You played a lot of really bad music.  Failures are part of the process.  We just have to keep going.  They are stepping stones to success.  I hope that you encourage the leadership of this church to fail because it means we’re trying something new.  We’re trying something different and maybe they are not all going to work and we’re going to say we know 10,000 ways it doesn’t work but it means that people are trying something new, something different.  How many stories do we know about people who fail in one area of life and go on to be successful in another?

Maybe you know the story of Ray Kroc who failed at real estate.  He decided he was going to do something different so he started a little restaurant and called it McDonald’s.  That worked out pretty well.  Maybe you know about the guy Sanders who failed at everything he did.  The list is long of stuff he failed at.  He was like 70 years old and then he did what he wanted to do anyway which is cook chicken.  And we all know Colonel Sanders.  Failure can help us develop our skills and understand what we’re doing.  And sometimes when we fail God is saying I need you to develop that skill just a little bit more.  We’re working just a little bit more on that and that’s important.

There is another benefit to failure because failure makes us less judgmental.  C.  Failure makes us less judgmental.  Imagine if you never failed and when somebody else came along and failed you would look at them and say what’s wrong with you bonehead.  You just do it this way and it works right.  I can’t believe you messed that up.  We would be so judgmental because we wouldn’t understand what it’s like to fail.  Jesus understood that when he said the one who has been forgiven little loves little and because we have all failed we can all relate to that and it makes us less judgmental. There are some benefits to failure.

So we need to discover that everyone fails.  Determine that failure is not final.  We discern the benefits of failure and number four we need to decide to stop comparing ourselves to others.  We need to decide to stop comparing ourselves to others.  When you compare yourself to somebody else, one of two things is going to happen and they are both bad.  So you compare yourself to somebody else.  Here you are and here is somebody else and they come out better than you.  I don’t know how you’re comparing them but they come out better than you.  Now how do you feel?  Like a failure.  A loser.  Stupid.  Can’t do this.  They do everything better than me.  Nobody loves me.  The boss hates me.  My dog doesn’t even like me and we start this downward spiral down into depression and that’s not a good thing.

Now if you compare yourself to somebody else and you come out better than them, now how do you feel?  Pretty good.  I’m so much better than that loser over there.  Thank you Jesus! And that’s not a good place to be either because then you’re proud, you’re haughty, maybe even prejudice.  It’s just a bad place to be.  So when you compare yourself to somebody else you’re going to lose.  Don’t do it.  Just don’t even go there.  It’s not worth it.  It just creates problems.  Oh but we do this all the time.  We live in a competitive society.  And you know my neighbor they remodeled their house so I need to remodel mine.  He bought a Lexus so I better buy an Acura.  His kid is in soccer so I better put my kid in karate.  You ever heard parents sometimes talking about precious little junior until it’s just like one up-man-ship.  Well my kid learned to walk when he was six months old.  Yeah well that’s nothing.  My kid was potty trained second hour.  Amazing!  And we compete through our children.  We compete at work.  We compete just every way we can compete.  How many have football pools at work so you can compete with each other?  I’m in fantasy football league with some friends at work so we can compete with each other.  Please pray for my team.  I’m not doing so well.  And we like to complete.

Look at what the Bible says.  Read this with me.  It says Each one should test his own actions.  Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else.  Galatians 6:4 (NIV)  It’s not my idea.  It’s God’s.  Do not compare yourself to somebody else.  Test your actions.  If you’re actions are pure and unadulterated, you will know, God will know, and that’s all that matters.  Who cares what the neighbors think?  Okay that’s enough about failure.

