SOURCE: Taken from the work of June Hunt
Causes of Failure
He gets in the way again! Peter, with his impetuous behavior, attempts to interrupt the Father’s plan for the Son. Peter cannot possibly see how the death of Jesus would accomplish anything good or positive. In fact, His death seemed to be the death of the disciples’ dreams.
Previously, Peter had rebuked Jesus for even talking about being crucified. Now in the Garden of Gethsemane, he tries to block Jesus’ arrest, the triggering event that would lead to the Crucifixion, by using violence. With sword in hand, Peter strikes off the right ear of the high priest’s servant. Immediately Jesus picks up the ear and fully restores it.
Obviously Peter didn’t “get it.” He failed to see the big picture—even though Jesus had tried to tell him. But Peter wasn’t listening.
“Jesus commanded Peter, ‘Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?’ ”
What Are Rungs on the Ladder of Wrong Thinking?
With Peter or with any of us, wrong assumptions always lead to wrong conclusions. All inventors are well aware of the mockers and scoffers—those who just don’t “get it.” But if our mindset is correct, we won’t be controlled by naysayers. We’ll press forward with God’s perfect plan, even if it may not make sense at the time. Stopping short means missing out on the best part of all … which for Jesus was resurrection!
In 1978 the first successful transatlantic balloon flight was accomplished by the Double Eagle II. It was not the first attempt. In fact, thirteen attempts had been made from 1873 through 1978. What was the difference? Lessons from previous failures!
Success can be defined as the intelligent application of failure. Failure is a fact of life. It can lead to despair—or it can lead to increased efforts with the possibility of success.
Steps to success are usually marked with many failures. That is why your attitude regarding failures will greatly influence your future.
“God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self discipline.”
(2 Timothy 1:7)
The result of wrong thinking often manifests itself in fearfulness.
- Fearful of Ridicule “They’ll make fun of me if I fail.”
— People laughed at Robert Fulton’s strange, smoking craft chugging down the river, yet “Fulton’s Folly” became the first steamboat in 1807.6
- Fearful of Inexperience “No one will believe in me.”
— When the great tenor Caruso first sang for his instructor, he was told that his voice sounded like “wind whistling through the window.”7
- Fearful of Failure “I told you I would blow it.”
— Albert Einstein failed his university entrance exams on his first attempt.8
- Fearful of Inadequacy “I shouldn’t try.… I may not know everything I need to know.”
— The first car Henry Ford invented and marketed did not have a reverse gear.9
- Fearful of Change “It’s never been done—it won’t work.”
— The Wright Brothers first offered their flying machine to the United States government but were not taken seriously. A few years later they closed a contract with the United States Department of War for the first military airplane.10
- Lacking Confidence “I don’t think I can do it.”
— Babe Ruth struck out 1,330 times, but he also hit 714 home runs.11
- Lacking Conviction “It really doesn’t matter that much.”
— Thomas Edison had over 1,000 failures before he found the right combination for the light bulb.12
- Lacking Perseverance “I can’t run the risk of failure.”
— R. H. Macy failed seven times in retailing before his New York store was a success.13
- Lacking Trust in God “I really don’t have what it takes.”
— When the great pianist Paderewski first chose to study the piano, his music teacher told him his hands were much too small to master the keyboard.14
How Does Faulty Thinking Produce Failure?
He was right in his motives but wrong in his timing. Peter was in an exclusive group of three, along with James and John, who were led by Jesus up a mountain for a glimpse into the heavenly realm.
Suddenly, Jesus was transfigured before them, His face shining like the sun and His clothes becoming white as light. He began talking, not with the trio of disciples, but with Moses and Elijah!
Peter gets busy, concluding that the fulfillment of the Kingdom has come and making preparations in conjunction with its arrival. “Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah’ ” (Matthew 17:4).
The Father interrupts Peter from a voice in a bright cloud, expressing love and pleasure toward his Son, Jesus, and evoking great fear in the disciples. Jesus touches them and tells them not to be afraid, and when they got up after falling prostrate in fear, they were alone with Jesus.
