Through the years, we all learn important lessons. There is something I wish to share that has encouraged me and I think will greatly help you, too. I have learned that God will often let us fail out there for some very good reasons. I have learned that whenever I fall short, there is always the opportunity to find grace in the midst of it.
This is not just for fellow pastors but for any person out there. It is one of the most important lessons I have learned in 32 years of pastoral ministry: failure is to be expected and learned from.
Yes, you are right. I have misspoke, misstepped, and missed the mark in more ways than I can explain here. Honestly, failing does hurt. It hurts me and it hurts others. I understand why most of us of are afraid of it. Leaders in particular are afraid of failure since it’s always a bit more of a public spectacle.
I’m not talking about moral failure that disqualifies someone from the ministry, but ministerial, vocational or career failure. More often it’s poor judgment or simply the bad execution of an idea. Or perhaps it is simply a bad idea in the first place. And while we must always take ownership for our failures, we don’t have to be defeated by them. In fact, I have found that there is much grace to be found in failure if we will seek the Lord through it. For some, it may even be a moral failure. Grace, however, covers all.
Just how do we find grace in our failures?
Our disappointments persuade us to be learners.
Teachability is very important for leaders and followers. In my personal experience, it is this quality that I often look for in future leaders or church planters. It is indispensable. Often, if not careful, success can bring up pride. It should not, but it often does. When we fall and make mistakes, we are reminded that we have so much to learn. It orients us to seek out wisdom and help from God and the people God has placed around us. Yes, everyone has something good to share.
Our failures wake us up to be humble.
Most often, humility is not a natural character trait in our nature. We are born proud and selfish who brag in ourselves and our ideas. Humility is grown by the grace of God. Failures point us to the one who is truly righteous and holy. Whenever we fail God is at work in our lives. We might not have accomplished what we wanted to, or even what God has called us to, but he uses such circumstances to make us more dependent on Him. He helps us to see our smallness in comparison to his awesome greatness. In this, the grace of God shines brightly. No matter what situation we are in, He loves us anyway. God embraces us in spite of ourselves. Even in our failures, he tells us we belong to him.
Our failures remind us that we are not the Savior
We are not God. We are not the deliverer or the savior. Failures teach us these. When I was new in ministry, I may be what people call “Mr. Fix it.” I thought I could solve problems better than others. It is tempting to believe that I can do “it” better whatever it is. I was wrong. It was the failures that reminded me that I not only need God to go before us and give us success, but also that we need saving even from our best efforts. We are weak and frail, yet called to serve and lead others. Failure helps us to see this tension and return to and rely totally on the grace of God for all we need in life.
Our failures are used by God to show a better way. The better way is Jesus.
We will fail. A lot. But our failures do not define who we are. The Spirit of God will use all of it for his glory and for our good if we are willing to see his grace in our failure.