Successful Failures

Series: Failure Is Not Final with The Father!

MEN’S MONTH Lesson 3: September 15 – 21, 2021

AIM:  God views “success” differently than we do. God looks at “faithfulness” as His standard for determining “success”. After studying this lesson students should REALIZE that God’s standard for failure is very different than our standards.  He does not grade us with “A’s” and “B’s”, but He gives us “Grace” and “Mercy.”  And He grades on a curve!

INTRODUCTION:

Everybody wants to be successful or a part of something successful. BUT I had to ask myself, “What does SUCCESSFUL mean?” You want to be a “successful” parent RIGHT? What does that mean? Does it mean that your kids grow up to be doctors, lawyers, preachers, teachers? Are you a “successful” parent if your son is still a bag-boy at Kroger’s at the age of 28? If your children haven’t come to know Christ, have you been a “successful” parent? What determines a successful Pastor? The size of the church, the number of baptisms a year, his salary, his prestige in the community or the vehicle he drives?

What determines “success”?  What determines “successful”? How do we define “success”, anyway? Many people determine “success” by comparing themselves with other people. They think that if you can’t buy what other people have, then you aren’t successful. Some people think that you are not “successful” if you haven’t climbed as far up the ladder of “success” as somebody else. Let me give you a verse that might help you.

1 Corinthians 4:2 (ESV) Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.

 

Notice that it doesn’t say “successful” but “faithful”.

God looks at “success” differently than we do. When God looks at you, He doesn’t look to see how “successful” you have been but how “faithful” you have been.  In this lesson we are going to look at some “Successful Failures” in the Bible.

Isaiah 6:8 (NCV) Then I heard the Lord’s voice, saying, “Whom can I send? Who will go for us?” So I said, “Here I am. Send me!”

 

Case #1 – Isaiah

  1. Called by God
  2. Isaiah heard God’s call and responded favorably.
  3. As soon as Isaiah had been cleansed from his sins, he immediately heard the booming voice of the LORD calling for a volunteer to go forth to minister to His people.
  4. Isaiah leapt at the opportunity to serve the LORD.  His immediate surrender reveals. . .
  5. A spirit of readiness, a desire and a willingness to serve the LORD
  6. A spirit of resolve, a determination to go and bear witness despite the difficulties
  7. A spirit of trust, leaving the success and results up to the LORD

Thought 1: Before we can serve the LORD, we must first surrender to Him.  We MUST acknowledge Him as the LORD, as the high and exalted Creator of the universe, the Holy One who is to be worshipped and served.

Thought 2: We must confess and repent of our sins before we can truly serve the LORD.

Thought 3: We must surrender to the LORD’s call and commission!

Isaiah 6:9-12 (NCV)

9     Then the Lord said, “Go and tell this to the people: ‘You will listen and listen, but you will not understand. You will look and look, but you will not learn.’

10   Make the minds of these people dumb. Shut their ears. Cover their eyes.  Otherwise, they might really understand what they see with their eyes and hear with their ears. They might really understand in their minds and come back to me and be healed.”

11   Then I asked, “Lord, how long should I do this?”  He answered, “Until the cities are destroyed and the people are gone, until there are no people left in the houses, until the land is destroyed and left empty.

12   The Lord will send the people far away, and the land will be left empty.

  1. Commissioned by God  

Isaiah was to warn the people about. . .

  1. Hearing God’s Word but never understanding it.
  2. They regularly heard the Word of God.  But their repeated hearing was not leading to understanding.
  3. Instead of truly listening, their minds were wandering about, focused upon their own affairs and problems.
  4. Simply stated, when they attended worship service or heard the Word of God being taught, they became sleepy eyed, groggy, and inattentive.
  5. Having hard hearts, deaf ears, and blind eyes.
  6. Repeatedly rejecting the Word of God because their favorite preacher was not preaching, because they didn’t like the subject, or because it wasn’t their day to serve!
  7. Many times, people resist change because they do not want to change!  To change, they would have to change what they were doing, or stop going places that they like to go, or doing what they wanted to do!
  8. Continuing to resist to the point of no return.
  9. The people could reach a point of never being able to repent, the point of never being able to escape the coming judgment.
  10. The people MUST be warned – the LORD is not playing a game with the human race!

Summary:

God told Isaiah to preach a very unpopular message – a message of REPENTANCE. Right from the beginning, God told him that he was going to FAIL! There wouldn’t be any repentance only judgment. Isaiah was going on a suicide mission!

Isaiah failed to turn the nation of Israel to God. And he considered himself a failure. He ended up sawed in half for his efforts – killed as a martyr – thinking he was a failure.

How do WE see Isaiah? Isaiah was one of the greatest Hebrew writers who ever lived. What he wrote, was to be completed and fulfilled by Jesus Christ Himself. Over and over we read in the New Testament that what Jesus did was “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet Isaiah.” Jesus quoted Isaiah when He preached. It’s quite an honor to be quoted in a sermon and Isaiah was quoted by Jesus – the utmost honor!