Let’s talk about success for a moment.  Turn in your Bibles with me because I want you to look at this verse.  It’s up here on the screen but I want you to look at it in your own Bibles.  1 Corinthians 4:2.   This is an important text.  Let’s read this together.  It says Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.  1 Corinthians 4:2 (NIV)  Now this is one of the few verses that I actually like better in the King James than I do in the modern language.  Let’s look at what King James says.  Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.  See you all are stewards.  What’s the definition of a steward?  What does the steward or stewardess on the airplane do?  Takes care of the people on the airplane which by the way most of our airlines have forgotten but that’s a different story.  Stewards take care of something.  God has made us all stewards given us some stuff to take care of.  Maybe a little home, maybe a car, a little bit of money, maybe some people to take care of, a family, some friends, some acquaintances at work and God said I have given you these people and this stuff.  Take care of it.  And how will I know if you do it right?  How will he know?  Because you have been a big success?  Because you became the CEO of the Company?  No.  How does he know?  Because he has been found faithful.  He has been found faithful.  What does it mean to be faithful?  See to be faithful are the people who didn’t give up.  They are the people who didn’t quit when they failed because we all failed.  And some of quit and some of us didn’t.

Point number five.  You should delight in the news that God equates success with being faithfulGod equates success with being faithful.  God does not care about how much money you have.  He doesn’t care about where you went to school.  He doesn’t care about who your mommy or daddy were.  He doesn’t care whether you hold the bottom spot in the corporation or the top spot in the corporation.  It does not matter.  What does God care about?  Whether you’ve been faithful or not.  So let’s go back to the questions we asked at the beginning of the sermon.  Parents are you faithful if your child is 28 years old and still living at home making minimum wage?  Yes, if you’ve been faithful to do the things that God asked you to do with your children.  It doesn’t matter whether the parents next door and their kid grown up to be you know superman.  I don’t know.  What’s the best thing you can be when you grow up?  Superman.  I don’t know.  And you’re kid is still working at Ralph’s bagging groceries.  It’s okay.  When I go to Ralph’s, I need someone to bag my groceries.  Are you a successful parent if your child doesn’t accept Jesus as his savior?  Yes, if you’ve been faithful to do the things God asked you to do with your children.  Because someday the kid has to make his own decision.  You can’t make it for him.  And so you be as faithful as you can be.  You’ve put the appropriate amount of love, and discipline, and everything into that child they have control and God doesn’t judge you about how successful you are but about how faithful you are.

Real quick.  Let’s go over some people in the Bible and what God says about them.  We know Daniel is living in captivity.  He rises through the ranks in the kingdom and he is like third in command.  He’s a slave.  He’s a foreigner.  He’s third in command in the kingdom.  Guess what?  The locals don’t like him because when they measure up against him he looks better than they do and he’s an outsider.  So they try to find a way to get rid of him and you know what the Bible says about him in Daniel 6:4.  It says So the presidents and princess sought to find occasion against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find none occasion or fault, for as much as he was faithful; neither there any error or fault found in him.  Daniel was faithful.  It doesn’t say he was successful.  It doesn’t say he was the best ruler in all the land.  It doesn’t say he got the best grades on the test.  He was faithful.

Moses.  He was leading the children of Israel out of Egypt and the people start saying who is this Moses guy?  You think you’re all that and only you get to talk to God.  Of course this was led by his brother and sister.  God kind of came down and gave them the what for about that.  And listen to what he says about Moses.  He says But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house.  Numbers 12:7  It doesn’t say he is the best guy for the job.  It doesn’t say he does everything just perfectly right.  Moses screwed up but God says he was faithful.

We talked about the parable of the master with the servants and what they did with money.  What does he tell his two servants when he gets his money back?  Well done, thou good and faithful servant.  Matthew 25:21.  Not well done you financial genius you.  Not well done you’re more successful than that slob on the end who buried the money.  Well done, you’ve been faithful.

What about Isaiah and Jeremiah?  Two prophets who had no success in their day.  Nobody listened to them.  Nobody liked them.  Jeremiah is in and out of prison.  He cries all the time.  They call him the weeping prophet.  Where would we be today without Jeremiah and Isaiah?  No study of prophecy is complete without Isaiah and no understanding of God can be complete without Jeremiah because they were faithful to what God asked them to do whether or not they had success.

