Memories of failure?

This week I was looking through an old box I found on a shelf in my closet and came across a couple of cassette tapes. Remember those? On one I heard my voice, recorded in April, 1970, singing in a high school talent show.  The other was a recording of the first time I preached on the radio in 1975. The sounds made me laugh, sending me on a journey through the intervening 50 years. There have been some high points and some low, some successes, some failures.

We celebrate our wins but what about our sins? What can we do with those regrets, those failures, those sins?  

The first step always is dealing with them honestly, in confessional, to God, and where appropriate, to those we have wronged. Our Heavenly Father offers, through Christ, both forgiveness and redemption. 

My favorite story in the Gospels is found in Luke 15, one that Jesus told about a man who, while still very young, made a profound choice to do wrong! He rejected his father’s love, arrogantly demanded his inheritance and went off to live on his own terms. Of course, he exhausted his resources and found himself broke and hungry. The worst part of it was the shame he felt. Sitting in a pigpen (yes, that is what Jesus said) he formed a plan to go back home. “I’ll just ask Dad if I can work on the farm,” he thought, “because then at least I’ll be safe and fed.”  Off he went and when he approached home, he was shocked to find his dad waiting for his return. 

The old man did not heap shame on the awful son.  This phrase describing the love of the Father fills me with emotion: “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20)  It’s Jesus’ story… for me, for you. God is not waiting to play a ‘gotcha’ game with us. He’s longing for us to turn around and come home to His embrace – again and again, because His love is deeper than the ocean, beyond our ability to fully understand, unfathomable.

“God rewards failure,” you ask? No, but He offers us mercy and grace when there is true repentance.  Paul, once known as Saul, persecuted Christians and vehemently rejected Christ Jesus. His past was ugly, his actions worse than regrettable.  When Christ came to him what did he find?  “The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.” (1 Timothy 1:14-16, NIV)

Beyond finding forgiveness there is a second important step required in dealing with the past.  Listen to Paul’s inspired words. “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,  I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 3:13) 

While we never forget the lessons of failure, we can and we must, leave the regret behind. The past can paralyze us.  Some become bitter, unable to forgive themselves or others.  Some become fearful, afraid of making the same mistake again. Others hide in shame, as if a singular choice is the total definition of who they are.  “Leave it behind,” the Word says, and look forward.

Stuck in the past? Feeling disqualified and unworthy of God’s blessings? 
The scandalous grace of Christ offers a new start with a new heart. 

Here’s the word from the Word. “I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him—endless energy, boundless strength! ” …  We neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing” ((Ephesians 1:15-19, 2:10, The Message)

Whether you are 15, 45, or 75 – trust Christ with your life. Let Him forgive the sins and keep track of the wins, for His is the only judgment that matters when it’s all said and done.


Who You Say I Am

Who am I that the highest King
Would welcome me
I was lost but He brought me in
Oh His love for me
Oh His love for me

Who the Son sets free
Oh is free indeed
I’m a child of God
Yes I am

Free at last
He has ransomed me
His grace runs deep
While I was a slave to sin
Jesus died for me
Yes He died for me

In my Father’s house
There’s a place for me
I’m a child of God
Yes I am

I am chosen not forsaken
I am who You say I am
You are for me not against me
I am who You say I am

(Oh) (Yes) I am who You say I am

Ben Fielding | Reuben Morgan © 2017 Hillsong Music Publishing Australia (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

CCLI License # 810055

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