Do you think failure is fatal? Have you ever felt stuck in past mistakes? Time keeps on rolling forward while your brain is spinning its wheels in the mud of the past. I know that feeling, I am a pro mud spinner. But thank God failure does not disqualify us in His book. The gospel is a never-ending story of redemption full of perfectly imperfect people that God loves dearly and never gives up on. Let’s look at some of God’s champions who messed up before they blessed up.
Oh, Peter. He was one of Jesus’ closest friends. They had spent the last several years of Jesus’ life doing practically everything together and then when Jesus was unjustly captured, Peter suddenly bailed. Even worse, he betrayed Jesus after swearing up and down he wouldn’t. And yet, Peter went on to be called “the Rock” on which God’s church would be built. The goodness of our savior blows me away at this realization, especially when you realize Jesus knew this was going to happen before it did and STILL, He moved toward relationship with Peter. He confronted Peter and told him that he would betray Him, but did so without rejecting him. Knowing Peter would betray Him didn’t make Jesus pull back, or kick him out of the inner circle. He kept him close and kept pouring water on the seeds of greatness within him. He does the same with us.
I love the story of Jonah. It shows so much of God’s kindness in the face of messy humanity. We begin with God calling Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach. Jonah is not into it, to say the least, and he does his very best to reject God’s call. He runs, he hides, he jumps on a ship, yada yada yada, but none of that changes God’s plan for his life. God does not give up on Jonah, and through some uh… unpleasant circumstances (getting thrown overboard and being swallowed by a very large fish) brings his heart around. Another cool thing about this story; it is a “two for the price of one” deal, a double redemption! Not only does God show His love for redemption by pursuing a very flawed Jonah, but He shows it to the people of Nineveh, and spares them when he sees their hearts soften to the message Jonah preaches. So good.
Samson was chosen from birth, and God blessed him with immense strength and filled him with power. But even with all those blessings and validations of God’s hand on his life, Samson chose to follow his own desires, which led him on a path to losing everything he had. But that’s not the end of the story. After he was captured and enslaved by his enemies, Samson’s heart changed, and God heard him when he asked for one final display of power. God was still near and attentive, not just when Samson was doing well and ticking all the boxes, but in his pains and failure. God heard Samson and worked through him once more to break the pillars of the Philistine temple and complete a redemptive act of power and justice.
Sarah is known as the wife of Abraham and the mother of Israel, but her journey there was anything but easy. It was complicated and confusing as life so often is. After God gave the initial promise of a child, many years passed with no sign of fulfillment. All the while Sarah and Abraham were getting older and older, until it all became too much for her and she took matters into her own hands. Sarah took a look at herself and decided there was no way this dream was going to happen through her. Period. So she offered her servant, Hagar as a conduit for God’s promise. This was a big mistake with huge ramifications, but God’s promise remained. Years pass, and God reiterates to them that the child would come, and through Sarah. This is too much for Sarah’s poor heart and she straight up laughs at the promise. Believe me, I am not judging her for that. We have all been there when all the facts are pointing in the opposite direction, yet God speaks a message of hope to us. What I find beautiful is that Sarah’s humanity and struggles did not disqualify her, and it did not change God’s faithfulness. Sarah indeed went on to be the mother of nations.
Thank goodness we are not the ones calling the shots in our lives. If we were responsible for judging ourselves, you know we would constantly be sending ourselves to the benches. But God is the one making the calls. He is our loving, sovereign referee. And just like these biblical heroes and countless others, He refuses to let failure take us out. God is calling you and me off the sidelines and back in the game!