Moving Forward Following Failure


“The only man who never makes a mistake is the man who never does anything” observed our 26th President, Teddy Roosevelt.

In his book, Confident Living, Warren Wiersbe, writes that the inventor Thomas Edison “spent more than $100,000 to obtain 6000 different fiber specimens, and only three of them proved satisfactory. Each failure brought him that much closer to the solution to his problem. His friend Henry Ford was right when he said that failure was the ‘opportunity to begin again, more intelligently.’”

Everyone fails sometime. At something. I’ve failed more times than I care to count. As a kid there were times I failed my parents. As a teenager, I failed my drivers test the first time. As a basketball player, there were times I failed my teammates. As a college student, I failed a science class and had to repeat it.

If I’m honest, I know there have been occasions I’ve failed as a husband. A father. A preacher. A friend. But most of all I know that I’ve failed the Lord. More than once.

But I’m also reminded that my failures do not have to be fatal. I’m not finished. I’m not done. I can move forward. I have evidence to prove it.

God specializes in using failures to accomplish his purpose. All of God’s great men and women made mistakes. Fell short of the mark. And at some point failed.

Abraham lied. Jacob deceived. Moses murdered. Samson had a weakness for women. Eli was a poor parent. David committed adultery. Peter denied Jesus. Thomas doubted. And Saul was a persecutor of Christians before he was converted and became the apostle Paul.

All of these failed. At some point in their lives. But they had one thing in common. They never quit. They corrected their mistakes. Maintained their faith in God. And kept their spiritual focus.

John Maxwell has a neat book entitled “Failing Forward.” The Subtitle is “Turning Mistakes Into Stepping Stones for Success.” The thesis is that we all fail. But some fail backwards. And others fail forward. Successful people respond positively to their failures. They learn. Grow. And achieve. Maxwell suggests asking these 5 questions whenever you experience some failure in your life.

(1) What caused the failure? What went wrong? Why did I fail? Poor planning? A bad attitude? Pride? A foolish risk? A failure to think about the consequences? Sometimes your problem is deeper than it seems on the surface.

(2) What successes are contained in the failure? Even in the midst of failure, there is usually something good that resulted from the problem. Bible commentator Warren Wiersbe writes, “A realist is an idealist who has gone through the fire and been purified. A skeptic is an idealist who has gone through the fire and been burned.” Use failure to purify you.

(3) What can I learn from what happened? This is the big question. No matter what setback, shortcoming or adversity we face in life, there is a lesson to be discovered. But you must be teachable. Willing to see it. And ready to learn.

(4) Who can help me with this issue? Seek advice from others who can help. An older, wiser friend. A professional counselor. A preacher. Pastor. Or spiritual advisor. Humbly listen. And learn.

(5) Where do I go from here? Dr. Ronald Neidnagel says, “Failure isn’t failure unless you don’t learn from it.” Don Shula and Ken Blanchard, in their book, “Everyone’s a Coach,” share this advice, “Learning is defined as a change in behavior. You haven’t learned a thing until you can take action and use it.”

Finally, remember the words of William Brown, “Failure is an event. Never a person.” God wants to forgive your failures, lift you up, and give you new hope.

God cares about your problems, challenges and mistakes. The Bible says, “Cast all your care upon him, for He cares for you (1 Pet 5:7). “Cast your burden upon the Lord and He shall sustain you” (Ps. 55:22)

–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman

1 Comment

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One response to “Moving Forward Following Failure

  1. And, of course, we learn far more from failure than success. (If we actually think…)
    After all, when something goes along well, we are certain it’s because we executed/planned perfectly. (Even if we didn’t.)
    When things don’t go so well, we analyze why not, where did we miss, etc.

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