Obviously, there was “kingdom work” yet to do. Because Peter had faulty thinking, he therefore had faulty conclusions.
Answer the questions below to determine whether you are telling yourself lies about failure …
Faulty Thinking Test
- Do you think you must avoid the hurt that results from having failed?
Truth: Hurt cannot be avoided in life. It gives opportunity for mental, emotional, and spiritual growth.
- Do you think taking “chances” almost always leads to calamity?
Truth: Taking chances can lead to opportunity.
- Do you think it is imperative to do only what is “safe,” that within your comfort zone?
Truth: Your concern for safety should be secondary to following God’s leading, following your heart, and satisfying your desire to grow and learn.
- Do you think it would be terrible if you made a wrong decision?
Truth: Every wrong decision can teach you something of value and can be a stepping stone to making right decisions.
- Do you think you must never make a mistake?
Truth: Mistakes are common to everyone.
- Do you think God will reject you or be angry with you if you fail?
Truth: God knows you will fail and is pleased with your fortitude and persistent acceptance of challenges that stretch your abilities and strengthen your reliance on Him.
- Do you think failure is an indication that you are stupid or weak?
Truth: Failure is universal, experienced by both the literate and the illiterate, the strong and the weak.
- Do you think others will think less of you if you fail at something?
Truth: Others value you for your character traits and Christlike attitudes and actions rather than whether or not you fail at something. And remember, they, too, have failed.
- Do you think it is a bad reflection on Christ when you fail?
Truth: Your failures provide a platform to show others that your security is in Christ, not in your successes.
- Do you think failure is shameful and sinful?
Truth: Failing does not make you a failure. Failure is sinful only when it is a result of disobedience.
- Do you think you must plan every action and, thus, avoid loss, pain, or disgrace?
Truth: You cannot control life, but you can trust the sovereignty of God when He allows loss, pain, and even disgrace in your life.
“ ‘My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’ ”
What Facts Make You a Failure or a Success?
Following a serious failure, what makes one person continue to fail and another to become a success? The answer is twofold: Who is willing to take responsibility for the failure? Who learns the valuable lessons that can come from the failure?
Peter becomes a success because his self-brashness is replaced with a heart of humility. He is able to say to fellow sufferers from his own experience, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time” (1 Peter 5:6).
Success through failure. The same words can be said about Peter’s spiritual counterpart, the apostle Paul. Prideful Paul learned this lesson well: Take responsibility for the wrong and gain a heart of humility. He writes, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2).
The Apostle Paul
Facts about Paul that could have caused him to see himself as a failure …
- Fact: He labeled himself the worst of sinners.
“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.” (1 Timothy 1:15)
- Fact: He strongly embraced and actively promoted wrong priorities and values in his young adulthood.
“I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.” (Philippians 3:8)
- Fact: His life was filled with disappointments, trials, and hardships.
“Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned.” (2 Corinthians 11:24–25)
- Fact: He did not consider himself to be an eloquent orator.
“I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words.” (1 Corinthians 2:3–4)
- Fact: His prayers were not always answered according to his desires.
“To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ ” (2 Corinthians 12:7–9)
- Fact: He was hindered by an unpleasant bodily ailment.
“It was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you.” (Galatians 4:13)
- Fact: He experienced resentment and rejection.
“After many days had gone by, the Jews conspired to kill him, but Saul learned of their plan.” (Acts 9:23–24)
- Fact: He was imprisoned and kept in chains for his faith.
“Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal.” (2 Timothy 2:8–9)
Facts about Paul that prevented him from considering himself a failure …
- Fact: He realized that God was the source of his strength.
“We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7)
- Fact: He refused to allow circumstances to crush his heart or control his life.
“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed …” (2 Corinthians 4:8)
- Fact: He trusted God and accepted his own limited understanding of all of God’s plans and purposes.
“[We are] … perplexed, but not in despair …” (2 Corinthians 4:8)
- Fact: He knew that God was with him in the midst of tough and trying times.
