In Sunday's sermon on Barnabas, I mentioned G. Campbell Morgan, how he was rejected for the ministry based on his preaching. What I failed to tell you is that he went on to try again with another denomination, was accepted and became one of the premiere preachers and writers of the 20th century. His commentaries are still considered classics and his book on preaching is probably one of the top five written on the subject – again a classic. Like John Mark, he went on to share his gifts, experiences and heart with the Christian world and we all benefit from it. Thank the Lord he did not give up!
I think it is so important to teach people, and especially our young people, the importance of dealing positively with failure. When you look at the definition of failure it simply boils down to a “lack of success.” I think it is heavily tied in with EXPECTATIONS! When you deal with the semantics of the word, I would prefer to use the word “detour." Failure, or what is perceived as failure, is often just a change in direction; a detour in the journey of life. Here are some things I learned about dealing with “detours.”
First, we ALL experience them. Our tendency is to feel that we are alone. However, that is not the case. Don’t let failure become an emotional battle ground. Just think of the failures that are going to take place before they come up with a vaccine for the corona viruses. Sincere, brilliant and dedicated researchers will fail countless times before they get it right. That is how you learn, progress and succeed. Failure is an event, not a person. Failure is a necessary and helpful part of growth.
I think another important things we can do is look at the context in which this event took place. Let me give you an example from my life. In Seminary, I was blessed with good marks. I only received B grades in two subjects – Old Testament and Homiletics (the art of preaching). These were still good marks but especially in Homiletics, I felt that the professor was not giving me what I deserved and, more importantly, missing my potential. But hey, life is what it is so I moved on. I was asked to preach in the Chapel at school about a year after I graduated and I agreed. All the students and faculty were present including this prof (which I liked by the way)! I did my thing and afterwards, as we shook hands, he grabbed me and looked me straight in the eye and said to me “I was wrong.” Then, he went on to say some very encouraging things.
Listen, I share this with you not because I want some fan fare or a bunch of kudos. I know better than anyone I fail, probably every Sunday as a preacher, and I know I am still growing and learning. God is gracious to me. But the point is this: what if in this one isolated instance (that class) I gave up? People can be wrong in their assessments and sometimes people are just simply looking for different things. Unless God and the people you trust make it very clear it is time to make a change, don’t give up and don’t get down. Keep on truckin'!
Secondly, what can I/we LEARN. What are the things that we all can take from each experience and build upon. Stop and look, positively, at what has transpired and grow. Ask questions. Take time to pray and ask for wisdom. Look for new solutions to old problems. Learn – learn – learn. Pick other peoples' brains. Surround yourself, as much as possible, with good resources. And if you fail again, that's okay – don’t sweat it. Each time we move a little closer to success. Oftentimes it takes several tries. It is part of the growing and succeeding process.
And finally, grow as a person of CHARACTER. In the process of detours, let God build into you those qualities that will make you a vessel that He can use for His good. Someone has written, “A man's character is like a fence it cannot be strengthened by whitewash.” I have seen many people rise from the ashes and go on to various levels of success. But, without character, it means nothing. The man we will start studying this weekend is an example of a person who, beyond his success, was a person of character. He was a man of Godly character first and that always stands the test of time. Use your daily experiences as opportunities to grow in Him!
Detours, we all have them, but don’t let them discourage you or divert you from your dreams and your goals. Remember the words of G Campbell Morgan’s father, “Rejected by men accepted in heaven.” “Therefore encourage one another with these words.”
(1 Thessalonians 4: 18 NIV) God bless you – you are a great crew! Keep safe and keep in the love of Jesus – Pastor Ralph