Fail - image

One can never trust his path if he doesn't know first-hand the smell of a dumpster at the end of an alley.  – John Ashlin

Not one of all the LORD's good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled. Joshua 21:45

Is it okay to fail?

Note that I didn’t ask if you ever choose to fail, but rather if you believe that a perceived failure is an acceptable outcome. What do you think?

One of the advantages of growing older is that you can occasionally look back and recognize that a failure led to an outcome that was significantly better than a corresponding success would have been. Here’s an example: In 1993 I was employed as a proofreader at an advertising company. I did not particularly enjoy the work and knew that attention to detail was not my spiritual gift. One day I signed off on a letter that went out to 10,000 sports-cards customers that began, “Deer Collector”. I soon became confident of two things: I would not get my shot as a copywriter according to my master plan; and I wasn’t a very good proofreader.

Fail! But what would have happened had I been a raging success in that job? Maybe I would still be there, never having experienced even more failures (and a few successes) in sales and never having bothered to eventually answer the call to ministry that God had placed within me many years ago.

This morning as I approached the door to the church, a startled squirrel saw me and ran face-first into the glass door. He bounced back, took off running, and smashed his face into the door again. Having discerned that forward was not a viable option, he turned left and scurried off into the safety of the bushes.

Good thing that Mr. Squirrel wasn’t paralyzed by his impact or his failure. He learned a valuable lesson and utilized the new knowledge. He could have sat down after his face-plant and thought, “I’m an obvious failure as a fluffy little quadruped, so I might as well just sit here and get stepped on by this guy.” But he didn’t.

Failure is necessary to our growth as individuals, just as trials are. The one who never fails has probably never tried something new. Like touching a hot stovetop, past failure can help you avoid trouble and actually give you assurance that you are heading down the right path. John Ashlin writes, “One can never trust his path if he doesn't know first-hand the smell of a dumpster at the end of an alley.”

When the fear of failing induces paralysis, it can lead to many worse things—including the classic “sin of omission”: As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you.” (Samuel 12:23). The same is true in witnessing—those afraid to share Jesus Christ for fear of “doing it wrong” are guilty of failing to follow His command to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). Think you don’t have it in you to do that? Yesterday Pastor Geoff reminded us what Paul told Timothy: “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” (2 Tim 7) You already have what you need, you just need to use it.

Sometimes failure can and should be avoided. But when you fail—and at some point you will, if you are doing anything—don’t sit there like a dazed squirrel and convince yourself that you’re incapable of success. God is the only one who is perfect and yet He loves us despite our imperfections and our past failures. When you know and believe that, it’s hard to feel like a failure…even when you fail.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to run spell-check, my deer friends!

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There are 7 comments

Great devotional. I remember well a mistake I made at work many years ago. I was humbled by a fellow employee when he gave me a stern correction. To be corrected by someone is not real easy to take, but in the end it made me be more receptable to my own mistakes and taking some advice. Plus it has also helped to avoid "some" mistakes and failures. So yes there is a great learning lesson from our mistakes. May we make many/some mistakes in sharing the Gospel. It may show at least we are making an effort to share.

October 28, 2009 - 14:20
Reply to Rich

Amen! If someone receives the Gospel, it's not OUR doing anyway, it's His!!

Pastor Kent
October 29, 2009 - 03:49
Reply to Rich


May we make many/some mistakes in sharing the Gospel. It may show at least we are making an effort to share.

Amen to that. I know so many people who don't try to share the gospel because they're not sure that they know how to do it right. I understand the desire to be effective, but like Kent says, Jesus has to do the saving. We just plant the seeds.

I read a quote from D.L. Moody once where some lady criticized him by saying "I don't like how you share the Gospel, Mr. Moody." He responded, "No, neither do I, really. Tell me, how do you share it." She said, "I don't." To this, Moody replied, "Well, I like my way of sharing the Gospel far better than your way of not sharing it."

October 29, 2009 - 06:41

Success is the more achievable if we frequently check and listen to the instruction manual. Communication with the designer is necessary for satisfactory operation of that which He has created. This is a two way communication, read his word, listen, and respond with prayer sharing joys, concerns and suplications.

Paul Neff
October 28, 2009 - 06:46
Reply to Paul Neff

Brother Paul,

Well said! Ask the inventor what His invention is supposed to do! Thanks for reading and I appreciate your comment

Pastor Kent
October 28, 2009 - 09:11


Thanks for this devotional. Many of your devotionals give me courage to keep going in my walk despite what I see as my mistakes and failures. It seems like in the last couple of weeks God is really trying to get this message across to me, so I appreciate you being another voice in the chorus. I need to be reminded that God is sovereign over even disappointments and failures and that He will make them into something good. It is easy to get discouraged and just sit down in a heap and give up with the lament, "Why can't anything ever be easy?!" But God gives us the strength to continue on the adventure with Him and trust His good purposes. Thanks for helping me remember that!

October 28, 2009 - 04:50
Reply to Amy


Thanks for sharing. He is sovereign indeed and I'm so glad you used that word. We fall into the trap that He is working with us on some fronts but not on others. We need ask ourselves this question: "is He sovereign or isn't He?" When we realize that He is and how much He cares for us, it can be a little easier to rebound from failures and disappointments. Hey, He can even use failed proofreaderz!

Pastor Kent
October 29, 2009 - 06:43
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