“[We are] … persecuted, but not abandoned …” (2 Corinthians 4:9)
- Fact: He understood and fully embraced the fact that Jesus had called him to suffer for the sake of the Gospel.
“[We are] … struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:9)
- Fact: He knew that things are not always as they appear and that according to God’s standard, he was strongest whenever he appeared to be weakest.
“For Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10)
- Fact: He had learned from experience and his knowledge of the character of God that his joy was in God, not in his so-called successes.
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Philippians 4:12)
- Fact: He knew his life was hidden in Christ and that whether he lived or died … whether he was considered a success or a failure, he was loved by God.
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
What Is the Primary Cause of Failure?
Cocksure of himself—that’s what he is! Peter proclaims his undying loyalty to Jesus only to betray Him hours later. He then is flabbergasted at his own failure, and the characteristic cocky spirit is replaced with a crushed spirit.
It is amazing how little we know about ourselves. God has to take us through all kinds of failures to reveal the self-focused pride that lies dormant in the corners of our character. The only way we can be of any use to God is to respond with discernment to our disappointments. Discernment leads us to truth—and truth punctures our pride … all for His purpose of molding us to the image of His Son.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
The following acrostic on PRIDE can help you discern the truth about yourself. Are you …
Preoccupied with the opinions of others?
“They loved praise from men more than praise from God.” (John 12:43)
Refusing wise counsel?
“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” (Proverbs 15:22)
Ignoring the power of prayer?
“You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God.” (James 4:2)
Depending on self-effort?
“Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?” (Galatians 3:3)
Expecting praise and personal recognition?
“Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11)
Root Cause of Wrong Responses to Failure
With absolute confidence he crows, “I would never do that! I would never stoop to that.… I’m stronger than that!” Then the day comes when the very act he said he wouldn’t do, he does. And sadly, not just once. Here is Peter, who stumbles and falls … Peter, who feels the piercing pain of his own failure.
“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”
Can you relate to Peter? Although he was a disciple within the inner circle of Jesus, he suffered self-centered setbacks that devastated him. He could have become paralyzed with despondency and despair, but one of the hallmarks of maturity is to evaluate our mistakes and wrong mindsets and learn invaluable lessons from them. This way, our stumbling stones of failure can become stepping stones of success.
The root cause of an inability to accept failure and to learn from mistakes is a wrong belief system.
“Failure is a sign of personal defeat. I must accomplish my goals and be successful in the eyes of others to feel good about myself.”
“Failure is God’s way of deepening my dependence on Him. Success is submitting to God’s goal of Christlikeness for my life—regardless of the outcome.”
“We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Romans 8:28–29)
6 A History of Wonderful Inventions (London: Chapman and Hall, 1849), 77–78.
7 Michael Scott, The Great Caruso (New York: Knopf, A division of Random House, 1988), 6.
8 Kendall Haven and Donna Clark, 100 Most Popular Scientists for Young Adults: Biographical Sketches and Professional Paths (Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, 1999), 1163.
9 Nathan Miller, New World Coming: The 1920s and the Making of Modern America (New York: Scribner, 2003), 178.
10 Fred Charters Kelly, The Wright Brothers: A Biography (Toronto: Courier Dover, 1989), 153–154.
11 Ted Williams, Ted Williams’ Hit List: The Best of the Best Ranks the Best of the Rest (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2003), 62.
12 Sir John Marks Templeton, Discovering the Laws of Life (New York: Templeton Foundation Press, 1995), 213.
13 Willie Jolley, A Setback is a Setup for a Comeback: Turn you Moments of Doubt and Fear into Times of Triumph (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999), 26.
14 Bob Fenster, Well, Duh! Our Stupid World, and Welcome to It (Kansas City: Andrews McMeel, 2004), 286.
 Hunt, J. (2008). Biblical Counseling Keys on Success through Failure: From Stumbling Stones to Stepping Stones (pp. 10–15). Dallas, TX: Hope For The Heart.