Failure

 Failure is not to be admired, rather not wasting failure is to be admired.

– Christopher M. Kelly

Failure does not need to be the end. We all try things and fail, it is one of the main ways we learn and grow, and arguably it is the only way we attain success. Failure and getting back up and trying again are the stuff of epic legends and blockbuster movies.

However, espousing the notion that one’s employees should be able to fail and learn is easier than implementing company policy that does so.


Resources

Striving and Accepting

““Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Gospel of Matthew 6:19~21

For me this verse is at first seemingly very simple.  Earthly treasures do not last, heavenly treasures do.  

In other words, the most important things in life are not those that are temporary.  Money goes away, physical treasures rust and decay, bodies age; however, loving others, devoting time to those who cannot repay you, and repenting from sin provide an eternal reward (one that might not be entirely seen while on Earth).  We are commanded here to not focus on the temporary, but on the eternal.  Why invest all your focus in things designed to wear out instead of things designed to bring permanent increase and blessing?

In this same sermon, Jesus continues with:

For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 3But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Gospel of Matthew 6:25~33

This expands the simple concept of investing in eternal things instead of temporal things to the concept that God will care for your temporal needs if you focus in on the eternal ones.

That takes a lot of trust!

It’s not saying that we must never seek or invest in mundane things, but that we need to first seek the heavenly – put God first.  We still need to cut the grass and save a portion of our wages for the future.  But did we spend time in prayer today as well as in cutting the grass?  Did we invest money and time in service to others less fortunate before we budgeted what we had to save?  Or did we go to the chores first and only if there was enough time, sit down and pray?  Did we pay ourselves first, then the bills, then get groceries, and only if there was any time or money left after that, give to the poor out of the leftovers?

If we read through the Old Testament, we can see that God does not want our leftovers.  Seems to me a constant theme through the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.  All these laws about what kind of sacrifice to give for which thing all have in common the idea of the best of the heard or the first fruits of the crops.  

After all this is the God who created everything and is therefore not really in need of anything – especially second-hand things left over from what He granted us or gave us the strength to produce in the first place.  We don’t give back to God because He needs it to change the world or because He is lacking in anything.  We are to give to God the very best of what we have as an act of sacrifice and trust.  

It is a sacrifice, because if we give away our best then we don’t have it to use on ourselves or to direct as we wish.  It involves trust because if we give away our best then we are relying on God to keep His promises to add to us what we need instead of using our strength to try to gain it for ourselves.

Where is our focus?  Is it God first?  Or is it the mundane and material things that rust and decay?  Honestly, I tend to focus on those human and physical things.  I want money to pay bills, effect home repair, pay for kids’ college, buy food, keep the heat on.  I spend far more time focusing on pleasure or work than on reading the Bible or prayer.  When looking for a job, I first consider the salary and hours involved before I consider the impact for Christ.  According to Jesus’ sermon in Matthew, this is all putting the cart before the horse!

Human wisdom says that we deserve happiness, need to pay ourselves first, have to care for our needs so that we can care for the needs of others.  But Jesus is telling us to forgo those things and seek Him first – commanding us really.  Then He tells us that God will add to us (note this is not an earned wage) the things that we need – food, clothing, shelter, purpose, meaning, satisfaction, joy, peace, belonging, love.  

How very interesting that when we invest in heavenly things, the things of this earth grow strangely dim.

Under Authority

As a Christian, I am a person under Authority.  The Lord Jesus is my king.  I love Him and I worship Him.  He is the greatest superhero I could have ever imagined and the only real one I have ever known.  Since He is my Lord, He is authority over me.  He decides what I am to spend my thoughts on, what I am to do, believe, adopt and reject.  He decides what is best for me to pursue.  His desires trump my wants and felt needs.  His commands supersede my natural inclinations, DNA, and intrinsic motivations.

This is OK because He loves me and designed me and wants me to have a truly abundant life.  We ought to accept that He knows better than we do about what will truly satisfy, what our true skills are, what will engage us the most, what will be the happiest path, what will be the path that strengthens and blesses us individually as well as those around us.

Now all of that sounds really scary if Jesus were just human.  I’ve just elevated him to cult-leader status!  Honestly, I would not trust a pastor, a best friend, a TV personality or any politician in the same way or with the same confidence.  I certainly would not trust any organization – business, political party, or church – in this way, either.  Nor would I advocate for that.  So what is the difference?

Well, if Jesus did not die on the cross in my place for my sins and then rise from the dead to prove his being God incarnate, then I would not believe in him or trust him to be my guide, let alone my Lord.  This is essential to research for yourself if you are skeptical or unsure.  If Jesus died just because he had some trumped-up trial for no deeper purpose or reason, then he is not worthy of trust or following.  If Jesus did not actually claim equality with God in his lifetime and perform attesting miracles, then perhaps folks made up stories about him after his death.  If he did not prove his claims of being equal to God by bodily resurrecting from the dead, then he is not powerful enough to actually save me – and how would he have any say in the matter?

Even the scriptures say that if Jesus did not die on our behalf and rise from the dead then our faith is in vain (I Corinthians 15:12~19).  Certainly the disciples were surprised, because even though they had been told multiple times what was going to happen they simply could not believe it.  Peter rebuked Jesus for saying such things before it happened (Matthew 16:21~23).  After the Ressurection, Thomas refused to believe eyewitness testimony until Jesus stood before him and he touched his wounds to verify they were real (John 20:24 ~ 25).

It is only because I have become convinced that Jesus is God incarnate, did take my place on a cross to pay for my sins before I ever thought to ask, and bodily rose from the dead that I consider him to be Lord.

That said, there are two things I need to admit and mention:

  1. I do not always do what I am supposed to do.  I fail as an act of my personal will.  I sometimes dabble in things I know my Lord has forbid.  Sometimes I jump in wholeheartedly thinking I have some special case or permission – or that it can’t really be all that bad.  These are instances of sin that I need to confess and repent of, and apologize from the heart for.  They are not logical to pursue when I believe that Jesus died on the cross in my place for these very things.  It is hypocrisy.  I am ashamed of them after I do them.  They hurt others and myself and put me in places where God has to go after me and bring me back to get me on the right path.  They sometimes carry consequences.  I praise God that He has mercy and grace sufficient for my failures – but that is no excuse for me doing them.
  2. There are times when God’s plans and knowledge of reality are vastly different than my hopes and limited understanding of reality.  The Lord will at times place me in situations or places that I do not want, things I do not understand, things that are painful to endure or distasteful to me.  In those times, I am supposed to praise the God worthy of praise regardless of my situation.  I am to thank God for what He is doing and trust that He knows better instead of getting angry or bitter or frustrated.  (However, see number 1 above).

God’s ways are higher than I can attain understanding of and more intricate and custom-built than I could ever imagine.  He works with me and speaks to me and guides me to scriptures and friends and helps me understand – but there are many times when I just have to say the situation is ‘above my pay-grade’ and lean on trusting in my Jesus.  Sometimes I need to wait out a situation.  Sometimes my Lord has simply said ’No’ to me.  Sometimes my desires are in line with God’s plans.  But regardless, I need to focus in on the fact that God is God, not me.  Not even over my own life and situation.  Certainly not over anyone else’s.

Since He is Lord, Jesus has the rights to command me.  I desire to obey because I believe He has my best interest in mind as well as for all those around me – friend or foe.  I sadly balk at times because I do not like being told what to do – and this is always disastrous on some level.  Yet, in His love, patience and grace, He always draws me back to Him and the conclusion that His ways are best.