One more quick story.  I know I’m late.  Sorry.  It’s Mitch’s fault.  I don’t know how but somehow it is Mitch’s fault.  Just once I’ve just wanted to say that because usually it’s my fault.  One quick story.  When I was in college, of course I took all the math, and computer science, and physics classes that they offered.  Yet they make you take other classes.  Stuff like art and I have the artist ability I’d say like the average fourth grader.  And so it comes time to take art class and I said well maybe I’ll take print making because at least I’ll get to play with the machine and I can print something.  And you know the world is really different in the art building than it is in the physics and math building.  People walking around in flip flops and you know tie dye t-shirts and you know it didn’t look like that in the math and computer science building.  And so I take this art class and it was kind of fun.  We printed some stuff.  Got to play with the machinery.  And if you got all done at the end of the quarter and you looked at some of the stuff I did, it’s not hanging on anybody’s walls including mine.  But there were like some art majors in the class who made these beautiful works of art and if you would compare what they did with what I did, I don’t come out so well.  But the art teacher told me she said you know what?  You’ve been faithful.  You come to class every day.  You’re working hard at it every day.  And they don’t always come out right but you gave it 100%.  Here’s your A.  Now I didn’t deserve an A if we had measured how successfully I can do art.  An F would be more appropriate but she wasn’t judging me on how well I did but on how hard I tried.  And I don’t know if she knows how important that lesson was because God is not judging us on how successful we are and what the results are.  God is judging us on how faithful we are and there is a world of difference.  There is a world of difference.  We’re all going to fail.  Everybody has failed except Jesus.  Get use to it.  The sooner you do the easier your life will be.

Real quick.  Here is how you’re faithful.  Pray for the things that you don’t have control over.  Trust God to do only what he can do.  Do what God has called you to do and be what God has called you to be and live like God has called you to live and when you can do those things it doesn’t matter what the results are God will say well done thou good and faithful servant.  Let’s pray.

 

Questionnaire:

Failure & Success

29 November 2008

 

Failure

 

Read Matthew 25:25-27

 

1.                                    that everyone fails.

 

We all stumble in many ways… James 3:2 (NIV)

 

“for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:23 (NIV)

 

 

2.                                       that failure is not final.
 

For though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again, but the wicked are brought down by calamity.  Proverbs 24:16 (NIV)

 

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at a proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9 (NIV)
 

 

3.                                    the benefits of failure.

 

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 (NIV)

 

A. Failure                           us.

B. Failure                          our skills.
C. Failure makes us less                                  .

 

 

4.                                  to stop comparing ourselves to others.

 

Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else. Galatians 6:4 (NIV)

 

Success

 

Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. 1 Corinthians 4:2 (NIV)

 

5.                               in the news that God equates success with being                               .

 

Daniel – Daniel 6:4

Moses – Numbers 12:7

Servants – Matthew 25:21

 

Answer:

Failure & Success

29 November 2008

 

Failure

 

Read Matthew 25:25-27

 

1. Discover that everyone fails.

 

We all stumble in many ways… James 3:2 (NIV)

 

“for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:23 (NIV)

 

 

2. Determine that failure is not final.
 

For though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again, but the wicked are brought down by calamity.  Proverbs 24:16 (NIV)

 

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at a proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9 (NIV)
 

 

3. Discern the benefits of failure.

 

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 (NIV)

 

A. Failure educates us.

B. Failure develops our skills.
C. Failure makes us less judgmental.

 

 

4. Decide to stop comparing ourselves to others.

 

Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else. Galatians 6:4 (NIV)

 

Success

 

Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. 1 Corinthians 4:2 (NIV)

 

5. Delight in the news that God equates success with being faithful.

 

Daniel – Daniel 6:4

Moses – Numbers 12:7

Servants – Matthew 25:21

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