John the Baptist quoted Isaiah as his text for his sermons on repentance. Philip quoted from Isaiah when he witnessed to the Ethiopian eunuch to show him Christ. Paul used Isaiah’s writings to turn the Gentiles to Christ. . .quoting him five times in the book of Romans. The study of prophecy is incomplete without the book of Isaiah.

A failure? Maybe in the eyes of the world. Maybe even in his own eyes. BUT not in the eyes of God. WHY? Because Isaiah was “faithful”. And that’s what counts most to God.

1 Corinthians 4:2 (ESV) Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.

 

Case #2 – Jeremiah

Jeremiah1:4-8 (NLV)

4     Now the Word of the Lord came to me saying,

5     “Before I started to put you together in your mother, I knew you. Before you were born, I set you apart as holy. I chose you to speak to the nations for Me.”

6     Then I said, “O, Lord God! I do not know how to speak. I am only a boy.”

7     But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a boy.’ You must go everywhere I send you. And you must say whatever I tell you.

8     Do not be afraid of them. For I am with you to take you out of trouble,” says the Lord.

 

Jeremiah 12:6 (NLT) Even your brothers, members of your own family, have turned against you. They plot and raise complaints against you.  Do not trust them, no matter how pleasantly they speak.

 

  1. Called
  2.  Jeremiah was called by God when he was a young man. . . a young “Preacher-Boy”.
  3. By all human standards, Jeremiah was a FAILURE in the ministry.
  4. The townspeople ordered him to leave town, or they would kill him.
  5. His family rejected him because of his call to the ministry.
  6. He was accused of treason, and the authorities wanted to kill him.
  7. Instead, they put him in prison. He was in and out of prison all his life.
  8. He needed love and understanding . . .but God forbid him to marry.
  9. He wrote the book of Jeremiah. . . but the King destroyed it.
  10. He cried a lot and was known as the “Weeping Prophet”
  11. Jeremiah resisted the call by complaining that he was only a child and did not know how to speak, but the Lord placed the word in Jeremiah’s mouth, commanding “Get yourself ready!”

 

Jeremiah 1:17 (NLT) “Get up and prepare for action. Go out and tell them everything I tell you to say. Do not be afraid of them, or I will make you look foolish in front of them.

 

  1. Confronted False Prophets
  1. While Jeremiah was prophesying the coming destruction, he denounced a number of other prophets who were prophesying peace.

 

Jeremiah 6:13-15 (MSG) 13 “Everyone’s after the dishonest dollar, little people and big people alike. Prophets and priests and everyone in between twist words and doctor truth. 14 My people are broken—shattered! — and they put on Band-Aids, Saying, ‘It’s not so bad. You’ll be just fine.’ But things are not ‘just fine’! 15 Do you suppose they are embarrassed over this outrage? No, they have no shame. They don’t even know how to blush. There’s no hope for them. They’ve hit bottom and there’s no getting up. As far as I’m concerned, they’re finished.” God has spoken.

Jeremiah 14:14-16 (MSG) 14 Then God said, “These preachers are liars, and they use my name to cover their lies. I never sent them, I never commanded them, and I don’t talk with them. The sermons they’ve been handing out are sheer illusion, tissues of lies, whistlings in the dark. 15 “So this is my verdict on them: All the preachers who preach using my name as their text, preachers I never sent in the first place, preachers who say, ‘War and famine will never come here’—these preachers will die in war and by starvation. 16 And the people to whom they’ve been preaching will end up as corpses, victims of war and starvation, thrown out in the streets of Jerusalem unburied—no funerals for them or their wives or their children! I’ll make sure they get the full brunt of all their evil.

  • According to the book of Jeremiah, during the reign of King Zedekiah, the Lord instructed Jeremiah to make a yoke with the message that the nation would be subject to the king of Babylon.
  • The prophet Hananiah took the yoke off Jeremiah’s neck and broke it, prophesying that within two years the Lord would break the yoke of the king of Babylon
  • but Jeremiah prophesied in return: “You have broken the yoke of wood, but you have made instead a yoke of iron.”

 

Jeremiah 28:13 (NLT) Go and tell Haaniah, ‘This is what the Lord says: You have broken a wooden yoke, but you have replaced it with a yoke of iron.

 

SUMMARY:

Jeremiah may have felt that he was a complete FAILURE in the ministry. BUT. . . was he? He had one of the greatest honors ever paid to any man. Matthew 16:13-14 (NLT)– 13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”  This was his honor. . .they thought that Jesus was Jeremiah come back to life! They compared Jesus to Jeremiah! Would people ever mistake you for Jesus? They did Jeremiah!  Was Jeremiah a FAILURE? Not in God’s eyes. WHY? You’re not a failure when others can see Jesus in you.

