Kent and Barbara Hughes, in their book on ministry, tell of a gifted young preacher who had experienced an overwhelming failure in his ministry.
He borrowed a pickup truck and wheeled in the church parking lot. Everyone watched as he backed across the church lawn to his study door. Refusing any assistance from the members and without any comments, he began emptying his office upon the truck bed. First, he emptied the content of his desk draws. Then His files. And finally his books. “He tossed them carelessly into a heap, many of them flopping askew like slain birds.”
When he finished, he left and drove to the city dump where everything was thrown upon the garbage heap. He determined to never return to the pulpit. And he never did.
There are many ways to deal with failure, but quitting is not what God desires.
In one of the great texts in the Old Testament, King David, shows us how to respond when you have failed. And David, “the man after God’s own heart” failed grievously. He lusted. He committed adultery. He had a man murdered. He covered up his sin. And he lied.
How does anyone recover from such a moral failure? Psalm 51 answers that question.
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!
The road to restoration with the Lord begins with two simple words. “Cleanse me.”
David had defiled his soul. He had dishonored Jehovah. He had disobeyed 5 of the 10 commandments. David was spiritually dirty. It has been said that “what dirt is to the body, sin is to the inner person.” David needed the cleansing from sin that only God could provide. And so do we.
The Bible says “there is none righteous, no not one.” And that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:10,23). In fact, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn 1:8-9).
There is no sin, no failure, no moral downfall that is beyond cleansing. And the reason is that we serve a gracious God. He is a God of grace, mercy, and love. Grace gives us what we do not deserve. And mercy withholds from us what we do deserve. Because God loves us unconditionally, he provides both.
The account of David’s failure offers us hope when things seem hopeless. It shows that there is light beyond the darkness of sin. It reveals to us that restoration is possible. That forgiveness can be obtained. And that our relationship with God can be reconciled.
However, we must be willing to repent. To humbly confess our sins. Admit our waywardness. And seek God’s righteousness. While it means accepting the consequences of our actions, we do not have to wallow in self-pity, rejection or shame.
We can be purged. Cleansed. And have our souls washed whiter than snow.
Don’t quit. Don’t forsake your spiritual calling. And don’t throw yourself upon Satan’s garbage heap.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman