This is part 2 of a 3 part series on the topic of faith and failure. It was originally published on theChurct.at Glocal blog over at Glocal.theChurch.at. You can find part 1 here.
We took a step of faith…and fell flat on our faces. We followed God where he directed us and ended up debt-ridden and dejected. So we moved back to Oklahoma, licked our wounds, and tried to rebuild.
Starting out a marriage with over $21,000 in debt was never in the plans, but it happened. And it happened as a direct result of a step of faith. So the next step was to pay off all that debt and get back on track. I got a job (not in ministry) and we set a budget. I worked hard and month by month we started paying off debt in big chunks. In less than two years we had done it. We paid off all that debt!
Then one day, while I was talking with God, I told him, “It’s too bad that it happened this way.”
“What do you mean, Chris?”
“Well, here was this opportunity for you to do something miraculous and answer our prayers and pay off our debt. You could have gotten all the glory for this. But now when I tell people about this, I’ll tell them that God got me into debt and I got me out of it.”
“Well, that’s the way it happened, right?”
“Let me ask you this…who helped you get that good paying job?”
“Well, you did. I prayed and you answered that prayer.”
“And who was it that gave you favor so that you got raises and bonuses that went a long way to paying off that debt?”
“And who was it that gave you the skills and abilities you used at that job? Who was it that gave you breath in your lungs and strength in your bones to get out of bed each day and go to work?”
“That would be you, God.”
“Okay. Do you want to go back and rethink that whole idea that you did it and not me?”
And there you have it. That was a real conversation that I had with God. And it was one of the most honest conversations I’ve ever had with anyone. The truth is that God did intervene. The same God that led us to take a step of faith was the same God that watched as we failed. And he’s the same God that picked us up, dusted us off, and pointed us in a new direction.
One of my favorite verses is this one, a little verse I sort of stumbled onto in Colossians one day:
I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me.
Colossians 1:29 (emphasis added)
The struggle is mine and the work is hard, but it’s Christ’s power and not mine that works within me. My faith is not in my own abilities or powers; it’s in Christ’s power within me. The same faith that is big enough to fail is big enough to get back up again. Why? Not because of success, but because of the source.
Too often we think that faith depends on success. If you have faith, it will be reflected in whether we win or lose, fail or succeed. Take a look at these verses:
I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength (and ensures that I won’t fail).
Philippians 4:13 (additional, incorrect words added by me)
Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people (and God will ensure you don’t fail).
Colossians 3:23 (again, that’s not what it says)
Those phrases in parentheses are what a lot of people (myself included) read into those verses. The promise, we think, is that if we have enough faith, if we rely upon God, if we do it with enough passion and perseverance, then the outcome is guaranteed success.
But the truth is our faith is not founded on a positive prospect, but on the one who has called us, the one who has empowered us, and the one who holds us all together. In the book of Philippians Paul tackles this directly. He lists all these things that were great in his life: his education, his heritage, his relationships. Then he talks about the bad stuff that’s happened to him: loneliness, bankruptcy, failure. But he puts all of that stuff on one side of the faith ledger and this on the other:
Everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ.
It takes more faith to fail than it does to succeed. And it takes even greater faith to get back up again. The only way that’s possible is if our faith is grounded in Jesus Christ. The only way that’s possible is if our focus is knowing him.
We step out in faith every time because we are obedient to him. Whether we fail or succeed, it’s all about obedience. And when we get back up, dust ourselves off, and follow him again, it’s all because of him.