 

1 Corinthians 4:2 (ESV) Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.

 

Case 3 – Peter

The best illustration of this in the New Testament is the life of Peter. We have more recorded mistakes and blunders of Peter than all the rest of the 12 put together. We saw some of his failures in our first lesson.  But again let’s consider his record of failures:

  1. He lost faith while on the water and began to sink.
  2. He rebuked his own Messiah and received the strongest rebuke of anyone!
  3. He refused to have his feet washed and had to be forced to cooperate.
  4. He cut off the soldier’s ear in Gethsemane and needed to be rebuked.
  5. He went to sleep when Jesus asked him to watch with Him.
  6. He denied his Lord three times!
  7. He refused to believe the eyewitness testimony of the women who saw Jesus after the resurrection.
  8. He fell back into prejudice against the Gentiles even after Pentecost.

He was the master of mistakes, and yet Jesus chose him to be the leader of the 12. There is no list of the Apostles where Peter is not first. Is there any connection between all his mistakes and his being the number one man in leadership? Yes, there is, and the mistake we want to examine is from a lesson we studied several weeks ago.

Matthew 14:22-33 (NLT)

22 Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. 23 After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone. 24 Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. 25 About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!” 27 But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!” 28 Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” 29 “Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted. 31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?” 32 When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped. 33 Then the disciples worshiped him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed.

Peter was the only man Jesus ever rebuked for lacking the faith needed to stay on top of water. Why would Jesus make this man he had to rebuke more than all the others the leader of the others? He did so because Peter was the only one of the 12 willing to take the chance. Yes, he sank while all the rest were safely in the boat. But that is because he was the only one willing to take the chance of leaping out of the boat. The risk taker fails more because they do more. You can criticize Peter and be justified in doing so, for Jesus rebuked him for his little faith that led him to doubt and then sink. Peter did fail here, and needed to be rescued, but again, let us look at the whole picture.

The only reason Peter failed is because he took a chance, and he was the only one who did. We focus on his failure and neglect the fact that Peter was the only man besides Jesus whoever succeeded in walking on water. His faith weakened in the storm, but what we see here is that faith can be very flimsy, and confidence can collapse very rapidly in a fearful situation.

Poor Peter. . .he must have thought he was a first-class FAILURE. Did Peter fail the Lord? YES. . .many times. Was Peter a failure? NEVER! Why? Because. . .he didn’t let his past failures hinder him in going on for the Lord. THAT’S WHEN we become a FAILURE. . .when we are down. . .and fail to get back up.

Peter didn’t let his past failures get in his way in the future. What did he do?

  • When he preached, thousands were converted.
  • He wrote 2 books of the New Testament.
  • He was instrumental in the founding and building up of churches.
  •  He built up Christians in the faith.

Peter wasn’t a FAILURE. . .WHY? Because he didn’t let his failures defeat him.

 

1 Corinthians 4:2 (ESV) Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.

 

Case 4 – Jesus

Maybe YOU consider yourself to be a FAILURE. Even JESUS, by the world’s standards is considered a FAILURE:

  • He was executed as a criminal.
  • He was condemned as a traitor to the Jews.
  • He was rejected by His own people. . . even by most of His family.
  • When He died, His followers fled for their lives.

Case 5 – YOU

Maybe you have failed God MANY TIMES in your life. Does that make you a FAILURE? NO, only if you let your failures keep you from going on with the Lord, only if you give up. In one sense, we are ALL failures. We’re all SINNERS (failures). . .saved by the grace of God. But it’s when we wallow in self-pity, it’s when we dwell on our past mistakes, it’s when we let our failures defeat us that we become FAILURES.

Lots of people don’t do much FOR God because they don’t think they’re worth much TO God. God made each one of us special! 

 

Psalm 139:14 (NIV)  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

 

Failure Is Not Final with The Father!

PRAYER PRINCIPLE:                         Thank God that no matter how many times we fail, God still has something for us to do.

SOCIAL JUSTICE PRINCIPLE:            Share with others the fact that whatever failure they may experience is not final; God still has a task for us.

EVANGELISM PRINCIPLE:                Let the world know about the failure associated with Christ; the grave could not keep him which ultimately provides believers victory over death.

STEWARDSHIP PRINCIPLE:                It is through persistent and consistent giving that you gain strength for yourself and others.

DISCIPLESHIP PRINCIPLE:                 Although you may feel unworthy of what God has designed for you to do, be about it at all costs.

NEXT WEEK’S LESSON: We Fall Down but We Get Up

NEXT WEEK’S SERIES: Failure is not Final in The Father

NEXT WEEK’S READING: Judges 13:1-5, 25; Judges 14:6; Judges 15:14; Matthew 28:20; Judges 16; 1 Corinthians 10:13; Hebrews 11:32; 1 Peter 5:8; John 11:50

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