Dealing with failure

Published 9:17 am Thursday, December 20, 2012

By Charles Christmas

Two questions in dealing with failure are why did I fail and how can I keep from failing again?

These questions surface and receive some possible help in this article. The failure considered in this article is the failure to be able to meet the extreme needs of others.

While Jesus and three of his leadership disciples were away on a mountain prayer retreat, a distressed father brought his demon-possessed son to some of the other disciples for help, but their efforts were met with failure.

When Jesus returned, the distressed father brought his son to him and related the failed attempt. Jesus set the son free, which in turn set free the burdened heart of the father.

These disciples had failed, but it was not because they had not tried. Isn’t that at least commendable? Some of us have failed: maybe in our marriage, with our children, in our occupation or business, in our spiritual or church life, or otherwise. Yet, we know there were ways in which we sincerely tried.

It seems the first thing that helped was that these disciples admitted their failure. The second was that they wanted insight into why they had failed and what could be done to insure their success in the future. Therefore, they went straight to the source in order to get answers to their questions.

In private, seeking counsel from Jesus, they asked, “Why could we not help this man?” Pointedly, pure and simple, the question was laid before the all-knowing God in human flesh: “Why did we fail?”

I have examined many of my own past failures, and I desire to avoid failure in the future. I have sought to examine, in the spirit, all three of the passages in Matthew, Mark and Luke. Why did I fail and how can I avoid failing again? Our Lord’s answer to those failing disciples is his answer to me, and possibly, to you:

First, what you were attempting to do is a “God thing,” not a “man thing.” It is something only God can do, no matter how much effort and time you devote to it. Your faith is too small. This means that your faith is in yourself and what you can do, therefore, it is too small. You are too small to do “God stuff,” yet you are depending primarily upon human resources. Are we willing to admit this? Later, Jesus will say, “Without me, you can do nothing.”

Second, to get your faith refocused on him, who alone can do a “God thing,” we must give ourselves to prayer, and not just prayer, but extreme prayer. Jesus said, that experiencing special “God things” comes about through prayer and fasting. This means adding to our normal daily time with God, and special extended time alone with him, seeking his face, direction, strength, will and glory. In both the Old and New Testaments, extreme prayer, accompanied by fasting, was entered into in times of extreme need. It was a foundational part of the life or our Lord Jesus and the New Testament churches, its members and leaders.

We Christians and our churches are in a time of extreme need and it calls for a refocusing of our faith in Almighty God brought about through extreme prayer. We are faced with extreme opposition, circumstances, challenges and assignments. Only God is able for such. Dare we have the small faith of trusting in ourselves?

Third, Jesus exhorted us to become focused on what God is able to do to the point that we could have a personal vision, and even speak the word of faith concerning what God is going to bring to pass in our lives, our families and our churches in a display of his glory. It is a matter of making ourselves available to him in such extreme prayer and faith action. We could never, ever, deserve being present when such happens, but God is a God of grace, as well as God Almighty. He informs us that he is the God of today; he says, “Today, you can enter into this faith experience.”

I will not have a faith too small.

—Charles Christmas is a religion columnist for The Clanton Advertiser. His column appears each Thursday.