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Finding Success After Failure
In Ron Howard’s 1995 Academy Award winning movie Apollo 13, famed NASA flight director Gene Kranz has the iconic line, “Failure is not an option.” This line is quoted in other movies and books, its blasted in sports arenas hyping up their fans before a game and it’s invoked in countless speeches. Yet for how powerful the quote is, for many, failure is all too real. Whether we look at history, our own experiences, and even the Bible, disappointment is something we will have to walk through.
Part of the Story, But Never the End
But the good news is that for the child of God, failure is never the end of the story. In fact, time and time again in the scriptures, we see men and women that we admire and emulate enduring their own share of failure, yet not allowing it to define their story. As we have gone through The Story, we have seen Abraham failing to believe the promise of God and electing to do it his own way, only to create strife and family conflict that still goes on today.
We saw Moses seeing the persecution of his own people and trying to take matters in his own hands, only to commit murder and forced into exile. Yet in both these cases (and more as we shall see), tremendous success erupted out of a place of disastrous failure. Child of God, it can be the same for you and me. Though failure may have been part of your story, God wants you to know that it does not have to be the end of your story.
Succeeding Where Others Have Failed
Joshua found himself in a similar place, tasked to take the Israelites to the Promised Land, the very place God had promised the generation before, but they had failed to achieve. Joshua, serving as an assistant to Moses, had been at the forefront of the miracles God had done for his people but had witnessed the fear and unbelief that disqualified them from entering Canaan. Now, forty years later and once again at the footsteps of the Promised Land, would he fall to the same defeat as the generation before him, or would he succeed where others had failed?
I want to share with you three keys God gave Joshua that allowed him to find success after failure.
Look Forward, Not Back
“Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel.” These words are the first words God spoke to Joshua as He appointed Him to be the new leader over His people. On its face it can seem like a callous statement especially following the death of Moses, but God was establishing a key principle Joshua needed if he was ever going to succeed where the prior generation had failed. Namely, that if he was constantly looking back, it would be impossible to look forward.
So many times we can look at the tremendous success of great men and women and use that as a barometer for what God wants to do in our lives. We can begin to compare what God did for others, with what God wants to do for us and if we are not careful, we become bitter, envious and not fulfill God’s will for our lives because we are too busy measuring ourselves with others. Scripture says that it makes us ignorant: “But they are only comparing themselves with each other, using themselves as the standard of measurement. How ignorant!”
Never gauge what God is going to do or not do based on other people’s experiences. People’s testimonies can be an inspiration of what God can do, but they are never meant to be a replication of what God wants to do in your life. Each one of us need to come to God on our own and allow him to speak to our circumstances. He has no grandchildren, only children. And He desires to have a personal relationship with you.
Words are Either Securing or Sabotaging your Success
Exodus 1:8 says, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night… For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”
Words were the determining factor in the failure of the last generation and they would be the determining factor in the success of this current generation. Joshua was so hyper-aware of the power of words to build or destroy that as they marched around the walls of Jericho, he commanded the Israelites to not say a word… for almost 7 days (Joshua 6)!
In order to have success where failure has been, we must realize that our words are either securing success or sabotaging it. It can be so easy to speak out past failures when we are faced with present challenges. Proverbs 18:21 teaches that death and life are not determined by the obstacles and giants in our way, but by what we are speaking. Let us be like Joshua, only allowing what the Word of God says to come out of our mouths.
Courage is a Command, Not a Choice
In Joshua 1:9, God says to Joshua, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
Why do we need courage? Because God never calls us to places where we don’t need Him to succeed. It has been my experience that God doesn’t usually ask me to do things I’m capable of doing on my own. Or else, why would I need Him?
That was the case when He brought the Israelites out of Egypt. In Deuteronomy 9:1, 2, God makes it clear that reliance on Him was not an option: “Hear, O Israel: you are to cross over the Jordan today, to go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than you, cities great and fortified up to heaven, a people great and tall, the sons of the Anakim, whom you know, and of whom you have heard it said, ‘Who can stand before the sons of Anak?’”
Exodus 19:4 says, “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.”
In his commentary on Exodus, Dennis Prager talks about why God used the symbolism of an eagle to illustrate God calling us to places beyond our abilities: “God compares Himself to the eagle that carries its young on its wings because other birds put their young between their feet – they are afraid of birds that can fly above them and snatch their young. But the eagle knows no other bird can fly higher and it can protect its young by putting them on its wings1.” God has called you to high places. He desires to soar to realms so high that only He, carrying you on His wings, can reach them. For that reason, courage is a command, not a choice.
I don’t know what kind of failure you have experienced in your life. What I do know is that you have a God that can redeem you from failure. As Pastor Dave has often said, He is an expert at making a message out of your mess, and testimony out of your mess. Continue to look forward not back, meditate on His Word instead of your worries, and be courageous. Failure may have been a part of your story, but it is not the end of your story.